WTF LPGA?

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April 3, 2017 (Los Angeles) Greetings all socalgolfblog peeps. It has been four months since my last post. The background to that life-changing absence is meant for another blog geared for psychological analysis…but I digress. WTF is going on with the rules of golf when a fan can email rules officials who then rule against a player almost 24 hours after the fact? Complete stupidity by the over-ruled LPGA and their male counterpart, the PGA. It is everything wrong about the game of golf. It is over sanctioned by a bunch of self-important rules officials who are in place to “preserve the good order of the game.” BULLSHIT. To assess Lexi Thompson 4-strokes the day after her infraction thereby altogether erasing a good-sized lead on the Sunday of a major was the most egregious example of rules officials and fans gone mad. 4 strokes! On Sunday no less. All the result of a television fan’s email who saw Lexi mis-replace her ball after marking it on the 17th green on Saturday. Thompson was then informed of the infraction and 4 stroke penalty was assessed the following day as she just bogeyed the 12th. Really? Some ass-wipe fan who has nothing better to do emails LPGA rules officials who then make a ruling off the fan’s observation? WTF LPGA? Think how stupid it would be for me to email the NFL and say Tom Brady was guilty of a rules infraction during the Super Bowl on the winning drive and have the NFL penalize him the following day and award the NFL championship to the Atlanta Falcons (using the 2017 Super Bowl as an example). Or if I emailed the NBA and said LeBron traveled at some point in the game thereby negating a basket thus changing the outcome of a game. Doesn’t that sound ridiculous, even stupid that a fan could exert their rule observation on a game officiated by trained referees or officials? Why then does the LPGA and PGA–who have rules officials stalking courses like the Gestapo during events–not regulate their own sport? IDIOTIC! Shame on you LPGA. And this is no different than when a fan called rules officials a few years back at Augusta challenging a drop of Tiger Woods that ultimately led to a penalty. The fact is, LPGA and PGA officials get off on this over-management power trip hiding behind the mask of maintaining the purity of the game. Get your shit together LPGA and PGA. If you can’t manage your own house who will? The fans? RIDICULOUS! WTF LPGA?

My Golf Coaching Dream

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6 December 2016 (Pasadena, CA) I am a teacher by trade. I teach at a university and I am in contact with young people striving to get a higher education. There is nothing more satisfying than when something clicks in the classroom. I am also a coach. For years I have coached my children’s AYSO soccer teams and school volleyball teams. I do well with youngsters because I am not technically advanced in either game. I focus on fundamentals and enjoyment. Some kids get hooked by that simple recipe. Recently, my old high school was searching for a golf coach. A co-ed school and a co-ed team. I played there as a student. I thought about it for a minute but knew my university commitments and my kids after school activities would postpone my application. But this is my dream. I would love to coach a team that brings golf as a new activity to the school…a high school preferably. Places where golf is a foreign game. I wouldn’t want to coach at a school where parents were trying to filter their kids into the golf programs at Wake Forest or ASU. Ideally an urban school with lots of diversity. Both boys and girls. Get them hooked on the game. Not the mechanics or minutia of the rules, but the fun of the game. For the love of it. Strolling through the park at sunrise, watching the deer frolic, dodging skunks, protecting your snacks from squirrels, going eye-ball to eye-ball with a coyote. Enjoying the camaraderie of good friends. Celebrating the good shots, laughing over the bad ones. A coach. Taking kids out of their comfort zones and building confidence and character. Teaching them that golf is cool. A sport with a history that goes back centuries. Educating them on that history, Old Tom Morris, Bobby Jones, Ben Hogan, Lee Trevino, Charlie Sifford, Tiger Woods. And lets not forget the ladies, Babe Dickinson, Nancy Lopez, Annika Sorenstam, Lorena Ochoa–just to name a few. A game and an education. And what about the spirituality of golf? The meditative nature of the address and the focus required to strike a ball purely, the cognizance of the beauty of time and space? As an example, this year I experimented with having my volleyball team (11 year old girls) meditate before games. I had noticed that after a day of school they were energized to shift conversations to the mundane and allow their energy to soar to the point of distraction. That distraction would surface in the game. So after a few minutes of blowing off after school steam, we found a quiet place and meditated. I found that in our fractured lives of sensory input(s) guiding athletes to stillness is a gift. It is powerful. It is focus and it worked, both in performance but enhancement of the moment. So when I think about coaching golf it is more than just ball striking–it is educating and quieting to the point of powerful stillness. Power, not in the sense of victories, but in the sense of being present. Present in a game that reflects more than skill, but the very nature of our lives.

Trust the Process

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3 December 2016 (Pasadena, CA) I was comfortable with my game. Generally a mid-eighties guy who knows his strengths and weaknesses. Not the biggest hitter but a good to very good short game. Yet, I came to the realization that I wanted to up my game. See if I could go lower. Mid-fifties in age I often wonder how many more years I have in the game and if I could actually improve without the benefits of youth. So I took the plunge and went to see a local professional considered by some to be the golf guru of this part of Southern California. Didn’t hurt that he was based at the course (par 3 course with mini-golf) where I held my first club. A place where I had spent so many memories with my dad and now with my own children. Had my first lesson on Wednesday. JS (the pro) asked me to hit about 20 balls with a seven iron. He filmed me from behind and straight on. Then we paused and watched. Then he asked me about my game and what I was trying to accomplish. Loved the conversation. This is a guy who has won on the PGA Tour and I had his ear and he had mine. I told him I wanted to get to single digits. He assured me that was a reasonable goal but that I had to “trust the process.” Yup, trust the process. He chuckled and said 3 steps backwards then 5 forward. Trust the process. We noted how my swing condensed and collapsed at the top. We worked that initial hour on length and turn. It felt like shite but it felt powerful (or at least stronger). Straight back, don’t get caught inside. 90 degree wrist cock at halfway point, full shoulder turn. Hit a few! I literally missed the ball my first five tries. The sixth ball almost killed the bloke in the stall next to. He looked at me with the “rookie” smirk. Kiss my arse! More balls, more miss hits. We went to the film. JS said, “this looks like a golf swing now, no collapse inside and enhanced extension–don’t worry about hitting the shots yet.” “TRUST THE PROCESS. WE ARE BUILDING A NEW ENGINE. GONNA TAKE SOME TIME.” I liked what I saw on film. It looked like a golf swing. We did the before and after. The before was a choppy, short swing, almost a slap. The developing swing looked like an actual golf swing. Good rotation, extended, but I could not hit the ball with any consistency. I was all over the club face from hosel to toe. Ego jumped in and said, “the hell with this three steps back shite, hit the ball you know.” Nope, I am going to trust the process. Went out with the Friday group yesterday. The bhoys! Now it had only been two days, shite wasn’t going to change overnight but I committed 75% to the process. Hit some nice drives. Definitely more distance while hitting fairways. Hit some decent fairway metals, when I hit them. The others were just pure ugly tops or fats. Almost missed a ball from a fairway bunker! Frustration. What really killed me was that the work had completely disarmed my short game. Nothing, nada, zippo, zilch. No scoring, no making up for fairway mistakes, no ups and downs. SHITE. I struggled to break 100. Shot a 99. WTF? I couldn’t even cheat and regress to the old swing to save my skin. 99 (lunch was tremendous though). What did I expect, JS to wave a wand and all would be good? Three steps backwards, man up, be patient. TRUST THE PROCESS! Theoretically, it is the golf off season, this is the perfect time to initiate golf swing changes. Be patient. So alright JS, you have my attention, this is not going to be easy but I am up for the ride. LET”S DO THIS and have fun while we are at it. I am committed to the process!

PS: Shout out to my buddy JG for playing the finest round I have been privileged to see him play yesterday. It was fun to watch and some damn good golf. Look forward to more good work from you.

©socalgolfblog

 

Play to Your Strengths

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28 November 2016 (Pasadena, CA) Do you ever listen to how the folk you play with give subtle hints as to how they perceive the strengths of your game? I think it is important (and fascinating) to listen to these little gems of insight. I think it is difficult for the average golfer to identify these strengths because most of the time we are focusing on our weaknesses and how to improve them. But what if we looked at our game’s strengths through the eyes of others and concentrate on scoring at those times we are most comfortable on the course. What have you heard? For example, off the tee, do friends marvel at the bombs you hit? Or perhaps they comment on your putting? “You sure saved a lot of strokes on the green today.” What do you hear over and over? That is a strength and a scoring opportunity through the eyes of a friendly competitor. You’d be surprised at how often you are complimented on the course and generally not a word is said after a bad shot. Listen! When I think of my game through the eyes of my golf buddies, these are a few things I hear: “Your game is boring, another fairway hit.” “You are a grinder.” From about 120 yards in, “You are in your wheelhouse.” So how do I parse these comments? First, I am not the longest driver in my group, so I have to hit fairways. I do at about an 83% clip (I keep a ‘fairways hit’ stat). NEVER LONG AND WRONG! That’s how I play with the big hitters. It is a strength. Second, my wheelhouse: I have to go pin seeking when I have a short club in my hand. If I go to the range, 75% of my practice is dedicated to the short game. I see the youngsters pulling driver out first, perhaps they are fine tuning their strength(s)? No, not me, I am most comfortable with a wedge in my hand and I can score with it. Wheelhouse. Third, what am I to make of the grinder comment? To me, it is the most complimentary of the three adjectives I hear about my game. To be a grinder is a mindset. You are out there competing and being competitive on most days. You leave an impression because you don’t have every shot in the bag yet when the cards are tallied you are in the mix most days. How’d you do it? Well, I play to my strengths AND manage the course. You make good decisions by playing the percentages. Hit fairways off the tee and score inside of 120 yards while being efficient inside 150 is my recipe. Being patient because I cannot overpower a course with length. Identify scoring opportunities. That is grinding. That is putting in the work. Also, knowing your strengths identifies those areas of your game that need improvement. 150+ is a weakness of mine. Whether I am trying to hit a green from 160 out or hitting a second shot on a par 5 or long par 4 is where danger lurks for me. So what do I do? In the short run, I play some longer par 4s like par 5s. Driver, mid-iron to scoring distance, attack. Take the big number out of play. On on par 5s, hit a club you are most comfortable with on your second shot. For me, it is my trusty 4 hybrid. Just long enough to get me into scoring range with accuracy. Be cerebral out on the course. In the long run, I need to take some lessons to improve my weaknesses. Lastly, very rarely do I get compliments on putting . Not a weakness but surely not a strength. I average about 32 putts per round. I rarely 3 putt and only 1 putt when I have stuck a wedge inside 5 feet. What if I was to sink a few bombs per round? Translate 32 putts to say, 28-29? Just that alone would make me a single indexer. So listen to your golf partners, on occasion they say something that can improve your game.

Happy birthday, dad. (He would have been 88 today)

©socalgolfblog

How the Game Found a Kid from East LA: The Thanksgiving Edition

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Pasadena, CA (Thanksgiving Day, 2016) I have been thinking a lot about my Uncle Al (Lury was his street name) these last couple of weeks. Born and raised in East LA, part of pachuco culture, Uncle Lury was not born with a silver spoon in his mouth. Yet, he was the golf force in my family and arguably the best golfer of the clan (I’d like to have a go with him now that I have matured in the game. Unfortunately, he passed a few years a go). The game was not introduced to the family through Lury, that honour was reserved for my Uncle Eddie, another product of the mean streets of East LA. As an adult, Eddie worked for the Lockheed Corporation in Lancaster, CA and that is where the game was introduced to him. The game penetrated my clan through my uncles. Bad ass golfers. Tough guys. Make fun of their participation in the game and you would, no doubt, get an ass kicking. Both so volatile that they could no longer maintain a golf relationship. Too competitive, too much family history and politics. My dad picked up the game from Eddie and Lury. He was another man with humble roots. Pachuco culture, ex-military and street hustler. My pop even took a bullet as a kid when he was caught stealing apples (yup, apples) from a local East LA apple orchard. At first I was too young to accompany this eclectic threesome. It was the early sixties. Yet, I was well aware of the game. My dad and I watched Nicklaus, Palmer, Player, and the mas chingon Lee Trevino on TV. We would even venture to Riviera to catch a glimpse. Little by little my dad realed me in. First, mini-golf, then par-3 courses (the photo above of Pico Rivera Golf Course was the epicenter of my developing relationship with the game. Pico Rivera is one of the oldest barrios in L.A. County). Eventually my game improved to hit the big course(s). Usually Whittier Narrows in Rosemead, CA. My uncles would join us and I became the fourth. I was now hanging with the men who developed my sense of machismo. I drank their whiskey and beer before my tenth birthday. It was a young boy’s rite of passage. Their companionship meant more than the game to me but I witnessed their dedication to the game. Competitive men translating a country club game to a fist fight all the while maintaining the game’s decorum. Golf was not a game to me initially, it was a coming of age. It was macho…and it was golf. Fast forward 50 years, I am standing on the tee at the Old Course at St. Andrews, I tee my ball and address it and I had to back off. I walked behind my ball, took it all in and thanked my Uncle’s Eddie and Lury and my dad, Arthur. A spiritual moment when a kid from East LA came face to face with the home of golf. Happy Thanksgiving.

The Grass Edition

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21 November 2016 (Pasadena, CA) Well the title and photo sure got your attention! Welcome to SoCalGolfBlog’s (puff, puff) grass edition. Allow me to let you down easy now…it is the grass edition, not the weed edition! I’m just working on my marketing (i.e. bait and switch) skills. Today I am actually writing on grasses used in different regions of the US and world. Nothing comprehensive, hopefully nothing boring, just a brief tutorial for the average golfer. Why? Because I encountered a grass known as bermuda in San Antonio, TX that literally smothered my clubs and arse! Now this drought resistant grass is popular on most courses in the southern/southeastern region of the United States. When mowed at green and fairway length it fairly benign. I actually liked it on the fairway but its lack of grain characteristics made reading greens more challenging than I am used to. The real problem was the rough areas. This hardy specimen takes on sponge-like characteristics when grown out making clean contact with your ball almost impossible. I quickly learned to take my medicine and club way down just to put the ball back in play. The few instances I tried to get a hybrid on the ball from the rough were disastrous. I think a fair comparison can be made with cacuya grasses familiar on some of the finest courses in the southwest United States (e.g. Riviera and Torrey Pines). Cacuya, likes its southern counterpart, is almost impossible to hit out of the rough with any force or accuracy. The difference is, cacuya looks like a shite prison, whereas bermuda takes on the appearance of a soft green pillow just off the fairway making it all the more insidious. One can argue that the fescue roughs featured on most links courses in Scotland and Ireland are the most penalizing, but ground keepers have to grow it out almost a foot for full effect. No, for my money, bermuda is the beast. Charming in appearance, resembling the fairway bermuda almost identically, but deadly like quicksand. So to the La Cantera Resort and Palmer courses, thank you for the education. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it!

Course Review: Rustic Canyon Golf Course

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31 October 2016 (Pasadena, CA) Alright, let’s cut right to the chase here. Let’s say you call me and tell me that you are in Los Angeles for two days and you want to play 2 of the best municipal courses Southern California has to offer. For me, it is a no brainer: Oak Quarry in Riverside and Rustic Canyon in Moorpark. Both courses are approximately an hour drive from the Los Angeles Civic Center but well worth your commuting time. Hell, it can take you an hour and a half getting to Rancho Park GC in West LA because of city traffic. Do yourself a favor and check out this gem of a course set in the foothills of the Conejo Valley northwest of Los Angeles. Built in 2001 by the Hanse Design Team famous for their work on the Rio Olympic Golf Course (Brazil), Los Angeles Country Club South Course and the Craighead Course in Scotland (my home course at the Crail Golfing Society in conjunction with the Balcomie Links that is a Tom Morris Design), Rustic Canyon is a must play. Literally carved out of the side of a mountain, the course boast minimal intrusion on the natural lay of the land which in itself is spectacular (see photo above). In 2010 it was rated the Best Value in Golf and was also ranked #4 by Golf Weekly “Best Courses You Can Play.” So what is it about this track that makes it so special. As already noted, the course layout feels minimalist in relation to environmental impact. Most holes take full advantage of elevation changes in the topography of the land which are gradual thus never giving the impression that you are playing hillside golf. Fairways are generous but approaches are always tricky with waste areas and bunkers guarding treacherous green complexes. You NEVER want to find yourself above the hole on this course. Some playing partners have been critical of the tricky nature of the greens but I think that claim is overstated. Subsequent visits to the course will improve green complex knowledge making for a more enjoyable round. Another great feature about this course is that many holes invite bump and run approaches like a traditional links course. Therefore, creativity from 150 in can take many forms. I love most holes on this course but let me mention a few favorites. Number 1 is a great opening par 5 at 512 yards from the blues and 495 from the whites. A dry creek guards the left side of the fairway on 2nd shots and the creek folds around the bottom of the green to make approaches challenging. Number 3 may be my favorite risk/reward hole on the course. A 300 yard dogleg right par 4 that has prominent OB left and a fairway divided by a long bunker complex. Big hitters will test the left side to drive the hole but bring the OB into play. Shots to the right of the bunker have no chance of getting home in one but leave the best and safest angle for your approach. Numbers 5 and 7, the former a par 5 and the latter a par 4, require skilled club selection as you move the ball from landing area to landing area (target golf). Number 10 is a brilliantly designed par 5 that plays uphill and occasionally into the wind and 11 is a brutal par 4 that has a ravine ready to ingest any stray 2nd shot. Number 12 is another brilliant short par 4 with a sneaky green complex that will spit out any over-clubbed shot. Perhaps the most interesting and challenging hole on the course is #14, a 364 yard 90 degree dogleg left that requires a 180 yard carry on your drive. I know that doesn’t sound like much but big hitters may be tempted to cut the dogleg which incrementally adds yardage to the must carry drive. The par 3s on the course are challenging and most feature waste areas between tees and green which make accuracy off the tee a must. All in all a brilliant course with a links feel and beautiful natural resources all around. Wildlife in many forms grace the surrounding area. Don’t be surprised if you see a strolling deer or two, a coyote, plenty of hawks, and stay out of the brush because rattlesnakes abound! A beverage cart circulates the course (not often enough in my opinion) so stock up on fluids and snacks before you tee off and the restaurant on site is fine for burgers, burritos, sandwiches and hot dogs. But do yourself a favor, come for the golf. One of the best munis for my money (rates are $40ish with a cart). On the SoCalGolfBlog scale of 1-10, Rustic Canyon GC earns a solid 9. I look forward to my next round there.

Copyright© SoCalGolfBlog2016

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My Friday Group

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30 October 2016 (Pasadena, CA) It usually starts Tuesday night. I begin thinking about my round on Friday and my practice session on Wednesday. What do I need to work on? What course are we playing on Friday? Do I need a 3-wood in my bag for 200ish yards par-3s or an extra wedge? Wednesday hits and it is time to work it out in the dirt. I also start texting a few choice members of the Friday group to report a (false) injury that will surely require that they offer a few strokes a side. They never do and will report their own (false) injuries. We call it “rhetoric.” Pre-round, friendly trash talk. This is a great golf group. We have an ex-Vietnam vet, private investigator, retired law enforcement professionals, a financial investor, an attorney, a union business representative, a co-founder of a fantasy sport site, a philosopher and a theologian. Stand-up guys. Family first guys. Men I am happy to call friends. Men I want to spend 6 hours with on a Friday. No hot heads and surely no one’s Friday is ruined if we don’t put up the lowest number. But we are a competitive group. And that’s what makes it fun. We all want to do well and bring our various strengths to the course. There are the long drivers (really unfair how far some of these dudes hit the ball!). I’m hitting fairway wood on some holes where their drives leave them a short iron approach. There are the guys who hit mammoth and accurate fairway woods. I definitely don’t have that in my bag. A few gents hit great long irons making 180-in looking very doable. Then there are the short iron guys like me who have to be deadly accurate to keep up with the long knockers. Fun to watch how these different strengths inform our approach to the game. It’s like everyone has a different paint brush in their hand attempting to paint the same golf portrait. Always fascinating. Another interesting feature about this group is that very little gambling goes on. This may be one reason we get on so well. I have been in groups that have had intense arguments about a 2 foot gimme when a few quid were on the line. Buddies that no longer speak to each other because of interpretive disagreements. Sad and pathetic. Our group will occasionally put a dime on a round depending on how the group is constituted on a  given Friday but it is definitely not the reason for the golf season. The real reason this group has done so well is because we have a great core group that shares a lot in common. Fridays are not only a sporting event but a social event. Our post-round lunches and conversations (after already spending 5 hours together) are always a great opportunity to talk about last night’s “big” game, our fantasy teams, our children in college, high school, or elementary school. The latest home project we are working on. Movies, music, business and leisure travel, and favorite restaurants. Hell, even politics and religion are fair game. The bottom line, however, is the game. It’s what ultimately brings us together. We got lucky with everything else. So to my buds in the HFGA–Jeff, PJ, Mike, Jack, Dan, Jim, Luis (and anyone else I may have forgotten as I write with a breakfast sandwich in one hand and two dogs on my lap) thank you and I fully expect the pain and swelling in my knee to be manageable by Friday (if not, I’ll use my putter as a cane).

Off Season: Sabbaticals from Golf

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17 October 2016 (Pasadena, CA) I live in California. For folk in warm weather climates there is no off season with the exception of an occasional rainout. I lived in New York City for 6+ years but was on a 10 year hiatus from the game so I never experienced an off-season. In fact, I cannot even imagine what a 4-6 month layoff from the game would do to me. I read the golf magazines and watch the Golf Channel and note that in colder climates there are indoor ranges and putting greens to hone your game when snow is on the ground; several which are very high tech and allow you to play simulated golf. I have also seen television shows on off-season golf workouts that allow players to  attend to one’s overall health to improve your game. I have also met snowbirds who leave cold weather climates and migrate to Florida and California so that they can play all year round. I get it. We don’t want to step away from the game that means so much to us. But if you do not find yourself with scheduling flexibility that snowbirds and geese exercise during the winter, what are you to do? What are you to make of the mandatory 4-6 month golf sabbatical? If you haven’t gathered by now, I teach at a university and am afforded summers off and every 7 years I get a teaching sabbatical of either a half year or full year. There is a reason for sabbaticals. They allow you to restore yourself, take a step away and THINK or not think about your trade. They are restorative and give fresh perspective. They also allow you to dabble as you see fit to work on your scholarship at your pace. They allow you to step out of the whirlwind. Hence, they are life giving. Is any of this translatable to the mandatory golf sabbatical? Here is how I would superimpose the academic on athletic notions of a break. Restoration…do you need to heal any in-season injuries with rest or rehab? Now is the time to do so. It is also a time to work on strength and flexibility if you are an older player. Get some reps in…find an indoor hitting facility to keep the swing grooved. Enhance…this is an excellent opportunity for you to take professional lessons. Think about your season, what worked? What part of your game needs improvement? Take the season’s issues to a pro. Plan…a golf trip or two at a warm climate golf venue. Work towards a golf travel reward. Think…take time to read a book or two on golf history. Place yourself within the trajectory of the history of the game. Miss…the game you love so much. Come back to it restored and energized for a new season. I look forward to seeing you all back on the course next spring.