2022 Year in Review
Back at the end of 2021, I was faced with a clear realization that I had known about, but didn’t want to bring to the front of thinking about my golf game — I wasn’t good enough to compete at a higher level with more difficult courses. This came when I was able to play Old Elm, where they set the course up in a more difficult manner. Tucked pins on upside down bowl greens (think Pinehurst #2) meant that shots that were slightly off ended up in death like positions.
Post college, when I started competing again, I had had a few good years. The difference that was shown in that time was that my game was able to handle Wisconsin courses, but at a national level, with the few USGAs I had in 2017 and 2018, I had zero changes of doing well. The difference between Riviera and Pebble compared to our Wisconsin tournament courses is giant. At the time I dismissed this, being glad I was able to play in those events at those courses. But end of last year, the feeling of being fed up with lack of ability came on strong. If I was to compete, I needed to make some changes.
This led to a commitment in January of 2022, where I gave myself permission to spend time and effort to practice. Swing changes, equipment changes, physical changes were all fair game and needed to be addressed. It’s not the easiest to decision to agree and commit to that list of improvements. We have a limited amount of time on earth, of which, there are so many different places we can spend it. Amateur golf isn’t exactly a main stake for commitment.
My reasoning in this case was to prove to myself that if I spent time and effort, I could achieve what I wanted — the ability to have a game to be able to compete at higher level courses. I’ve had this thought before in golf and other aspects, where if I didn’t perform particularly well at any event, it was only because I didn’t decide to spend the time to practice. Maybe it’s because I got older that I I became self convinced to show that my thinking was true.
In the end at the time of writing this, I feel I did fairly well at the goal. The couple national events (even if one was in our state) I could tell my game was at a much better level than before, making myself able to compete and knowing I could do that. This change helped in our state and local events as well, where there were many times I would finish a round and realize I had zero chance of playing that well in years past.
I haven’t hit a golf ball in a couple months now, kind of a late fall / early winter offseason, but I’m feeling that I’ll want to keep going for next year as well. There are still many places in my game I know are off and I have ideas on how they can get better.
This write up of what I did this past year was a way for me to track what changes I made to I can 1) know what worked and what didn’t, 2) figure out what still needs the improvement for next season, and 3) maybe help others with their games, both with ideas that might help them, and also show that they can put effort into their games and improve as well.
The winter solstice is almost here, where us in the northern hemisphere will soon be getting the longer days, more sunlight, and the start of a new year. We can spend some time thinking about the past, and move the mindset to thinking about the future.
Parallel Hips, forearm shaft, and skipping stones
I’m not a fan of New Year resolutions, considering any day should be a good day to create a new resolution. But in this case, I considered my off-season to end at the turn of the year, so beginning in January 2022, I was at it working on those swing changes I needed to make to create any chance of competing. Leading off is swing change #1, working to get my hips parallel to the ground at impact.
A common theme for my bad swings that comes up over and over, and is still something I need to work on when writing this, is lateral movement. I slide towards the ball rather than only rotate. What this leads to is extra motion I don’t need, and adding another axis of potential mis-timing. In terms of the hips, the sliding means the left side tends to come up at impact, and the right side goes down. If I were rotating better, both hips would be more parallel the whole way around.
June 2021 I tweet commented about Cantlay and Morikawa’s impacts
Parallel hips have been something in my head for a while. In October 2021 I talked about Sam Burns’s awesome impact position:
On January 26th, 2022, I was marveling at Morikawa’s impact.Read more: 2022 Year in Review
As for me, here are a couple pics from different times way back in 2020. So much sliding involved, even at the time I said I was hitting it well.
Jumping forward in time to Feb 2022, when I’d been going at these changes for a month and a half, I was getting there.
You might have noticed too that I’ve been making comments about the right forearm (for right handed players) being aligned with the shaft at the impact position. This is something that happens by default for players, but a move that I feel needs to be looked at. This is another case of having that alignment removing an axis of timing. If someone’s hands are below the shaft, creating an angle between shaft and forearm, that requires timing.
These swing changes were what I worked on in winter and spring and continued during the summer season. Hitting balls for an hour a day working to be more and more consistent. Progress was being made, consistency was up, and as the days kept getting longer and the season was coming around, I was seeing how my equipment needed some edits. As a reference before continuing, here’s my impact in August, right before I sprained my ankle. What a difference.
Putter Grip Change
I have very dry hands, which means I need a certain type of grip on all clubs, but especially irons. In previous years, I would switch out one Wynn grip for another on the Yes! Callie Tour I used, which had a pretty good amount of sticky traction at the start of the year, and then over the months would wear down and become more rounded. It’s as if I had a completely different grip at the end of the year than I did at the start.
In March, I realized that I had zero excuse to keep using that same type of grip when odds were there’s some other brand that would be better. I thought of it this way: grips cost in the $20-$25 range, but if I found the perfect grip, one that fit my hand size, had the needed hand traction, and ability to stay consistent through the year, it’d be worth a ton more than that.
I’ll say I got lucky, where the first new grip I tried was the one I needed. Enter the Iomic Jumbo.
This thing felt so as soon as I slipped it on and cradled it on the putting mat in the basement. Before, I’d have to spend time over a putt making sure that my grip was the same as usual, and that I wasn’t accidentally having my hands twisted too far to the left or right. The rigidness of the Iomic meant that it was very difficult to grip it any way other than the One.
Even though I didn’t putt that well this year (see section at the bottom), the grip change was a big benefit. My putter grip was definitely an equipment issue, rather than a stroke issue. But what about full clubs?
Driver Shafts – Turns out you can tell when a shaft fits you with one swing.
In golf, it’s not easy to know if it’s the equipment or your swing’s fault for bad shots. Now with the swing changes becoming more and more automatic, It was easier to see that my driver didn’t fit and I somehow needed a change.
The thing to remember about being fit for clubs is you need your swing to be on point right when you get there. If you’re slightly off, or not warmed up, it’s pointless given the small number of shots you can hit before they try to sell you on a shaft. I’ve always been tentative to pay someone for their time to try to tell me which clubs are right for my swing that part of the day.
On top of that, I have short legs and long arms, which means I like having a shorter driver shaft, which they’re not going to have at a fitting session. They want you to try 45.5 inches at least instead of the 44 inches I prefer. Sure, I can choke up, but the swing weight gets off. Coupled with how a single session is not long enough to find the right fit, I couldn’t do that.
At the State Best Ball this year in early June, I ran into Bob Gregorski on a tee box and the subject of driver shafts came up. I said how mine wasn’t fitting anymore, and he said how he has more than a few of X stiff driver shafts that he’d let me try to see if one of them fit. Through some coordination and a trip out to Hidden Glen for the transfer, I was quite pumped to have a go at the shafts.
I got back to my apartment and went to the sim and had the most fun hitting so many drivers with everything I had. Some were good, and with others it took one swing and I could tell the timing required to hit that shaft best wasn’t my swing timing. But overall, I was able to tell fairly quickly, within a couple swings, if the shaft was fitting.
How much better were the shaft changes? My ball speed jumped from ~179 with the shaft I’d been using to ~186 with the fitting ones. In the end it took a few days and a few sessions to get down to exactly which shaft fit my swing the best. I went with a KuroKage, starting at 46 inches that I cut down to 44.25 over a couple more iterations, and ball speeds moved into the ~183 range.
With the driver situation handled, I still had one more nagging issue.
Lie Loft Machine – The best $2500 I’ve ever spent.
Looking at pictures back to high school and college days, I find myself wondering what came first – my strong left hand grip or my super flat club heads?
Some courses or clubs have lie loft machines for members to use, but I don’t belong to a club. Most equipment places (Golf Galaxy) have them as well, along with other fitting places. For those, it’s not easy to find time or frankly trust what you’ll be told while there.
I could tell the lies were better for the new natural swing, but like the drivers, it took a few days with multiple sessions per day to get the clubs dialed in. And with my first bend coming on a Monday and the US Am qualifier on Thursday, I had a bunch of work to do.
The machine I went with is the kind with digital numbers showing the lie and loft of the club when locked in. That’s cool and all, but the process of bending irons is first to lock the club head in place. You have to squint your eyes and have them talk to your hands to make sure that bottom groove is perfectly parallel, which it never can be. Then you look at the digital numbers, take the heavy bar, crank it one direction or another, look at the digital numbers again, scratch your head and wonder why the loft went up along with the lie angle, move your head close to the bottom groove where you eye squint judge if it’s still parallel or you didn’t lock the club in well enough. Eventually you give up, take the club out of the machine, put it on the concrete basement floor and see if it looks better than before. Let’s just say I’m not that great at consistent bending.
I’d go through all the bends in the morning, go right back to the sim and start hitting each club, hit a couple shots, see that I screwed up by either over bending upright or not enough, and would plan which clubs needed what kind of bending when I went back to the machine that evening. Repeat.
By Wednesday night, I felt good about all the irons other than my 6 (which was still too flat) but it was good enough for the qualifier the next day.
The result was instant improvement. But wait, there’s one more last minute addition I made.
I was about to turn 32 and was partially holding off on migrating to push cart land. In one sense, I figured if I carried, it was a better workout and my body would be in better shape for rounds later in the summer. Not the smartest since I only have a limited number of competition days per year and really should be focused on doing what I can to play well in those. Another reason for not using a push cart was that it’s another giant piece of equipment I’d have to lug around and the cost of that wouldn’t equal the value of using one. I had a couple other smaller reasons for not using one too, like being unsure of how that would affect my upper body and in turn, my swing, since I would have to push something with arms rather than use my core to stay stable with a bag on my back.
My thoughts on push carts changed rapidly at this time when I was trying to think of anything quick and easy that I could do to play better. So I put something on twitter asking people if I should do it to get a sense of what others thought, and was sold by this:
The reference to the Stanford study made me remember back to the 2011 tournament we played in, Stanford’s team all had push carts. At that point, being a 20-year-old sophomore in college, my reaction was “huh, interesting” to seeing them with those in an event.
With all this, I asked a friend if I could borrow theirs, and was ready to go.
All of this in the 2022 season so far, with the work on swing changes, club changes, and now the push cart addition led me to a long day where out of ~80 people, only a few are happy at the end.
US Am Qualifier
I’ve talked to people before about how much I dislike 18 hole qualifiers. I’m a slow starter. I struggle to play well off the first hole, and I haven’t learned how to start with good judgment on my swing from a range session. It was a pretty windy day at Watertown, where us oldies with KVR and Beilo were put as the last group off hole #1. That first round, I got through #11 where I made my third bogey of the round with zero birdies to put me at +3. Something clicked then, to where I played the remaining 25 holes -7 with one other bogey. And the main reason that was happening was because I was hitting great drivers and giving myself birdie looks on pretty much every hole. The greens at Watertown were quite quick and not that readable meaning I didn’t convert too many of those.
It’s great that we have mobile scoring at WSGA-run events now, and being in the last group with live scoring, I could see what number I would need to get to to qualify. On #18, our 27th hole of the day, I hit a great wedge to a tap in that got me to -1 overall. When getting to the first tee, I looked at the scores again and came up with -3 would be a playoff and -4 would be in. That meant I needed 3 birdies on the final 9, and I’ll truthfully say that my bent clubs were the reason I could do it.
It’s hard to explain the difference in standing over a shot looking at a club that you know fits a normal swing, rather than one that’s so flat you have to decide whether you want to 1) make solid contact or 2) put a good swing on it. I didn’t miss a green that 9, including the only par 5 of their front 9 where I had that poorly bent 6 iron in for my second shot. There are two par 3s in a row, numbers 5 and 6 which were the big difference. In the past I would have been hoping that my miss was in a place I could get up and down. This time, I was standing over the ball with a mid iron thinking to myself that I could stuff it and make one of those needed birdies. I was 5 feet and 10 feet away for birdie on those holes. Missed both putts, but it’s huge for confidence.
We got to #8 and I was -3, having to birdie one of the last two to qualify. I was swinging so well and nuked a driver dead center on 8 where I had 54 yards in. The pin was back left with a swale in the middle of the green. I was close enough where I could walk up to the hole and judge where I wanted the pitch to land and with what speed and landing spin. I hit that pitch to three and a half feet and drained the putt. On number 9, I clubbed down because of the tension, and hit a pitching wedge (which was bent correctly) to 15 feet dead center of the small green, tapped the putt to a foot past and was able to tap in to finish -4 and get the third spot.
Qualifying for the US Am, with such a good finish given the wind and difficult greens and how well I hit the ball is truly something I’m proud of. Those environments are where I play my best. This was the 4th time I qualified for the US Am. Looking back on the others, one in Wisconsin, one in Michigan, one in the Chicago area, and especially because three of those qualifiers were in my Mid-Am Post College years, is something I truly impress myself with. And if I didn’t have a fitting driver shaft, correctly bent irons, and used a push cart, I wouldn’t have been able to do it this year.
So far in the summary, I’ve talked through equipment and physical game changes. Now I think it’s time to talk about a couple changes on the non golf specific side that I worked to improve, starting with sleep.
At that Best Ball in early June, we lost in the first match in a crappy way, where neither of us was able to do much. For me, the pure issue was poor sleep that night before. I was staying in the guest room at Mike’s parent’s house, an easy 5 minutes away from South Hills. I’d stayed there many times before so I was comfortable with the bed, but something was off that night.
When I don’t sleep well, I end up having a sick, empty feeling in my stomach. Eyes feel hollow, and sometimes I have shaky limbs, and a weak core. My body knows how important sleep is, which takes away my ability to concentrate and even if I’m able to do that, the weakness of my arm and core muscles means I can’t swing in a solid way. I’ve had this for a while, and still haven’t figured out a good way of overcoming these feelings other than being able to take a nap.
I’ve had these sleep issues for years as well. The 2020 State Open atBlue Mound is an example of this, where I slept so poorly the night before the final day that the first 18 holes of the 36 hole ending was a big time struggle trying to hang on with no big numbers. The time between rounds I spent in my car with the AC and eye mask on, and was able to sleep off the sick feeling. Result being I was much more comfortable in the final 18. I shot 74-70 in those rounds purely because of bad sleep. If bad sleep causes a scoring difference of 4 shots, this needs to be figured out.
A couple things I’ve done that have helped that I’ll mention here.
No caffeine during tournament weeks.
I like caffeine but that causes problems. It can cause daytime highs and crashes, and also can lead to poor sleeping at night if caffeine was had at the wrong time of the day.
Doing my best to not eat within 3 hours of going to sleep.
This one is a big help and I bet you’ll hear more and more about this if you listen to and read certain people. The idea is that digestion and blood sugar reduction takes a lot of work by your body, and if you’re doing that when sleeping, you’re missing out on the brain cleaning your body should be doing at sleep.
This 3 hour time frame can be tough if you’re in the afternoon / morning wave. If that’s the case, I’ll eat less for dinner. That can sound weird since after an afternoon round you might be thinking your body needs food to recover. Sleep is more important though, and you can always plan for this by eating correctly during the day before and the next morning.
Go to sleep early, and wake up early
Yeah sure, in the summer, Brewer home games start at 7, ending sometime past 10. But they play 162 games a year and I play in many fewer tournaments. Going to bed and lights out early, I’m talking before 9 if I have a morning tee time, is something I’ve found.
If you have a morning time coming up, it can take your body a few days to shift to be able to allow yourself to get up early enough to be ready for those times.
I used these later in the year at the US Am and the US Mid Am, for each of whichI had an early morning first wave tee time.
For example at the US Am out in Jersey, in order to get ready for my opening time at 7:10 eastern time, I wanted to be up and starting body warm ups at 5:00 eastern. I started getting to bed at 8:30, would wake up each day earlier, go down to the lobby and get some decaf coffee, and be outside to get some morning sunlight before 6:00. I did a similar plan in September for the Mid Am where my opening round was at 6:50. That was a little different since I was staying at my apartment rather than a hotel with less to do, but I needed to do whatever I could to avoid the cost of bad sleep.
If I sleep bad, I’m throwing away shots.
Golf is a mental game. Like sleep, a big pain I’ve had in my career is how I handle myself on the course in so many different realms that the term mindfulness fits.
Start with nervousness. At USGAs before this year, I don’t think I’ve ever come close to hitting the opening fairway. Another example is anger, where in the past I’ve tried to fake anger in order to help with another mindfulness term, motivation, of which I never find I have much.
Mindfulness is also a non golf benefit, which is why earlier in the year I decided to give it a go. I started (and am continuing) with Waking Up, one of many apps that helps someone learn the many types of different mindfulness and meditation. It starts with a 30 day intro playlist, featuring ~10 meditations that help you learn what to do. It also has conversations and other guided meditations by others in the field. I highly, highly recommend that everyone reading to this point try this out. They have a 30 day free trial, and yearly subscription fees are tiny compared to the benefit I feel this has given me in real life and on the course.
So what about the golf ecosystem? How can a phone app and time spent sitting be worthy to be written about in a year in review post? The benefits are as follows.
First, you come to a clear realization that nervousness is a made up emotion. A common talk in guided meditations are that when you recognize emotions as emotions, you find that they can quickly go away. I used this so many times this year on the course, where I’d get nervous, mostly at the start of rounds which is my normal time for feeling nervous. The thought process for this now is me noticing the feeling of nervousness, knowing that it isn’t me, and watching it fall away.
Another example of mindfulness on a golf course is with anger, another emotion that we feel, but isn’t who we are. As said above, my anger is mostly me trying to convince my uncompetitive self that I *should* be angry, which means I’m trying. The thought process is this: if I get mad at myself, I’ll know how much I dislike it, which should make me try harder on future shots. With mindfulness practice, that goes away. You learn to see anger as purely something on top of awareness. I can feel angry, and it’s good to notice it because it makes the anger vanish, like nervousness. There’s no reason to be angry. If I’m wanting motivation, that needs to come from a different direction.
A final example that mindfulness practice helps reveal is how often I get the feeling of boredom on a course. Not slow play boredom, which many other people complain about, but the pure fact that you’re out and not in front of a screen for 5+ hours. When starting the intro meditation course, which was just 10 minutes of sitting alone with my mind, I struggled. It felt as if me sitting without acting meant I was missing out on the latest news, missing an important message, or that my mind was too boring on its own to not be active. This feeling goes away. There are longer meditations the app provides, with the longest being an hour. With practice, those become so beneficial.
Hopefully this brief overview can convince some people to look into mindfulness and meditation as being such a good practice. Not being tied down on emotion makes every part of life much better. Having this help on a golf course is just a nice addition.
US Mid Am Qualifier
I figure I can quickly talk about the Mid Am qualifier as well, considering I was able to do something I rarely am able to do when out on a golf course — start off strong and hold it the whole round.
I’m 32 now, and my experience of the Mid Am qualifiers has been quite lackluster. Since I’d turned 25, I’d qualified for three US Ams, yet zero Mid Ams. Say what you want about quality of the field, but 18 hole qualifiers aren’t great for someone who gets better as a round and day goes on. This year was a different motivation for the qualifier than previous years, considering the tournament was in the Milwaukee area.
The second of the Wisconsin qualifiers was the Merrill Hills, a course which I seem to play every other year in one event or another, so I know the course decently well. The plan was to use the warmup time better, trying to hit shots as if they were all important instead of using range time to warm up the body. It’s working on the mind so every practice is like on the course, so when I got to the first tee, it would be as if I was starting the second round of a 36 hole qualifier.
And I felt I was able to do that. My opening shot with my 5 wood had that feeling leading to a par on the first. I hit the par 5 second in two and two putted for birdie. I then had my one hiccup on number 3, a hole which I played incorrectly off the tee and where I was lucky to not be in the little stream left of the green on my fairway bunker wedge approach. The next hole is a short par 5 where I hit a 9 iron second shot to a tap-in eagle. The rest of the front 9 has some difficult holes, where I made a bogey on number 6 after hitting 5 bad shots.
Moving forward in the round, coming into maybe 14, I could see I was at the top of the leaderboard. Once I got to 15, I could see that Nate Colson, my playing partner, and I were the only two at the top who started on the front 9. It was kind of a “duh” moment where we both realized that we were decently ahead of the field.
The front 9 at Merrill, which we’d been through, is a tough finish. 5-9 have two long-ish par 3s, a couple longer uphill par 4s, and all greens with slope. The back 9 from 15-18 is an almost drivable par 4, short par 3, reachable par 5, and then shortish downhill par 4 finisher. Once we realized this, we cruised to the end, and we were tied at -4 going into 18. I was in the fairway there with a wedge in my hand, and still had a good mindset where I hit it to under two feet for a tap-in birdie to qualify.
The main thing about this round, and one that I want to write about to engrain in my head, is that I can, if focused, play well in single rounds. I can get better at it, like getting a better physical warm up before a range warmup, and planning rounds better so I know what to do on each hole. It gave me confidence then, and confidence now, that I can improve.
After qualifying, my mind went to what my game could improve on before the Mid Am itself, but also that I needed to off-load some mental work on the course by going all in on those things they call green reading books.
Green reading books – Or really, approach shot books.
I’m probably in the minority of players in this age who say that green reading books of any amount of detail are fine to have and use on a course. I think of it this way: I want competitions to be about who’s playing the best at the time of a tournament, and have the least amount to do with people who’ve been lucky to have played the course in competition before. If someone wins because they know the course better than the others, that brings about a little asterisk to me.
The key thing about the green reading books is that I won’t use them for reading greens, but for approach shots. And knowing that is a huge advantage. That’s the advantage you have if you’ve played the course a bunch. That’s the information that everyone should be able to have if they know how to use it.
Here’s how approach shots work when you have those books. First, you laser the pin to get a number for the distance. Then you take out the pin sheet and match the numbers to the colorful green map in the green reading books. You use that image to visualize the green and figure out how much area, or how many steps in all four directions, you have to give yourself a good look to make the next putt.
For example, at the Mid Am stroke play round at Blue Mound, the pin on 9 was in the back left portion of the green. Short and right of it is this mini mound and unless you had a green book, you wouldn’t know about it. But with the book,you can see that you have only a couple steps right and left around the pin if you’re pin high, but if you’re short, you can have a little more safe space, and the putt is more of the normal uphill. The advantage of knowing that, knowing to take a few yards off the distance to put yourself in a better spot to make the putt and easier two putt is huge. That’s what these books are for.
At the US Am this year, my first in a few years, I didn’t get the green reading books in advance because I thought that the ones the USGA gave us would have enough about the greens to help. I learned my lesson. Now, I’m not about to say that if I had those, I’d have played better at Ridgewood and qualified for match play, but yeah, now writing about it, it probably would have made a difference.
Like I talked about above, even though I’ve played both Blue Mound and Erin Hills in the past, I used those books for an advantage. I also used the green reading approach shot book at the Stocker Cup in October, at The Preserve, on a course I hadn’t played before, with very tricky greens. I was going against guys who have played the course before, including the winner who’s played in tournaments there both as a pro and as a now reinstated am. There’s an infinite amount more confidence when you can be standing in the fairway or on a par 3 tee box about to hit a shot to a green you don’t know, but can look at a book.
I don’t know how I played without these books in the past, and I don’t know how I can do it without them anymore. The cost is well worth it, and when people complain about those books and how it takes away from the “nature of the game”, I’ll roll my eyes internally.
The Yes! change that came too late
As great as it was to get a new putter grip at the start of the year, the putter itself didn’t quite work this year. I putted ok at times, and I still had the confidence, but by the end I could tell that I needed something different.
The biggest of these misses came out at the State Mid Am, where I played 26 holes and kept missing. The first round alone I missed 8 putts from 4-15 feet.
Talking it over, two issues were found. 1) The Callie I was using had almost negative loft. In the past, I had a couple angry kicks of the putter so that the head would bend up, and after the rounds when I’d bend them back, I’d still leave some extra loft. I never angry kicked this Callie. 2) The Callie is a half toe hang, which when cross handed can cause problems. I’ve tried out a couple full toe hang putters and it was clear at the start the weighting didn’t fit with cross handed. Toe hang and cross handed is so bad that if I was forced to use a full toe hang, I’d use a normal grip.
Luckily, in the basement, there was another Yes! putter, this one named for Retief’s wife Tracy, and the one he used to win those US Opens back in the day.
This switch for me was two weeks before the Stocker Cup, my final event of the year. I was unsure if I’d be able to get comfortable with it in that time frame, especially because it was October and greens were being punched.
I went full in on it, having a couple sessions on my indoor mat in my apartment a couple times a day, and found out that humans are pretty good at adjustments to new norms.
At the Stocker Cup, with green reading books I never used on the green, I was able to make more than a few mid range putts with the Tracy, something I hadn’t done all year with the Callie. As always, that leaves good feelings and bad feelings.
If I had made the switch at the beginning of the year like I thought of, could I have done better? In golf and life, that feeling comes up so frequently. As they say, the best time to plant a tree was 30 years ago, the second best time is now.
Spending all the time writing this, I came up with so many thoughts about my game that I made some small changes with, some that I didn’t make, and others that I can work on improving next season. Instead of giving them their own smaller sections, I figured I should lump them in here at the end.
In 2021, I made the switch away from anything with sugar in it, due to the highs and crashes they deliver when consumed on a course. This year, I wanted to try to see what the talk of electrolytes was all about. I tried a few different brands, and fell on LMNT, which can mostly be described as delicious salt, and some other ingredients.
I really do feel it makes a difference. There’s a lot of talk about how we consume so much salt from daily eating that adding any more is harmful. From my diet though, I wasn’t getting enough. When I have a packet of the LMNT I can feel the positive effects.
On the course, I go through one or two of the packets depending on the weather and if I feel I’m needing them. Off the course, I go through one or two of the packets depending on the weather and if I feel I’m needing them.
DNS, or Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilization is this sort of down low movement where people treat their bodies like they were still a baby. The overall idea is that when we’re in the 0-2 year age range, the way we move is built in, natural, and non-environmental. An example is that when we learn to stand, all babies use the same methodology to go from sitting to standing. As we get older, these methods go away. DNS wants us to go back to moving like we were kids.
I tried somewhat to fit this into the golf swing, to try to make it more “natural” in a way with some success. There are videos online showing exercises to do to try to engrain the DNS motions. There are some other good videos purely about using DNS techniques to use as a body warm up. Videos can only go so far though, and DNS people have classes you can take, but that requires travel and money. We’ll see how much more of this I work on in the offseason and for next year, but it’s worth mentioning here.
Some might have noticed this year that I started wearing bright white arm sleeves on the course. And you’re right! Decision was two-fold. First, skin protection is key. On both a skin cancer and aging look front, keeping skin fresh and out of sun glare is something we all should do better at. And second, I dislike the effort that goes into taking a shower after a round and trying to scrub away all the sticky sunscreen that I sprayed on.
I tried a couple types from Amazon, and I can’t remember the fake brand name the reseller put on them, but they worked well. Cheap, lasted a few washes, and didn’t slip down the arms which meant I didn’t have to continually readjust. I’ll keep with these going forward. As for other sun protection products, who knows, maybe bucket hats will get a look next year for face skin help.
I’m way at the end of the competitiveness spectrum. I do not care about winning. If I do win,I’m pretty much feeling bad for the others because I guarantee they feel worse about not winning than the benefit I get from it. I’ve tried to come up with ways around this, but all my tries at creating a competitive attitude so far have seemed so fake that I can’t get behind it. I’m going to need to come up with a different way to play well that feels natural. I think for the coming year it’s going to be on the mental side, where I enter each round with the plan to hit every shot perfectly and give it full concentration. That’s something that feels true to me.
I can always make swing changes, and this coming winter I’m wanting to come up with a couple. One change I need to do is be more in balance on my feet. Consistently, my bad shots are when something gets off with the weight of my body, which then translates to my feet trying to get myself back into balance. Like if my hands drop behind my body, then I have to switch the timing in my core rotation, and then I’m on my toes and trying to not fall over andI move to my heels. I’ve played around with this somewhat this fall already, with the swing thought of having my transition being directly from my back foot to front foot. If I do that, it’d be hard to get the rest of my body out of whack. I think.
I wasn’t quite sure what to call this section, but then I realized fitness is a great word to use. It shows in amateur events, for those of us who are not professional athletes, the player who’s in the best shape does the best. I mean, to win a USGA, you need to walk 18 or 36 consecutively for over a week! If you’re on a course and get tired, your swing goes to crap. The push cart is a good way of helping to not lose energy. I can still improve on this before the start of next season.
You know that first round of the year in the spring, with trees that don’t have leaves, brown grass with puddles all over from melting snow where you have to tiptoe around the course, cart path only? The next day we wake up with all-over soreness. The season progresses and by the end, you’re in good enough shape and think back to how crazy it was and how poor of shape you were at the start. I don’t want that anymore.
For those I’ve talked to about this, I’m anti-running due to the impact on your legs. I mean, check out what happened to Tiger. Cycling is a good way to decrease impact. Something like rucksacking is another act I want to try this offseason. Sure it can be cold out, but nothing better to get ready for walking during the summer than walking in the winter. Still has knee impact, but much less than running.
Either way, being in good fitness, to the point where you feel as energized on the 18th green as you did on the 1st tee feels like cheating. And that’s without even mentioning how good it makes you feel in the rest of your life.
New, and more, clubs
I talked about driver shafts and lie loft machines, but I still feel my game is missing something with other clubs. One example for me is my 5 wood. After fixing the driver shaft, I could feel my 5 wood felt just as off with the shaft. The other thing with the 5 wood is the distance gap between that and driver. It causes issues when deciding what to hit off the tee. I feel I need a wood that goes slightly further than my current 5 wood and has a shaft fit so I feel incredibly comfortable with it, knowing that it’ll hit the fairway.
This leads to me thinking I probably need to do something with the other longer clubs in my bag. Should I have a 3 iron? Hybrid? 3 wood + 7 wood combo? Maybe do something like have 15 clubs I practice with, and then depending on the course and conditions, pick which 14 I should play with at an event or round.
We talkin’ ’bout practice. More specifically, practicing with focus. A good summary talked about here, that talks about the importance of deliberate practice. Looking back on when I’d practice this past year, hitting balls in the sim, chipping and putting at Brown Deer, I had times when I was in a decent mental frame, but I wasn’t nearly as good as I could and should be. There’s no point in practicing if you’re in a different mental place than working for improvement that lasts. Big topic to talk about here at the end, but something worth noting.
One swing change I didn’t mention above was rounded back at impact. I had played around this in the opposite form a couple years ago, wondering if having a convex arched back would help consistency. That turned out to be a 10 minute nope, where giant slices and snap hooks were flying left and right. When spending all the time I did reviewing swings this springtime, I noticed the opposite, where players’ backs were much more rounded in a concave manner. Check this Rory / Lydia Ko combo pic:
I added that thought to my swing and consistency improved. That type of rounded back fits with the goal of reducing the need for timing, as a small timing difference won’t lead to bigger change in shaft or face angle. Also a big help in injury lessening.
This might have deserved a bigger section, but putting it at the end could be just as noteworthy. And that is that there was not one time on a course I was hungry! Past me would so often have issues on a course where I’d either sugar crash from too much sugar before the round (Dunkin iced coffee with sugar + maybe a donut that in my dumb head I figured would give energy) or not have enough normal type of food during a round. We’re in the sun, walking, for over 5 hours at a time, clearly which will require tons of energy. If I got hungry, my body treaded that as an early evolution sign that golf was not as important as getting food, and my game went to crap.
But this year, I can truly say I never had that energy drop. For pretty much every round, I went with salted cashews and a self made turkey sandwich. As soon as I had any thought about drop of energy, I’d stuff my face with some bites of either of those.
Looking back to previous years, I can find times where I didn’t plan for food, which caused straight up lost shots on the course. If you made it this far to the end of my year in review, I’ll say the easiest thing you can do to improve scores is make sure to have food on the course. Fin.
Pinehurst #2 Review — Don’t miss a green on the wrong side
Pinehurst #2. What to say, what to say. It’s been so tough to figure out what I wanted to say about #2 that I haven’t written this review until over 3 months after the Four Ball. And it’s even so tough now that I’ve been sitting here a while without knowing how to start.
After writing the post, I have a summary to share. Pinehurst #2 is somewhat of a bland course in terms of hole distinction and differences in important shots. But it is impressive in difficulty in that basically every bad shot, especially approaches, is penalized. This makes it an ideal home course if you’re trying to compete since every shot requires perfection, and every other course you’ll play will seem easier.
I guess the first thing to say is that my dad and I played #2 back in the day and were featured in the Pinehurst newspaper the next day. Don’t believe me? My mom found it can snagged picture of it before the Four Ball. This was from almost 10 years ago now, and holy crap were clothes baggy back then. Oof.
Holy baggy rain pants. It was pouring, pouring rain so much then that barely anyone went out and played. We were unsure if we’d do that ourselves, but not like you can reject playing #2 when down there. I actually remember when this picture took place. We walking up to the second green and a car stopped on the road that cuts between the 2nd green and 3rd tee and a dude with a camera stepped out. We walked up to the green, said he’s from the local newspaper and wanted a picture of us on the green to prove that people were playing the course despite the crazy daylong downpour. Fun times.
Besides the second green, I remember a few other parts of the course — 16 because of the pond, 17 because of the semi valley from the tee to the green that was just all that bermuda style rough, and 18 approach shot because I stuffed this hybrid to a foot or so and had a tap in birdie.
When playing earlier this spring, the course was a 1000% percent different. Somewhat because I bogeyed 18 instead of birdieing it, but also because of the unbelievably perfect weather, spring warmness, no clouds, no sogginess, and different type of missed fairway penalty.
With the intro over, it’s time for me to go through all the thoughts I have on the course.
2017 US Amateur Oscars — Riviera, Bel-Air, and More!
Welcome to the 2017 US Amateur Oscars. I played like garbage with a dumb attitude during the tournaments, but hey! doesn’t mean I can’t give out the awards from the US Am!
I consider myself the host of these awards, but I don’t have an intro speech with jokes, even though I’m sure there’s a joke in there somewhere about all the celebs who are members at Riv and Bel-Air, but can’t come up with any. Because of that, I’ll just lead off with the award for the best picture taken with a cell phone.
Best Picture Taken By a Contestant with a Cell Phone
Best Tournament Course
Riviera of course. And this isn’t just because it hosts a Tour event every year, but mostly because it really is one of the best tournament courses I’ve ever played. Here come the reasons.
My requirements for a tournament course are 1) All the holes look different enough so you play it once and remember every hole, and 2) no funky holes. I keep talking about how requirement number 1 is the key for any course to be considered good in my book, but number 2 is required for a tournament course. I won’t list here courses that host tournaments that violate those rules, but they exist in majors and on Tour. In Riviera’s case, it perfectly follows both the rules.
Proof that it follows the first rule – I played Riv 6 years ago back in the college days, and I remembered the vast majority of the holes and their routing. And that’s not because I see them on TV during the Tour event.
And there aren’t funky holes out there. Some people might consider the par 3 6th as funky, because of the bunker in the middle of the green. Or maybe the par 4 8th with two fairways split by a waste area. But they’re not funky in the sense of required luck. When you hit a shot on those hole, you know where you can’t miss and where it’s ok to miss.
If you hit a bad shot you’re penalized, a good shot you’re rewarded. There are very few, if any, parts of the course where a bad shot stays in play. Throw in how long the course is (I had more irons 6 and over than I did wedges into par 4s, which is the first time in forever I remember that being the case) and you’ve got the perfect course to host a tourney.
Straightforward difficulty folks, that’s the best tournament course.
Most Enjoyable Course
I still haven’t figured out my exact definition of enjoyable course, probably something along the lines of which course I’d pick if I only would be able to play one from now on. Bel-Air wins the award on that definition.
Here’s some of the reasons.
- Bel-Air is easier, but not by much. It averaged ~1.2 strokes less than Riviera, but still averaged +4. Courses that are too easy definitely are on the opposite side. Courses that are too easy wouldn’t be on the enjoyable side, but compared to Riviera, I need something slightly easier to play all the time.
- Tunnels throughout the course. This includes, for example, the tunnel from behind the dumb (see the worst Bel-Air award below) 16th hole’s green to 17 tee. A volunteer told us members compete to see who can throw/roll their golf ball farthest down and closest to 17th tee. Sure, the tunnels are just connecting the course between the hills, but that’s a fun aspect you don’t see much. (Also, I won the competition in our group!)
- How about the celeb parts of the course? Like on the hillside to the left of number 4, which was the cave where Tarzan lived in the first Tarzan movie. The 8th hole were Howard Hughes once landed his plane to impress Katharine Hepburn. Or the original Bachelor Mansion to the left of 11 tee (which I can’t confirm cause I never watched that show back then, or even at all).
It’s not only those parts of the course that make it enjoyable; the design is fantastic. After playing these two George Thomas courses, he’s very high on my list of favorite course designers.
Best Hole at Riviera
Like most of these awards, it’s difficult to pick the winner for the best hole at Riv. In this case, I’m going to pick one of the more straightforward holes which I’m a big fan of. I’m go with number 9.
Tobacco Road Review — The Most Enjoyable Course I’ve Ever Played
When you go to the Tobacco Road website, you see a beautiful, sunrise picture of the par 3 8th green, the fairway of the par 4 9th hole in the background, and the following quote:
When talking about my favorite golf courses, I always tell people that the only feature that I need to see to be a fan of the course is that I have to be able to remember every hole individually after playing the course once. I need novelty, distinction, uniqueness, some other synonym of those words, and I don’t care at all if the course follows the rules of other courses.
Tobacco Road nails all of my requirements, and if I had to choose one course I’d play the rest of my short life, it would be Tobacco Road.
“It’s a beautiful course and even though I haven’t seen all 18 holes of many courses I could tell it was unique. I also liked ringing the bells when you left the fairway”
– My sister Sara, when asked her initial thought of Tobacco Road
“I figured you were writing a review but did not plan to be quoted ha”
– My sister Sara, when asked if she knew I was going to use her quote in the review.
“i REALLY did not expect you to use my second gchat hahah”
– My sister Sara, messaging me on gchat, after looking over the post and seeing her quotes.
I’m not sure when I heard of Tobacco Road for the first time, either way, when my sister and brother-in-law flew down to NC for a 3 day weekend to play golf back in February, I told them to head to Tobacco Road to check it out, and frankly knew how much they’d like it (and by they I mean both of them because my sister wasn’t playing, but she rode along in the cart). I also made sure to have them post a pic from the course, and obviously they went with the approach to the 13th green.
Fast forward a few months to the end of May when Mike and I (and couple caddie friends) were down in Pinehurst for the US Four Ball. Mike and I missed the match play cut, so we had an extra half a day before our flight back home, which meant that all four of us got a tee time at Tobacco Road mid morning, starting on the first tee.
I mentioned just above how an Instagram picture of the 13th hole approach shot is a frequently posted picture from the course. Another of the three main pictures is the view from the first tee to the fairway. Hills with shrubs for lost balls on both sides just before the landing area make it slightly intimidating, but they are also something that you’ll rarely see. Now, I’m lucky that I can hit drivers pretty far, far enough that from the back tees I can get so far over the hills that the fairway widens up enough. For those who don’t hit it as far, don’t worry, the fairway is still decently wide.
You’ll find this view nowhere else. On to descriptions of course features!
Semi Bucket Greens
Moving about 300 yards from the first tee to a 220 yard approach shot, the first green is a great example of the semi-bowl greens that are common to Tobacco Road. From the pic below, you can see the slope from the left side of the green over to the right. Looking at the bunkers on the right, you can see the slope to the back left of the green, and the slope from the back left to front right. A green that’s a valley.
It’s a very common feature of Tobacco Road (and exactly opposite of Pinehurst numero dos), and slopey greens make you need to know where to land the ball if you’re looking for a tap in birdie.
In my case, after a well hit driver off the tee and over the left hill (which is where to aim since the opening of the semi-bucket green is the left side), I hit a cutter 4 iron that fed down to the hole a decent amount from where it landed to 30 feet away, and I ended up 2 putting for a birdie.
These semi-bucket greens do make the course easier, but difficulty is not at all what I’m looking for when picking a course to play over and over and over, and neither is a feature that can help lower your score. The thought of landing areas and the excitement of seeing the ball roll to the hole, combined with the uncommonality of this feature, is the experience I want.
Doglegs where you choose how much to cut off, aka Loop Holes
If people start talking about this type of architecture as a Loop Hole, I’m getting credit for inventing the term.
When playing Tobacco Road, one of the main things you’ll see here are holes with giant, waste-area-bunkers between the tees and the greens, and a giant fairway that wraps around the entire thing.
Streamsong Red — The Colors of the Wind Part 1
Don’t be confused by the title of this post because the courses at Streamsong Resort have nothing to do with Pocahontas. But the courses there have colors as names (Blue and Red), and when Mike and I played there recently it was super windy thanks to a cold front coming through. Also, GOTM went to a Disney-themed trivia night at a bar at home and we knew none of the answers other than the one about Colors of the Wind, the main song in Pocahontas. Also also, my sister and girlfriend sang that song using the karaoke system that was at our AirBnB the night after we played. So if you want to listen to that song while you read about how great the Streamsong courses are, here’s the link for listening on youtube. If you watch that music video, Pocahontas and John Smith do go swimming in a stream at one point, so that’s also a Streamsong.
At first I planned to review both the Red and Blue courses in one article, but I had too much to say and too many cell phone quality pictures to share, so I ended up breaking them into two posts. If you’re looking for part 2 of the review, meaning of Streamsong’s Blue course, check out the review here.
With that being said, here we go with Streamsong Red!
It’s incredibly modernly classic, and totally worth paying and playing. If you don’t want to read this awesome but very long article, that’s cool, but the pics are worth it and provide a good summary.
The day after I played 36 holes out at World Woods, MD Mueller flew down to Florida and and we drove an hour from our AirBnB on some highways, some back roads, and a somewhat long tiny road where the speed limit is 20 mph, and made it to the courses at Streamsong Resort.
Many modern resort courses, such as Bandon Dunes, Cabot Cliffs, and Sand Valley, require similar drives. All these places are decently far from any big city, and each of them has a large amount of beautiful land on which to build some of the best modern courses in the US – Streamsong included.
Similar to Victoria National in Indiana, Streamsong is built on what used to be a mine, creating plenty of hills and valleys and even lakes. When you walk out the back side of the Red and Blue courses’ pro shop / clubhouse you see a few holes and the lakes and sand hills from left to right.
There are currently two open courses — the Blue designed by Tom Doak and the Red designed by Coore-Crenshaw. The course routes are close to each other and slightly intertwine. Actually, the sixth hole of each course returns to the clubhouse, allowing golfers the option to play a 12-hole course made up of the first six holes of each Blue and Red. And they even have a scorecard for the 12-hole option! As of now, the Black course is almost done and will be open for play in the fall of this year.
The Red and Blue clubhouse is absolutely beautiful and looks almost like a modern apartment building. It’s made mostly of glass, is somewhat tall, and includes a restaurant / bar and a pro shop on the inside.
We were able to play 36 of the 37 holes currently open (with the 37th being the bye hole, a par 3 near the clubhouse to help groups that need a playoff hole to settle their bets) right after a cold front came through, leading to highs of mid 70s and super windy conditions with gusts around 25 mph. During the main season for the Florida resort, they have rules about no carts on the courses meaning that we were walking the entire day. This wasn’t an issue for me because apparently I’m in good shape, while Mike was riding the struggle bus at the end.
The first round on either costs about $225, and if you play 36 holes in one day like we did, the replay rate is around $150. Considering how highly ranked these courses are, we found the cost to be expensive but fair. The most expensive courses I remember hearing about are Pebble Beach for around $500, Pinehurst #2 for about $400 (Mike and I get to play there a couple times for free this year after qualifying for the US Four Ball this May), and I think Doral raised its price to about $400 as well for some reason which is dumb since that course isn’t that amazing. I digress.
Before our morning tee time for the Red course, we hit a few balls on the driving range with well-maintained bermuda grass. The range is downhill so you can see where every ball lands. Next to the driving range, we hit a few pitch shots on the very high quality pitching / chipping green – super large with plenty of flags, which reminded me of Michigan’s practice area from back in college. In case you’re wondering, that’s exactly the type of green that you should look for if you want to get better at chipping and pitch shots.
As for the putting green next to the first tees, there was great grass again which did end up matching all the greens on the course, but for some reason there were no holes, only those wooden sticks they put in the green that have a like a real hole, but really don’t do much for you. After hitting a few putts at these sticks, it was time to head to the first tee.
The Tee Time
Here’s a pic of that first tee shot. See those bunkers? The one on the right is about 400 yards out – talk about depth perception issues. Also see how the entire right side of the landing area is open? I thought that too, so I hit a slice off the first tee to avoid the left side bunker. Turns out one of the few lakes on the course is actually just hidden by the mound to the left of the tee. A cut is still the type of tee shot to hit on the first in case you were wondering, just don’t slice it too much.
Trinity Forest — Coore & Crenshaw in Texas
I’ve said before that to be a cool kid in the golfing world, all you need to do is talk about all the Coore & Crenshaw designed courses you’ve played in your life. And last week, a couple other of the GOTM guys (and gal) and me made it down to Dallas for a post-Christmas golf trip where the location was decided by finding a direct flight to somewhere without snow. Dallas got checkmarks for both of those, and also was home to Trinity Forest, one of the newest Coore Crenshaw designs.
Trinity Forest, plunked just south of the city and home track for SMU’s golf teams, opened in the spring of 2016, and the big wigs of Texas also gravitated to the course right away. Jordan Spieth becoming a member (he can’t play Dallas National every day amirite?), nobody’s favorite side-saddle putter with the SMU ties, Bryson DeChambeau has also joined. Throw in a former president in Dubya, and you’ve got yourself a Texas party. Also while we were out there, Cameron McCormick was giving a presumably $500 an hour lesson, and Emmett Smith was somewhere on the course, but try as we might, we had no luck in finding him.
Facility-wise, the main clubhouse is still (and was) being built, but the makeshift trailer clubhouse has to be the best trailer clubhouse in the history of trailer clubhouses. Full bar, lockers, showers, all the hair and beauty products that could possibly be needed in a men’s locker room, lounge room, TVs, shoe shine equipment, and even M&Ms that Dylan crushed after the round.
The attitude at the club was awesomely laid back too. There was a group that went off along with us, them starting on #10, who went off with those Golf Board things. Pat asked our forecaddy Jesse about the policy on phones and cameras on the course, and Jesse gave a look of “why would there be any issues with using phones?” When we rolled up in the carts that we took from the parking lot, there were a bunch of push carts there if we wanted them. And at the turn, the guy working brought out a foam cooler of beer at Dylan’s request.
We headed to the practice facility first, which featured a range with an indoor teaching area (where McCormick was teaching), and on the other side, a giant facility which we learned was for the SMU team. Off to the side was a giant sloping putting green with only 3 holes cut for some reason, and connected to that was a chipping area with bunker. Off past that was a 9 hole short course, which we didn’t play.