foozle vt foo-zled; foo-zling (1892): to manage or play awkwardly; a bungling golf stroke

Friday, February 29, 2008

Golf Season Is Right Around The Corner

Tomorrow is the first day of March and that means we're officially entering the month where I have a chance to start playing golf again. Depending on the weather, I've been able to play here in Minnesota in March before, though its usually quite soggy and hence somewhat frustrating. At least I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, though. Real golf is less than a month away and I couldn't be happier. That's all I got.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

New Year's Resolution

Generally speaking I'm not a big New Year's Resolution kind of guy, but this year I felt compelled to make one. And why am I blogging about it in late February and not, say, January 2nd or 3rd? Well partially because I forgot about it, but mostly because it has to do with the coming golf season and mine (regretfully) is still a month or so from starting.
I have resolved to try and be happy with the amount of golf I get to play this season, instead of bemoaning all the times I'm not able to play when I really feel like I should be able to. See my wife is pregnant with our second child and she's due to give birth some time in mid-May. I know I'm not going to get my usual 60 or so rounds in this season so I'm trying to convince myself that I can (and will) be happy with whatever amount of golf I do get to play. Heck, some people don't even have the opportunity to play once in a year, so I guess compared to that any amount I get to play will be gravy.

There Are No Good Swing Thoughts

If you're thinking about anything other than your target when looking down at your golf ball you are doomed to fail. "Head down, left arm straight, etc." will get you nowhere fast on the golf course, that's for sure. The most you can hope for at that point is to be slightly disappointed. On the range? Maybe, but only long enough to get the feeling in your swing that you'll need to be able to call up on demand once you're actually playing the game for real. Target, target, target--that's all you can afford to think about when you're in the process of swinging the golf club when it really counts.

Some Personal Discoveries

I've recently been spending a lot of time putting in the basement with my new Scotty Cameron Circa 62 model no.1 putter (black finish--ooh la la...) and have discovered a sure-fire way to consistently make a nice, smooth stroke through the ball. If I concentrate on having good posture and focus my attention on the tension I'm feeling in the muscles of my lower back, my arms can't help but swing freely away from and back through the ball, producing delightfully solid contact with the ball (almost) every time.
I've also been spending a lot of time hitting balls at the indoor driving range off of artificial turf into a teflon baggie some 85-yards away. Not the ideal learning environment, I admit, but I have made some significant "discoveries" there this winter as well. For one, if I begin to be even slightly self-conscious as to any discomfort or irregularity in the grip of my right hand on the club, I am almost paralyzed to the point of being unable to get the ball off the ground. Its scary, to say the least, because though I'm no professional I like to think of myself as at least a competent amateur player. And when something so minor and seemingly unimportant as the feeling you're receiving from one of your hands on the club is enough to make the swinging action almost impossible it gives you pause for a moment, at least long enough to realize that this game is actually really hard. To make those naughty thoughts go away I first try and concentrate solely on the grip of my left hand, and if that doesn't work I put down the club and go practice putting some more.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

An Early Morning Blog

It's 4 a.m. and I'm watching taped coverage of the Mayakoba Golf Classic from yesterday's action in Mexico. It sure looks warm and sunny there...Corey Pavin is carving shots under the wind. Nick Price is striking the ball so purely he probably doesn't even know the wind is blowing 25-30 mph. Greg Norman threw up all over himself in the morning round (didn't see it, just heard about it) but all is well with his empire, no doubt. The Golf Channel had tape of his fiancee Chris Evert giving him a kiss as he walked down the 18th fairway. So sweet. This young Australian David Lutterus seems interesting. A little bit flashy and excitable and all dressed in black. I wonder if we'll ever hear from him again. My old favorite Neal Lancaster made a brief appearance on the second page of the leaderboard but he has all-but disappeared again just as quickly. I remember reading something about him in a golf rag where they said he only went into the tour-sponsored fitness trailers to get BenGay for his aching muscles and would be smoking cigarettes all the while. How cool is that? We won't see another like him again, of that I'm sure. I thought Spencer Levin was going to be worth getting excited about but I couldn't tell you where he's playing these days. Young, brash, with an up-turned collar and a mouth full of expletives--worth watching as far as I'm concerned, if only someone was covering the tournaments he's playing in these days. And speaking of Where Are They Nows, where's Ricky Barnes? My wife had a crush on him something fierce, so much so that I almost got her to go watch the local Nationwide Tour stop with me a few years back because he was scheduled to play in the event. Does he still even play the game?

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Fast Greens

I hate fast greens. I don't play on them enough to be comfortable putting on them and what's even worse, I've found even my short game becomes very tentative when I'm confronted with such surfaces. The delicate chips and pitches around the greens become that much harder when you're afraid your ball is going to take off and run forever when it does finally hit the green. Give me 8-9 on the stimpmeter and I'm a happy golfer. Anything more and I'm nearly paralyzed with the fear of an embarassing 12-foot comebacker for par.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Playing Under Pressure

"When you're right on the cut number and you're hitting the ball all over the place and you've got to make par on the last hole to make the cut, now you're choking your guts out. All you're trying to do is hit the ball in the fairway instead of trying to make a good swing. Suddenly you got rubber coming out from between your fingers. I have hit the ugliest dog putt when I was simply trying to two-putt and make the cut. It looked like I threw the ball down there and then threw up on it to make it stop."
--PGA Tour journeyman Brad Bryant describing the pressure some of the less-heralded players face every week on tour

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Ben Curtis

This guy has got to be the least-interesting interview on Tour. I've yet to see him say anything that wasn't 100% cliche and he always delivers it in a complete monotone, I'd-rather-be-anywhere-but-here voice that drives me nuts. I get the feeling he'd be about as much fun to sit down and have a beer with as someone who doesn't drink. And not that there's anything wrong with that, I'm just saying...The guy wins the British Open in almost surreal fashion and then all-of-a-suddenly everyone wants to talk to him. I can see him running out of things to say after a couple of months of being bombarded by the press, especially after spending so many years being completed ignored by them. But now he's almost five years (or is it six?) removed from his career-changing victory and he's still got nothing to say. I give him credit for turning out to be a better golfer than most people projected, and god bless him for flying the NFL colors in every city he plays in, but I can only cut the guy so much slack. Act like you care or have an interesting (maybe even non-golf related...gasp!) thought in your head, please? It's important to golf nuts like myself to feel like the players I admire so much for their skill at this wonderful game also have something to offer to society as a whole. Otherwise watching golf on TV just feels like idol worshipping and I'm pretty sure that's not good for my soul.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Casey Martin

I haven't thought much about Casey Martin in a while and probably wouldn't have ever again had Golf Digest not run such an interesting interview with him in their most recent issue. For those of you who didn't read it, he's now the golf coach at the University of Oregon and seems to be doing just fine, thank you. It sounds like he's on the verge of losing his leg at anytime but that hasn't deterred him from stay intimately involved in the game of golf, a game he obviously loves very much. What was most interesting about the interview, though, was his telling of his fervent belief in the existence of Bigfoot. And not just one of them, mind you. He thinks there are multiple Bigfoots (Bigfeet?) and that we'll all agree with him soon as they will be "discovered" in the not-too-distant future. He even claims to know someone who is not insane (his words) who has seen one of them in the nearby Oregon forests--they're real, I guess. Is he nuts? Am I nuts for writing about this? Somebody send me a life preserver, please.

Friday, February 15, 2008

A Putting Tip From A Stranger

A good friend of mine's older brother (we'll call him Aaron) was hanging around the local muni a few years back, stroking putts on the practice green as he waited for his brother (my aforementioned good friend--we'll call him Brett) to meet him for a quick nine holes. Aaron was having a hard time getting the relative speed of the greens to translate into the length and weight of his stroke and was getting visibly frustrated (he does that quite often, actually) as his putts continued to come up short or motor past the hole. Feeling a presence behind him coming out of the trees from the direction of the parking lot, Aaron thought it was Brett and turned around to greet him only to find that it was someone else, a stranger with no clubs and nary an outfit that bespoke a golfer. The stranger told Aaron to imagine the sound of the ball going into the hole as he stroked his putt and then continued on his way, past the clubhouse and down the hill towards the creek that fronted the 18th green. Brett would show up a few minutes later and he and Aaron would head out for the nine holes they had planned to play, only to continue for nine more in almost complete darkness as Aaron was having the round of his life. He ended up breaking 80 for the first time that night, thanks in large part to an unbelievably efficient evening on the greens. Who was the stranger and where did he come from? Did he actually exist or did Aaron just imagine him? To this day no one knows and frankly I don't think anyone cares. The tip is still a winner as far as Aaron is concerned and I'm inclined to agree.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Blogger Hits A Wall

Its the middle of February, its 7 degrees outside and I haven't played golf in almost 3 months. It will be at least 6 more weeks before the snow melts and I can honestly say that I'm starting to lose my mind without being able to play the game I love. What ever happened to global warming and El Nino. I could use a little of each up here in Minnesota right now. Is anybody listening? Does anybody care? Aargh...

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Indoor Golf

My 2-year old woke up yesterday morning and all she wanted to do was play golf. She carried her putter around the house all the while saying "let's play golf" or "let's go to the golf course, daddy" or "let's put our golf clothes on". It was enough to make my heart flutter but the problem is that it was only 4 degrees fahrenheit outside yesterday (and it has since cooled off even farther to a balmy -8 degrees this morning) and the ground was covered with snow.
Not wanting to waste such precious desires on the part of my daughter, I tried to find an indoor putt-putt place to take her in these fair Twin Cities but ultimately only came up with the practice putting green at the local Golfsmith store. We had a blast but I couldn't help but feel a little cheap for not buying anything and a lot nostalgic for the days when we could see real green grass under our feet as we practiced our putting together. A couple more months and maybe we'll be back on the links. I sure hope so.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Kevin Costner at Pebble Beach

I'm no zealot when it comes to praising Kevin Costner and his acting acumen but damn if I don't think its pretty cool that every time he plays in the Pro-Am at Pebble Beach he's smartly dressed in shirt and tie. It's old-school, like way old-school and I like it. I've actually been on the verge of doing it myself on a few special occasions but I've always chickened out at the last minute. Maybe this spring, when the snow finally melts and I can hide it ever-so-slightly under a sweater or jacket, I'll bust out the shirt and tie too and try and channel some of the spirits of the games original greats like Vardon and Jones and Travis et al. Maybe just maybe...
And then I go and turn on the telly this afternoon and there's Kevin Costner sans tie. What are the chances? As soon as I praise someone for their fashion sense and give them props for understanding the history and traditions of this great game, ka-blam! They slap me in the face by wearing just a sweater vest and khakis?! Oh well, maybe next year...

Friday, February 8, 2008

Shouting At Your Golf Ball

Have you ever noticed that the better the golfer (or the better the golfer thinks he is) the more likely he is to shout at his golf ball while its in the air? "Get down!" or "Go!" are two of the more common things you'll hear shouted at someone's ball and I can't help but think that neither of them do any good except to prove to your playing partners that you're partially insane or completely delusional. The pros do it all the time, probably because they're control freaks and can't stand the imperfections of changing wind conditions and being between clubs. I think too many amateurs do it as a form of mimicry of their professional idols. How many times have you played with a 15-handicapper who hits his 8-iron 130 yards but pulls it out for a 150-yard shot, swings at it like an ape going after a fresh stack of bananas and then yells "go!" as soon as its airborne and heading straight for the ditch just short of the green? Crazy, indeed. Just hit the 6-iron, be quiet and enjoy two-putting for par.

Monday, February 4, 2008

J.B. Holmes

During the past Sunday's coverage of the FBR Open in Phoenix, CBS announcer Gary McCord was talking about the eventual winner J.B. Holmes' swing and how it came to be as short and powerful as it is today. Apparently, McCord talked to Holmes sometime during the week and J.B. told him that he first made the varsity golf team as a 3rd grader (a 3rd grader!) and to be able to keep up with the older kids he started hitting the ball with both feet off the ground. Yes, he would swing so hard at it that both feet would leave the ground as he made impact with the ball, Happy Gilmore-style. How crazy is that?

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Sport vs. Game

I can't tell you how many times I've gotten into arguments with my friends about whether golf is a sport or just a game. Usually late at night and after quite a few coctails, I might add, but still a relevant discussion as far as I'm concerned.
On the one hand I firmly agree that a sport cannot be played well while consuming alcohol and I'm living proof that golf can be played well while slightly inebriated. I've had some of my best rounds while not-so-casually sipping beers (and also some of my worst, mind you) so I'd say there's strike one against Golf As A Sport. Generally speaking I think you should be in decent physical shape (a.k.a. an athlete) to excel at a sport and again I've played numerous rounds with incredibly out of shape/overweight golfers and been amazed at how well they've gotten their ball around the golf course in so very few strokes. Strike two against Golf As A Sport, I guess.
On the contrary, when I think of 'games' I think of things like dodge ball, horseshoes, lawn bowling, hide-and-go-seek--stuff that you wouldn't necessarily need too much preparation to be able to excel at. Just being reasonably coordinated and aware of the few simple rules will do you well enough in these games to at least not be the worst one in the contest. This doesn't sound like golf to me either.
So which is it--a sport or a game? I think I've finally figured out the answer--the game you and I play is just that, a Game, while the one the pros play is definitely a Sport. How's that for a cop-out? Seriously, though, I believe its the mental aspect of the competition that separates the two versions of golf more than anything else. To be a successful tournament golfer you have to have the focus and the mental toughness to hit the shots when you need them the most, not just when no one is looking and no one except you really cares. So golf is both a sport and a game, I guess. Maybe that's why so many people love it so much.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Wearing Golf Shoes To Watch A Golf Tournament?

The first professional golf tournament I ever attended was the Amana VIP-Classic way back in the early 80's while growing up in Iowa. I don't remember a thing about the golf except that somehow I got picked to be one of the bat boys at the celebrity softball game which accompanied the tournament and while performing said task I was able to secure the autographs of Johnny Bench and Ernie Banks on the back of my baseball glove. If you look real hard you can still see them now some 20 years later.
Fast forward to 2002 and there I was, 30 years old and in the stands of my second-ever professional golf tournament, the PGA Championship at Hazeltine in Minnesota. It was a Friday and the weather was turning foul but my friend Brit and I were willing to tough it out to see Fred Funk come up the 9th fairway, making an early charge at the Wannamaker Trophy that would eventually be snatched up by Rich Beem. We were the last two spectators ushered out of the stands, I'm proud to say, regardless of whether lightning was headed our way or not.
On our walk out to our car I couldn't help but notice all the other spectators amongst us who were wearing their golf shoes. Smartly attired in their favorite golf shirts and pleated shorts, yes, but why the golf shoes? To this day I still don't understand it. At least 25% of the people I saw on the grounds were wearing golf shoes and less than 1% of those people were playing in the tournament. Did they think after the last group came in they might be bribe their way onto the course to play a few holes before the sun went down? Did they think the traction was going to be that dicey between the bleachers and the beer tents? Like I said, to this day I still can't figure out the reasoning behind it.
Two years later I decided to do some more research on the subject so I went out for an afternoon of the Nationwide Tour's Scholarship America Showdown at Troy Burne in Hudson, WI. Unfortunately there were only about eight other spectators there that day (one of which was my insurance agent, oddly enough) so I can't really say I got much good data. Maybe a couple of other people had their golf shoes on but for all I know they worked in the pro shop. I guess I'll just have to wait until this summer when the LPGA holds their Women's U.S. Open at Interlachen to confirm or deny this phenomenon. As always I'll be sure to keep you posted.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Jason Day

Where's Jason Day? I thought he was going to knock Tiger off his pedestal? What's he waiting for--an invitation? I thought he already got that in the form of his PGA Tour card. I'm all for someone challenging the world's #1 but I'm just not seeing it right now. Ian Poulter? Are you kidding me? This guy is almost as old as I am and he's won nothing of importance as far as I am concerned. His outfits are right on and his hair, well, if we're talking about a golfer's hair then I guess that tells you everything you need to know about his game. And do you think Rory Sabbatini got canned from Nike because he rattled the cage of The Man one too many times? I sure do and look what he got for all his moxy and bravado--he gets to play crappy Adams gear that was made for your grandpa. I don't think he'll be able to knock down enough flags with his Boxer Technology to make a serious run at the best in the world. Maybe Sergio will get hot again...