Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A quick, consistent setup improves your game and speeds up play, but…

If you believe that quality golf shots can be executed without laborious preparation, but rather with a quick and efficient preshot routine, you will enjoy the following observations.

On Christmas Day the Arizona Republic published its usual golf section. Thursday is the day for an elongated golf portion and with its weekly information comes a tip or two from a local golf professional. This recent instructional subdivision focused on putting. Our instructor did very well until he got to the third part of his tip – Create a routine.

As part of our pre-putt routine he wants us to take “three to five practice strokes to help judge distance…”

THREE to FIVE practice strokes! Holy three-putt, Bat-Golfer! In the world of golf the time that takes equals eternity. Most of us will forget what we’re doing if we take that amount of time to putt. And can you imagine playing behind a foursome in which each player takes three to five practice strokes before each putt?

As a long time teacher of the game one factor I always stress with my students is a brief and consistent preshot routine. It is essential to a comfortable set up over the ball before you pull the trigger. A quick, consistent routine will improve your game and speed up play. And we all know that the greatest deterrent to the growth of the game is the massive amount of time required to play.

Here’s a sound recommendation for putting: Take just TWO practice strokes to get a feel for the distance, step up to the ball, take ONE look at the hole and hit the darn ball. It will either go in or it won’t.

It was George Duncan, the 1920 British Open champion who is credited with saying, “If you’re going to miss ‘em, miss ‘em quick.” He was right.

Friday, December 26, 2008

The culture of celebrity and the caddy

I’m sure everyone who plods through the multitude of golf websites and blogs has read several pieces about Steve Williams’ comments concerning Phil Mickelson. There is no shortage of expositors on the internet especially when a subject like this arises. Observations have ranged from “Tiger should fire him immediately and without hesitation” to actually granting Stevie victim status. (No comment on that one.) And if you haven’t read something you particularly do not agree with, just wait. There is probably much more to come despite the fact that Tiger says, “We have dealt with it. Stevie stays”

But, the root of all this has nothing to do with golf, but rather with personalities. This same scenario is continually played out on a variety of stages throughout the business world. This is now a golf personality situation and it should focus our attention on a much more curious state of affairs – the celebrity status of the caddie in today’s world of professional golf. This circumstance does have the potential to become a problem where the personality of the caddie overwhelms the game.

I became involved in the game of golf as a caddie. In the late 1950’s it was an expedient way to make a couple of bucks. And a couple of bucks in the pocket was big time then for a ten year old boy serving as a club caddie. And the financial status was doubled if one was fortunate enough to carry doubles. Of course, carrying doubles on a hot, humid summer day in New England meant you would spend a small portion of your hard earned fortune on some liquid refreshment. The point of all this is what was actually expected of the caddie. The answer is short and to the point – carry the clubs, be seen and not heard. My, my, how the fortunes of the caddie have evolved in just the past fifty years.

The fact is, unless you are a serious student of the history of the game, you probably never knew the name of a caddie until Tiger came on the professional golf scene. Perhaps you did a little golf reading and knew that Eddie Lowery caddied for Francis Ouimet in the 1913 U.S. Open. Maybe you followed golf in the era of Palmer, Player, Nicklaus and Trevino. You knew that Angelo Argea carried for Nicklaus and that Herman Mitchell was the man for Trevino. If you were just a sports fan and not into golf, the names of Jeff “Squeaky” Medlin and Bruce Edwards are still probably familiar to you.

Then along came the Tiger. First it was “Fluff,” on the bag, but he drew too much attention to himself for Tiger’s liking. So the switch was made to Steve Williams. But Williams has become larger than life just like his boss. In short he is always seen and always heard – the complete reversal of everything a caddie was meant to be.

Is this good for the game? No, I do not believe so. In an era when golf has gone flat and about to go flatter with the diving economy, this cannot be good for the game. If what draws people to golf is Tiger’s play and the controversy surrounding him, then the game will have problems expanding. Certainly attention will be focused on the game. Tiger and Stevie will generate plenty of press, but definitely not grow the game in terms of participation.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Golf instruction books pave the way off the cart path to the fairway

If your favorite golfer is still looking forward to a golf-related gift under the tree, you should still be considering a book as the ideal selection. Last week we looked at some choices focusing on the rules of golf. Now let’s inspect the possibilities in the world of instruction. And while it was a relatively painless task to scrutinize a small quantity of books on the rules, the area of instruction is a minefield of the good, the bad and the ugly.

Instruction in the world of golf is separated into two areas: the physical and the mental. As the timeworn golf adage goes, “Golf is 50% physical and 90% mental.” Those who play the game know this is a valid axiom. Unfortunately, the production of instruction books is about 90% physical and 10% mental.

So, if we could find one volume that combines the physical and mental, the selection process would be simplified. No problem. The absolute best is Harvey Penick’s Little Red Book. This book is exactly what the subtitle states: Lesson and Teachings from a Lifetime in Golf. Penick was a lifetime teacher of the game and his wisdom is priceless. He also produced a couple more volumes with similar themes – And If you Play Golf, You’re My Friend and For All Who Love the Game. These are excellent choices to go along with the Little Red Book.

While the Little Red Book is light on technical instruction, fear not for there are truly hundreds of volumes that focus directly on how to swing the golf club. It seems that virtually every golf instructor that ever charged for a lesson has written a book on the subject. I will give one recommendation that is appropriate for almost all golfers. I believe that Teach Yourself Visually Golf is an excellent volume for learning the game at almost every level. It was published in 2007 by Wiley Press as part of its Teach Yourself Visually series. It is straightforward presentation on the game. It’s colorful with lots of how-to pictures.

Finally, let me give you two suggestions for the mental aspect of the game. First is The Seven Personalities of Golf by Darrin Gee. Check out a recent review of this book here.

Second, for a more in depth examination of the mental side go for Tom Dorsel’s Golf: The Mental Game. Dr. Dorsel presents a practical, yet non-clinical approach to our mental game on the course. His approach is heavily tilted to the practical side with barely a hint of psychobabble.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Book Review: Pete Dye Golf Courses: Fifty Years of Visionary Design

It truly is the the Christmas season. There are always a few clues to give us a hint. Whether or not we look at the calendar, there are always a few certain indicators: Walmart changes its home & garden section into a Christmas Wonderland the day after Halloween; green fees quadruple in the Valley of the Sun; and “coffee table” books pop up quicker than a case of the shanks. So, in the spirit of Christmas, here’s another coffee table offering – Pete Dye Golf Courses: Fifty Years of Visionary Design by Joel Zuckerman.

Nearly three weeks ago I reviewed Secrets of the Great Golf Course Architects, a book with similar subject matter and volume and weight. The difference, however, is that Zuckerman’s offering is a tribute to the architectural work of one man – Pete Dye. In a massive volume of three hundred plus pages Zuckerman and photographer Ken May present us with 75 of Dye’s gems. Zuckerman does the text in his unique style and May lays out before us a visual feast of golf photography.

The arrangement of the book is not unique or original. From golf course to golf course the format is identical. You receive the name of the course, 600 to 800 words by Zuckerman and elegant photography by May. Zuckerman does a workman-like job in maintaining the text from page to page providing entertaining and insightful historical information on each course. If you are familiar with any of Dye’s work, it is fascinating to be privy to some inside understanding on the development of the course.

This prose and photographic splendor present us with an easy choice for the proper Christmas present for the golfer in our lives. Anyone’s favorite golfer will be well-pleased to receive this volume under the tree.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Golf Rules do provide some interesting reading

Short of getting your favorite golfer a brand new set of clubs from a local sporting goods store (highly discouraged) or perhaps stuffing his or her stocking full of tees, let me suggest a book. “Why, Dave, what a novel idea,” you say. (Please pardon the pun.)

Yes, the perfect Christmas gift solution for the golfer in your life is good, old-fashioned book, as in something to read. There is good news and bad news here. Golf has produced a seemingly endless supply of literature; however, this makes the task of selection somewhat daunting. Fortunately, Eye On Golf is here to help. We have separated some recommendations into categories to aid in your selection process. So, in the next couple of weeks we’ll make a few suggestions. The first area is a topic that is near and dear to the hearts of all golfers.


My favorite books dealing with the Rules of Golf are not volumes that attempt to explain the rules but rather present intriguing theory and/or history on the rules:

The Principles Behind the Rules of Golf by Richard S. Tufts – Tufts, a former Executive Director of the USGA present the two guiding principles of the rules and demonstrates how all other rules emanate from them. This one may be a little hard to find or expensive, but it will satisfy the golfer’s curiosity about the rules.

The Rules of the Green by Kenneth G. Chapman – Published in 1997 this scholarly work is a history of the rules of golf that will not induce the slightest bit of insomnia. Chapman takes us on a historical journey from a time before the first written code in 1744 up to the present day carefully providing the logic behind the evolution of the rules.

Can I Get a Ruling? by Dave Marrandette – Although this is self-serving, I would be remiss if I did not recommend by own volume on the rules. This book is historical in the sense that it presents a time capsule of actual rule incidents presented in categorical fashion.