Archive for the ‘Events’ Category

Ryder Cup 2012: Wednesday Practice Round

Posted by cjsharp1 on October 3, 2012 in Events 0 Comments

Last week, the 2012 Ryder Cup took place at the Medinah Country Club in Medinah, Illinois, which is about 25 miles northwest of downtown Chicago, and I was lucky enough to grab a pair of tickets to the Wednesday practice round. The Ryder Cup matches took place on Medinah’s Course 3, which was designed by Tom Bendelow in the 1920’s, then updated by Rees Jones in 2003.

As you could imagine, the course is beautiful and in great condition. The course’s length is 7,657 yards, which is over 300 yards higher than the average course length on a PGA Tour stop. All of the par-3 holes are over 190 yards, including the 13th hole, which is 245 yards. Two of the par-5 holes, the 7th and the 14th, are over 600 yards. Water is most notable on three of the par-3 holes, where players have to carry their tee shot over 100 yards of water to a challenging, undulating green.

Markus joined me for the day, which mostly consisted of us fighting our way through the crowds to get pictures of the players. Markus knew a couple of the guys who were volunteering, so we got a bit of inside knowledge on where the players would be. The Europe team was playing the front nine, while later the US team was playing some of the front nine and some (or all) of the back nine. We eventually worked our way around to the tee box of the 9th hole, which turned out to be a great place to stand. From our spot, we could see the foursomes come down fairway of the par-3 8th hole, then tee off on the 9th hole. They would then later come down to the 11th hole green, which was next to the 9th hole tee box. Farther away, we could see the shared tee box for the 12th and 15th hole.

By the end of the day, I took around 250 pictures… some really good and some not so good (including a couple blurry pictures of Rory McIlroy, who was surprisingly difficult to photograph). Out of those, here’s about 100 that I picked out to show. Enjoy!
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It’s been almost two years since my first golf lesson, which was a pretty significant lesson that put me on the right track toward bettering my game. In that lesson, the main focuses were correcting my stance, fixing my grip, and learning about weight shift during my swing. Fast-forward to 2012, where in my most recent rounds, I’ve been struggling to hit straight, consistent, long shots, and have been generally losing confidence in my swing, both with my driver and my irons. I’ve had a few ideas about what’s going on with my swing: my downswing is too steep, I’m overpowering my swing, I’m standing up during the swing… the list goes on. At this point, I’m looking for any guidance to help get my swing and my confidence back, especially before my league matches for the Windy City Golf League start.

Enter Greg Baresel, PGA Golf Instructor and Performance Coach. Greg is a Class A Member of the PGA of America, a PGA Teaching Professional at the Cantigny Golf Academy, a PGA Golf Instructor at Athletico Golf Performance Center, and the Director of Instruction at Marengo Ridge Golf Club. He is also the Lead Instructor for the PGA TOUR Academy Junior Camps at Cantigny Golf. During his professional career, he has given more than 3,000 lessons while working at some of the most prominent golf courses in the area. Needless to say, he has all the credentials necessary to work with players of all skill levels.

I met up with Greg in the early hours of a rainy Saturday morning at the Cantigny Golf Academy. The facility is comprised of multiple heated indoor hitting bays and video swing analysis studios, which gives Greg the tools necessary to break down, point out, and visualize the flaws of my swing. We spent the next hour video-tapping my swing, drawing lines that designate where my swing is and where is should be, and working to improve my swing. Within the first 10 minutes of my lesson, Greg was able to see the problems with my swing (which included some of the things I suspected), as well as a couple things that I didn’t expect.

The major thing that Greg work with me to improve was my takeaway. My original takeaway of my swing consisted of my hands being too far forward. This caused my hands to be high and too far forward at the top of my backswing. During my downswing, since my hands were high, I would come down steep on the ball, which usually causes the hooks and slices, as well as inconsistent impact. So Greg focused on moving my hands more back during my takeaway. This naturally lowered my hands at the top of my backswing, which gives me a flatter swing plane during my downswing.

As expected, this took me a bit of time to get used to. I realized over the course of practicing this new swing plane, that if I can briefly focus on getting my takeaway correct during my backswing, then I don’t need to focus much on my downswing, which (for me) comes naturally as I just reverse my takeaway. By not focusing on my downswing, I can focus more on making a solid impact with the ball.

One other thing that Greg changed was the position of the ball in my stance. For iron shots, the ball is now in line with my left chest (since I’m a right-handed), and for my drives, the ball is now in line with the inside of my left foot. I’m also now standing back a little more on my iron shots.

Throughout the rest of the lesson (and a small bucket of balls afterwards), I practiced the things that I learned, and I overall felt good about the changes. I felt like I was making much better contact with the ball, and consistently making straighter shots. When practicing my drives, I did not once slice the ball, but that could have been because I was mentally in “practice mode” (which is something I need to learn to take to my rounds).

Shortly after my lesson, Greg provided me with this lesson recap video, which makes it easier to see the problems and solutions to my swing:

I’m very happy with my lesson with Greg. I think this change to my swing plane will definitely help me improve my game and my scores, as well as getting my mental game and my confidence in my swing back where it should be.

You can also follow Greg on Twitter (@golfwithgreg), ‘Like’ him on Facebook, connect with him on LinkedIn, and watch his golf videos on YouTube.

Tri Way Labor Day 2-Person Scramble

Posted by cjsharp1 on September 11, 2010 in Events 0 Comments

I finished the long Labor Day weekend with one more golf scramble: the Tri Way Labor Day 2-Person Scramble. I initially didn’t know about this scramble, until I saw it listed in the Blueberry Festival program the day before Plymouth Rock’s 2-Person Scramble. I figured this scramble would be a good way to complete another goal for the season.

The scramble was held at Tri Way Golf Club, which is just 4 miles north of Plymouth Rock Golf Course, located in Plymouth, Indiana. The course has been family designed, owned and operated since 1966. The course offers both 4-person and 2-person golf scrambles throughout the season, including a 4-person scramble the day before Labor Day and this 2-person scramble on Labor Day.

The course features four par-3 and three par-5 holes for a total par of 71 at a length of 6,250 yards from the back tees. The par-3 holes are fairly long, ranging from 165 yards to 235 yards from the back tees. The fairway are mostly straight and flat on the front nine and narrow and hilly on the back nine, and all fairways are surrounded by medium- to large-sized trees. Two of the holes are doglegs: the 8th hole, a 490 yard par-5 (which is almost a double dogleg), and the 16th hole, a 510 yard par-5. Water hazards touch seven of the holes, four of which you must carry your shot over. Sand traps are sparsely found near the greens on just eight holes. Greens are a decent size with some challenging breaks.

For this scramble, I recruited Dirk (from my first round at Plymouth Rock and my second round at Broken Arrow). Dirk is still learning how to play, but he occasionally has some nice drives and approach shots, so I figured this would be a fun, laid-back scramble to finish the holiday weekend.

We started the scramble on the 8th hole, the 490-yar par-5 that seemed like a double dogleg, with two regulars to the golf course, Bill and Dave (a.k.a. Doc). They actually told us the coordinator of the scramble intentionally paired us with them because they thought we were out-of-towners who didn’t know the course. Nice guess.

I felt like the round went pretty well. Dirk was hitting some nice drives, equally contributing to the shots we would play, and my drives were much better than the scramble the day before, although I did have a couple drives that sliced right into another fairway, scaring the group behind us. Our approach shots were random, with both of us contributing to good shots and bad shots, and pretty much the same for our putting. I wasn’t really expecting much out of this round, except to just have fun playing another scramble, and I did have a good time. I think I started to get a little more comfortable with my drives (and I might have figured out some things I was doing wrong), and Dirk got to learn a little more about the game. Even better, Bill and Dave were nice guys who didn’t mind playing the round with a couple noobs.

We ended up shooting a 96 (25 over par), which broke down into four pars, five bogeys, seven double bogeys, and two triple bogeys. Out of 16 teams in the scramble, we got last place! In fact, we got last place by 14 strokes! For some reason, I found this pretty amusing, and was very proud of our last place status. The first place team shot a 65, and Bill and Dave shot in the low 70’s. The only thing I didn’t like about this scramble was it was a flightless tournament, and last place didn’t get a consolation prize. But, hey, what can you expect?

2010 Blueberry 2-Person Scramble

Posted by cjsharp1 on September 8, 2010 in Events 0 Comments

My first scramble of the 2010 season occured over Labor Day weekend at Plymouth Rock Golf Course, located in Plymouth, Indiana, for their Blueberry 2-Person Scramble. The scramble is part of the Marshall County Blueberry Festival. This is the same scramble that Adam and I played in last year (where we placed 24th out of 26 with our score of 91).

The Blueberry Festival tournament at Plymouth Rock is four different tournaments within a two day span. On the first day, they hold a 2-person best ball tournament in the morning, followed by an individual tournament in the afternoon. On the second day, they hold a 2-person scramble tournament in the morning, followed by another individual tournament (where you can play both days, or just one day). The tournament pays out prizes to the top teams in each flight, along with prizes for longest drive, closest to the pin, and longest putt on various holes.

Once again, I recruited Adam as my teammate, hoping to improve on our score from last year. This year, we went into the scramble with the mantra “bogey or better”, which would put our score at 90 or better. I felt this score was very obtainable, since we both have improved over the last year (and we both have new sets of clubs).

We started this year on the 14th hole, a 177 yard par-3, with a father/son team, Eric and Russ. Eric and Russ actually won the 2-person scramble last year, thanks to two eagles they made during their round. Luckily this time, we didn’t have a crowd watching us tee off. It took me a while to get warmed up with my tee shots. I kept on topping the ball, or hitting it with a very low trajectory. My drives didn’t start getting better until after 9 or 10 holes. Luckily, Adam was having good luck with his tee shots, so we mostly used his shots. For approach shots and chips, both Adam and I had good shots and bad shots, so it was really random who’s shots we used. As for putting, I feel like I had the most trouble. Most of my putts were just slightly off to the left or right; I couldn’t seem to sink any putt.

I should mention that Eric had some amazing tee shots. Not all of his drives were the best, but when he made a nice drive, it was long… really long. In fact, Eric won longest drive on the 18th hole, a 315 yard par-4, with a drive that landed on the edge of the green… a 300+ yard drive. Russ had some great drives too. He was very consistent with his shots, and made up for Eric’s occasional bad drives.

Like last year, we had the most trouble on the 17th hole, a 593 yard par-5. Our tee shot sliced right into the woods, and our approach shots were just not accurate. We ended up shooting a triple bogey on that hole again. The rest of the round was very similar to bogey golf. We shot seven pars, six bogeys, four double bogeys, and one triple bogey, putting our round score at 89 (17 over par).

Our score of 89 put us in 22nd place out of 26 teams; the same number of teams as last year. We were 2nd in our flight, but won nothing for it. The first place team shot a 67. The last place team shot a 105. Eric and Russ took 4th place with a score of 69, I think.

Once again, we were happy we didn’t get last place, we were happy we got placed with a great team, but we were even more happy we met our “bogey or better” goal. Next year, we are going to strive to make “bogey or better” on every hole, including that difficult 17th hole, in order to get a score better than 89.

Golf Lessons at TopGolf

Posted by cjsharp1 on August 30, 2010 in Events 2 Comments

Last week, I took my first golf lesson at TopGolf in Wood Dale, Illinois. I’ve always considered taking a lesson or two, more so during the beginning of this project so I could learn how to properly hit the ball, but golf lessons seemed to be just a little too expensive. Luckily, a couple months ago, offered a coupon to TopGolf, which was good for six free games and a 30 minute golf lesson. I quickly purchased two coupons, one for me and one for Beth.

Our lessons were given by one of TopGolf’s Directors of Golf Instruction, Matt Vinge. A Director of Golf Instruction, from what I understand, is one of TopGolf’s best instructors, so their lessons are more expensive (starting at $110 per hour). The instructors underneath them are called Certified Golf Instructors, and their lessons are a little cheaper (starting at $95 per hour).

The lesson area at TopGolf is called the TopGolf Academy, and it consists of two hitting areas and a practice putting green (not all TopGolf locations may be the same). Each hitting area is equipped with a camera that the instructors can use to videotape your swing, which is then analyzed with your previous swings or swings of professional golfers. If you take a full lesson, the instructor will upload your swing video to the TopGolf website, so you can log into the website and view your swing videos. They can also provide videos for drills you can do to make your swing better.

My lesson mainly consisted on fixing my grip, my stance, and half of my swing. I’ve played around with different grips before (see this link), but always settled on the ‘ten finger’ grip because it felt more comfortable. This was the very first thing Matt changed when he saw my swing, switching it to an ‘interlocking’ grip. His main reasoning behind switching it was “all the pros use this grip”. Ok, fair enough, I guess I can take that as an answer. It took me a while to get used to the grip; it just felt awkward. But, supposedly, it should help my slice, which has started to become predictable.

The second thing he changed was my stance. I really had no clue how I was supposed to stand. When I was first starting to learn how to play, I mainly focused on keeping my head down and my knees bent. I guess what I was really doing is not keeping my back straight, or hunching over the ball. A reason against this makes complete sense, and explains why I would top the ball a lot. When I would take my swing, I would straighten out my knees, which lifted my whole body, and moved the path of the swing away from the ball. With the new stance, my knees are just slightly bent and my back is straighter, which make it feel like I’m standing up a lot more. There’s now less room for error, as long as I keep my head in the same place.

Finally, certain parts of my swing was fixed; most notably, how weight gets shifted during the swing and how to follow through after you hit the ball. And it all makes complete sense: on your backswing, put weight on your back foot, and after you hit the ball, transfer your weight to your front foot. During your follow through, this should put your body over your front foot. With all these points, including a proper grip and a proper stance, essentially what you are doing is directing the ball to go straight.

Beth’s lesson pretty much consisted of the learning the same thing, but with a little more focus on trying to hit the ball. She’s very new to golf, and is lucky to get the ball to go more than 20 yards, much less even just hit the ball.

A couple days after the lesson, Beth and I hit the driving range and tried to put everything that we learned to use. It took a little bit of warming up, but things turned out to be better than they were before. I was hitting straighter, longer shots. I wasn’t slicing as much, and if anything, I was slightly pushing to the right. My swing still didn’t feel completely smooth and comfortable, but I think I will get used to it over time. Beth saw the most improvement. She was consistently hitting the ball, and was hitting it [slightly] farther than before. She pretty much just needs to hit more, and get used to how to swing a club.

Obviously, the lessons were a great thing for my (our) golf game. It’s just going to take some time to perfect what we learned and get comfortable with everything.

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