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Notes | ChicagoGolfNoob

Archive for the ‘Notes’ Category

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Shortly after my poor round at St. Andrews, I started to think a little more about my game, both my physical game and my mental game. Sure, we all know about the physical game of golf… grip, stance, posture, swing plane, back swing, downswing, follow-through, etc. But if you actively played golf, even for a short amount of time, you’ll at sometime hear something or someone, either an advertisement, a round partner, or an instructor, say something about the mental game of golf.

My most recent, notable discussion (or rather, examination) about my mental game, aside from the last round of course, was during my lesson with Greg Baresel. One of the first things he asked me, before I even took one swing of the club, was “How’s your mental game?” I, probably smugly, said something along the lines of “Pretty good. I’ve previously played competitive table tennis, so I think I’ve adapted a good mental game from that.” Well, I’m here to say… I was wrong.

So, here’s some background: Prior to this starting this project, I played competitive table tennis. Not so much on a national level, but more of a local competitive level, more than your average basement player. I started playing in the early 2000’s, and by the mid-2000’s, I was practicing and training many times a week, sometime up to 10 or so hours a week. Back when I was really into the game, I played around 10 tournaments a year, which is about the same for the average competitive table tennis player. I’ve had a lot of highs and a lot of lows. I’ve both won tournaments, or walked away win-less. When I first started playing, one of the top players in Indiana once told me “You’re going to lose a lot of games”, and he was so correct. Throughout my time playing, there was many times, both during practice and tournaments, where my mental game was tested. I’ve broken paddles (and shamefully left bruises) because of my mental game.

It wasn’t until 2010 until I really started to see my mental game improve. After a bad shot, I could keep my mental game intact. Sure… I could get mad, but the game continues. The point is over, and there’s nothing you can do about it. Move on, and get your head back in the game. One of the things I felt I got really good at was being able to keep a cool head during a match, while on the opposite side of the table, my opponent would show their emotions. I played off their anger, and I loved every minute of it. Anytime I would see an opening in my opponent’s weak mental game, I would try to take advantage of it, and many times, I was successful. If you haven’t noticed up until this point, I’m competitive. By nature, many, if not all of us, are. We want to win, and we’ll do anything to get that feeling of winning. Sure, Mr. “Indiana Top Player”, I’ll lose a lot of games, but, oh man, those wins… they’re sweet.

I stopped actively training and competing in table tennis tournaments last year, primarily because of the time commitment. My most recent rating is 1653, which puts me about average amongst the nation’s active competitive table tennis players. Think about a bell curve, with the scale going from zero to 3000, and around 1700 being the highest point. For someone who trains 2 or 3 times a week, going up the bell curve is easy. Going down though, that takes some time… and a lot of practice. I personally didn’t have the time or motivation to get where I wanted to be. I wanted to be around a 1900 player, but getting to that point would mean training 3-4 times a week for 3 hours each day. That’s a lot of time on the table. If I would practice any less than that, I wouldn’t get to that level.

Switching now to my golf game, I really started this project to (1) improve my game, (2) meet new people, and (3) have fun. So far, so good… I’ve done all three. But recently, I’ve notice my mental game is not where it should be. How did this happen? Over the course of this project, I’ve grown accustom to poor shots. It’s really the nature of any beginner. Much like playing games of table tennis, when you start out, you’re going to make a lot of bad shots, but, oh man, those good shots… they’re sweet.

Fast forward a couple years, where you might not make bad shots all the time. Your handicap is starting to decrease, and you’re making good shots and solid impact. At some point in time, you start expecting your shots to be decent. They might not be perfect, but at least you’re hitting the ball and making forward progress.

So what happens when, being in that mindset, you make bad shots when you don’t expect it, or when you make bad shots one after the other? You can probably guess. A quick search on YouTube shows even the pros get overly frustrated at times:

A good chunk of that poor round was due to my mental game. My mental game was so determined to make good, solid, long shots that my physical game failed to produce, then making those bad shots one after the other, from hole to hole, took a toll on my overall game. I let my mental game get out of control, and as an effect, my physical game suffered, and I shot one of my worst rounds within the last year or two. Trent tried his best to keep me in the game, either by offering advice or trying to switch the topic to something other than the round, and I tried everything I could to not worry about the past and think about the future, but in the end, I was so determined to get to that level where wished I was, instead of actually playing at the level where I should have been. Along the way, I made many, many mistakes, both mentally internal and physically external.

Sure, we’ve probably all been there at some time. Like I said, by nature, nearly everyone is competitive. So “losing it” mentally, for those who don’t know how to control it, will happen. It’s really up to you to be able to control it. Golf is a very individual and personal game. The only way your opponents will ever affect your game is if you allow them to affect you mentally.

Not only does a poor mental game affect yourself, but it also affects the people around you. I’ve played many rounds where the people I play with have poor mental games and get angry quickly (some of those people are my good friends too). It’s really no fun to play with someone when they are at that point mentally. I’m sure everyone can agree with this.

I personally think it’s difficult to train or instruct someone on how to develop a better mental game (both with golf and table tennis), and the last thing I’d ever want to do is give advice on how to improve your mental game. I can’t really even be sure that these products, books, or instructors who teach the mental game of golf will ever have the end-all-be-all fix to this aspect of the game. It really just comes down to the individual… how they control their thoughts, how they react to situations, and how they move along to the next shot.

At this point in time, I don’t think being competitive in this sport is good for me or my game. Sure, I’m meeting a lot of people playing in the league, but as I mentioned above, I also started this project so I can improve my game. I feel that when my mental game gets out of control, I’m actually taking a step back from improving my game. And that, my friends, is just not fun.

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The thought of breaking 100 for any beginning golfer seems like a difficult task. For a lot of new golfers, it’s hard to consistently make good, long shots from tee to green, and then turn around and do it 17 more times. Over the last two years of working on this project, I’ve put a lot of thought on what I need to do to break 100, and I’ve practiced many hours trying to make those shots that will get me there. So I thought I would take a little bit of time and talk about some of the things I focus on during my practice sessions at the driving range and my rounds on the golf course.

Of course, and I understand, it’s all easier said than done. But, let’s get started.

How your score actually adds up to 100

First of all, before you play your next round of golf, take a little bit of time to think about what’s actually needed to score a 99. On a typical 18-hole championship course, the par is 72, and a score of 99 equates to 27 over par. Think about that… that’s a lot of shots over par. You have 18 holes to accumulate 27 more strokes than what the course thinks you should make.

Break down 27 over par for 18 holes… that’s 9 bogeys and 9 double bogeys. If you happen to make par on just one hole, then for the other 17 holes, you’re allowed 7 bogeys and 10 double bogeys. So if you are a golfer that consistently makes bogeys and double bogeys, you’re already very close to breaking 100 (just make sure the number of bogeys made versus double bogeys stays close).

I used this thought many times during my rounds. If I make a couple double bogeys, I don’t think the goal is lost for the round. I have many more opportunities to catch up with where I need to be to break 100.

It’s all about course management

I’m going to credit this thought to my friend and fellow golfing buddy, Trent. Trent carries a single-digit handicap, and previously played golf for his college. While playing my rounds with him, I’m constantly being taught about course management. In my interpretation of course management, there are two main ideas to keep in mind:

  1. Play the shots you can make – If you are more strong and consistent with a 4-iron compared to your fairway wood or hybrid (like me), then use the 4-iron, and skip the risk of topping or duffing a shot, only because you want to hit it an extra 20 yards. If you can hit a wedge straighter and more accurately than an iron, then play the wedge, just to keep your ball in play and out of the rough. Moral of the story: don’t play a shot you are not good at, just because you are trying to score low. By playing those shots, you could actually hurt your score. Work with your strengths, and practice on your weaknesses at the driving range.
  2. Play the safe lines – When you watch the pros play on TV, you will see they take a lot of risks in order to shoot those low scores. We (as in, us beginners) are not professional golfers. We are not trying to win tournaments for a living. So don’t take those risks if you don’t have to. For example, and you’ll see this many times, when you approach a green where the pin is protected in the front by a bunker, yet there is a small section of green to the side of the bunker. It’s far better to aim for the visible green and putt 20-30 feet, than to aim for the pin, because a short shot could end up in the sand than on the green.

(Once again, and stop me if you’ve heard this before, I am still a beginner. If you have a handicap of 20 or better, then either you know of these ideas, or you are just that good. If you disagree with my thoughts on course management, oh well…)

Your approach and chip shots matter

As important as it is to make long, straight tee shots and solid iron shots, the one shot that will start to allow you to finish the hole is your approach and chips shots. While at the driving range, don’t forget to practice your iron and wedge shots. When I start a session at the driving range, I start with my 7-iron, and a large percentage of my practice time is with the 7-iron or a similar club. So many of us beginners go to the driving range and just hit with the driver, because if feels so good to smash a ball 200+ yards.

Take some time at the range to hit with your irons and wedges. Your main focus (as usual) should be to hit it straight and consistently at a certain distance for each club. When making approach and chip shots during the round, you’ll want to give yourself the best chance to 1-putt or 2-putt (3-putt at worst). A consistent approach and chip shot should always give you that chance.

At all costs, avoid 3-putting

Moving right along from the last thought… do whatever you can to not 3-putt. The one extra putt on a couple holes can hurt your score… big time. Spend a lot of time practicing putting from 3-4 feet (I’ve heard that Phil Mickelson has a drill for this). If your first putt starts from more than 10 feet out, do whatever you can to get the ball in that 3-4 foot “circle” for your second shot. You should feel comfortable making 3-4 foot shots.

Looking back at my goals for this year, I actually find the thought of not 3-putting kind of… funny. My main goal of the year was (of course) to break 100, but further down, I made another goal to “Play a full round without 3-putting”, then right after that, I said “This probably will have a direct correlation with breaking 100.” In my mind, I think not 3-putting during that round had a huge effect on me breaking 100.

Wrapping up

By all means (and it’s easy to see from my posts), I’m not an expert at this game, and I don’t claim to be, nor does finally breaking 100 just a week ago, and only doing it once so far, actually warrant me the requirement to talk about how I accomplished the feat. I just felt that I should pass along the things, whether they are common sense or not, that helped me reach my goal. If you currently find yourself in the same situation I found myself over the last two years, I hope these tips provide some more help and encouragement for you to reach your goal of breaking 100.

Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10 for the Wii

Posted by cjsharp1 on March 23, 2009 in Notes, Videos 1 Comment

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I’ve been playing Tiger Woods PGA Tour 09 on the Wii ever since it was released in late August. I love this game, and I think it does a great job simulating real golf (at least, golf in a video game).

But then… after watching this trailer for the upcoming release of Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10… I think things are going to get even better:

This is crazy. With the Wii’s new Motion Plus accessory, the game can do a near-perfect, one-to-one backswing and foreswing. It also improves the low/high power-percent shots and provides consistent draw/fade shots on drives and push/pull shots on putts.

Oh… And in-game weather conditions, based on the real-time weather conditions for the real golf course?!? Crazy.

Look for this to be released in August or September June of 2009.

Notes: Cheap, Used Golf Balls

Posted by cjsharp1 on December 13, 2008 in Golf Gear, Notes 0 Comments

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I didn’t have many golf-related items on my Christmas list this year, mainly because there are other things I needed. The two golf-related items that were on my list were golf head covers (just because I want some) and used golf balls. I specifically requested used golf balls, because what is the point of asking for new golf balls if all I’m going to do is lose them in the trees or in a lake.

A couple of days ago, I was talking to a friend about these two items on my list and I was asked “You know you can get cheap, used golf balls online, right?” Of course, I said “Ya”, but in my mind I was really saying “Really? That’s possible?” I honestly never thought about this before. Buying used golf balls online must be cheaper than at a sporting goods store or resale shop.

To find out if they are cheaper, let’s set a baseline. Back in September, I went to Sports Authority and picked up a bag of used (technically, they are called “recycled”) golf balls. The bag came with 50 balls from various manufacturers, and I paid $20, which boils down to $0.40 per ball. I’ll consider this a good baseline, since the bag included a mixed quantity from different manufacturers, as well as a mix in quality/wear of the golf ball.

First, let’s go online and check some prices for the local sporting goods stores:

  • Sports Authority – I was unable to find the same product that I originally purchased, but they do have some other options. The best price-per-ball value I found was the Reload 75 Pack Nike or Titleist Golf Balls” for $29.99, which is $0.40 per ball.
  • Dick’s Sporting Goods – They also have the “Reload 75 Pack Nike or Titleist Golf Balls” for $29.99, making their best price-per-ball value at $0.40 per ball.
  • Modell’s Sporting Goods – For you northeast coast readers, you can grab the exact same “Reload 75 Pack Nike or Titleist Golf Balls” for $29.99. Once again, $0.40 per ball.
  • Golf Galaxy – Not really a sporting goods store, but a golf store (of course). They have “Recycled Proline 75 Pack Golf Balls” for $29.99, which is again $0.40 per ball.
  • Academy Sports & Outdoors – If you’re lucky enough to live in the south near Texas and Louisiana, head to Academy Sports & Outdoors, where they have “Reload Recycled Golf Balls with Shag Bag” for $14.99. This is a bag of 75 balls, which makes it $0.20 per ball. (They also have a couple locations in the surrounding states, as well as in Tennessee, Georgia, and Florida.)

Next, let’s check the prices for some online retailers. Since I don’t know of any popular online golf retailers, I’m just going to use Google, and search for “recycled golf balls” (searching for “used golf balls” will bring up pretty much the same results).

  • UsedGolfBallDeals.com (also known as GolfBallDeals.com) – UGBD offers a large selection of used golf balls, and sells them in packs based on brand and type of golf ball. The best price-per-ball value I found was “Player’s Choice 100 Pack” for $17.95, which is $0.18 per ball. This pack is not sorted by brand or type. The cheapest shipping I could get for this item was nearly $9.50, which brings the price-per-ball up to $0.28 per ball. Be sure to check both sites, because there seems to be some differences in prices and products.
  • LostGolfBalls.com – They also specialized in selling new & used golf balls in packs based on brand and type. I was unable to find a “grab bag” product as the previous stores, but I did find “500 Cuts and Cracks Golf Balls” (update: This options appears to be gone now) for $8.00 (and a flat-rate shipping cost of $50.00). Of course, these are not really meant to be played and “are perfect for hitting in to lakes, fields or helicopter drops for charity golf tournaments”. But hey, if you are desperate for a good price-per-ball value, you can pick this up for $0.12 per ball.
  • Knetgolf.com – They also sells used golf balls in packs based on brand and type. There are many products under the “Assorted Golf Balls” category, each product based on the quality of the ball. If you pick up the “Assorted All Brands MIX: Grade A – 1 dozen” for $3.99, you’ll be paying $0.33 per ball before shipping (note: this is based on a sale price). If you don’t care about the quality, pick up the “Assorted Hit Away Shag Quality: Grade C – 20 dozen” for $29.99, and pay approximately $0.18 per ball after shipping.
  • GolfBallsDirect.com – Another retailer that primarily sells used golf balls pack based on brand and type. They do offer “Value Ball Bags” though, which include 72 or 300 new golf balls that have an over-run logo. Before shipping, you can get the 72 ball pack for $19.99 ($0.28 per ball) or the 300 ball pack for $69.99 ($0.23 per ball). Not a bad price at all considering they are new balls with just an over-run logo.

These are just a few of the online retailers that I came across that sell used, recycled golf balls. Most of them will sell packs based on brand and type, so if you are set on using a specific ball, you can purchase recycled versions of that ball. Otherwise, if you don’t mind the brand and type, just pick up an assorted pack.

The main thing to do when purchasing used golf balls online is to research the stores and calculate the price per ball. Each store will sell certain (if not all) brands of golf balls. They might also have a wide range of ball types for each brand. Next, keep in mind that each store has their own grading system, and, as expected, the better the grade, the more expensive the price per ball. If you don’t mind a couple of scuffs or some discoloration, you can pick up used golf balls online for pretty cheap. Finally, look at the shipping for the ball pack/quantity you are planning on purchasing. Shipping alone could easily add 5 to 10 cents per ball. Luckily, many of the online retailers offer free shipping on orders of $50, $75, or $100 or more.

So, yes… it is cheaper to get used golf balls online. Plus, you can be a little more picky on the brand and type of used ball you are purchasing. In my opinion, the best value I came across while researching, considering price-per-ball, quality, and quantity, was the logo over-run bag of new golf balls at GolfBallsDirect.com.

Notes: At the Driving Range

Posted by cjsharp1 on September 27, 2008 in Notes 1 Comment

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I finally got to go to the driving range tonight… the first time in nearly 6 years, and the first time ever with my own clubs. I’m pretty happy with the outcome. It gets me motivated to go more often. These are my notes from the range:

  • Invest in a golf glove. Not only would it help my grip, but it would also prevent my hands from getting sore. A quick $10 purchase would make things better.
  • Zero Friction golf tees are amazing, especially the extra long ones. First, the tee didn’t break, it just bended. Second, since it was so long, it went further in the ground, which meant there was less of a chance of losing it during my drive.
  • I don’t think I’ve ever hit a ball as far as I did tonight. It felt really good to make solid contact with the ball. I was surprised to see how much I improved since the last time I went to the driving range.
  • Even though my drive has improved quite a bit, I have a consistent slice. Very consistent. I need to look into fixing this.
  • After I swing, I turn my left foot almost 90 degrees. I think some golf shoes might limit this.
  • My lower left shoulder blade hurts. Either I’m doing something wrong during my swing or I’m using muscles I’ve never used before. My guess is that I’m doing something wrong during my swing.

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