How I grip the club

Here’s how i grip the club and when i do it right, contact is almost always flush.

left hand first.  hold the club in the middle finger, ring finger and pinky.  its secure enough in these 3 fingers that i can lift the club parallel to the ground with just these 3 fingers. the center line of the grip just on the left side of my thumb. my forefinger when points to 10 o’clock (AT ADDRESS).

AT ADDRESS (note not the club in the air), the check point is that i can clearly see the full flap of my glove and 2.5-3 of my knuckles.  if i can’t see those, i need to rotate my left hand (not change my grip, rotate my hand) so i can.

Next i interlock the pinky of my right hand into my left and close the ring finger and middle finger around the club.  that leaves my right thumb up – and it (my thumb) should be pointing to 2 o’clock.  at this point i could almost have index finger running straight down the grip but of course i curl it under the grip and let the grip sit on the inside partially extended (trigger finger).

the overall checkpoint here is that a quick cock of the wrist (aka a waggle) and the club kind of starts swinging itself – working its way not only back, but around my right leg. a quick right shoulder tilt to make sure the club head clipping the grass on this journey and im set to go.

 

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Rules to Live By

Some random thoughts on religion that have been knocking around in my brain:

Start with the grip (i.e. the foundation): what is religion?  Why do we have it?  Whats its goal? Here’s a guess: we live in a  society of literally billions of people. But even if the society was much smaller, like it was thousands of years ago, in order to make it function optimally (i.e. survive and thrive), the individual members of the society need to interact peacefully with one another.  To do that, they need to have a set of generally acceptable guidelines for said interaction (both good and bad).  And that’s the goal of religion (from a 50k foot level). To create that framework.

So, what is that optimal manner of behavior that the religious framework intends to create?  Here’s where it gets interesting. If you think about the people who we admire in the world, the people we admire as societies, they have one trait in common: the ability to positively influence other people’s lives.

Whether it is Mother Theresa, or George Washington, or Jonas Salk or even the small town doctor – the common thread among these folks is that they have an ability to touch other peoples lives and positively affect them.  They might accumulate wealth or fame or glory on there own as well, but that is not what we hold dear about them.  It is the impact they have on others we cherish, not the impact they had on themselves.

So, perhaps the more specific goal of religion is to set each of us up so we are individually likely to positively impact those around us. It’s a set of guidelines designed to maximize the probability that the largest possible number of people among will become people that have positive impact on those around them.

So what are these guidelines then?   There are of course negative guidelines: shit you shouldn’t do.  These are obvious. The clearest of these are encapsulated in the 10 commandments (not suggestions mind you, commandments – do NOT do these things): i.e. dont kill, steal, sleep with your buddies’ wife, etc. You want to create an army of people who have positive impact on those around them? Making sure they dont do ANY of this stuff seems like a good idea. Pretty simple. The same could be said for the 7 deadly sins (don’t be a gluttonous sloth!).

Having a framework for defining what not to do is relatively easy.  What’s trickier is having a framework that guides people on what they should do.  Unlike the negative (the 10 commandments), there’s no specific set of rules here.  There’s no one authority that says: you be a doctor, you invent something, etc. Plus, everyone is different, has different capacities, interests, etc.  So rather than a specific mandate for each individual, how about a set of positive guidelines for people to live there lives by?  These guidelines, if abided by, will maximize the probability that any one individual will choose to do something that has a positive impact?

That’s where religion presses us to live our lives by such concepts as kindness (do unto others), forgiveness, hard work, family, and, of course, faith in the overall system. No matter what you choose to do in this world with your life, if these positive ideals are the foundation for your decision-making, you’re more likely than not going to have a positive impact on those around you.

Of course, as these ideals become interpreted and enacted into specific action, they get muddy.  One man’s kindness is another man’s weakness, etc. And of course there’s no guarantee that for any one individual the guidelines will drive the intended output.  But again, the goal here is to maximize probability – nothing is 100%.

But, from an overall perspective, these concepts seem like the proper foundation for individuals to achieve the overall goal of a growing and positive society.  And that’s regardless of what God or God’s you may choose to worship. And that’s what I think why a bit of religion in each of our lives is generally a good idea.

Get a Grip

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Everything has a foundation.  Its the base level of an activity from which everything is built upon.  Relationships, skill sets, ideologies and even things have foundations. With a house, it’s literally called the house’s foundation. You can spend a ton of money on decor, roofing, landscaping, carpet, furniture, etc. but if your house’s foundation is defective your house is pretty much worthless.

With golf, the foundation of a golf swing is how you grip the club. Of course this makes sense as the grip is the only place where the body is joined with the club.  Just as the human body is designed with certain structural strengths and limitations, so is a golf club.  Thus they must be fused together correctly in order to work in harmony.

This is a fancy way of saying if you don’t hold the club correctly your toast.  You lined up over your expensive ball with your fancy driver (telling yourself to keep your left arm straight, your head back, your weight on your front hip, etc. ) and before you even started your swing you were destined to fail because of your faulty grip.  A journey of 1000 steps screwed up on the very first step.

Now, Im not going to go into an analysis of the proper way to hold a club.  There’s a ton of that stuff online already.  Instead I will just note that when things go awry, it usually makes sense to check the foundation before examining whats built on top of it.  With my golf game, I can’t tell you how many swing issues i’ve encountered where the root of the issue was a faulty grip. Fix the foundation, fix the problem.  I think that probably applies to life too.

Golf giveth, golf taketh away

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Golf is the only game I know that can be be both harmful and helpful to ones psyche. And the difference between the two extremes is razor thin.  Take today – I played a round with a friend (G) and his friend (J).  It was a beautiful, sunny day – the kind of day that reminds me why living in northern California is so great.  The rest of the country is blanketed in snow and freezing weather and I’m playing golf 3 days before Christmas.

G is an old friend of mine who I golf with regularly.  He’s a decent golfer (10-12 handicap), but that doesn’t really matter. A couple of years ago G’s wife was having some back pain and went to the hospital to have it looked at.  After an MRI they got the news that her backpain was a result of cancer that had metastasized throughout her body.  The outlook was bleak.

Thankfully, and frankly miraculously, 2 years later she is still with us and doing fairly well.  But even on the best days, in situations like these the caregiver struggles as much as the sick person.  So, when G can get out to play a round of golf, score doesn’t matter.  He’s just happy to enjoy a few hours in the sun, away from the stress of his day to day problems.  Golf is a respite and giveth every time he gets out there.

On the other side, J, G’s friend we played with, is a very good golfer.  Not today though. It came pretty apparent pretty early on that J was suffering the most diabolical of golf maladies: the yips. His yips came when he chipped. It was ugly to watch. And i felt bad for him. The yips are so awful becuase its not a mechanical swing issue that you can work out over a series of buckets at a driving range. It’s worse.  It’s all in your head.  And no golf pro can give you a tip on fixing what’s in your head.

Its particularly hard to see it happen to a guy like J – a good player.  Pre yips he must’ve loved coming out to the course and playing. Now, it’s a day of frustration with no direct solution available – the opposite of a respite. The yips allegedly caused Ben Hogan to quit the game.  I hope it doesn’t do that to J.

And I really hope G never gets the yips.

Today’s stats: score: 80; birdies: 1; bad swings: 4; 8 missed putts under 8 feet; bad club selection: 6.

 

The Push Slice

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The push slice is the worst of everything golf.  I’m not talking about a standard slice – you know the one the 22 handicapper makes tht starts the ball in some direction and then violently turns right s it travels.  No, the push slice is more sinister.  It hits golfers who have some degree of skill/ ability. Why is it so evil? Let me count the ways.

The fundamental problem with the push slice is how it lures you in.  My introduction to the push slice came as part of an increased effort on my part to, as Jack Nicklaus used to say, make sure my shirt buttons were behind the ball when i struck it. I achieved this be re-balancing my weight, lowering my right shoulder and generally  trying to stay behind the ball.  Like all swing changes, when i started this it worked! Solid contact, consistent power and directionly sound. What’s not to love?

I’ll tell you.  All this effort to move behind the ball leads to a backwards weight shift which leads to a wide open club face at impact which leads you to —–> a push slice. Balls start mysteriously flying off the club face to the right and continue that way throughout flight.

So why not just unwind? Well, becuase the lure of the push slice is the contact.  Solid, consistent contact is every golfers version of crack.  We want it. We need it.  We love it. We rationalize having it.  “It’s not a push slice” we tell ourselves, its an alignment issue (i.e I’m aiming right).

I went through this cycle for the past 2 weeks.  Im now in push slice recovery and attempting to unwind. Today I hit >100 balls and think I made decent progress. Tomorrow I play 18, so we shall see.  Truth be told though: I still miss the contact. 🙂

 

 

The Starting Point

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I started this journey not as a complete novice.  I picked up the game when i was a junior in high school and by my senior year locked down the #1 spot on my high school team.  From a scoring perspective that generally meant i was shooting 39/40 on 9 holes, low 80’sbeing common.  This is fine scoring, but not great. Certainly not D1 college playing level. that was fine, since i went to a D3 school. There i played 2 years on the golf team, but never really took it serious.  I was much more serious about beer drinking.

I continued playing pretty steadily (~1/week during the spring and summer months), but sometimes not playing much at all.  I lived for 5 years in Manhattan, not exactly a golf friendly city. When I moved to California, I certainly played more, but mostly squeezed between work stuff and other social things (i.e. more beer drinking).

It was only after I got married and moved to the suburbs and had 2 kids and joined a club  where i started to actually play more regularly.  About a year ago, when the gift of free time came to me, I started to take it more seriously.  And by that i mean i started to “work on my game.” Frequent trips to the range, practicing putting, (some) short game practice, etc.  This work got my game to be actually pretty decent.  Scores in the mid 70’s were my expectations going into a round.

It was based on this success, that I decided to dial it up a notch.  If i optimized to mid-70s with a bit of work, if i actually got serious…well, who knows??  My handicap at the beginning of the summer was 3.5.  Since that time i have diligently hit the range, played many rounds, etc. – and watched my handicap grow to a 5. Oops.

There have been a bunch of swing change journeys along the way. The pattern of swing changes usually goes: make a change -> get immediate improvement -> continue with it -> watch things get worse.  the problem is that it takes me a while to “unwind”the swing change to get back to my original starting spot, and usually causing myself a lot of stress/ frustration along the way.

Tomorrow I will try another.  Fingers crossed.

 

 

A Journey of a thousand steps

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So how did I get here?  That’s a long story.  Suffice it to say that as I approach 50 (I’m 49), Ive have the good fortunate (or bad fortune, depending on how you look at it – more on that later) of having a degree of success that allots me a fair amount of free time (read: I got nothing to do all day). So what do I do? Here are the options:

  1. find a job.  I would do that provided that said job was sufficiently cush and didn’t require alot of travel (see #3 below).  Working to climb that corporate ladder or to wield power…well, frankly not that interesting.
    (As an aside, I always joke that I would be a terrible dictator.  The idea of conquering/ ruling over a large group of people seems like…well, like a lot of work. yeah, yeah, country whateveritsname has that land we used to own or want, but to get it back we’d have to invade them, occupy them, blah, blah, blah.  Can’t we just order a pizza and mull it over?)
    So if it ain’t cush, i dont know if i want to do it.
  2. start my own company. ugh.  To do that I would need a good idea that i think is sufficiently interesting.  Also, related, as i grow older my ambition wanes.  I’m not a guy who aspires to own a fleet of Lamborghinis and private planes.  Likewise, my appetite to put the effort into a start-up – well, im not sure i have that fire anymore.
  3. become mr. mom.  I truly love spending time with my wife and kids.(7 & 5)  but truth be told am uncomfortable with some of the social dynamics of the mr. mom thing (more on that later too perhaps).
  4. Find an activity that is time consuming, doesn’t require 3rd party participation and is tantalizingly challenging.  I say tantalizing as said activity has to deliver some sort of immediate gratification while the rock is being pushed up the hill.

And being a goal oriented guy, I cant just go out and play something casually and, you know, just enjoy myself.  I have to set unreasonable goals/ expectations, beat my self up when not achieving them and frankly not really enjoy it when i do get  positive results.  Hence golf is perfect.

The Journey from 5 to 0

Hi.  I am documenting my attempted journey to go from a 5 handicap to scratch and all the mistakes i make along the way. The good news: I have lots of time to make this journey (more on this later.) The bad news, before i started this journey a few months ago, my index was 3.5 – i.e. im going backwards. Let’s hope that changes.

Anyway, I hope to cover everything I’ve tried up to now (forward press, grip changes, one piece takeaway, tempo, meditation, workouts, gizmos I’ve purchased, etc.), rounds Ive played, practice sessions, etc.  and tell a few stories along the way. Maybe even delve into the other (subconscious?) journeys I’m making along the way.  Lets see how it goes.  One shot at a time.

For now, suffice it to say, my accomplishments of the day are: (a) setting up this blog and (b) playing 12 shitty holes of golf. Strike that 10 shitty holes.  2 birdies were nice.  the rest were bogeys/ doubles/ worse.  FML.  tomorrow’s plan: range and short game practice.