10 Rounds with the Ping TR 1966 Anser

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We often have a nostalgic memories of the good times and people of years gone by and when Ping announced the TR 1966 Anser putter my mind flashed back 48 years ago to the original Anser. You might asked how can I remember that far back, least of all remember a putter and the answer is an old photograph taken on a practice green showing me with a Ping Anser in my hand.
The original Anser and Anser 2 sold for $20 and didn’t make the sound “ping” like Karsten Solheim’s first putter but they shared the heel and toe weighting that revolutionized putter performance.
Ping has reintroduced the Anser and Anser 2 models as the TR 1966, certainly a fitting way to mark the 50th year of the iconic shape which has been copied hundreds of times by putter makers. Both TR 1966 models were designed using three dimensional scans of the originals to get the subtle contour details Solheim crafted back then using a mill and hand files just right. Ping_TR1966Anser_Duo_640x480
And the new Anser retains two features I like the most.
There’s no alignment mark on the top and the sound is impressively solid, a result of the slot in the sole and since one of the critical factors in a putter’s feel is the sound, this works very well.
It would be great to say that after ten rounds I was making everything I looked at but that’s not the case. What did happen though was my putts per round stat dropped by almost half a stroke and that includes two rounds on greens I would guess were 12 to 13 on the Stimpmeter.
Bottom line is I just like the looks and the feel which of course breeds confidence and confidence means you make more putts.
The TR stands for True Roll, which is what Ping calls the milled grooves on the face, the only significant departure from Solheim’s original while the manganese bronze PVD finish is actually better than the original.
The Anser 2 has a stainless steel blast finish with one alignment line on the flange. Heel and toe contours are somewhat less rounded than those of the Anser and the Anser 2 top rail is a little narrower.
Both retail for $162.50, not bad a price for a trip into the past.
By the way, back in 1966 the name Anser was suggested by Solhiem’s wife, Louise. He wanted his new putter to be the “answer” to a competitor’s model and both of them liked the name Answer but it was too long to fit in on the flange. Mrs. Solheim said the “W” could be left out since the name would still sound the same. Pure genius.
Images courtesy of Ping

The 18th Major – Jack Nicklaus 1986 Masters

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Thirty years is a long time and if you are old enough, 1986 may have some strong memories. There were the tragedies of the space shuttle Challenger explosion and the nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl in the Ukraine but also for some, the thrill of the Chicago Bears winning the Super Bowl in a blowout 46 to 10 and the New York Mets taking the World Series 4 games to 3. Both coincidentally beating Boston area teams, the Patriots and Red Sox.

In our game there were some interesting things going on as well. Future Hall of Fame member Pat Bradley won three majors on the LPGA Tour and on the men’s Tour the U.S. Open was won by 44-year old Raymond Floyd also a future inductee to the Hall of Fame. But who can forget the other win by an “old guy?” At the age of 46 without a Tour win in two years and major championship in six Jack Nicklaus gave us one for the ages.

His victory in that year’s Masters is still considered to be the greatest ever.

Fans watching the last nine holes that April Sunday could share the emotion the Golden Bear must have been feeling…and talk about performing under pressure! It’s been 30 years and still the nervousness, excitement and finally the elation when Nicklaus took his sixth Masters and 18th major championship is very real.

There are dozens of stories about what happening that day including the legend of Nicklaus’ putter, a Clay Long-designed MacGregor Response ZT 615, that compared with the then popular models looked like a kitchen utensil or maybe a garden tool. MacGregor took orders for 5,000 the Monday morning following.

My favorite story took place at the start of the week. As Nicklaus related it in his autobiography Jack Nicklaus: My Story written with Ken Bowden, he described a Tom McCollister column in the Atlanta Journal:

[McCollister was] announcing the demise of Jack Nicklaus, golfer. According to this piece I was finished, washed up, kaput, the clubs were rusted out, the Bear was off hibernating somewhere, it was all over and done with, forget it, hang ‘em up and go design golf courses or whatever.

Strong stuff and many agreed but the measure of Nicklaus the man was his reaction to this rather harsh opinion dismissing his ability. Again from his book:

[But] this one struck a nerve. “Finished, huh?” I said to myself. “All washed up, am I? Well, we’ll see about that this week.”

A clipping of the offending column stayed pasted to the rental house refrigerator courtesy of Nicklaus’ longtime friend John Montgomery and was undoubtedly a strong “I’ll-show-‘em” incentive each time Nicklaus passed.

His play on the back nine Sunday has taken on almost mythic status, written and talked about by commentators from Herbert Warren Wind (“nothing less than the most important accomplishment in golf since Bobby Jones’ Grand Slam in 1930”) to yours truly. However, Nicklaus himself points out the back nine charge of six under par wouldn’t have mattered if he hadn’t had some incredible luck on the eighth hole.

His drive on this steeply uphill par-5, known as Yellow Jasmine, was pushed slightly and wound up right of the fairway laying on pine needles with several trees blocking the route forward. The prudent play would have been to pitch back to the fairway, however at that point being even par for the round Nicklaus knew unless he started scoring better the tournament was out of reach.

Definitely a higher risk shot was called for.

There was a small opening that a perfectly struck shot might sneak through and with a slight fade the ball would miss the first two trees immediately in front of him and, if it stayed low enough long enough, others closer to the fairway. But he also could tell, if the ball wasn’t hit perfectly it was anybody’s guess where it would wind up and a bogey or worse a very real possibility.

With three wood in hand and taking his time he aligned the shot carefully. But when Nicklaus struck the ball though on the center of the clubface it started slightly right of the opening at which he was aiming, narrowly missed the first tree trunk and just barely passed through an even smaller gap in the branches. The ball did stay low though and curved further right to finish near the edge of the green, just the spot you want to be if you’re going to miss the putting surface,.

A pitch and two putts secured his par and gave Nicklaus the emotional boost from escaping potential disaster that set the stage for a seven under par run over the next ten holes for a final score of 65.

Thirty years ago it seemed fantastic…it still does today.

10 Rounds With the Leupold GX-2i2

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Customization in golf is all the rage.
Drivers have ability to reposition weight and adjust the loft so ball launch tendencies can be customized to suit a particular player.
Manufacturers even make golf balls with a range of spin characteristics from tee to green, so why not a customizable laser range finder?
Enter the Leupold GX-2i2 . It is customizable to the user and adjusts the straight line measured yardage to a target by taking into account air temperature and altitude plus the amount the shot is up hill or downhill. So in addition to the straight line distance the newest of the Leupold laser range finders also gives the “plays like” yardage.
Then, after the user enters how far he or she hits three differeGX2i2_250x188nt clubs, the GX-2i2  even makes a suggestion of the proper club for the “plays like” distance plus shows when the distance is between clubs.
Remarkable to say the least.
Now, I have a confession. Contrary to the extended testing period inherent in the title “10 Rounds With…,” I am writing this after only two rounds with the Leupold GX-2i2 and the reason is simple.
It’s great. It does all its’ supposed to, quickly, efficiently and though I may not be the brightest bulb in the box it was evident from the first try this is a serious well-made piece of golf technology. I could have written this after the first nine holes, the GX-2i2 is that good.
GX-2i2 is the new model for 2016 from the family owned Leupold & Stevens, Inc., makers of high quality distance measuring devices and retails for $430.
Yardage is measured very quickly and, what Leupold calls PinHunter 2 Laser GX2i2_Reticle_250x250Technology, doesn’t seem to pick up the trees behind the green, a nasty habit with some laser rangefinders. In the scan mode distances are shown as the crosshairs move across an area, a feature that’s especially handy when the shot requires a carry over water or a bunker.
The unit light, weighing in at less than seven ounces and compact in size so it fits the hand comfortably.
And in case you are asking, the GX-2i2  is “legal” under the Rules of Golf if there is a local rule allowing the use of distance measuring devices and it is not used in the slope compensating mode.
I know it’s early to be thinking about Mother’s Day and Father’s Day but this makes a great gift or you could treat yourself to one to celebrate the opening of the new golf season.

Slow Play’s Killin’ the Game

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Slow play is killing the game. Golf takes too long and there’s no doubt the five hour round is pushing people into other activities.
There have been serious efforts to shorten the time to play and each has met with at best spotty success. We are not talking about the players on the professional tours where the threat of fines or multiple stroke penalties seems to provide the incentive to play more quickly at least on the LPGA Tour and European Tour.
Recreational golfers are aware of slow play and say they hate it. Just put them behind a snail-paced foursome and hear the hollering but reality is a lot different.
The truth is most recreational players don’t care. They may complain about five hour rounds but if they themselves are playing at a pace that holds up the entire course they are the last to admit they are the problem. I’ve even heard some say, they paid their money and they’ll take as much time as they want.
The bottom line is playing slowly is being disrespectful of others and though that may sound cynical or even a bit harsh, it’s still the bottom line.
Sure, sure, some try to shift the blame by saying golf course architects make courses too hard or that club and ball manufacturers should shoulder the responsibility for making the ball go too far and into trouble. But while there’s no doubt these are factors the real problem is golfers.
Many, if not most, mimic routines learned from the best-in-the-world on television. As an aside, undoubtedly the most egregious example is on the LPGA Tour when caddies stand behind to line up every shot. Isn’t it part of the game being able to figure out where you’re aimed? Would seem so, certainly at the professional level. Thankfully this really bad idea hasn’t leaked into recreational golf…yet.
How about the time it takes to calculate the yardage and then diving into the bag to switch clubs two or three times? This somehow makes a sense? Again being brutally honest, the average 18 handicap can easily have a 20 yard difference the ball flies with the same cub from one time to the next. Our swings just aren’t that consistent and really don’t warrant dithering over club selection.
On the putting green one should take enough time to judge the speed and read the line but that doesn’t mean one has to stalk a putt from every angle—twice—nor does it mean you can’t get a pretty good idea of what your putt will do while others are putting.
Some, believing it will help grow participation and attract new players, have emphasized the social aspects of golf but shouldn’t it be emphasized every golfer has a responsibility to those he is playing with, ahead of and behind? Just as you don’t hit to a green while the group ahead is putting, long stories about the problems you had de-linting your clothes dryer can wait for the 19th hole.
It’s obvious the less accomplished are going to take more strokes but that’s not sufficient reason for six or more practice swings for each shot. It’s both time consuming and not treating others the way you would like to be treated.
An inspired solution that stopped slow play in its tracks at one private club was the essence of simplicity. An assistant pro recorded the time when each player teed off then the time when they finished. Playing times were posted in the men’s and ladies’ locker rooms and peer pressure did the rest. Those who had the spotlight shown on them as consistently playing slowly were barred from teeing it up on Saturday mornings but as I said, a private club.
Finally, you don’t have to be good to play fast or as it has often been said, miss’em quick…it leaves more time for complaining.
And speaking about getting upset after a bad shot, try telling your favorite club-tosser, “You aren’t that good to get that mad.”