Three New Year’s Resolutions

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My track record for keeping New Year’s resolutions is abysmal. Each year I faithfully promise but sometimes mine don’t even make it to January 2nd.

A number of years ago I resolved to play more often, even if it was only a few twilight holes and to take my wife and children for a family experience that can’t be beat. However, problems arose even before the snow was off the ground when I bought a new company and soon was spending 12 hours most days in the office, many times seven days a week.

Unfortunately for our golf games without taking decisive changes old habits return with the warm weather so each new season soon tends to look similar to the previous one.

However, here are three resolutions for 2017 you can keep and they come with an added bonus. With a little determination they will change your game forever. After all one of golf’s oldest maxims is the better you score the more fun you have.

Resolution #1 Learn how to chip and putt – You’ve heard it before, to score well you must play well within 100 yards of the green so not being proficient at those little shots is just wasting strokes. On the green start with a putter that fits you and fits your stroke. It should be the correct length so your bend at the waist allows your arms hang relatively straight and the putter head should have lots of forgiveness since we don’t hit the ball in the center of face as regularly as we would like. The second tip concerns chip shots. Use a less lofted club to get the ball on the ground and rolling as quickly as possible. My observation is the poorer the player the more likely he will be using a lofted wedge when a 9-iron or even a 7-iron would produce better results more easily. Plus, if the collar is fairly smooth, a putter is likely to the best choice.

Resolution #2 Take enough club – There is absolutely no question the single biggest mistake recreational players make hitting into a green is not using enough club. Golf course architects know this of course which is why if they want to make a hole really tough they put sand or water in front. Still not convinced? The last round you played how many times was your ball past the pin or even pin high? Was there even one? The corollary to this point is, just because in 1999 you hit a 7-iron 150 yards downhill downwind to a concrete-like green doesn’t mean that’s your 150-yard club. Be realistic as Harry Callahan (a.k.a. Clint Eastwood) said, “A man’s got to know his limitations.”

Resolution #3 Get a driver fitting – The height of ridiculousness is spending $400 or more on a driver without knowing if it’s the one best suited for your particular swing. Most days a driver is hit only fourteen times and hopefully always in the fairway but let me give you an example. My last session with a master fitter at the local Club Champion location found I could raise my smash factor (ball speed divided by clubhead speed) from an average of 1.45 to 1.50 by changing drivers. That may not sound like much but the effect was immediate. Roughly ten yards more off the tee which means one full club less into the green. I don’t know about you but I’m more accurate with an 8-iron than with a 7-iron. The cost isn’t prohibitive either, at Club Champion a driver fitting is $150.

So give these three resolutions for 2017 some consideration. They are easy to keep and will change your game forever.

Top Ten Golf Stories of 2016

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The King
The death of Arnold Palmer saddened the golf world and the millions outside golf he touched through his charities. The King wasn’t just a record setting golfer nor just another person, father, businessman and philanthropist. He was Arnold Palmer being Arnold Palmer with integrity, humor, intelligence and humility.

Tiger’s comeback
As U.S. Ryder Cup team vice-captain Tiger Woods didn’t have to put his game on display. That came in the Hero World Challenge with a limited field of 18 after being off the Tour for 16 months. Woods finished in 15
th place and said he was hoping to play a full schedule (as yet to be determined) in 2017.

Ryder Cup
The win by Team USA over Team Europe by the decisive score of 17 to 11 probably saved the Ryder Cup from a serious loss of interest by American fans and a marked decrease in player enthusiasm. Prior to this year the US had lost eight of the last ten contests and this win it was a not only a team effort (every U.S. player contributed at least one point) but a vindication for captain Davis Love III.

Olympic Golf
Justin Rose took the gold medal beating Henrik Stenson (silver) and Matt Kuchar (bronze) while In Bee Park easily won the ladies gold in golf’s much heralded return to the Olympics. Before the Games what was thought to be a bigger story was the list of top men players who declined to go to Rio: Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy. Reasons cited included health concerns (zika virus) and potential security problems.

Anchored Stroke Ban
The impact of the USGA banning anchored putting strokes which took effect on Jan. 1 had absolutely no effect on recreational players. They either said, to heck with the USGA I’ll putt however I want to, or bought a shorter length putter. The anguished predictions by some (who should have known better) that the slamming of trunk lids and squealing of tires from club parking lots as players left the game in droves were emphatically wrong.

Finchem Retires
Tim Finchem’s 22 years as commissioner of the PGA Tour built on the foundation previous commissioner Deane Beman had laid. The Tour now can boast a 47 week event split season with $339 million prize money, the largest charitable giving of any sport, three events in Asia, assets of $2.2 billion and a $10 million season-ending prize. Add to that getting golf back in the Olympics, creation of the First Tee and World Golf Championship series he compiled a stellar record. Not bad for a button-down lawyer who at one time worked for President Jimmy Carter. Finchem leaves a prosperous and dynamic legacy for successor Jay Monahan.

USGA Double Bogey
The USGA had a wretched summer. First was the fiasco of Dustin Johnson’s U.S. Open final round when officials said he might have caused his ball to move on the green but wouldn’t make a decision until the round was completed leaving him, fans and fellow competitors in the dark. They of course gave him a one-stroke penalty but fortunately the phlegmatic South Carolinian had such a large margin he still won by three. That was followed at the U.S. Women’s Open when second-place finisher Ann Norqvist was shown on HDTV moving three grains of sand in a bunker with her club but officials neglected to inform her of the penalty until a hole later. In response to the did-he-or-didn’t-he cause the ball to move the USGA created the “Johnson Rule” so there will be no penalty should a player accidentally move his ball. This year won’t go down as the best summer the organization has ever had.

Spieth Didn’t–Willet Did
Jordan Spieth had a record setting 2015 season and seemed to have this year’s Masters in his pocket until he came to the par-3 12
th hole of the final round. He managed to take a seven after two balls the water which handed the title to Danny Willet. However, this collapse wasn’t “the most shocking in golf history” as an ESPN writer sadly lacking in perspective wrote. Spieth still had two victories for the year plus the Australian Open and he’s only 23 years old.

Turmoil in Equipment Business
This past year marked several significant changes with Nike Golf leaving the club and ball business, Acushnet (Titleist, FootJoy and Pinnacle) became publically traded and adidas attempting to sell TaylorMade Golf which continued to suffer with early year sales declines. Retailers Sports Authority and Golfsmith went bankrupt with Dicks Sports Goods buying up inventory and locations while Callaway Golf, Srixon, Wilson Staff, Ping and upstart Parsons Xtreme Golf pushed for added market share. The new year may see some additional upheaval especially if TMaG’s new owner decides to adopt a different product strategy…that is, if there is any deal at all.

One for the Ages
The British Open played at Troon saw Phil Mickelson finishing with a 65 and was 11 strokes in front of the next lowest score for 72 holes. Lefty’s problem was Henrik Stenson shot 63 in the final round beating Mickelson to win his first major by two. Both played some of the best golf ever, evoking memories of the Tom Watson/Jack Nicklaus final round 1977 match up aptly named the “Duel in the Sun.”

Last Minute Golf Gifts

The time is getting short and each sometimes forget to buy a gift for someone on our list. For me last year it was my daughter’s boyfriend and thank goodness for gift cards.

This year I’m applying the criteria that whatever I get for him is something I would like myself so here are a few suggestions.

cc-driver-wall_640x440Get Fit
For even the casual player a club fitting can produce huge benefits and there are no better fitters than Club Champion with 16 locations around the country. They have special on until the end of January of 50% off a $350 full bag fitting and 33% off if just a driver, iron and putter fittings are chosen. Club prices are the same as any retail shop and they have gift cards in $50 increments. More information may be found at ClubChampionGolf.com.

Take a Swingcindy-miller
Cindy Miller, one of the best golf instructors around, has a gift that’s ideal even for non-golfers, “The Learn to Hit Kit” of a mat, foam balls, her book Golf 101, a coupon for 10% off any Callaway club plus access to her 10 video online course. Miller’s approach has modules for every level from never-had-a-club-in-hand-before novices to accomplished players. Buy “The Learn to Hit Kit” on Amazon on special for $99.99.

traxtowel_golfbag_baglatch-it_1000x1000-copy-686x686Trax Towel
Everyone has a towel on their bag and sooner or later it falls off but this new idea from Frogger is a solution, simple and effective. The Trax towel (20 by 24 inches microfiber) has a magnetic fastener, Frogger calls a Catch Latch, consisting of a clip with a magnet that attaches to the towel and a bracket that attaches to the golf bag. Six color combinations are offered and all are available at FroggerGolf.com for $24.95.

Record Drives
driver-product-open-800_1024x1024The hottest idea in golf is the real time recording of shot stats and Arccos Golf has a great way to try out their system without paying full price, the Arccos Driver. Included are one sensor that fits into the hole at the butt end of the driver grip and the apps for either an Apple or Android smartphone plus on a one year subscription to cloud recordkeeping. Priced at $49.95 it’s a great way to find out just what this new technology can do to help your game at $200 less than the whole bag system. For details and to find a retailer go to ArccosGolf.com.