Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Taking a long, hard look at yourself

Yesterday my golf buddy and I finally got round to doing something I'd been wanting to do for some time: we filmed each other's swings.

The results have been profound. Even though we only used a simple digital camera in 'movie' mode, we were able to see ourselves swinging for the first time, and best of all watch the swing in slow motion.

Now I'm no expert on the subject of the perfect swing, but I spotted two problems with mine immediately.

First, I take the club away incorrectly. I don't keep the club head in front of me: I take it back too early.

The second problem is that I swing back way too far. I mean, the club head goes 45 degrees beyond the horizontal and approaches pointing at the ball again.

Surprisingly, the rest of the swing actually looks pretty good. Weight shift is there, and I think I release the clubface at the right time. The problem is that takeaway and backswing, causing me to come over the top and be inconsistent with my ball striking (as well as giving me that slice).

So I went outside and tried to limit the backswing (just swinging: no ball involved), but had difficulty stopping myself. Then I looked online and found a tip about starting the backswing with the shoulders, and doing the arms after. It says that they just do the right thing automatically. I tried that and what a difference! The clubs takes away correctly and I don't need to try to stop the swing the in right place: it just happens. I've not tried out the new swing in anger yet but it really felt good.

The other thing that I need to fix is straightening my right knee, which allows my hips to turn more than they should (one of the other contributors to my overswinging).

The only problem is that with the shorter backswing I feel that there's less power in the swing. Now, that's just mind tricks I know. I just need to avoid trying to kill the ball to compensate.

I plan to try out the new swing on Saturday. Once I've practiced it a bit and got used to it, I'll film myself again and see if the swing looks much better.

So, anyone out there who hasn't seen themselves swinging yet, I can strongly recommend that you do so. You may find something out about yourself...

The next club purchase

If anybody has actually read this blog up till now, you'd notice that I am a club short in my bag. I can legally have more more club, so what do I plan to do about that?

Well, first I'm going to replace the sand wedge with one that matches the iron set. The one I have really was the cheapest I could find at the time and isn't in very good shape. I could also do with re-gripping some of the clubs (the driver came with a really nice brand-new Lampkin grip that was also on the irons (though they were more worn). I want to put them on the hybrids too. I think I'll leave the 3-wood because I think I'm going to have to replace it soon anyway because of the rattling sound coming from the head.

But I digress: what about that extra club? To be honest, I'm not sure. I'm torn between a 5-wood and an additional wedge. The problem is that I'm not sure if I have a distance gap that a 5-wood would solve. Is there a big difference in distance between a 3-wood and an 18-degree hybrid? I'm not certain.

And as for a wedge, which one? Lob or gap? Unfortunately at present my distance is too inconsistant for me to be able to tell which would benefit me the most. In the UK I added a chipper to my bag (kinda like a putter with a lofted face), but I don't think I'm going to go that route this time.

So, I think I'm going to hold off until I either figure out my distance, or someone offers some really good advice.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

What's in the bag

I guess I should provide a 'club list' whenever I make a change for referring back to in the future, so here's the first snapshot.

So, at this time this is my current kit list

Mizuno MP-001 Driver
Mizuno Blue Rage 3-wood
'V Recovery' Hybrids (18, 21, 24 degree)
Callaway Big Bertha X-12 Irons (5-PW)
Old cheap TaylorMade Sand Wedge
STX Sync Tour putter

All clubs bar the putter and sand wedge have stiff graphite shafts.

Club count: 13

Introduction (Part 2)

This is where things become more recent (right up to the current date in fact).

Last July I moved to Texas, USA. It had been quite some time since I'd played golf, but decided to take it up again immediately.

I decided to by some used clubs to allow me to get a set of decent quality at a decent price. I believe this was a good decision, however, I did make some bad ones: mainly not actually hitting the clubs I bought before I bought them...

I ended up buying:

* A set of Mizuno T-Zoid Pro II irons
* Mizuno T-Zoid Ti-forged driver
* Mizuno Blue Rage 3-wood
* Cheap Taylormade sand wedge
* STX putter

After buying these clubs I struggled along, and attained a best score of 103 (in the US we've taken mulligans on a regular basis so this isn't really only three worse than my best-ever score). I did pretty well with the woods (especially the 3-wood: what a club!) but struggled with the irons.

A while after I added a set of three hybrids 19, 21 and 24 degree 'V Recovery' that I can't find mention of anywhere on the web, but they're excellent nontheless. They've replaced the 4 and 3 irons and the 2-iron that I never had. I hit them really well, and have really enjoyed playing with them.

But still I struggled with those irons.

Now, I know it's not the clubs' fault: it's mine. The T-Zoids are a very good set of clubs. Unfortunately, I'm not a very good player. The T-Zoids do not give you much help if you mis-hit, which I do quite a bit it seems. Last week I had to conceded defeat: the irons were simply out of my league. I realised that I came to dread having to take an iron shot. I'd set up, look down at the club and think to myself "There's no way on earth I'm going to hit this." Par 3 holes became such a nightmare that I started to wonder if perhaps I could hit a hybrid at a reduced swing instead. Not good.

I know that blades are the more 'pure' iron, and that they are supposed to give better feedback on bad shots and should help you improve your game because of this. But I think it's also very important to have confidence, and having completely lost mine I decided to make a change, and traded in the T-Zoids for a set of Callaway X-12s. I haven't played a round with them yet but have hit them at the driving range.

I can even hit the 3-iron.

I can't remember the last time I had a session at the driving range where I hit so many good iron shots. I was setting up with confidence, and swinging through to a full finish: holding as the ball flew straight and long until the ball came to a stop. I haven't had so much fun with irons since those Donnays. And the weird thing is: I actually got more *useful* feedback from these clubs than the old ones. If I hit the T-Zoids wrong it would just hurt. With the Callaways, I just feel the twisting in my hands. I didn't even try to feel it: it just came to me automatically, and allowed me to adjust accordingly. Go figure.

Offer any pro a choice between the Callaways and the T-Zoids and he's probably pick the T-Zoids any day. But at this stage in my golfing 'career', I need confidence: and the Callaways have done an excellent job at providing that.

I also broke my driver: the head went flying down the range one day. I replaced it with a Mizuno MP-001, which is a nice improvement. More forgiving and longer. I really like the Mizuno woods: the 3-wood is still my favourite club, though the head's developed an alarming metallic rattle when shaken, which makes me think I'm going to have to replace it soon too. I might try and find a matching MP-01 to go with the driver.

So that's basically where I am. I'm looking forward to seeing what happens to my score when I play my first round with the new irons. Apart from that, I have some more club questions to consider, and a whole slew of technique issues to over-analyze...

Introduction (Part 1)

This blog is where I'm going to be documenting my personal quest to become a half-decent golfer. My golfing history is conveniently split into two parts, spread over two countries, so this post will detail the first part.

The scene: Sheffield, UK.

I started playing golf when my then-housemate lent me his brother's half set (odd-numbered irons only) and took me to the local par 3 course (Rother Valley). I learned the basics at the driving range and got a taste for the game on the course. I vividly remember having to use a 5-iron on the first hole (I ended up using a 9 if I remember correctly).

Having decided to take the game up, I bought my first set of clubs: a Donnay set with 3-SW, 1, 3, 5 irons for £70. They were oversize, steel shaft. I bought a Donnay putter, Donnay bag and come Donnay balls and I was ready to go for less than $120.

You don't seem to be able to buy Donnay clubs any more, which is a shame. For the price they were pretty good. I never mastered the woods (apart from one par-4 where I inexplicably nearly drove the green) but the irons were pretty decent. I used to do my drives with the 3-iron, which I could hit pretty consistently.

Anyway, back then I used a baseball bat grip, never had any lessons, scored a number of pars and less than a handful of birdies (including that one where I nealy drove the green) and achieved a best-ever score of 100.

The next installment sees my game (along with myself) moving across the atlantic...