A little pitch

Pitch shot pine mountain club BW

I think this was taken during the last round of golf that three of my brothers and I played at Pine Mountain Club in 2017.

Though the grasses on the course go dormant some locals play all winter long. But I think it’s better to give the course time to recover between Thanksgiving and Springtime.

The real frame was full of color of course but for some reason I liked this better in this rather severe black and white processing done with Silver Efex Pro.

The wonderful colors of Spring will be all around us when we start our 2018 season in a couple weeks. After battling a bothersome shoulder injury that pretty much gutted my entire 2017 golf season, I’m finally ready to tee it up again.

A little pitch

My Golf Lesson with Roger Gunn

Yup, another oldie, this time from back in 2007. No, I never did qualify for the US Amateur Public Links. Coulda, woulda, shoulda…

PC

Sorry that I couldn’t come up with a more clever title and that I had to resort to a cheap take off of a miserable movie called My Dinner with André that I hope never to see again. I know you’ve all come to expect more from me. Anyway, taking a golf lesson is a lot like going to the dentist: No one goes because they want to.

I never had any delusions about becoming a great player. My own playing ambitions are really pretty modest. I want to hit the ball solidly and I would like to qualify for the US Amateur Public Links. To do this, I’d have to shave enough strokes to get my handicap down to the mid 8s from the mid 10s.

But, I digress…

My game fell apart right around the time I got divorced, though I cannot be sure of any direct association. The horrors came on fast and hung on tight. Out of nowhere I lost my backswing. It almost felt like someone else was taking the club back for me and not the way that I wanted. It felt like the top of my back swing got lost in the woods and it quickly became impossible to find a way to start the down swing toward the ball with any kind of flow. That’s a lousy feeling. Once your back swing is lost it takes so many corrections to re-simplify that which has become all too complicated for the result to be a solidly struck ball.

Amazingly, some balls were hit solidly. Still, the entire event became so convoluted that swinging the club had become a genuinely painful process. Playing a round was possible, but not enjoyable. Practicing,however, was impossible. The feeling of physical madness that had contaminated my full swing was quickly making its presence known in simple practice swings, and shorter shots. At times, I could even feel it during chips and long puts. I kid you not…

Part of the problem is that we tend to muddle on. Golf imparts an odd mixture of fatalism and optimism. Players really believe that they can figure out their flaws but somewhere in the depths of their souls they know that other, possibly more serious, problems will always be lurking nearby.

Finally, and out of desperation, I tried a couple lessons. I was looking for someone who not only knew the golf swing but also had the conversational skills to clearly convey what he knew and also to understand what I was saying to him. So much of my life is about words yet I know that words can often get in the way. Still, words are indispensable tools in both golf and life.

I took lessons from two local guys. One is something of a local legend and the other is a humble pro from a local executive course. The legend was useless though I say that with no rancor. He was simply a guy who had decided long ago that he was going to give every golfer the same prescription. He had found his nectar and poured it freely.

The second guy was a gem of a person, though he just couldn’t get me going in the right direction. We could have talked for hours about golf and life, he was just such a fine and genuine guy. Somethaing about the evil move that had taken root in me just escaped him. He could almost see what was going on but it just couldn’t find a way to address it. It was frustrating to both of us. He really wanted to help and I really wanted to be helped. Still, he is a man that I happily count as a friend and a really good teacher of the game.

For months I tried to dissemble my swing in the backyard. I learned some interesting things. I learned that a comparatively weak left hand (the hand itself not my left hand grip) made me tend to open the blade far too quickly on the way back. I learned this when I realized that if I tried to hit chips with my left hand only I would usually shank the ball. When I focused on keeping blade square, just few inches longer, I developed a whole new feeling for the position of the left hand as it moves away from the ball. I also learned that my balance had been compromised and I have started to work to increase my lower body stability and regain as much balance as I can.

Still, I gradually became aware that the basic fault was far too ingrained for me to beat it by myself. My greatest fear was that the fault would become a permanent effect and that I’d be just another guy with a game shattering fault who just scraped it around. I had heard about Roger Gunn quite a bit over the years. He’s about my age and played a lot of competitive golf in the Los Angeles area. Roger has taught PGA Tour players and Hollywood types but would he be up to the challenge that I brought to him?

Roger teaches out of Tierra Rejada in Moorpark (you can read my review of the course elswhere in the blog) which is one of the newish breed of let’s build a golf course on a mountain type of courses that have become so prevalent in Los Angeles County over the last decade or so. Whatever your take on Tierra Rejada as a course, the have an excellent practice facility. I met Roger out there last Friday morning and I was very impressed with my lesson and with Roger.

After we shook hands and began to chat, Roger took an informal inventory of my bag. He took stock of clubs and their condition and examined their faces and soles. He reminded me of a doctor who asks you what you did over the weekend while he looks into your ears. Of course, I had to present a dissertation on my problem that would have bored lesser pros to tears but Roger listened intently and that meant a lot.

Gunn
Roger Gunn teaches at Tierra Rejada Golf Course in Moorpark, California

Finally, the fateful moment arrived. I have hit the ball like this for so long that I have almost gotten used to it, but it stills feels lousy and the balls flies without verve or purpose. I half feared that I would hit a couple OK and that it would throw him off the scent. I needn’t have worried.

After just a couple swings Roger began to speak about the importance of plane and path. Of course, I head heard and read the stuff he was saying a thousand times before. But, Roger gave a few simple examples that brought the essence of the problem to me clearly. For the next few minutes we worked on a very basic correction that involved him guiding the plane of my back swing. He reiterated that without the proper plane and path issues like tempo were irrelevant. His efforts allowed me to feel where the top of my swing had to be so that I could freely get the club on its way back to the ball.

A real strength that Roger has is to doggedly stay on point. When I asked him whether it might be helpful to work on my transition, he gently reeled me back into the issue of plane and said that if the plane was right the transition would take care of itself.

After my lesson with Roger I felt more than a glimmer of hope for the first time in a long time. I had a simple issue to work on that was basic to my swing. I also had an idea of how I had gone so far astray. It is well known that we all learn to play golf differently. Roger combines clear verbal instruction with an amazing ability to get to the most essential problem first. It would have been great had I found Roger a long time ago. I could have been on my way back to playing the way I know that I can a whole lot sooner. That said, golf is a lot like life. Sometimes we have to suffer through things for a new and better path to be clearly revealed. I’d like to thank Roger again and recommend him to anyone looking to rekindle their passion for the game. I’ll be working with Roger again soon.

I need to make up for lost time if I’m going to qualify for the USGA Publinx!

My Golf Lesson with Roger Gunn

Buck Brannaman & the lesson of solvitur en modo, firmitur en rey.

buck_dvd_cover

My sister and I have something in common when it comes to two of our closest friends. My sister’s college roomate, now a wife and mother of three and my best friend, a husband and father if two. both suffer from significant depression.

Each has issues with their spouse and children. But, I’ve identified a significant difference between the two and the difference was manifest in the one of two sentences that each of them chose to sum up their condition.

My sister’s friend says, “I just don’t want to feel like this any more.”

My buddy says. “I know there’s no help for me. This is just how it is.”

A while back, I felt motivated to share a DVD I own called Buck. It’s the now-famous story of horseman Buck Brannaman. I saw it on TV years ago and I never forgot it. It’s one of a handful of DVDs I’ve ever actually bought and I take it out from time to time just to watch a few scenes.

Now, the funny thing is that I have very little interest in riding horses. I’ve probably been riding ten times and on seven of those rides my steed was made of plastic. Still, I am fascinated with the way Brannaman conveys information. Earlier this year I went to see one of his clinics at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center. It was fascinating. Now, Brannaman is not always a little ray of sunshine. But, what attracts me to his method is that it’s heavy on sensitivity and what I call, self-discovery. By that I mean that he’s not merely encouraging sensitivity toward the horse. Rather, he’s saying that sensitivity toward the horse is mandatory and that developing a sensitivity toward the horse you’re riding leads to sensitivity towards oneself and other people.

As I’m prone to do with nearly everything, I apply this to golf. Golf is nearly always taught as a prescribed method of creating a specific series of movements. Of course the golf swing is comprised of motions, so this make sense on one level. But, if you scratch the surface with the best golf instructors they will often admit that what they’re really trying to teach is a feeling that can be hard for some players to feel. I’ve even spoke to one teacher who told me he sometimes tries to trick his students into buying into a motion he thinks will create a feeling that will somehow unlock a better swing. Talk about tricky, but learning isn’t always easy and straightforward.

I’m sure you’re wondering how this applies to the first couple paragraphs. I have to admit that at the time I loaned my friend the DVD I wasn’t sure either. I just had a feeling. Now that he’s watched it I think I have handle on what I wanted him to get out of it. Some of the lessons resides in a line Brannaman refers to in the film:

Solvitur en modo, firmitur en rey.

This is Latin for gentle in what you do, firm in how you do it. Like I said, Brannaman should have been a golf teacher. I think my friend has lived most of his life believing that something done out of the gentleness of love must always be done in that same gentle way. Over the decades, this gentility-first ethos has spawned inaction and passivity where verve and action were needed. That first quote of his, I know there’s no help for me. This is just how it is rings like the very bell of negativity derived from passivity.

I think this is a heck of a difficult thing for my friend to become aware of at this point in his life. He’s gotten so good at applying this mentality to himself even though he would never prescribe it to his children. He has created a bizarre and damning corruption of the old line, Do as I say and not as I do. He has failed to see the real lesson he’s passing on to to children through his actions and his words.

My sister’s friend went out and got help because she didn’t want to keep feeling as bad as she did. She was prescribed with antidepressants and got better. Of course, science has found that people get better from depression for a number of reasons. For the fortunate, the brain’s chemistry normalizes over time all by itself. For some, antidepressants assist in the recovery of this balance. Sometimes the brain recovers from the causes of the depression, the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, only with time and perspective.

But, before people get better they have to want to get better. Do we really need to talk about the connection between attitude and health?

I watched Brannaman work with a person as his clinic who told him, “Buck, I think all this leg work (in getting the horse to turn) has numbed my horse up.” Brannaman looked at the back end of her horse and said, “Well, a fly just landed on your horse’s flank and he flicked it away with his tail. If your horse can feel a fly, he can feel your knee. The question is, can you become sensitive to how your horse feels what he feels?”

Sensitivity, or what I prefer to call awareness, is what we should all be looking for. It doesn’t matter if we’re learning a new golf shot or we want to learn how to tell a horse to stop or go or we want to know how to relate more effectively to ourself or other folks. We must be aware in a way that gives us the best chance to learn what we need.

My dear friend has lost this awareness. He can’t bring himself to flick that fly off of his leg and so it’s going to keep tormenting him until he does. My sister’s friend felt the same way but she acted on her awareness that help was close by. I remember hearing Dick Cavett say that in the depths of depression the cure could have been as close as the other side of the kitchen table but he just couldn’t bring himself to reach for it.

I spend a couple hours each week talking to my friend and thinking about his plight. I try to monitor how he’s feeling without asking about it relentlessly. I try to point out options when it comes to his work and his life and his family. I encourage him to try new courses of action, new ways of doing things and different ways of thinking about his ife. He speaks frequently of his experience of what he terms existential dread and crisis.

He’s not joking…

So, I wonder about the internal force that pushed my sister’s friend to reach out for help and the internal deficit that makes my friend unable to do the same? Is optimism a prerequisite for a willingness to ask for help or even the belief that help exists? If it is, I’m quite sure I don’t know of a way to motivate optimism in anyone, even someone I know as well as my old friend. You can lead an horse to water or a friend toward help but in the end it’s up to the horse and the friend to care enough to help themselves. Ever the optimist I’m confidant my old friend will have a quenching drink from the fountain of help this year.

 

 

 

Buck Brannaman & the lesson of solvitur en modo, firmitur en rey.

Rejecting the Global Golf Uniform in favor of Style & Comfort

Here’s a boredom-driven multipart question. Yes, in fact, multipart questions are the only kinds of questions I ask.

  • What’s your preferred golf uniform? Do you always or usually wear purpose-made golf shirts, slacks and shorts?
  • Do you change the style of what you wear to where you play? In other words, do you wear better looking clothes when you play better (read: more expensive) courses or do you pretty much wear the same kind of threads no matter where you play?
  • Has you golf attire changed over the last few years?

I ask the last question because I’m starting to make a big change. I’m rejecting what I see as the Global Golf Uniform. Pretty much every male tour player the world over wears it. You know the look. I don’t have to detail it here. I don’t know why but it’s especially loathsome when I see this getup worn by skinny 10 year olds and fat guys over 50. The mere sight makes me want to take up bowling.

415976-rory-mcilroy-lean-700
Rors looking fit & dapper in his Nike GGU

One last question: Has your choice in headwear changed? Me? I’m getting ready to dump the ubiquitous baseball style hat (who ever found that style of hat functionally suited to golf anyway?) in favor of something befitting the dignity of my rapidly advancing years.

Yes, I’m thinking bucket hat.

A few years back I wore this uniform: Shorts year round and irrespective of the weather. Hey, I live in Los Angeles; it’s easy. The shorts are Patagonia and I have pairs in medium tan and medium gray. They’re just standard cotton shorts not golf shorts. Last year I started wearing dark gray Kuhl shorts because of the slimmer fit and the very clever phone pocket it has.

I used to prefer Travis Mathews and Adidas golf shirts and an occasional Nike (they always seem to have good, simple back shirts).

I have come to hate fully 90% of the paper-thin synthetic crap that pretty much every golf shirt company is peddling these days. Not only do they look like crap on nearly everyone they also have a hyper-synthetic feel to their coal-based or polymer-based fabrics.

No, I’m not pining for the days where every tour player wore pleated Docker-styled slacks and wildly oversized cotton polo shirts (usually made by Ashworth back in the day).

trump-fat-pig-golf
Our 45th president out on the links in high rise, pleated slacks. Thumbs up to you, Donald!
woods garcia
Woods & Garcia back when cotton was king and the polos were huge.

This is where I’m really bucking the system. Where doable, I’m ditching the golf shirt. I have a great collection of non-collard casual shirts that I’ve come to prefer over the scads of black, blue and red golf shirts I’ve worn when out hacking in the past. The change has brought a palpable relief to my psyche and sense of style. I’ve hated the me-too formulary of the golf uniform for long enough.

If a course requires a collared shirt, and I really want to play there, I’ve got it covered. But, the fact is that I may end up asking myself if I really want to play a course that requires me to wear something I don’t like wearing.

Yup, I’m swimming upstream on this one while I’m still walking the golf course and carrying my sticks on my back. Life’s too short to wear polos and a baseball hat every time I play golf.

It’s gonna take some guts to actually put that bucket hat on…I admit it.

Rejecting the Global Golf Uniform in favor of Style & Comfort

Tiger Woods, Barbara Boxer, the Rules of Golf and the Electoral College

Bear with me for a minute.

Let’s say it’s 2000 and Tiger Woods is charging toward the 72nd hole of the Masters. Were he to win, it would give Woods all four major professional majors in 2000. We’re not talking about some feeble Tiger Slam. No, I’m talking about all four majors in the same calendar year.

Wow. What happened?

On the 72nd, hole, the legendary par-4 finishing hole at Augusta National Tiger Woods smashed a perfect drive, just right of the fairway bunkers. But, as it bounced to a stop it skipped into a fairway divot. The announcers and Woods moaned in near-poetic unison.

Pure injustice…

tiger-woods-ball-in-divot

Woods glowered at the ball and the divot. He cursed the golf gods. He cursed the player who created that horrid divot. He cursed his bad luck. But, more than anything he cursed the rule of golf that prevented him from taking relief from a tiny bit of missing turf in the middle of the fairway. Clearly, this was an area of the golf course that was damaged and according to the rules, ground under repair. But it wasn’t…So Woods played the ball as it sat; made bogey and missed winning the 2000 Masters by a single stroke.

Then. again in my alternate time, just a few months ago at the 2016 PGA Championship, Woods stood over a putt that would have won him  his 15th major championship. Halfway to the hole was a nasty spike mark, dead in Woods’ line. Again, he stared at the mark and cursed the universe and the USGA rule that prohibits the repair  of such marks. He settled over his putt and made the perfect stroke.

The ball rolled end over end, destined for the hole, right until the moment that it hit that single unrepairable spike mark.

Tiger Woods was denied another major and the legions of golf fans felt denied. Through no fault of his own, the arbitrary, senseless rules of golf had seemingly conspired to the deny the best player of our era a deserved win.

Also in this fantasy world, imagine this:

Tiger Woods saw fit to use his immense wealth and fame to coerce the USGA and the R&A to correct the silly, foolish rules that upset his path to history. The golf world would have turned against him instantly. This would not be the actions of another athlete who cheated on his wife and children. No, these would be the actions of a man who found himself at odds with the very same rules he had played under his entire professional and amateur career. His motives would be clear to everyone and so his legend would be destroyed. The same fans who could forgive his foolish and inexplicable banging of strippers and Perkins’ waitresses could never accept his effort to change the rules for the sake of his own record. Woods’ fans could accept any weakness but a surrender to the same rules that everyone plays by.

This is exactly the mistake Barbara Boxer has made in the aftermath of the hotly contested 2016 presidential election. She has seen her party and platform stung by the effect of the electoral college for the second time in less than a generation and she’s not going to stand still for it. But, the problem is that her motivation is too clearly in the interest of her party rather than her country. I think there’s a simple test to prove my belief. Boxer has been a US senator since 1992. In that time, there have been seven presidential elections but the only other time she has devoted any energy to the electoral college was in 2005 when she challenged Ohio’s electors in a futile effort to delay the re-election of George W. Bush, who had just won the popular vote over John Kerry by more than 3 million votes.

Me? I’m on the fence about the electoral college. However, I do firmly believe that Rule 16-1c (the rule that prohibits repairing a spike mark on the green) is fundamentally unfair.

At the same time, I think the rule that disallows taking relief from a fairway divot should stand. The text of Rule 13 is simple.

Play the ball as it lies.

I wonder if Barbara Boxer plays golf?

 

Tiger Woods, Barbara Boxer, the Rules of Golf and the Electoral College

Two Strokes or Loss of Hole: Playing Golf with My Brothers

I confess to having been damned by my own poor play for the last year.

Strike that; for the better part of the last two years, maybe more, I’ve lost track.

The reasons for my uninspiring play include poor driving (lots of pulls), lackluster iron play and balky putting. The only point of reliability has been my short game. I have a deft touch from 60 yards and in. Give me  tricky shot to a back pin from a thin lie and I’m likely to get it close. Go figure.

Of course, no one gives a shit about a good short game. We all just want to hit the ball solidly when we want to, but few of us can do it.

Two of my brothers (they’re twins, in fact) have been retired for the last year or so. This has resulted in a lot of golf for the two for them. They play twice a week, usually at a dried out carcass of a golf course north of Mojave in the high desert. The course is called Tierra Del Sol and it must have been something back when it first opened in 1969. Now, it’s just a big, sprawling burned up golf course with bad greens. They dump gallons of water on it, which mostly serves to creates little lakes around the cart paths. Delightful.

tds
A few feet off the 5th fairway at Tierra Del Sol

Tierra Del Sol is a hell of a long way from me, so I don’t play there often. And, when I do, I usually swear that it’s the last time. So, when I realized that my Monday promised to be slow one I thought of playing golf with my brothers, Tom and John, but hoped I could convince them to play somewhere else.

pano
Looking toward Soule Park’s clubhouse with the Topatopa Mountains in the background

The somewhere else was Soule Park in Ojai. I call it the antidote for Tierra Del Sol. It’s a really fine course that was renovated by none other than Gil Hanse (designer of the 2016 Olympic course in Rio) back in 2005. Soule Park is an honest, straightforward course that tells you clearly where to hit the ball and where to stay away. The greens can get very fast and some of them have oodles of slope and break. It’s easy to have putts get away from you. Just ask me: Today, I had three birdie putts explode in my hands resulting in par putts that were nearly as long.

After one of those blazing birdie putts got the better of my short temper, I pulled a 7-iron on my tee shot on the par-3 3rd hole. I ended up pin high but twenty five yards left with a nasty hardpan lie. Now, I have to confess something here; I like to walk and my brothers like to ride. So, Tom got to his ball in the left bunker right about the time I got to my ball. I could see what was happening. He either didn’t know where I was (possible, but not likely) or he knew where I was and figured since he’d gotten to his ball 5 milliseconds before I did he would do the right thing and play ready golf.

I did think about yelling at him. “Hey, asshole, get the fuck outta my way!” He would have moved, too, and sheepishly climbed out of the bunker that entombed his ball. But I didn’t. I decided silent seething was the better play. So, I watched as he slammed his first shot into the face of the bunker, then as he skulled his second shot mere inches below the first and while he semi-skulled his third into the bunker on the other side of the green. I could see his twin John bravely putting out as the third shot whizzed past his head.

Like I said, my shot was wildly hard. The last thing I wanted to do was watch Tom’s act and then be rushed when it came time to hit it, but that’s just what happened. After he dutifully raked the now crater-filled bunker I rushed my shot and it too found the right bunker. By the time I got to my ball both of them had putted out and I scooped my ball out of the bunker with a rake. I had to decide if I was going to say something. I almost didn’t, but I did. “OK, I’m telling you something, asshole. For the rest of this round we’re going to play in order. The player who’s furthest from the hole is going to play first. Fuck your dumb-ass ready golf.” Unfortunately, I was so mad I kind of told John rather than Tom but both of them heard what I said. At least there was no chance of me being misunderstood.

I don’t know what drives these guys to play (or try to play) at the pace they do. Today, we played 18 holes in three hours and fifteen minutes and I was walking. Somehow, someway, extreme pace of play became a kind of nearly existential imperative for them.

Me? Even though I prefer to walk most people think I play at a very fast pace. I’m not much for practice swings and I read my putts quickly. What I do like to do is grind when it comes to par and occasionally even bogie putts. I don’t take any longer to read them but they matter to me, even if I’m not keeping score.

The lads are prone to putting with the flag in, carelessly swiping at bogie and double-bogie putts and a whole host of other putting etiquette no-nos. On the short par-4 8th hole, Tom had a very lengthy par putt. I had a much shorter chip from just right of the flag and I don’t recall where John was. One thing was certain. The flag was unattended when Tom hit his putt. It was a 40 footer at least. It wound its way up the hill, swung down to left and gathered speed as it approached the hole. Clack! It hit the pin dead center and tumbled into the hole. “I made a par,” Tom sang out as he retrieved his ball from the hole. Now it was my turn to play the asshole. “The hell you did. What you made was a two-stroke penalty. What do you think about that? Ha!”

Now the funny thing is this; on both occasions, when I scolded Tom on the 3rd hole and again when I denied him his par on the 8th, I felt like my father. I could hear him (absent the four letter words) telling Tom the very same things. It made me wonder about the roles we play and the reasons we play them.

I’m still wondering.

We played the 9th hole uneventfully. But, when we got onto the green Tom was again left with a very long (even longer than the one on the 8th) par putt. I had a shorter putt for par and while I was marking it I saw a ball roll by. It was Tom’s par putt, rolling, yet again, toward an unattended pin. I mean, I get it: He was a long way from the pin. But, he hit the putt so quickly and apparently the thought of asking John or me to tend the flag never crossed his mind. Miraculously, Tom’s putt was tracking beautifully. It hugged the green without even the slightest of hops and began to break a few feet short of the hole, the ball ending up just an inch or two behind the hole when it stopped. “I almost made another par!” “Nope, what you almost made was your second consecutive two-stroke penalty.”

There was plenty of irony for everyone.

I have likened playing golf with Tom and John to feeling like a character in a Hunter S. Thomson novel. There’s an aspect of the experience that’s undeniably akin to an odd kind of bad trip. They’re been described by friends and relative as, “kind of in their own little world” and “not much into the camaraderie of the game.” But, neither of those observations, though accurate, really get to the heart of things.

Their preternatural motivation to play quickly for the sake of playing quickly is their first problem. Nobody likes to feel like they’re playing golf slowly. It’s a slow game by its nature since it’s played in the very largest of ballparks. But, when you think about it, if you enjoy playing golf why would you want the experience to be over any faster than it has to be? I don’t know the answer to that. I don’t know why the balance between playing at a good steady pace and playing just as fast as an electric cart can propel you is so elusive to them, but it is.

Their other problem is an old favorite; failure to communicate. The damnable use of a golf cart brings out their worst. One of them is constantly leaving the other one somewhere without the right club or leaving the cart somewhere the other one doesn’t want it. The odd thing is that their lack of communication doesn’t mean that there isn’t chatter, and a lot of it. In fact, they frequently ask me questions while the other is trying to make a shot. I, of course, stand mute until the shot has been attempted. But the effect is to quell the usual give and take of on-course conversation. They are both wholly imperturbable. They have made obliviousness into a kind of art.

They managed to toss me into their oblivion twice over the last two holes. I was to blame also, believe me, but I was really mad at them. On the 17th hole I hit a solid drive but it left me an angle to the green that included a big-ass pine tree and a eucalyptus just to make things interesting. Rather than taking my medicine and playing to the left of the green, I decided to hit a fade (horrors). I hit the ball flush but added a touch of push to the fade and right after the ball reached its apex, it caught the highest branches of the pine. Damn.

I saw it hit the tree clearly, but I never saw it come down. As soon as the ball hit the tree, Tom and John’s cart was off like a rocket. I walked back and forth where I thought the ball could have been but no ball. To the uninitiated, one of the few genuine benefits of a cart is the ability to search for a ball over a large area. The problem was that the only cart on the 17th hole was parked near the green where, again, the boys were putting out.

The ball refused to show itself and I was seething yet again. I kept looking but somehow the ball had disappeared. The ball should have been easy to find. There was only short green grass and burned-out hardpan in the area. I slung my bag over my should and walked to the 18th tee to try to cool off. Right before I got there, Tom calls over to me. “Where are you?” I didn’t look back, I just said, “I have no idea.” and walked on.

Somehow, unbelievably, I repeated a variation of this feat on the 18th by hitting a low shot toward the green for my 3rd shot. Tom and John again sped off right after I hit the ball. They were walking around in the area where my ball should have been but rather than keep an eye out for it, they both set about with hitting their shots while I did my back and forth searching-for-a-ball act.

Now I was really burning. I thought to myself that playing with Tom and John was like playing with strangers who don’t like me. But, as soon as I said this to myself I realized how wrong that was. I’ve been playing golf with strangers for well over twenty years and even though I’ve been paired with some oddballs I have never played with anyone who didn’t think to offer help in finding a ball. Then again, my brothers aren’t strangers.

But, it’s important to say that it’s not that they don’t like me. It’s not like they’re trying to make a difficult game more difficult than it needs to be. They’re not uncaring, they’re not unkind, they’re simply oblivious to things an ordinary player would find obvious. And, I don’t have  a fucking clue as to why this is true.

I am walking toward the 18th green with these thoughts coursing through my brain. As I drew closer to the green Tom asked me, “Where are you?”

Without a word, I tended the pin for first him and then John. As I put the pin back into the hole I thought to myself, I cannot do this to myself any more.

We drove in different cars and I got to my mine first and drove off toward the Ojai Beverage Company where we like to have a beer and a burger after we play at Soule. The amazing thing is that we had a fine time. We talked about beers and politics and manufacturing jobs. There wasn’t so much as a hint of tension (and there never is). Those are  good times I’m not willing to give up. What the twins lack as playing partners they more than make up for as dining companions. The challenge for me is to enjoy those times while avoiding playing golf with them. So, that’s what I have decided to do. I figure that once or twice a month I’ll drive out to meet them in Lancaster at Kinetic or up to Ojai to hang out with them at the OBC. That’s a plan I can live with. Just know that if I play golf with them again someone will get hurt and it won’t be me.

18th
The 9th at Soule Park just before sunset

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two Strokes or Loss of Hole: Playing Golf with My Brothers

Rosemark Putter Grip Review

I first heard about Rosemark grips from Jim Grundberg at SeeMore. I’ve learned to take Jim’s tips very seriously when it comes to putting. Still, I have to say that my initial response was luke-warm at best. But, then I took a look at the Rosemark website and gradually my interested piqued. Good putting is art and science. Sometimes it can seem as if these qualities are in short supply when it comes to new products. But, when a product finally comes along that works in both realms, at the same time, the results are always exciting for me and for the rest of the market.

Jim was also kind enough to introduce me to Rosemark’s Mark Cokewell. I can’t help myself; I always wonder why someone would get into the golf business, especially these days. Mark Cokewell told me, “I am by profession a pilot. I started in the golf business by entering a contest on the Golf Channel called Fore Inventors Only. I had an idea for a long putter that was a face on design and used a one arm pendulum stroke method. There were no grips available that worked for my putter so I designed one. The shape had to be stable for use one handed either right or left. It had to be 26 inches long so it would reach from the armpit to the palm of players’ hand with a straight arm. And it had to be able to square the putter with one hand / arm. So I started by mapping the hand to see how it would naturally fold around a grip. My putter was called the Krutch because it anchored in your armpit. As it turned out I got quite a positive response to my grip and in 2012 had two players on the Champions Tour sign contracts with me to play my grip. J.L. Lewis and Keith Fergus. At the end of 2012, the USGA proposed ruling out anchoring and that put an end to my putter. In late 2013, I re-tooled to make my grip for standard putters.

In may of 2014 I brought the grip onto the Champions Tour and got good play by several guys including Kenny Perry and Colin Montgomerie. In 2015 I took my grip to the PGA and LPGA tour and did very well. In 2015, Colin Montgomerie won the Senior PGA at French Lick with my 1.25 grip. Lydia Ko started playing my 1.52 MFS grip at the US Women’s Open. She has won two majors with it, eight tournaments, and a Silver Medal in the Olympics. Russell Knox won the Travelers this year with our 1.25 MFS grip.”

I would describe that as one heck of a lot of success, especially when you consider the hit Cokewell took with the USGA’s anchor ban earlier this year.

The Rosemark grip was compelling to me for at least three reasons. First, is the use of the six-sided, patented shape. The second is the use of the silicone beads for good grip and the third is the wonderful smoothness of the microfiber. According to Cokewell, “We feel like the greatest benefits to our grips are the ability of the player to relax the tension and maintain full control of the putter throughout the stroke. And, be confident that the putter will remain square even with a light grip pressure.”

I consider myself a better than average putter. My results come from a good amount of hard work and devotion to the SeeMore approach to putter design and use. That said, when I’m under the gun and putting for par, my grip tension increases. If I’m on top of it, I can throttle it back. But, that is a kind of second-guessing when you think about it. I can find myself wondering what the proper level of grip pressure is, especially if the putt is meaningful.

The Rosemark grip minimizes my tendency to ramp up pressure. The putter always feels secure in my hands, especially over the ball. Again, it feels like the cross sectional shape and the two different textures work at once to encourage a constant and light grip. What a simple recipe to making more putts.

Just as important, but not often talked about, is a grip’s feel at impact. I’m a feel and sound junkie. That’s why I prefer my old brass SeeMore head to my new stainless steel SeeMore. It’s not better, but it is different. Some putter grips tend to deaden sound and feel. I hate this. It serves only to break down the putter’s connection to the guy doing the putting; me.

When it comes to the materials Rosemark uses Cokewell said, “The MFS microfiber silicone is the result of us wanting to offer a more durable and washable grip to our customers. We made our grips, originally, in the industry standard (think SuperStroke) PU material. This material has some excellent benefits and we do offer our 1.25 and 1.52 grip in this material, but it gets dirty quickly and tends to lose its tackiness. It’s also not very durable in hot humid weather areas. Our MFS material lasts twice as long and resists dirt better so it stays tackier longer. Plus it’s washable. It has excellent durability in all weather. We are working to improve its playability when cold and wet as the silicone stiffens a bit when cold.”

My older Rosemark has gotten some very heavy use over the last four months and it still looks and feels great.I requested the second grip to compare its feel to the older grip.You can see from this photo that the black has faded a touch, but the feel is identical to the new blue grip in the photo.  I would say that usual care is in order. Keep your putter out of the trunk of your car and the Rosemark should last you a very long time.

rosemark

I asked Cokewell if Rosemark had plans to get into grips, beyond grips exclusively for putters. He said, “Rosemark is working on a material that would completely change the grip market. It’s in early development and of course it’s a secret at this point. If we’re able to make it work we will expand to all grips not just putter grips.

Soon, we will have samples of our new Elite grip which will be 13 inches and weigh approximately 60 grams. We’re very excited about this grip. Several pros have had input in this grip design.”

Again, I want to thank Jim Grundberg at SeeMore and Mark Cokewell at Rosemark for turning me on to a product that has already helped my game. Like Mark Cokewell says, “Putting is stressful enough without fighting your equipment!”

I couldn’t agree more. You owe it to yourself to try a Rosemark grip over the off season.

Your game will be better when the new season arrives.

Rosemark Putter Grip Review