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…


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.

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

Andrew & Benji take on The Dakotas Tour

How can it be over six years since I wrote this; impossible! Still, reading it again reminds me of writing it and makes me want to drop AVL to see how he’s doing.




In 1996 Tiger Woods said, “Hello world,” and things haven’t been the same since. Before Woods ever put a tee into the ground as a professional he’d been made a multimillionaire by Nike and Titleist. For the first time, far more of a player’s income was going to come from sponsorships than tournament winnings. A new world order had arrived and golf almost instantly expanded into a truly global game.

Since then, we’ve said hello to a bunch of mini-Tigers like Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler and Ryo Ishikawa. What each of these players have in common (along with a lot of game) is a massive corporate support mechanism. Each is as much a brand as a player. Fowler actively cultivates his image and look on his website by asking, “Love my look?” His Cowboy-orange and flat-billed cap are tools helping to set himself apart from the rest of the khaki-clad PGA Tour crowd. And, while it would be easy (if a tad cynical) to say most great players have yet to set themselves apart by winning,

I don’t want to create the impression I don’t like this crop of young, corporately well-connected, players because for the most part I do. It’s just that I also enjoy following the kind of player who lacks such deep-pocketed support. It’s important to understand how many players come to professional golf in anonymity and with significant hardship.

It’s well known Ben Hogan failed on the PGA tour at least once before finally breaking through. Before succeeding, he was down to his last bit of cash, $86 from a war chest of $1400. He had promised his wife Valerie (who was driving with him from event to event) that if he didn’t earn a check in the next tournament they would take what little money they had left and make their way home to Fort Worth, Texas. The morning before the tournament, the Hogans awoke to find their Buick stripped of its rear tires and wheels, its rear axle propped up on rocks.

Hogan got a ride to the tournament and ended up winning $385. Hogan described that check as the biggest one he had ever seen and he was quite sure it was the biggest he would ever see in his entire life. It’s impossible to imagine that Hogan sponsored by Nike, given millions of dollars before he had ever put a tee into the ground in a professional event. Hogan is a reminder that for every Tiger Woods and Rickie Fowler there are thousands of aspiring players who come up another way; a much harder way.

Jim Von Lossow came to professional golf in a way much closer to that of Hogan than of Fowler or Woods. Jim’s an old friend of mine and some years back he told me of his time on the PGA Tour. He was only 20 when he left Seattle for California and his parents had no love for the idea of playing professional golf. Jim’s quest to play on tour was one he faced largely on his own. He ended up on tour for a few years and even played alongside some storied players like Tom Kite and Jack Fleck. Though Jim didn’t make many headlines while on tour, his journey led him to become a PGA instructor, the first putter manufacturer to mill heads from 303 stainless steel and now one of the most respected club fitters in the country.

It’s no surprise that Jim and his wife, Susan, have two children who grew up excelling at golf; their daughter, Hannah, and son, Andrew. When it came to Andrew, Jim hadn’t realized how good he’d gotten until Andrew and his friend, Eric Benjamin, shot back to back rounds in the low 60s. This got Jim thinking and he and Susan decided to stake Andrew and Benji enough cash to cover a summer playing The Dakotas Tour. “When I was coming up, I didn’t have the support of my parents when it came to golf,” Jim told me. “So, it was important to me that my wife and I give Andrew and Benji whatever help we could.”

Toward the end of July, Andrew and Benji loaded Andrew’s 1997 Toyota Camry and headed east toward Bozeman, Montana. Bozeman would serve as the duo’s home base for their summer on The Dakotas Tour since Benji knew some folks there. Andrew & Benji missed the first eight events of the 2010 Dakotas Tour season. These tournaments were played in cities with names like Okoboji, Iowa. Obscurity is common in professional golf. A serious golf fan might be able to name 50 PGA Tour players but there are 125 exempt spots. Add the players on the Nationwide Tour, the Canadian Tour and all the myriad other mini tours and we’re talking about serious obscurity. Galleries consist of friends and family, but more likely no one at all. Testing one’s game on a tour like the Dakotas was a strong reminder that golf can be a very solitary game, especially for aspiring professionals like Andrew & Benji.

Still, this is a duo that’s pretty comfortable with obscurity. They’ve even created their own organization to promote it; The Northwest Obscure Golf Association. Andrew & Benji came up with the name when they were forced to admit that to play as much as they needed to play to sharpen their games they’d have to play on some of the area’s scruffier courses. So, for two months of summer in 2010, Andrew & Benji tested their games against other aspiring professionals. They played some golf, they drove a lot of miles and had a lot of fun. At the end of the summer, they both agreed it had been the best one ever.


After arriving in Bozeman, Andrew & Benji drove about 700 miles for a one day Pro-Am at Wild Oak GC in Mitchell, South Dakota. For the next few weeks, Andrew & Benji teed it up twice in Yankton, South Dakota at Fox run and then at the open qualifier at Hillcrest Country Club.

Which open? The Bobcat State Open at Fargo Country Club, of course. Notably, the state animal of South Dakota is the coyote, so go figure. Jim Von Lossow had told me what good players his son Andrew and daughter had become, but it was Andrew’s humble blogging that drove home just what fine players he and Benji are and at the same time what a difficult undertaking they were attempting.

Andrew’s first blog entry:

Benji and I played a practice round at Fargo Country Club. It was a nice day, around 80 degrees with a slight breeze. The forecast for tomorrow is calling for wind and sun. I tee off at 8:20am while Benji tees off at 1:20pm. 

The greens are very firm and fast. The key to approach shots is staying below the hole and taking one club less for the ball to run up to the pin. This is a very Northwest-style golf course so Benji and I feel comfortable playing here.

Here are a couple pics from today at the Fargo Country Club…

Eric Benjamin

To the casual reader, I’m sure these photos simply look like two really good players teeing off. But, when I look at them I’m trying to imagine if Andrew & Benji felt differently when they put the tee in the ground. They were doing what they had done thousands of times before, but they were doing it for a very different reason. Their ability, their pure joy in playing the game and their newfound drive to play golf for a living, had taken Andrew & Benji to this very unusual place.

I once watched Nick Price in one of his first tournaments on the Champion’s Tour. I had sought him out before he teed off to tell him how much I enjoyed his book, The Swing, which had come out a few years earlier. Nick Price was as kind and gracious a man as his reputation would suggest. There were a few people who watched him tee off, but by the 3rd hole his gallery had all but vanished. It was a perfect, glorious day in Southern California and one of the best players in the game was playing a competitive round of golf in almost total solitude.

That was an odd event. It was the first day of a tournament that had been moved from one course to another and attendance would be light until the weekend. But, that day reminded me what a lonely and isolating game professional golf can be. As I walked with Price I marveled at his rapid-fire swing and the dead-solid sound the ball made when he struck it with an iron, and I felt a little sorry for him. I know…Price wasn’t really alone, and was certainly not lonely. Still, live professional golf very often doesn’t always bear as much similarity to the game we see on television as we might expect.

Andrew & Benji were taking their first steps toward becoming a colleague of Nick Price but I’m sure they didn’t see it that way. They were and are good friends who wanted most of all to have their best summer ever. While they were at it, they would measure their games against each other and against the games of the other players with the same mission.

They both knew it wouldn’t be easy:

Day 31-33

Day 1 of the Bobcat North Dakota State Open:

Benji and I both shot 75. I played in the morning and made the turn at 3 over and shot even on the back. 

For Benji’s round in the afternoon the wind picked up and baked out the greens. He hit a flagstick from 190 yards and the ball then went into the water in the greenside hazard. In the last 3 tournaments, Benji has at least hit one flag per tourney. His round also lasted 6.5 hours. 

Day 2:

Benji shot 70. He played solid but just had one bad hole. He was punching out from the trees when his ball caught the trunk of a tree sending it into the hazard. Benji missed the cut by 2.

For myself, I shot 81. Made the turn at 3 over again and knew I had to make some moves if I wanted any chance of making the cut. Instead the round went the other way.

We are leaving North Dakota today and heading to Milbank, South Dakota. We will drive three hours and play a practice round at Pine Hills Golf Club for a one-day Pro Am tomorrow, August 30th.

We are looking forward to playing a new course and teeing it up in another tournament.

For 7,000 miles, Andrew & Benji chased the little white ball across the Dakotas and into Montana, going all the way east to Iowa for the Tour Championship. They were like the golf equivalents of Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady, hopping from town to town, staying at KOA campgrounds. Playing golf was the reason for their trip but I will bet it was the trip itself they’ll remember most keenly. As another Cervantes once wrote, “The Journey is better than the inn.” In an era when people are brought together over vast distance by technology, it’s even more important to venture into the expanse from time to time. I’m sure Andrew & Benji would agree.

Koa Benji

I wondered a lot about Andrew & Benji and their dream of playing golf for a living. In fact, when I started working on this story, I wasn’t even sure they really wanted to play the game for a living. So, I talked to Andrew about it.

Today, Andrew Von Lossow’s day job is studying Design at Eastern Washington University where he’s on schedule to graduate in 2013. He told me about the reaction of his fellow students when he tells that in his spare time he’s a professional golfer. Not surprisingly, they don’t quite know what that means. When most people think of the word professional, they think of doctors and lawyers, not golfers.

When asked to describe his game, Andrew said, “My strength is ball striking. I can hit high long irons and from there I have good confidence in my other irons. My chipping and pitching are works in progress. Same with my putting; I am a streaky putter I can really get it going when I am on. When I’m not, it is a lot of two putts and the occasional and dreaded 3 putt.” He’s clearly a guy who believes in his game and has done a lot to develop it from working with a number of teaching pros to enhancing his overall fitness by following a rigorous fitness regimen developed by the Titleist Performance Institute.

As ever, golf is a game of making three shots into two shots any way you can. The different mind set of the truly fine player is revealed when he says, “Once I make one birdie, I feel I can string them together. The more birdies I make, the more unaware of my score I get because I get caught up on the next shot to make the lowest score possible.” Poor players don’t think that way. A couple good holes is more likely to make them protective than confident. Andrew clearly has the confidence to go low when the opportunity comes his way, as he did by finishing 5th and winning $800 in the Gallatin Valley Open.

He wrote about the event and the end of his first pro tour:

Back Home

What a journey it was out in the Dakotas. Benji and I both agree that this was the best summer we have ever had. Benji had some great finishes in tournaments while I was enrolled in the school of hard knocks in the tour life. What I learned was very important for becoming a better player. Golf is not easy as we all know. 

The last tournament, The Gallatin Valley Open, I came in 5th shooting 72-68. The first day I shot 4-over 40 on the front nine and I took some experience from my previous tournaments and shot 4-under 32 on the back nine. The next day I shot a bogey free 68 to make a move up the leader board to cash my first professional check.

I’ll bet Andrew’s closing 68 felt so easy. At the same time, I’m sure that front nine 40 must have had him doubting that he was cut out to play professional golf. The ability to turn off those doubts and salvage par says a lot about his resiliency. Still, it must be extraordinarily difficult for an aspiring professional to measure his game, until the heat of professional competition gets turned up. Then it becomes easy, if potentially confidence crushing. There are so many good players today. As sure as I am that the best players of eras gone by like Nicklaus, Hogan and Ballesteros would still be amazingly successful players today, I’m equally certain the depth of quality players is greater today than it’s ever been.

No one needs to tell Jim Von Lossow about the difficult challenge that lay ahead for his son. There is surely no way to tell whether Andrew will be able to make a living playing golf. But, that’s not really the point. In golf and in life, outcomes are never assured. All we can do is make our best swing, go find the ball, and do it all again.

Today, Andrew & Benji are continuing to hone their games in preparation for their next trek on tour. They’re sure to have plenty of birdies and their fair share of bogies when they do.

Their best summers ever are just ahead.

Andrew & Benji take on The Dakotas Tour

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.

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.

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.

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.


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

Edel Golf: A Master Putter Maker in the Wooded Wilds of Oregon

Readers are forgiven if they have yet to hear of Edel Golf. David Edel is a very different breed than the average teaching pro, club fitter or putter maker. Our initial correspondence hit on a lot of subjects that won’t be brought into this article, but suffice it to say that Edel is one of the most interesting and forward thinking men that I have come across in the golf industry.

In a world of copycats, of the both subtle and overt persuasions, Edel is the kind of guy who is always on the prowl for a better way of doing things and is willing to travel some hard roads to reach his destinations.




The golf industry needs guys like him to maintain its vitality. Let’s hope his work is well rewarded…

PC: What are some common mistakes that golfers make when they buy putters off the rack?

David Edel: First off, the most common mistake buying a putter off the rack is not knowing where it aims. All putters aim differently. Some vary more than others, but none are equal. The buyer should first know how their current putter aims. Based on this knowledge they can look for something that either cures their aim bias, or matches it; matching it, as the stroke is biased to that aim. If you do not want to change your stroke, then find a putter that matches it. For example, if you aim eight inches left, then don’t buy a putter that aims dead center, because your stroke will not match your aim. It would not seem logical to play with something that aimed you crooked, but most do. Our studies have concluded that only four in a hundred can aim their putters dead on, while fifteen out of hundred can only manage to aim within the hole (two inches off center) and with loft issues. Dead on meaning for average speed greens the laser at 6 feet is center cut and six inches off the ground (2.5 deg loft)

When someone buys a putter that they want, it may not be what they need. Grabbing a putter off the rack without understanding how the putter aims is harmful. With simple lasers and a mirror, you could check and see “Does this putter aim well?” I have people in the fitting process say, I aim this putter really well or That line helps me aim and I evaluate them and they aim a foot left. So what people want to believe and what they do are often very different.

PC: As a follow-up, can these buying mistakes lead players to develop poor putting technique?

David Edel: Yes, poor putting technique is related to many factors. Some are directly related to the putter and some not. Putting can be broken down to what we call the Triad: Aim, Path, & Speed. What you do with those three things relates to ready greens and execution. If your putter aims a foot left, then you better make compensation a foot right. Sometimes this is done with path, or speed. Path pushing to the right, or speed –hitting it harder to take a higher line. The player starts to get multiple factors compensating for erroneous aim. This can set into sub routines like: If I forward press my hands, take it inside, or I go to a short back stroke and accelerate.

Compensation is the only honest thing that we do, and many try to go against what they know they need to do it. Like, if you aim right, you better take is outside on the backstroke, have a long backstroke short finish, or close the face manually. But our friends or teachers say, we better fix that outside move, yet they don’t fix the aim or even understand where they aim. Many say, “So what if you aim at address, you may not be there at impact.” My thought is…no kidding Sherlock.

But, our studies have shown that a reduction in the standard deviation of a putter stoke reduced by 38% in 19 of 22 categories. With areas improving up to 63% immediately after the fit. If you start from a better place then chances are you will return to that place. Putting is similar to the full swing, yet much less dynamic. The inclined plane is the boss. It is possible to move the putter during the stroke to the same place it started. If the putter does not aim correctly or has other factors like poor weight, length, lie, loft, then the mind will work away from those issues.

PC: What do you think most players understand better, their full swing or their putting stroke?

David Edel: I am not sure players understand the swing. I think they have an understanding of what they need to do to get the job done, but understanding the full swing or putter motion, I am not sure. I have been a PGA member since 1994 and a pro since 1990, and have worked with some of the best teachers in the world. I think I have a really good understanding of full swing motion, but I still think I don’t know anything.

We’re talking about people and that is the issue. Every person processes information differently than others. I think the missing link in most people’s games stems from lack of basics. Understanding the laws of physics of how the base golf motion works and other basics like how the mind works and processes information. People get so caught up in methods like Single Plane or Stack and Tilt etc. Not that those are wrong, but if you work for a while on a concept and jump to the next, that’s sure to cause confusion. Like if you play a putter for two months and switch again and again, each has multiple distinctions in playing characteristics, and the players develops a habit of grabbing for something when it hits the fan.

PC: What affects the player more, the putter design or how well (or poorly) he has been fit for the putter?

David Edel: I think it is important to understand the word fitting as it relates to putters. There are three forms of fitting as I see it:


Static fitting is measuring a person’s lie angle, length, loft to name a few. It deals mainly without motion, figuring out general variables that influence set up. Many companies have offered a system that deals with this form of fitting.

Dynamic fitting evaluates via monitoring systems the movement of the putter, body and makes changes in the putter to alter impact. Systems like SAM, Tomi, and Icub have complex systems designed to evaluate the motion of the putter and give great data. Video based systems are also used during dynamic fitting. My perception of this form of fitting is to change variables so they produce the correct impact position. Often instruction is involved and it can be difficult to distinguish a fitting from a lesson.

Effective fitting is a process that is more interactive with the player. Effective meaning true angles like 4 degrees loft, processed and changed to an effective angle like 2 degrees. Effective angles are terms used by fitters to describe what the player does with the club to change the true angle. Effective fitting is a process and or system that allows the fitter to accommodate the player’s personal perceptions during the fitting. If I put a mallet in their hands and they aim it more right and I combine it with another variable and it elicits a different response then that’s effective fitting.

We also incorporate dynamic variables like length, head weight, loft, counter weight, shaft flex, and grip type to their value to speed control. So if you aim in correctly, and can control speed more precisely, then your probably going to have much cleaner path and you’ll also be able to feel your path better.

That is what I call effective fitting and that is what we do at Edel Golf. So my answer to your question is, yes; design or shape of a putter can be a preference, but is more an obligation as it relates to aim. Some people want an Anser style head, but aim it totally left. What they want and need are totally opposite. Depending on the style of the fitting process, getting fitted may not apply to desired result. Education is paramount for people to make informed decisions.

PC: What led you to build your putters in a workshop where you live?

David Edel: What led me to build putters where I live is simple. There are huge stores of German stainless here. No, seriously, I grew up here. I have family businesses here. I left teaching the full swing to dedicate myself to making putters. Getting started was a slow process. I started making my first putter in late 1996. Everyone told me not to do it, that it was too difficult. I obviously did not listen. I built a small workshop next to my home here on the river. I ran my family business during the day, and when I had free time, or made time, I made putters.

It could be the worst place to have a putter business and for this reason I am trying to move to Ft. Worth, Texas. We have done a lot of good work here mostly developing and prototyping products etc. but for people to come directly and get a fitting is very complex. I am looking to develop a large facility that incorporates manufacture and has a large inside putter studio with a monster putting green. A place to do schools and educational seminars, etc. Someday…hopefully soon.

PC: How do the professional players you work with putt differently than amateurs?

David Edel: Professionals do not putt all that differently than good amateurs. Some amateurs putt better than pros. Tour players are a different animal. The difference lies mainly in speed control. Professionals have more time to practice speed control. Most professionals aim left. I think this is predisposed to the putters they choose. Most professionals and good amateurs select the same styles of putters, mainly Anser or blade style putters. A lot of high handicap amateurs aim right, which is mostly to do with poor set up fundamentals and a lack of routine. I believe the full swing and the putter swing is governed by the same laws, so if the putter and fear-set is don’t go left then the motions are often the same.

PC: Which other putter makers do you respect?

David Edel: I think I respect anyone that can make a living at making golf clubs. It is hard to do. There are so many variables to contend with, namely money. Big companies have the advantage, because they have clout. Small guys like me are using your own finances to make world-class product. My advantage is the willing to do what the big dogs do not. I think what Mr. Cameron has done is incredible. The machine he has developed deserves respect. Karsten Solheim is the man. That guy did it all. We are all posers. T.P. Mills was the father of making tour quality unique custom putters. I remember the waiting list times were six to eight months for a putter. That is great. Tom Slighter has a nice following. He is making really nice custom putters like how you want it. Kirk Currie started the custom fitting/Aim process so I have to say he is in there. Kevin Burns has come up with some nice designs. He sure had a nice run.

I have to say that I think what we are doing is a continuation of a lot of past knowledge. I don’t make the best putter in the world. That is hard to quantify. I think we configure the best putter in the world. When you can get past the Circle T hand-stamping stuff or this tour player uses this or that and get into it’s different, but I can aim it then hands down I think I offer more to people than any other maker past or present.

Besides, we hand make every putter for each player. We have over 50 million combinations to manufacture on a daily basis. That is custom. There is big difference between custom and handmade. Nothing is hand made. I hand-machine putters but they can take two days to make. Everything is CNC with lots of handwork involved. hope that does not sound cocky, that is not the intention. The fact is I do not know anyone who is doing what we do.

PC: I have to tell you how refreshing it is that you recognize Karsten Solheim. It’s getting to be that people are all to willing to believe their own press releases. Everyone is so quick to tell you about their designs but all too often their designs are Solheim’s. It is the design equivalence of plagiarism so it doesn’t sit well with me at all. Which other putter designs (either modern or classic) do you admire?

David Edel: I really like the Karsten Anser style head. I can’t use it, but I think it has a great profile. I liked Kevin Burns and T.P. Mills / Anser style heads. Those looked clean. I think less is more. There is too much shit on putters these days. Between colors, funky shapes, lines, and weight ports it is total confusion. That stuff should aim, right? People get lost in all that geometry and most of the time cannot hit a barn with their aim. The Bullseye is hands down the best aimer. Pretty simple design. John Reuter did a great job with that one. The Two Ball works for some, but is not for everyone. I wish I came up with that one from a financial standpoint.

PC: Are you working on anything new right now or working to refine your fitting technique?

David Edel: We are always working on something new. Since I have been developing new fitting systems and methods for the last 11 years, our focus has been very different than much of the industry. This focus has enabled us to think about a new box. I have had relative ease getting some patents, because the line of thinking opens different doors. We are working on redefining the fitting model and fitter education. Creating school formats for people to get all three sides of the Triad (Aim, Path, Speed = Reading Greens) going. People do not want putters. They want results. I think the group that we have working together is going to change the face of putter fitting and instruction.

We have come out with a new putter called Variable loft Vari-loft. It has removable face technology with weight ports. Combined with aim value, this is a huge asset to the refined player. These putters take a combined machine/hand effort of over 11 hours to manufacture. When a player is educated on how to use it, it is hands down most versatile putter out there. Since few know about the value of what we do, our attention is focused towards education. Making new designs to keep up with large manufactures is not the solution. Figuring out how to inform players of other options, getting past bias, and overcoming objections from the current power structure is objective #1.

PC: David, I’d like to thank you for taking the time to talk to me. Your candor is refreshing and I hope this interview helps a few more people to find you and take advantage of your ability to help their games. Is there anything we haven’t covered, or anything you’d like to add in closing?

David Edel: We are very proud of our product and process that we have developed. My head styles are very basic and classic. The fact is we offer so many variables not because it sounds big, but people need them. Our fitting process allows for us to individually analyze each variable as it relates to the next. When the total package is put together, then it’s yours and yours only. We seldom make the same variation twice, something is always different. 95% of your thought happens at a subconscious level, and we build a putter that aims using the 5% of your conscious and its interface with the other 95%.

Aim is the one solid tangible that you can triangulate your game from. From aim you can evaluate your path, speed, and the combination of all three is your technique. If you’re confused, get fit. If you’re happy now, stay away. One saying that I have always loved is, “If you don’t need a haircut, then don’t go to the barber.” If you’re reading this, then you’re probably looking for help. We’re here if you need it.

Edel Golf: A Master Putter Maker in the Wooded Wilds of Oregon

Tiger Woods “Performance Reasons” at the Safeway Open in Napa, CA

Tiger Woods has cited “performance reasons” in withdrawing from this week’s Safeway Open in Napa, CA.

His back is fine but his game still suffers and Woods won’t return until it’s ready to go.

The now 40 year old Tiger Woods is missing a piece of the equation. His game will never be ready (by his old standards) again. He’ll never again be the player who won the 1997 Masters or the one who blitzed the PGA Tour in 2001 or even the one who won his last major in 2008.

Woods keeps looking in the mirror expecting to see those younger versions of himself and instead keeps seeing that 40 year old guy with a twice-surgically repaired back.


He also sees the rest of the Safeway field, where the highest ranked player is world number 12 Paul Casey, yet he still doesn’t like his chances.

Ouch times two.

This all goes back to my fundamental belief about the deepest fear in Tiger Woods’ heart; the fear of being just another really good tour player. He doesn’t want to go toe to toe with Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and Jason Day.

He wants the young players of today to lay down for him like the now 50+ year old, 1990s under-achieving-used-to-beens did through the early and mid 2000s. But, today’s 20 and 30-somethings aren’t going to do it for him, so Woods will stay home and his 40 year old game can remain in hiding.

So much for moving the needle.



Tiger Woods “Performance Reasons” at the Safeway Open in Napa, CA

Reaching my golf potential with Jim Venetos: Book Three

196 toward Crystalaire
165 toward Crystalaire

I turned to Jim Venetos about the same time his internet star began to rise. I am glad about this. It’s great to watch someone have his turn at success after much toil. There’s never been an overnight success that actually came about overnight and I am sure Venetos could tell a tale or two about the amount of work he’s put into his own game and the games of his legion of students.

If you’re not a reader, I will cut to the chase here. I have moved on from what I will call the Venetos Method. There is great validity to many elements of his method, but also some troubling issues at least for a player of my limited ability. In the end, I can see the value of a quieter lower body but not in the goal of absolute stillness. Worse (again, for me) is the requirement of setting up with the shoulders closed with a great deal of weight loaded onto the front side. Combined, these two aspects of the Venetos swing almost put my game out of action this season.

First, the closed shoulders stressed my lower and middle back in a way my golf swing had never stressed those parts of my body. Second, the weight left coupled with the goal of keeping weight there brought about an episode of plantar faciitis the like of which I have not suffered in 20 years. This result may be a coincidence but I rather doubt it. Loading the front side of the body while mass (comprised of the arms and club at least) goes rearward is very difficult to do without some painful tweakage. It took my left foot no less than two months to heal and even now it’s still a bit tender.

During my lessons, Venetos was big on saying that his method negates the need for rhythm, tempo and timing. I was always surprised at his use of these terms (since I never had mentioned them). But, the more he mentioned them over time the more I reflected on two simple facts. The first is that when I have played my best golf my swing felt possessed of rhythm, tempo and some element of timing. The second fact is that a swing, as a kind of arc, takes place across a given area of space and over a given period of time. The length of the arc can be measured from a number of different points; the hand’s arc travel a lesser distance than the club head, for example. To put it simply, no matter what, tempo always matters (again, at least to my game). I admit that it can be an amorphous and difficult issue to train, but it’s still an inevitable and irreplaceable part of every athletic process I can think of. To contend it doesn’t matter is dubious at best.

It’s odd to me that the rhythm, tempo and timing thing became such a big deal to me after I had taken my final lesson with Jim Venetos. It came me on day when I was playing quite well after a day that found me playing horribly. One day everything was a blur (except for the ball coming off the face) and the next day all was nearly languid (yet the ball flew with snap and authority).

What was different? Many things, perhaps. But, to me, to the golfer writing down his score, the difference was in the meter and pace of my swing.

Years ago, there was an internet video that showed a bunch of players doing their imitations of different tour players and even of their own buddies. What was funny was that their imitation swings looked just like their actual swings.

Consider this example number 48 of feel isn’t always real.

Point taken (my own, ironically enough), but in the end, we have to be sensitive to the pace of our swings, especially when we don’t play or practice as much as we would like. How many rounds are ruined by the rush and fractured tempo that comes from a last minute dash from the car to the first tee? The doomed swing isn’t really so very different but its fundamental tempo is MIA.

Now, my swing mantras are these: Pace, posture and poise. Pace addresses my need to balance the speed of my back swing relative to the speed of my forward swing. When I play well, their paces feel as though they match and it doesn’t matter if I’m hitting a drive or a putt.

Since my flexibility is only slightly better than a rod made of glass, it’s not easy for me to maintain my posture; I have been known to come out of my posture on putts, for God’s sake.

Poise goes back to that coaches of coaches, John Wooden. He prized players with poise. When I make a swing I covet the poise that comes in the form of the kind of balance that can be seen and felt over the entirety of an athletic movement.

A golf swing, even my golf swing, is an athletic movement. It starts, moves and finishes in a given space and over a given time. The idea of ignoring at least a sense of that time is anathema to me.

I have gone back to go forward. Looking back got me looking at the writing of Harvey Penick and his advice to practice swinging the club with your eyes closed. Doing this makes me acutely aware of how my swing is and is not balanced and paced. I have also gone back to the most influential golf book I have ever read, Nick Price’s, The Swing. This book was my golf-bible many years ago and I now wonder why I ever set it aside. If you’ve never read it, read it…

Let there be no doubt that I admire and like Jim Venetos. If he ever called me up to have a beer, I’d be there and the first round would be on me. But, I am fundamentally unable to make his swing work for my body and my game, and that’s all that counts when it comes to grading the validity of a swing technique or method; it’s simply my only measure of relevance.

Still, I don’t regret the time and effort I spent working on Venetos Method or the money I spent on my lessons with him; both were well spent in my opinion. Golf is a game of endless realizations. That essential nature make some people take up bowling. The truth is that I have stared hard into the abyss of giving up the game more than once over the last year or two. Of that fact, I am neither proud nor ashamed. All I can do is continue to strive, and that’s something I know Jim Venetos will encourage.

Reaching my golf potential with Jim Venetos: Book Three