Thursday, March 26, 2015
I have never liked gyms. I feel they are too passive, you are running on a treadmill, you are lifting weights for what? Sure you get bigger muscles, etc. but I like activities where I am playing a sport, something tangible.
In my previous golf life, I always played golf. Sure I practiced on the range every once in awhile, working on this aspect or that new thing but for the most part playing a lot helped my game than the range.
After having been away from the game for awhile and trying to get back into it for the last year, it was clear that playing wouldn't just cut it. I would play, hit a few good shots and be miserable the rest of the round.
After lesson 2 at Angeles, I was given a brand new swing. If I am going to be serious about improving, then I needed to get to work. So all week between lessons I went to my local driving range (5 minutes away, a rarity in Los Angeles commuting) and worked on the swing. Every night, refining swing thoughts. I was prepped for lesson 3 and my short irons are really coming along.
The driver, well that is another matter.
The driver has always been my achilles heel but since I had no idea what was really going on with my swing on the long clubs, my teacher John hooked me up with Trackman. I am sure a lot of you know about Trackman but it was my first time with such a device. It gave me all types of numbers (some of which I still don't understand) but more importantly, it told John exactly what I was doing and how to fix it.
Mainly this involved flotation devices.
The real key to a good pro is to find what swing thought clicks with you personally and then drilling that into you. Swinging around this floatation device helped get the right swing thoughts in my head.
How effective as this device? I went from a 240 yard drive with a slice to a 270 yard drive with a draw. A huge improvement in one lesson. Of course, I need to work hard on the range getting this swing into my muscle memory (and of course, if my wife will let me spend that much time on the range).
However, seeing tangible results drives me to practice more and to get better at this game. All thanks to John and Angeles National!
Thursday, March 19, 2015
Is this the week it all changes? Twenty plus years of balls fading to the right, taking one club more than most, scrambling with my short game because my long game is a mess? Is this the week that I turn it all around and start hitting like a pro?
Well if it is, it is going to take some work.
For years I have been using a particular grip and a particular swing. I had been focused on Freddie Couples Timing and Tempo that I lost sight of the actual mechanics of the swing.
John my teacher started building my swing one inch at a time. First the grip, then the takeaway, then the follow through. Building blocks upon building blocks and completely away from my normal swing.
I knew I would have to spend some serious range time in order to incorporate all of these tips and set about trying to internalize the swing on the range. Its been uneven so far but the ball flight (straight and boring) is exactly what I want so when it does work, it really works.
How will this translate into lesson 3? Stay tuned! No matter what happens with my swing, the Agave Bar will be there with awesome food and drinks!
Thursday, March 12, 2015
Do I take lessons to actively improve my golf game thus bettering my enjoyment of said golf? Not since the 90s. That is the sad truth of the matter, I know the mechanics of the swing and have an eye for helping other people but I actually haven't done anything to sharpen my own swing in a little less than two decades.
After a couple horrible rounds of golf recently, I thought I would get my act together and take some lessons. Luckily Angeles National (one of the best courses in SoCal) was offering a month of lessons at a real reasonable rate; so for the month of March, I am taking lessons and reporting to you, dear readers on the results.
Week One: Short Game
A big green bucket of balls greeted me and my instructor John Ray Leary at Angeles National. John is a very personable fellow and his demeanor reminded me of my favorite teacher of all time back in the days when I was young and good.
John's theory is that the mechanics you put into place when you are chipping and pitching hold true through the rest of the golf shot so we spent some time lofting up balls to a practice pitching green.
The short game has always been one of my strong points (I get into trouble off the tee a lot and have to scramble for pars, something I was adept at earlier but now, not so much). John is great in imparting visualizations about the swing and I took to his instruction like a duck to water.
Most of us aren't pros so we don't spend a lot of time hitting balls every day but at least for me, hitting many balls over the course of an hour was really great just to groove things together and see where the inconsistencies pop up. I bet if I spent 1-3 hours a day on the range, I would be much better playing on the weekends but unless someone steps up to the old endorsement plate for a 15 handicapper, I don't think that is happening any time soon.
The course itself is gorgeous and reminded of pictures I have read in a book one time in line at the airport on my way somewhere of Palm Springs and while I was concentrating hard on practicing, I also had one eye on actually playing this track. One day soon, for sure.
I am already feeling better about my game after one lesson (confidence gained through repetition and patient instruction) and can't wait to see what next week's lesson holds!
Thursday, February 26, 2015
One of my favorite areas in Los Angeles is the Antelope Valley. About an hour North east, this amazing Valley is windy, deserty with lots of snowcapped mountains leading to lots of majestic scenery. I never thought of golfing in this area until I won free golf at the Crystalaire CC and went up recently to check it out.
The first thing you notice about this course are the trees. The trees are everywhere, in the fairways, in shotlines off the tee, everywhere. The ultimate tree hole is the second that has multiple trees in the fairway (something I haven't seen before).
Another thing about CCC are the greens. They are rock hard and quick due to the paucity of water in the Valley and the crazy wind that they have there. I played like garbage this day but I was chipping very well. So many chips rolled off the green like it was their job. I actually holed out from a bunker and was thankful because who knows where the shot would've gone if not the hole?
(the picture above is one of the iron shots I managed to stick to the green)
This course is legit. I ran into an older gentlemen who qualified for several US Opens from this course and I can see why. Its long, the greens are hard and fast and the course while wide, requires accurate shots. Plus if you can shape your shots through the wind, you will do well on any course.
A secret plan of mine is perhaps to try and qualify for the Senior US Open one day (a decade or so off) and I bet this course would get me in good shape. That being said, for a casual round it is a tough track!
Crystalaire is private but allows the public to play on Monday and Tuesdays. You can also enter a contest to play at any point and check it out here: http://www.crystalairecc.com/main21.html
Thursday, February 19, 2015
The only downside to this course is allowing 5somes out and really dragging down the playing time, especially on the front side. That being said, if you hit this course during the off peak times, its a great time.
One of the really interesting quirks of this place is how many of the holes are bordered by water, whether on the fairways, creeks crossing through or ponds near greens, this place has a lot of water.
The one hole I was eagerly awaiting for was the island green 17th hole. Much like TPC Sawgrass this island green is the ultimate in shot making.
The hole did not disappoint.
While I played like a bucket-full of suck at Valencia, I put an iron shot on the green and two putted for par, it was a great feeling.
Overall if you are looking for a good executive course, you an't go wrong with Valencia, just go on some off peak times.
For more info, check out here: http://www.vistavalenciagc.com/
Monday, February 9, 2015
I have been living in Southern California for several years but never visited Torrey Pines. I knew TP supposedly held two great golf courses (North and South courses), Tiger won there a lot and it was a local muni to boot (San Diego residents can play it for an insanely small amount of money) but I really never gave it much thought. That all changed when I visited to see the Farmer's Insurance Open this last week. I came away super impressed by the course to say the least. Below are some of my random thoughts on the tourney and my day at Torrey:
1) The course is gorgeous, in fact BOTH courses look amazing. The tournament was only played on the South course the day I was there but you could see a lot of the North Course holes which looked just as awesome. Both courses really maximize their proximity to the ocean by giving you a lot of views. Here are a few examples:
2) When I was growing up and learning how to putt, you had your standard interlocking grip. As time went on people starting experimenting with the grip (right hand low, etc.) but man do so many pros use all types of hand configurations on tour! I saw claw grips, baseball grips and so many other types, I have no idea what to name them.
3) The tournament was played on the South course but imagine my surprise to see amateurs teeing it up on the North course on Saturday? Its both cool that they can play at the same time as pros but also distracting and you have to keep your head up on the holes that are shared between courses in case of any wayward ball (you have to with the pros as well but that is another matter).
4) Rickie Fowler was the big draw of the day. There was a San Diego police officer following around the festivities at all times.
5) Farmers Insurance put on a great tournament. From the parking to the food tents to the volunteers, this was a well run tourney. There were corporate tents everywhere which sometimes made it difficult to get in between some holes but that is life on the modern PGA tour. Farmers went out of their way to engage the fans on social media and at the course in a way I don't see many tournament sponsors do and that also made for a great experience.
6) I always think that the best day to go to a PGA event is on a Thursday. There are few people and you can really get up close and personal with the pros you watch on TV. That being said, Saturday at Torrey Pines was very pleasant. Sure the super groups involving Rickie, Harris English and weirdly Cameron Tringale (local boy) were huge but the rest of the course was spaced out enough so the crowds were thin if you wanted to follow along.
7) Speaking of the spacing of the course, whoo doggy is it long. I mean, there are 2 par 5's that are 614 yards! Of course, if I am ever lucky enough to play the course, I won't be playing from the pro tees (they aren't open for the public) but I will have to bring my A-length game to this sucker.
(helloooooo down the fairway there)
8) You can't beat the sea air and the views with a stick. Add on top of that watching some of the best golfers in the world ply their trade makes for a heck of an event. The Farmers is a must do and Torrey is a must play in my book!
More info on Torrey Pines here: http://www.torreypinesgolfcourse.com/_tpgallery/gallery.htm
Thursday, January 29, 2015
Nestled in Van Nuys, is an 18 hole par 3 course along with a a 9 hole executive course. I decided to take a spin on the executive course although in some ways this course forced me to rethink what I look for in courses.
The course starts out like most beater courses, hitting off mats and on top of other golfers. In fact, you are so on top of other golfers, I started to get nervous during the round. The tees are so close together, the roadways are so close to the course, there is almost no margin for error which does not add to the enjoyment of the round. Things are so stacked up, the airplanes are stacked upon you.
When you aren't hitting near other golfers, you are hitting almost into traffic. In the pic below you have two options, hit near a tree or lose it right into a fence or onto the road.
I don't want to slag Van Nuys too much, after all, real estate is limited and not every course has the luxury of land adjacent to the course but the proximity of everything made me feel, well claustrophobic.
One great thing about VNGC is that it gave me this shot:
So many golf balls, so little time.
Don't let me dissuade you on VNGC, check it out for yo'self! http://www.vannuysgc.com/