Straightening The Driver

One of the hardest things to practice on a driving range is straightness for longer shots. It’s easy to see how far a ball goes (especially with my Flightscope Mevo), but (especially with my mediocre distance vision), it’s hard to tell how left, right, or straight a ball goes. It probably doesn’t help that my last few range sessions have been at dusk.

Yesterday morning I flew to Florida after a little more than a month in the cold. I went to the range a few times in that month, but only played 9 holes of actual golf.

After dropping off my bags, I went straight to the range to warm up, then go out and play. I hit 90 balls, including 26 drives. They averaged 212 yards and seemed to be going reasonably straight. Then I hit the course. We skipped around a little, so I don’t have full round stats, but I don’t need data to tell me it wasn’t pretty. About half of my drives ballooned right. About 1/4 were straight, and 1/4 were low and left. I lost more than a few balls.

After the round, I went to the driving range to try to figure out what was going on. I video-ed some swings, and looked at swing data on my Mevo, but it was something more old-fashioned that gave me the clue I needed: The impression of a ball on the toe of my clubface. I started more intentionally setting up balls on the sweet spot of my clubface, and my drives instantly started flying straight.

I played a full round today and drove it much better. I didn’t lose a ball with my driver. 7 of 14 were 215+ and 3 of 14 were 220+. My longest of the day, 246, was on 12, a hole I traditionally struggle to drive the ball on. One of my two mishits still split the center of the fairway. The other was challenging.

I also putted very well (for me). I had 28 putts, including 3-4 makes from outside of 12 feet.

So how did I shoot 101 while driving and putting well? The par 3s. I was 8(!) over on the four par threes at Old Palm Golf Club.

On the first par three I hit a decent 6-iron a little right off the tee, it caught a slope and trickled into the water. I then skulled the pitch shot. I made a nice up-and-down from the coquina (waste bunker) where the skulled shot ended up, but the damage was done.

On the second par three, there was a big right-to-left wind (14-18MPH) and I hit a drawing 6-iron (too much club) into the back-left water. I hit an ok chip and two putts for another 5.

On the third par three, I once again hit a 6-iron draw which crawled into the back edge of the left bunker. The ball perched just below the lip, giving me an all-but-impossible stance. I should have taken my medicine and knocked it into the center of the bunker. Instead, I took a stance with one foot in the bunker and one on the lip, and hit a low runner that somehow got out and bounced another 50 yards to behind a tree. I also hit my knee with the shaft of my wedge on the followthrough. Not my favorite shot today.

A couple more wedges and a put led to another double.

The last par 3 of the day, the 15th hole, is where I really blew it. 120 yards or so to the flag. I tried to open up a pitching wedge to get a little extra loft and a little less distance, and ended up hitting it into the right trees. For those of you who’ve never seen this hole, no one should ever hit into the right trees. I found the ball, but I was blocked (by the afformentioned trees) and made another 5.

“But Michael,” you point out, “101 is still a high score, even going +8 on the par threes. How did you manage that?”

Well, the distribution of bad shots was as follows:

Woods (4):

  • One sky-ball driver that carried only 167 on the #1 handicap (It was in the fairway).
  • One sky-ball driver that ended up in the right treeline on 18. I found it, but it set up a difficult 2nd shot.
  • One three-wood on 18 (from that bad lie) that got lost in the right trees.
  • One three-wood that went too left, settled near a fence, and forced me to punch out, on the 4th hole (a par 5).

Irons (9):

  • A 6-iron right on #2 (the 1st par three) that crawled into the water.
  • A 6-iron left on #6 (the 2nd par three) that flew into the water.
  • A 6-iron right on #10 (I was aiming right, expecting a draw).
  • A 6-iron left on #11 (the 3rd par three).
  • A 7-iron left on #8.
  • A 7-iron well short on #9.
  • A 7-iron low and left on #17.
  • An 8-iron short and heavy on #3
  • A 9-iron way short from the coquina (waste bunker) on #16 (I ended up with a long bunker shot which I managed to get pretty close).

Full wedges (5):

  • A near-full 60 degree wedge a bit short and left on #4 (the par 5).
  • A gap wedge slightly short and right (into a bunker) on #5 (the hill pushed the ball right and I didn’t account for that).
  • A gap wedge short (into a bunker) on #13.
  • A pitching wedge way right (off the tee on #15, the par 3).
  • A 60-degree wedge short on #18 (it hit a rock and bounced back another 20 yards into the coquina. I did get up and down from there).

Pitches and chips (4):

  • I hit a pitch with my 60 thin on #2 and through the green.
  • I hit a pitch with my 56 thin on #3 and over the green.
  • On the followup shot, being extra careful to get the loft of the club, I came up well short of the hole.
  • On #17 my pitch (w/ 56) out of the trees was well short.

Bunker shots (4):

  • I failed to get out of a bunker in one twice today, and both times the second shot rolled off the back of the green (I was compensating). All four shots were with my 56-degree wedge.

The bad bunker shots are hopefully isolated incidents. I hit some good and very good bunker shots elsewhere in the round. I remedied the thin-pitching woes after the 3rd hole and hit mostly good pitches from then on.

Which leaves these shots to work on the next time I go to the range:

  • Full gap wedges (Contact)
  • 40-60-yard pitches (distance consistency).
  • Full 6-irons and 7-irons (alignment/trajectory consistency).
  • Full three-woods (Alignment and ball-flight).

Measuring Progress With Flightscope Mevo

As I’ve mentioned ad-nauseum, at the end of August I bought a Flightscope Mevo launch monitor, and I love it.

The one major thing the Mevo lacks is a display of long-term trend data. The only data view available is for each individual “session”. This makes the Mevo a great tactical tool on the range, but a rather mediocre strategic tool on its own.

Step 1 was to get all of the data that Mevo’s collected over the past five months into a more workable format.

Flightscope’s Myflightscope portal allows you to download individual range sessions to a CSV (comma-separated value) data file. Unfortunately, it gives each downloaded file the same unhelpful filename (stats.csv). The files themselves contain no reference to which session they contain, so turning them into historical trend data required some work.

First, I created a directory for each year I’ve had the Mevo, and subdirectories for each month, and each day that I used it. I then downloaded the CSVs for each session manually (about 60 of them), one at a time, and put them in their respective folders. This was a tedious process, and hopefully Flighscope will add better titles soon to make this easier, but if they don’t, there are a few possible ways to automate this.

Next, I wrote a script (available for free here) in Node.js to parse all of the CSVs, create columns to identify which file and date each shot came from, and create a CSV with all of the shot data merged.

The output of this script was a merged CSV of thousands of golf shots.

The next step was to turn that data into meaningful. I’m not a statistician (or even skilled at Excel), so figuring out how to do that will be an ongoing process.

I started by importing my CSV into Google sheets.

This allowed me to make:

  • Scatter plots measuing the dispersion of carry, smash factor, and other statistics for a given club over time.
  • Trend line charts for the medians of those same statistics. I was initially looking at means, but I concluded that it’s more important to see the range I’m likely to hit within for a given statistic, rather than the average of my best and worst shots.

This was a good start, but the data you see above is flawed. The aggregate statistics ocasionally rely on small sample sizes and don’t filter for outliers, leading to a few wacky data points. Google Sheets isn’t super beginner friendly, and importing new data into this sheet, in the current way, would be a manual process.

Luckily, I’m in the market for a new hobby, and this seems like a fun one, so I’m going to try to build some tools to aggregate and analyze Mevo and ArcCos data over these next few months (and hopefully improve my golf swing along the way).

If you’re interested in working with me to develop better systems for aggregating and analyzing Mevo data, you have thoughts, or you’ve already implemented a solution of your own, please leave a comment.

Thanksgiving Golf

This week I’m down in Florida for Thanksgiving, and thankfully, that means it’s time for golf.

I’ve played 54 holes since I got down here.

I started off playing the back nine of the course near our family house. I played the day I flew in, and there was definitely some rust to my game. I shot 51. After the round, sun setting, I went to the range to try to work out the kinks.

The next day I played the front. I shot 47 with no warmup. Progress.

Finally, the day after, I played a full eighteen from the greens. I shot 96.

Yesterday, Thanksgiving I played in a four-man scramble (“The Turkey Trot”). I warmed up with 45 balls on the range. Our team struggled mightily. My ironplay was attrocious, and my putts were decent but didn’t generally go in (I did sink our team’s only two birdie putts).

Today, I played 18 again. On the range, I focused on hitting irons and wedges. I hit 82 balls. I didn’t hit a single wood. I also consulted the wedge section of Tiger Woods’s “My Game” prior to the range session, just to get some good thoughts to work on. I also hit about a dozen practice putts.

My irons were far from perfect, but the extra focus on them did help. I shot 91 from the greens (the “back” tees for me on this course), 5 better than two days earlier. Neglecting my drive definitely hurt. My average drive was 15 yards shorter than a few days earlier and I hit three fairways instead of 7.

My short game was great. My sand shots were excellent, reliably going the yardage and direction I wanted. I drained 3-5 putts from outside of 15 feet and made a number of great putts inside that range.

Other highlights: I only double-bogied two par-4s, and I avoided any triple bogeys (That’s good for me). On the challenging 11th, a long par 3 over water, I nearly holed my tee shot, a hybrid. It ran by the pin by about two feet. I made two. On the 16th, I hit my drive short and right, but hit a beautiful 3-wood towards the center of the green to get back into the hole. I hit another good three wood after a smoked driver on the 4th hole, the #1 handicap and a par-5, getting me to about 60-70 yards in two. I made a disappointing six after hitting a mediocre 60-degree wedge short, and a pitching wedge chip past the flag.

My game( My irons especially) definitely still needs a ton of work, but I’m happy with the progress I made.

Random thoughts: I played most of today with Taylormade TP5x balls and I really liked the feel of them (especially when putting).

18 Holes at Banyan Cay

This afternoon I played Banyan Cay, in West Palm Beach Florida, with my dad.

The course is newly renovated by Jack Nicklaus, an odd layout that was in very nice shape. I had played the course once before the renovation, and it’s an order of magnitude nicer.

My warmup on their grass range, with my Mevo launch monitor, left me a little worried. I was clocking my driver, but struggling with my wedges. I hit around 35 balls. My putting practice was more encouraging.

Sure enough, on the first hole, I hit a reasonable drive, then basically skulled a 7-iron 70 yards or so. After a nice wedge and two putts I walked away with bogey.

On the next hole I made par, thanks to an excellent 40-yard pitch that I hit into the slope and let release to the flag.

The rest of the front nine, I almost exclusively oscilated between par and double. I hit a few more great pitches and a few more head-scratching drives. On eight, my drive went so right that I found myself hitting a blind shot from the practice green, alá Spieth at the Open. I hit a nice 8-iron recovery shot, but I still walked away with double. I had three pars in the nine.

The back nine started well. On the 10th hole, I pured a 6-iron from a messy drive to six feet and rolled in a birdie putt.

The driving didn’t get much better for 11 through 15.

Then, on 15, things changed. I hit a beautiful high draw. Unfortunately, there was water left, and my punished drive flew it, coming to rest across the lake.

The 16th is a short 279-yard par 4 with bunkers on the right and water left. Only an idiot would hit driver, so that’s what I did. I hit a beautiful high draw, and it crawled into the water about 50 yards from the flag. I dropped where it crossed, pitched up, and two-putted for five. I regret nothing.

The 17th is a challenging par 4, and I made bogey.

The par 5 18th is where everything came together. started off with a beautiful driver draw right down the middle of the fairway. From there, I laid up with a well-struck 6-iron, leaving 120. Then things got dicey.

Feeling some wind, I decided to play it safe and hit a nine-iron. I hit it flush, and it flew twenty yards over the green, behind a patch of bushes and trees. I hit a nice wedge through the trees, but didn’t notice the bunker between my ball and the hole, and found the middle of it.

From the bunker I hit a beautiful shot that spun and finished about eight feet from the hole, and I made the putt for bogey.

This hole encapsulated my round. It was by no means perfect, but it had enough well-hit and well-executed shots to feel excited about the progression of my game.

And once again, knowing and trusting my carry numbers (Thanks Mevo!) proved super helpful.


  • Drives towards the end.
  • Lights-out putting. I had 30 putts. I developed a new routine for speed and aim last week and it paid off.
  • 40-60-yard pitches
  • Irons/wedges on 18


  • Early drives (Fix: Keep honing lesson).
  • 6-iron and 7-iron off the tee on par 3s. (Fix: Practice and be confident on the tee. Given where the two bad swings in question took place, I’m guessing this is largely mental)
  • 3-wood (Fix: Practice on the range. I’ve been focused on driver. Potentially replace – I have a really old one in the bag).
The “interesting” 12th green, with a bunker smack-dab in the middle of it (and water left)

(Arccos didn’t seem to have this course in its system so I don’t have exact stats on my shots today)

Professional help

My irons have improved this year, but my swing hasn’t felt quite right (especially on drives), so today I sought some professional help in Virginia.

I learned that I was doing a few nasty things

  • Hitting the ball off the heel (or near it).
  • Hitting down on the ball (not good for drives), and tilting my spine towards the target.
  • Swinging out-to-in
  • Taking the club away way faster than I needed to (That speed doesn’t translate into swing speed.

Lessons are always hard to explain if you were’t there, but here’s my best explanation of what we did about these ills.

1. We set metrics for success. My angle of attack was around 6 degrees down and my club path was about 11 degrees to the left. My goal for the day was to get both numbers to zero or better (although the instructor recommended aiming for bigger shifts, since exaggeration is often the best way to counteract something).

The spine tilt we addressed by making sure I turn my right hip, rather than shifting it backward (which tilts my spine). I also consciously tilted a bit back as I swung. I was able to knock the attack angle down close to zero, and even had a few that were two or three degrees positive. This drastically increased distance and lowered spin.

Getting to swing in-to-out was more of a challenge. The instructor showed me a hula hoop representing my ideal swing path, and I visualized swinging along it towards the right fence. Eventually I ended up hitting some drives within 2-3 degrees of zero, producing nice draws rather than fades.

Those were the two big corrections we worked on, but we also made two smaller tweaks.

First, I stood farther from the ball to stop my hitting the ball off the heal and take full advantage of the driver’s sweet spot.

Second, I slowed down my takeaway. It was unnecessarily fast, wasting energy and making it harder to work on the elements of the backswing and downswing that I needed to improve my driving.

Every swing was on Trackman and video, which made it nice and easy to measure progress.

After the lesson, I went to the range and hit around 80 balls to ingrain the changes. I used my Flightscope Mevo, which provided some nice hints as to progress, but, lacking the two angle metrics I was using on the trackman, wasn’t perfectly helpful for the task. Wary of overuse injuries, I called it quits on my golf swing after emptying my bucket, satisfied with my work for the day.

After that, I put in around 90 minuted of putting work, listening to an audiobook on Herbert Hoover, and working on distances from 2-20 feet.

Initially I was unhappy with my speed control, then I began picking intermediate targets within a few feet of impact and visualizing the speed I’d like putts to have as they passed each spot. My make percentage skyrocketed. I think this will be very helpful going forward.

My shot of the day (Data from Mytrackman)

Nine holes under Marine One

Yesterday I played nine on the blue course at East Potomac. It was deathly slow. Two hours plus. Still, it was nice to get out and practice a little

My highlight was the par-4 6th. I smoked a driver, but it drew left of the tree line. About 50 yards from the flag, I pitched a low eight-iron. It clipped the trees, but still made it to the green, setting up a sixty-foot birdie putt. I left the putt well short, but drained a 15-footer for par.

My second highlight was the multiple flyovers from Marine One (technically the helicopters used for Marine One – they’re not technically Marine One unless the president is aboard). They’re based just down the river, and evidently conduct practice flights up and down the river.

Marine One Helicopters over the 9th fairway

My Apartment putting practice setup

I don’t know whether I’ve mentioned it before but as soon as I moved into my apartment I purchased a small practice putting green.

It’s not very fast or very long (about 8 feet), but it is perfect for working on making nice, consistent putting strokes. The cup liner prevents all but perfectly on-center and well-paced putts from dropping, and the two narrow white guidelines are great for ensuring straight back-and-through strokes, and consistently straight roll from the ensuing putts.

It’s equipped with a gravity-driven ball return which helps bring balls back, but rarely rolls them all the way back to my feet.

Langston Golf Course

After a busy few weeks at work, I finally got back onto the golf course today.

I played (part of) DC’s Langston golf course at Twilight. How was it?

Well, the condition of the course is not good. Dead grass and dirt everywhere. The layout is flat, but interesting. The landscape is beautiful.

The Par 3 13th

Langston is a public course, and right by my apartment, so I really hoped it would be worth playing. Unfortunately, the course condition is just too unkempt for serious play. The greens and bunkers are not bad. All they need is some better-seeded and better-watered fairways.

For now, I’ll be trekking elsewhere to play.

My game itself was not bad, given the long layoff. Balls went in the air and travelled relatively straight. It’s not scratch golf (lol), but it’s good enough to get by. Hopefully I’ll be able to carve out more time for golf, and find a hole course, in the next few weeks.

TPC Potomac

Today I knocked an item off my golf bucket list: Play a course you’ve attended a tournament at.

I’ve played lots of courses I’ve seen, but never a course I’ve watched the pros play in person.

Playing TPC Potomac was a treat, despite carding a rough 101. The last time I visited the course, I watched Tiger and Bronson Burgoon battle on Sunday, as Molinari charged past par behind them. This time, I got to take my own crack at its slopes.

I sensed trouble the moment I stepped onto the range. I couldn’t hit 50-yard wedge shots straight.

My game got slightly better from there, but not much. I missed 10 of 14 fairways and I could not get out of a bunker to save my life. Those two things collectively cost me a dozen strokes.

I also squandered a great drive on the short par-4 13th. Fifty yards away in one, on the fairway, and I carded a five, courtesy of two chips, each distinctly bad.

The rest of my game was actually fairly decent. I made two nice pars and birdied the #1 handicap, hitting a beautiful fading hybrid to about 10 feet and sinking the putt. I remember watching pros struggle with that hole, so I’m very satisfied with that three. I also hit some great irons.

The next time I can access a practice facility, all I need is a driver and a sand wedge.

Below is a photo of one of the very interesting par threes on the course.

And here’s a photo of Tiger walking down the 18th on Sunday from my last visit to TPC Potomac. Abbey-Road-esque, if I do say so myself.

Getting “golf fit”

I write a lot on here about the swing work I’m doing (in the two weeks this has been public), but that’s not all I’m doing to get better.

I’m also working on my general fitness.

I’m 22 years old, 162-ish pounds, and reasonably fit. Golf isn’t exactly a game restricted to top, six-pack-wielding athletes.

Still, fitness can be a huge edge (looking at you Brooks – just not at your SI photo), and I need every edge I can get. And it’s nice to feel fit. So I’m working on it.

My priorities are:

– Increasing flexibility and upper body strength to ward off my nagging wrist injury and create some additional speed.

– Increasing my endurance so my swing doesn’t fade mid-round

– And just generally losing a few pounds and getting leaner.

I do this through a mix of gym time (3-4 days a week), running (2-3 days a week), and swimming (2-3 days a week when it’s warm.

Gym time consists of some cardio, some golf specific stretches, some core work, and some lifting, for all the none of you wondering what that means.

I’ll never be a model of athletic prowess, but hopefully by working hard I can use my health to my advantage in the quest to save strokes.

Keep golfing. And yeah, it’s a word Allen.