Practicing by the monuments

I recently learned that East Potomac, one of DC’s public golf venues, offers holes “for rent”. One hour of a small hole (about 110 yards) and some beat-up range balls retails for $16. If you return your shag bag of range ball (which you need to do – they hold your ID hostage), you also receive a range token afterward.

I wish the balls were better, but it’s otherwise a great deal, and much better practice than hitting balls off of their rock-hard mats for an hour.

I rented my hole an hour before sunset, yielding comfortable temperatures and a beautiful pink sky as I practiced, with views of the Potomac and the monuments surrounding me.

I practiced some full and half wedges, with my iPad videoing swings and my Mevo measuring them. Yardages were sort of irrelevant because of the balls given, so I mostly focused on contact and consistency. All in all, it was a fun way to practice.

Smash factor

It’s a travel day, so I’m doing some reading on smash factor. This number is basically the ratio of ball speed to clubhead speed, so it’s a key indicator of how well you translate power into distance. My average is around 1.38, with the ideal for a driver being just under 1.5

First lesson:

“The ideal place to contact the ball is on the upper half of the face, in the center, so that if the ball were to leave an imprint, you’d see the entire ball and not just a part of it. That’s going to give you the best combination of launch (high), spin (low), and ball speed.”

From this PGA tour guide

The second lesson, which I’ve heard before, is to get a can of Dr. Scholl’s foot spray, and spray it onto the face of your driver to see where you’re making contact. I’ll have to add a can to my shopping list.

The third lesson is that I may want to consider a heavier driver shaft in the future. I don’t know anything about my shaft other than that it’s stiff, and I’m probably not purchasing a new shaft until I upgrade my driver (a Calloway Epic) , but it’s something to consider.

Practice: Swing speed and pitches

Despite nagging pain in both hands from yesterday, I went to the range today for an extended practice session, hitting 200+ balls. Hitting this many balls in an hour and a half will either kill me or increase my endurance on the course, which is lacking. Hoping it does the latter.

Most of my practice was with wedges on shots from 20 to 100 yards. I struggled somewhat, but I think the practice was productive.

I focused particularly on hitting 20 and 30 yard wedge shots with my 56 and 60 degree wedges, and hitting full swings with my pitching wedge (carry around 100). My end goal is to hone a short, consistent swing I can turn to again and again on the course. I believe this was the most productive section of my practice.

I also hit maybe 20 drivers, mostly to see what swing speed I could generate (as a baseline). My normal swing generated speeds of 103-105MPH. My best-hit ball traveled around 240 yards (carry) dead-straight on a swing speed of 106MPH. I did manage to hit a few with swing speed near 110, but the contact wasn’t nearly as good.

A painful 98

Ouch. Today I played 18 in four hours and 24 minutes, thanks to a backup in front of us. Starting on 7 my left elbow started hurting, and it only got worse. I finished the front in 48 strokes, but the easier back nine took 50.

Most of my struggles derived from my tee shots. I hit 4 fairways, missing right and left evenly. My tee shots on 3 and 13 (par threes) ended up on entirely different holes. I also hit a few god-awful pitches.

I did hit some delightful shots though.

The round started brilliantly with a 247-yard draw that left me a rare angle around the dogleg to reach the par-5 1st’s green in two. My second shot, a 221-yard low three wood came up about a yard short of the greenside bunker.

My drive on two split the fairway, and I hit a solid iron approach, but 20 yards left of my target. My drives on 4 and 5 were also very solid.

On the par-5 7th, I hit a good fade, but an unfortunate break left me behind a tree.

I pitched out to the fairway, hit a fading driver off the deck, and hit a beautiful gap wedge to set up a makeable par putt. Unfortunately, the putt didn’t drop.

I hit good 3-woods on 8, 9, and 18. None were good enough to salvage a round.

In other news, I finally got to try out my Flightscope mevo on the range prior to the round. Perhaps this contributed to some of my fatigue on the course. I hit some 90 shots on it. Still, it was very cool to get data on every shot as I warmed up, and the carry distances it provided for some of my irons proved useful on the course.

I also got some good benchmark data for my drives as I look to hit it farther (I hit it fairly well on the range). In eight swings, my average swing speed was 103.5 MPH and my average carry was 215.3 yards, with a standard deviation of 28.5. Tour pros average around 113 MPH, so I have a ways to go in catching them on swing speed, but I think my first focus should be on that standard deviation. Consistently hitting the ball a minimum of 215 is more valuable than occasionally hitting it 280.

I look forward to actually putting the Mevo to work in a practice session. For now though, I need some ice.

Jackie Burke: Putt slow

I saw an interesting tip from (1956!) Masters Champion Jackie Burke today: Putt slow.

The 96-year-old legend then goes on to sink several putts to demonstrate, using a wood-shafted putter no less!

There’s no reason the putting stroke needs to be fast, and speed can only lead to inconsistency.

I’ll give it a try, Jackie.

Ready for launch (monitoring)

As a nerd and a golfer I’ve wanted a launch monitor for a while now. Ideally, I’d buy a Trackman, but I don’t have $20,000 lying around for toys.

Instead, after months of research, I bought the $450 flightscope mevo. I paid for it using my winnings from a Masters pool this year #AlwaysPickTiger.

I’m excited to bring it to the range, but for its first assignment I put it to the test chipping in my backyard. My dad took a turn too. We both agreed that the distances it spat out for our 8-25-yard wedge shots were spot-on. It’s also remarkably compact and light.

I’ll let you know how useful it is on the big-boy range with some bigger clubs.

Keep golfing!

2019-2020 season goals

Justin Thomas went semi-viral this week for publicly sharing his goals. This is his list:

I don’t have quite the same goals. I do love the idea of a list with some achievable and stretch goals to measure my year by. So, I’m going to set some goals for September 1 2020.

  • At least one round of 80 or better.
  • At least one round of 77 or better
  • At least one round with fewer than 27 putts.
  • At least one round hitting 9+ fairways in regulation
  • FIR % greater than 50% (Currently 37%).
  • GIR % greater than 30% (Currently 18.4%)
  • Index of 10 or better at some point during the year (currently 15.7).
  • Average driving distance greater than 260 (Arccos “smart” distance is currently 244).

Let’s see how many of these we can get done!

Tree cheers for golf

It was a great day for golf today. The weather was warm but not hot, the course was lush but not wet, and after ten days away I was ready to see whether my new and improved swing had abandoned me.

Thankfully, despite some left-hand pain, it hadn’t (for the most part). I was a bit rusty on 1-3 and I struggled off the tee, but hit a number of great irons and woods and finished with a respectable 47.

Among my favorite woods was a 212-yard fading three wood around a corner to 1-green and a 230-yard 3-wood to recover from an awful drive on 8 (it went like fifty yards, maybe).

As mentioned, most of my drives were mediocre, but I did hit a 258-yard bomb on 4. It clipped a tree at the end (the tree is close to the fairway), so if it was 5 yards straighter it would have been 270.

Among my favorite irons was my 9-iron approach on 4. Buried in deep rough, approaching a back pin on an elevated green guarded by bunkers, I decided to take some extra club. It was a good move. I hit a 137-yard nine iron to the back fringe and nearly holed the putt from the fringe for birdie. I walked away very happily with par.

I also made a nice birdie on the 500-yard par 5 7th, despite none of my shots being longer than 200 yards. The drive was unremarkable but in play. The second shot, a three wood, was pretty good but trimmed some nearby trees. The 7-iron approach, 146 yards uphill, into the wind, over a bunker to about 10-feet, was a highlight.

This birdie is brought to you by tree work. Those trees my drive is in on the satellite image used to be my nemesis, and thankfully no longer exist.

The disappointment of the round was on the par-4 8th. After practically topping my drive, I hit a crazy-good recovery 3-wood to 118, then proceeded to hit three mediocre pitches and two reasonable putts for a wasteful 7.

The low-hanging fruit:

These are the shots that, even with the game I had, I should have saved.

2. Extra recovery shot.

3. Pitch into bunker.

5. Didn’t take enough club on approach. Ended up in bunker. (+2)

6. Got out of the bunker, but not on the green. Chip was fairly good.

8. Could have had at least 1 less pitch (I had 3).

Total shots I should have saved: 6


My drives and 40-80-yard shots need a lot of work, but most of my approach shots were decent. I hit a few great irons and excellent woods. All in all, not bad after 10 days away.

Hello World

In 1996, Tiger Woods starred in an ad titled “Hello World”, announcing his entry onto the golf stage. That same year, I too said hello to the world, much less dramatically. (You can watch the ad below).

If you stumbled on this post and wondered why you should care that I was born, you shouldn’t. My name is Michael, and I am a perfectly average golfer. This blog will chronicle my quest to become a better-than-average. This first post will explain why.

The start: I was basically born with a club in my hand. I loved golfing from a young age, but I was never all that good at it. The highest level I ever competed at was high school, and I wasn’t all that good then either.

My golfing peak was the summer after I graduated high school. Free of worry or responsibility (my summer job was blogging – go figure), I played daily, and became respectable.

By the end of the summer I had a smooth, compact swing and could reliably shoot in the low 40s on a reasonably difficult track, occasionally shooting in the 30s.

Then came college. I went to school in Chicago. Between the long trek to the golf course, the cold, snowy weather, and the difficult schoolwork, I had very little time to practice, and my game atrophied. I played a bit in the summer-time, but the long, ugly swing I’d developed led to a painful wrist injury that made playing painful, and frankly not fun.

Well, I’m finally a graduate, out in the world and free to golf to my heart’s content (when I’m not working). I’m determined to get better. Much better.

Late last year I started chronicling my golfing exploits in a Google doc. This writing habit has been helpful at breaking down the mechanical and strategic flaws in my game and fixing them, especially since in the winter I could go weeks between rounds. That Google doc has gotten long and slow though. It now spans 21 pages and 4,900 words, and sorting through it is messy.

That’s the main reason I’m switching to WordPress. WordPress blogs are sortable, and it’s easy to embed media like swing videos right into the post. That it’s public also motivates me to keep getting better. I can’t fail in front of the 3 people that somehow stumble onto the blog and read it (Maybe I’m being optimistic).

Anyway, I’ll keep you posted.