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Hello again!  Not many updates lately as I’ve been having more fun playing golf than thinking or writing about it.  Having finally found a weekend morning to myself I thought I’d download some thoughts on a variety of random subjects.

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Thoughts on Playing a Short Set

2014 is my first ever golf season playing with a “short set”.  For those who may not be familiar with the terminology I’m talking about a bag with anywhere from 7 to 9 clubs (I’m sure others have their own definitions).  They way I usually set it up is Driver, 3i, 5i, 7i, 9i, 54 deg wedge, 58 deg wedge, putter.

The advantages of the short setup are numerous.  For one, you are much less likely to have approach shots from your “stock” yardage.  This forces you to hit half shots or really step on it in order to get the necessary distance.  If you are “clubbing up” (taking the longer club when between yardages) then you might need to hit a fade in order to hold the green.  When clubbing down, a penetrating draw could be called for.  This adds just the right amount of incremental challenge that you will be pressed to get better without getting frustrated.  Many club golfers will have played a “4-club” event which is the extreme of the short set variation.  Feedback from those events generally indicates that golfers don’t suffer as badly as they expect to.  My experience playing with 8 clubs has led me to the same conclusion – I score the same as with my full set – but only if the following guidelines are followed:

-The strongest iron should match the yardage of the longest par-3.  There are a couple of 200 yard shots at my home course.  I need to hit my longest iron to reach these holes (2-iron with a vintage 2-9 set; 3-iron with modern).  If I try to take 4i, 6i, 8i, pw… then I will almost always lose a stroke per hole on these par-3′s because I can’t reach with my 4-iron and a soft driver will come in too hot.

-Take 2 wedges.  I know, I know…  It seems to make sense that if you are just practicing you should take only one wedge and learn to hit all the shots with that one club by opening and closing the face, varying ball position, etc. I get that and it is sound advice if you are just practicing.  But if you are playing a short set and still want to post scores you need at least a couple of wedges.  I play 54, 58 with my normal set so I just bring both along.  Modern golf (even with traditional gear) requires scoring when you are within birdie range with a wedge.  Additionally, you will miss some greens given your every-other iron setup and you will want a couple wedges to help you get up and down.

One final note on playing with a short set that actually inspired me to start doing it – your bag is much lighter!  I absolutely love my leather Eliott bag but the one downside is that it is heavier than my old, canvas Sunday bag.  By going with a short set one can 1/2 – 1/3 of the weight from the bag and make it very manageable.  This is important if you have a carry bag with no stand.  If I’m playing a full set I’ll take my old Ping 5-pocket stand bag.  If I have the Eliott bag then it needs to be a short set.

Give it a try, I think you’ll enjoy it!

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Thoughts on a Failed Experiment

I just haven’t had much luck with Mizuno.   I had only 1 golf purchase last month (since the Wood Arts driver) and it was a set of Mizuno MP-29 irons circa 1993.  I was lured in because they were cheap and their former owner was a tour player.  The fellow who was selling had acquired them from a caddy friend who in turn  got them from either Robert Damron or Daniel Chopra, both members at Bay Hill where he looped.  The wear marks don’t lie either – whoever was wielding these things was flushing them.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen a chrome loss pattern as precise as on the 8-iron:

They were shafted with hard-stepped X-100′s which is way too much shaft for me.  I had some extra S-300′s sitting in the garage so I went ahead and reshafted them with something I could handle.  Unfortunately, when I brought them out to the course they were underwhelming.  I really liked the headshape and the feel was OK but my distance was inconsistent and the offset really threw me off.  The amount of offset is not that much but they are setup with “reverse progressive” offset where the long irons have very little and the short irons have a lot.  As somebody who plays a draw mostly I found it a challenge to keep the short irons from going left and my distance control was sketchy.  I could probably tinker with the offset and try to bend some out of it without disturbing the lofts too much but I didn’t want to make it any more of a project than it already was.  Bottom line – these ones aren’t going into the regular iron rotation.  If anybody wants some MP-29′s for cheap with both s-300 and X-100 shafts let me know.  Otherwise I’ll probably throw them up on Ebay in the near future.  C’est la vie.  

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Thoughts on Shotmaking and Working the Ball

This is a repost from another forum but I really like it and I think it covers a lot of ground. A bit divergent but success with shotmaking comes from feel and the same feels don’t work for everybody. I like how this post covers a variety of options for setting up your technical strategy for working the ball with confidence. Originally posted by EA Tischler at Gotham Golf blog:

I believe most great golfers that learn to work the ball develop a variety of techniques for doing so. This may be because golfers that work the ball with their imagination and athleticism simple do so reactively instead of mechanically. For some, they also express that it is easier to work the ball if they think of the different shots as a totally different technique, at least in their minds, so that they can easily differentiate what needs to be done. And that approach tends to be easier for more accomplished players than for the average golfer.

There are some very standard ways to work the ball and to use your standard stroke pattern while simply changing alignments. You can simply change your exit. For example, toe-release the exit for draws and heel-though exists for fades, exit the shaft more vertical for higher shots and exit out with lower extended arms and club for lower shots. You can learn the exiting technique by simply setting up in a constant alignment on the range and then practice exiting and see how the ball reacts to your primary target line. The exiting technique allows you to make the same backsttroke and downstroke, while simply changing your exit with will change your actual delivery action. Fred Shoemaker would have me aim at a target and swing to the top and when the stroke reached the top he would say something like “Draw” and I would react and play a draw. On the next swing I would aim at the same target, and at the top he might say, “fade” and I would react and play a fade. Thorughuot the training he might say, “high” or “low” or anything that would come to mind as far a working the ball. He alwasy wanted the ball flight to begin on the primary aim line.

The exiting method tends to be great for working the ball in all directions. Its limitations come when needed to either hook or slice a shot on purpose. It is great for the more subtle and moderate draws and fades, and is great for working it higher and lower.

When working the ball it is often good to have a primary aim line, so that you know how the ball will work off the line. Once you have a command over how the ball reacts, you can adjust your primary aim line to play draws and fades to the same target.

Some golfers, like Jack Nicklaus simply change the clubface alignment in relations to the grip, and will make the standard swing and see how the ball flight changes, then the aligment is adjusted to play that shot to the target. This tends to be better for slight draws and fades, because the more you open or close the clubface in relations to your grip the more out of balance it becomes and the more strange it seems to feel for many golfers. It is also limited in its effect on trajectory. Though the draws will tend to be slightly lower, and the fades slightly higher, the trajectories will be closer to the standard trajectory when compared to other working the ball methods.

Other golfers change the angle of the wrist set action, setting it more closed for draws and more open for fades. Besides the set angle they can make their standard swings and simply adjust alignment to play the shots to the target. This method is most successful with moderate draws and fades for golfers that have generous range of motion in their wrists. It creates subtle draws and fades for golfers that less range of motion in their wrists. It is limited in the ability to Hook and Slice when needed, and it also has trajectory limitations with the fades being higher and draws lower, more so than with the Nicklaus method.

As far as those that change their swings, some golfers use more forearm roll to work the ball for draws and fades. Nick Faldo had a version of this technique. The forearm rollers will use a little extra, or earlier forearm roll-over, during delivery to play draws, and either holding off the roll, or reverse roll for fades. This in essence seems like you can make your same standard stroke and just adjust the roll, however because of the dynamics of the action many golfers need a slower pivot action to manage the draws and a more accelerating pivot action to play the fades. This technique, in practice, renders a varying technique. This technique makes it easier to work the ball to greater degrees, however seems to be more limited in the more subtle draws and fades. Historically it also has more timing issues which can be viewed as a limitation. It also seems to have limited trajectory control, with lower draws and higher fades.

Some golfers will change the angle of body rotation to work the ball for draws and fades. For draws they will rotate more flatter like a Merry-go-round and for fades more vertical like a Ferris wheel. Of course the Merry-go-round and Ferris wheel images are exaggerations, so they just trend their angles of rotation in those directions. This techniqe tends to render lower draws and higher fades.

One might think that, “Of course draws will be lower and fades higer!” However, with the exiting method you can exit with a toe-release and a more vertical shaft, or earlier rehinge of the wrists and you can play very high draws. You can also exit-out with lower extended arms and club and heel-through the exit for low fades. The exiting method tends to be the most versatile method. However, even it has limitations.
In practice, golfers that seem to be able to work the ball in all directions with all trajectories and all degrees of workability will generally have at least a couple of methods under their belt. Sometimes they will even combine methods.

In my view, the key is to first understand your standard technique and to own it along with its inherent limitations. Once you have a command over your standard stroke pattern, your next goal becomes finding one of the basic methods of working the ball. Find a method that is comfortable for athleticism and mind-set.

Once you have a basic way of working the ball and understand its limitations you can learn another method that will allow you to eliminate the remaining limitations in your arsenal.

For example, Nicklaus’ method always felt funny to me. I always wanted the club perfectly balanced in my grip. Changing the exit was the most comfortable way for me. Changing the set action was the next most comfortable. And changing the body rotation was the next most comfortable. However, for all of those it was harder to work the ball for hooks and slices, so for those I would use more forearm roll.

Keep in mind, as I say comfortable I mean what felt manageable or controlled in an athletic manner for myself.

You will also find that some of the methods tend to play the shots hotter, some softer, some land and spin more, some will roll out more, some will work better on harder and faster greens and some will work better on slower and softer greens, as far as receptability is concerned.

So, keep in mind that all stroke patterns have limitations. For example, even once Trevino developed a command over working the ball, he still had limited power applications compared to his contemporaries, and he struggled in the harder, faster, and hilly conditions of Augusta. He won 2 US Opens because his fade and high level of accuracy worked to his advantage in US Open conditions. He won 2 British opens where his lower trajectories while working the ball worked well for him. And he won 2 PGA championships where the softer conditions and the easiest set-up of the majors allowed his abilities to excel. However, at Augusta he felt he was at a disadvantage because at least something about his arsenal was limited to the needs of winning there. And Trevino himself said that Augusta never fit his method of play.

4 Responses to “Odds and Ends – Random Thoughts Edition”

  1. Avatar of Anton Anton says:

    I believe working the ball comments were posted by EA Tischler at Gotham Golf blog.

  2. Avatar of freddiec freddiec says:

    That Super EOM of yours sticking out of the bag looks like a real winner. Nice neck on that and looks like it would set up really great. I have never hit an old SEOM. I think I need to pick one up..

  3. Avatar of Blade Junkie Blade Junkie says:

    Hi Riley – good thoughts on the short set. Personally, I think you are pretty close to what I would bag. I’d leave out the 58 in favour of a 4-wood though. I can’t think of many shots that I would hit with a 58 degree that I couldn’t also hit with a 54. I’ve got a couple of Tad Moore’s iron sets (Dunlop blades and his own Star OA hickory set) and his highest lofted wedge was a 54 in both of those.

    We had a 4-club challenge at Goodwood back in April. I went way too short with the longest iron (2-wood, 8-Iron, SW, Putter) and left myself in all sorts of problems on most of the holes. Your advice on the longest iron is spot on!

    Would love to take on Northwood with 4 hickories … :)

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