Sunday, June 28, 2009

27 June 09 DTL Swing Vision

Monday, June 22, 2009

20 June 09 DTL Swing Vision

Modest but high-end Miura insists custom-fit clubs the only way to go

By Chuck Stogel
Special to

For the past several years, most equipment manufacturers have been urging golfers to undergo a custom-fitting session before purchasing new clubs and, in some cases, balls. According to reports, consumers have responded positively by increasing their usage of a professional fitting analysis and subsequent custom orders.

The upside to undergoing custom fitting is huge, if a player is fitted properly. Clubs can be fine-tuned to match, and help, a golfer's individual playing characteristics, a benefit that is nearly impossible to achieve by buying clubs "off the rack" at a golf specialty store or pro shop.

For Miura Golf, a small, family-owned manufacturer based in Himeji, Japan, custom fitting is the only way to obtain their limited production, premium-priced forged clubs. The company has been growing its North American presence, and praises, the past few years; each year it is adding more professional fitting locations to its roster.

"We not only believe that fitting clubs to complement a player's game is the best way to go, but that we have a superior manufacturing process to produce the best fitted product possible," said Bill Holowaty, the Miura vice president of general operations who is based in Vancouver, British Columbia.

First, some company background: Miura Golf was founded by Katsuhiro Miura, 67, a well-respected craftsman who has been shaping hand-forged clubs for tour players, and sometimes other companies, for decades. Among the pros, players such as Retief Goosen and Jose Maria Olazabal have been cited as using Miura irons in competition. The family business includes wife Akemi and sons Yoshitaka and Shinei. The elder Miura is respected not only for the 14-step manufacturing process he employs, but also for having a "special feel" for clubmaking.

Forged clubs are made from steel that is heated and pounded into shape, then smoothed and finished on grinding wheels. While most forged clubs are struck twice with a forging hammer, Miura's irons undergo a third striking, which according to company execs creates a tighter molecular structure for a more solid feel. In addition, every hosel is milled to symmetrical perfection, with tight bore tolerances assuring that each shaft is absolutely centered.

While the popular belief is that forged clubs are best-suited to more advanced players -- and test sessions among reviewers generally feel that is the case -- the folks at Miura assert that, with a proper fitting, their clubs will aid golfers of all skill levels.

"If people can cleanse their minds of the marketing hype that has been fed to them over the years, they might find that forged blades are not necessarily for the single-digit handicappers," said the patriarch Miura. "You are not penalized for mishit shots to the degree people believe and there are many advantages to these clubs."

Partially because of pricing, the typical Miura consumer ranges 45 to 65 years old, is a fairly good player and is not put off by the cost. A Miura fan also is likely to be a traditionalist in terms of the look of the clubs.

Because of a firm belief in its product, Miura's catalog of clubs doesn't change much, other than some tweaking, year-to-year. Along with four models of irons, a wedge series and some putters, Miura does offer a metal driver and fairway woods, but irons and wedges are its forte. List price for Miura irons and wedges is $187.50 each, which translates to $1,500 for a set of eight forged irons. Series 1957 putters cost $390.

For the purposes of testing Miura's irons, asked a low-handicap amateur player to undergo the custom-fitting process, along with playing the clubs. At the range, a variety of players "demo'd" the set after it arrived from Japan. Shipping took place within a week to 10 days after ordering.

Here's a look at the fitting process and the clubs in play.

Custom fitting
From a list of authorized Miura custom-fitting locations in the metropolitan New York region, we chose The Complete Golfer in White Plains, N.Y. An off-course fitter, The Complete Golfer offers a comprehensive analysis and is affiliated with almost all manufacturers.

Our tester, David G., carries a 3.7 USGA handicap index and plays golf two to three times a week in season.

A five-hour fitting session began with a brief questionnaire and a warm-up swing period with Dave G. using his own clubs to hit balls into a large net. An analysis by Complete Golfer owner/fitter John Ioris revealed "a whole range of inconsistencies in loft, flexes and even shaft lengths" for Dave G.'s own set. "Those are all characteristics we need to determine specifically for each golfer, along with loft, lie and a proper progression from club to club," Ioris said.

Wearing an electronic monitor band on his wrist, Dave G. began to go through more detailed swing analysis, club by club, through the set, using both his own and various Miura testing clubs. The Complete Golfer employs a fitting program and monitor provided by Max Out Golf in Sherman Oaks, Calif. Monitor readings include ball speed, spin rate, launch and carry trajectory, along with computerized graphic display.

"I've worked with all the systems available and [Max Out Golf] is by far the best," said Ioris. "That's because it provides not only all the data we need, but the graphic images at impact that are very important to a fitter."

At the end of the process, it was determined that Miura's CB-301 irons, 3-PW, would be best for Dave G., tailored of course to his own specs. The fitting, which called for a slightly heavier steel shaft than the norm, also included ordering gap, sand and lob wedges from Miura's wedge series.

The CB-301 irons have heads forged from mild steel, with a nickel/satin chrome finish. The clubheads are cavitybacks, with distinct perimeter weighting, but the cavities are fairly plain, with no polymer inserts, large undercuts or other bells and whistles. Along with two other iron sets featuring heads and cavities of differing sizes, Miura also offers a Tournament Blade. Meanwhile, wedges are muscleback in design.

"Miura is a great company to work with, because the quality of what they produce is so exact," said Ioris. "They deliver the exact specs ordered. Their clubs have a great look, feel, sound."

For Miura, as it grows, the biggest challenge may be in keeping up with demand. "We don't have a set limit on orders," said Holowaty, after a 25 percent growth in 2008 North American sales. "We don't play by the same rules. We want every customer to have the opportunity to obtain tour-quality clubs."

Testing, playing and review
As of this writing, Dave G. has played more than a dozen rounds with his new Miura irons. One impression he quickly made was how beneficial it is to use properly fit clubs where the swingweights, shaft lengths, clubhead lofts and more are not only custom fitted, but uniform in progression.

Here are some excerpts from Dave G.'s review:

"The irons are absolutely beautiful, which is as important as anything. The heads are also significantly smaller than my [old clubs], which induces a little anxiety [until put into regular play]. When I look at my old clubs now, they seem so completely 20th century that I can't imagine playing them again.

"My traditional method of making contact [sweeping the ball off the fairway, rather than going after it], does not work as well with the Miuras. I have begun going after the ball more aggressively and taking some divots, even with long clubs ... I am getting a really lovely trajectory ... I seem to be able to shape shots with less effort.

"The wedges are spectacular. The 60-degree, with seven degrees of bounce, is fantastic from both the fairway and trap. I can't hit it as far as (my previous) 60-degree, but the Miura imparts some really nice spin, and I was not a big spinner.

"Also, I really liked the fitting experience. It's fantastic to be assessed entirely on how the club makes contact with the ball and not on the vagaries of your swing. The machinery was remarkably accurate and the fitters were true craftsmen."

If there was a surprise, or adjustment needed, for Dave G., it seemed to be with his perceived distances achieved by the Miura irons.

"These new clubs are shorter ... than my old ones," said Dave G. "For instance, where I used to hit my old 8-iron 160 to 165 yards, I'm hitting the Miura 8-iron about 150 to 155 yards. Also, some of the fade shots seem to be coming up short."

Obviously, it's an adjustment if this is the case, and a learning process as to what the distances will be with each iron.

In general, Miura's irons carry a stronger or equivalent loft compared to other manufacturers, so the difference in distance may have more to do with Dave G.'s swing plane. No matter what brand, when putting new irons into play, golfers need to measure and adjust to yardages achieved. The key to success is to have the distances consistent and the player familiar with the clubs.

In one final testing event, several testers with higher handicaps -- up to 14 -- hit the Miura irons in a range session. The consensus was that the clubs had a "great look and feel," and a "surprising amount of forgiveness" on off-center hits.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

"But I'm a 'Feel' player!"

"But I'm a 'Feel' player!"

This is a phrase that always makes me smile. How can someone be a "feel" player without knowing what it is that they are trying to feel? We learn feel from mechanics not vice versa.

As a teacher it is impossible to teach someone feel but it is possible to help them understand the mechanics that will allow them to reproduce that mechanic into a feel.

You see there are two computers in golf.

1. The Brain
2. The Golf Ball

We must first program the brain to execute and send the necessary data to the golf ball via the hands.

There is no such thing as "Muscle Memory" - muscles do not have brain cells!

So, all of the programming is done through the brain. Players must have a vivid, clear picture of what they are trying to accomplish before it can be executed. This information is then sent to the hands to complete the motion.

Any shot you hit is perfectly executed based upon the information the golf ball received. If you top the ball, congratulations, you did everything absolutely correct to produce this result! If you want to change the outcome of the shot then program what you do want!

You see, the ball does not go into the water because it wants to - it goes in the water because it has to!

So basically we learn feel from mechanics not the other way around. If the player has a picture of trying to help the ball into the air then that's exactly what they will do. Change the picture, then the motion, and the result will change.

Chuck Evans
Executive Director of Instruction
The Medicus Golf Institute

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers

Malcolm Gladwell's latest book, "Outliers" should be on the must read list for golfers looking to get seriously good.

Gladwell studied the backgrounds of many successful people and discovered through his research that their success had less to do with natural talent and more to do with work ethic and circumstance.

When, where and who who you are born to, the people that influence you etc played a telling role in these stories of success. However, the other determinant of success was also a major contributor.

Skill honed by 10,000 hours of work was the other crucial component of success. The dividing line between the bad, good and great was 10,000 hours of practice. No matter the skill in question, proficiency was not reached until one had 10,000 hours of practice under their belt. That's 50 hours per week for 4 years straight.

The next time you wonder why you are not as good as you thought you should, think about Gladwell's 10,000 hour discovery.

How Good Do You Want To Be?

Fred Smith: "You are the way you are because that's the way you want to be. If you really wanted to be any different, you would be in the process of changing right now."

How good do you want to be in golf?

Do you have an idea what it takes to reach that level?

The great shortcoming of most people is that they merely hope to do something without first finding out what it takes. If you have no direction, then where can you aim yourself and what can you do? Without proper aim, only sheer coincidence can help you attain your goals.

Is it any wonder then that the average handicap has stayed perpetually the same for what seems like forever?

Your Rat Brain

Among the most important questions for you to ask in golf (as well as in life) is: "What do I believe that is false?" For you to be able play to the highest level of golf your genetics allow you, this question must be at the forefront of your thoughts.

Concepts form the basis of your actions, therefore if your concepts are wrong, then the corollary is that your actions will be wrong. If you were thought that the Grip, Aim, Setup and Posture were the fundamentals of golf, then you would have just doomed your golf potential to luck (read my previous article, Golf's Secret Society).

You must constantly question your own belief system as it relates to the golf swing. This entails you to question what sources of information are saying, why they are saying what they are saying and whether they are accurate as verified against a scientific source.

Cognitive laziness will lead one to accept what is generally taught in golf as the undisputed truth. This continuous deception of oneself is further exacerbated by the seemingly endless 'secrets' that golf gurus peddle to no one's gain but their own.

Never allow your rat brain to fool you to where you believe your ineptitude in golf is due to your physical limitations or lack of practice. More often than not, its your lack of proper information.

Golf is saturated with sensationalism, showmanship, fraud and worst of all, sheer ignorance. Learn to see past these things and be aware of anything that seems too good to be true - like being able to increase your drives by 20 to 50 yards by practicing said move with a bucket of balls. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The 20 Things That Must Happen in a Geometrically Correct Stroke

The Machine Concept

1. The Stationary Post (player’s head) accurately returns the Clubhead through the ball (Centered Arc).

2. The Post may turn (Pivot) but does not “sway” or “bob”.

3. There is no wobble in the Clubshaft attachment (Grip).

4.The Hinge Assembly controls the Clubface alignment.

5. The Clubshaft lies full length on a flat, tilted plane.

6. The Clubshaft always points at the Plane Line except when they are parallel to each other.

7. The Lever Assembly is driven by exerting pressure against it.

8. No portion of the Lever Assembly can swing forward independently.

9. Regardless of how the Lever Assembly is driven, it moves in a circle.

10. The Lever Assembly must be driven though Impact by an On Plane force (moving toward the Plane Line).

11. Clubhead Force and Motion is On Plane at right angles to the longitudinal Center of Gravity and varies with the Speed, Mass and Swing Radius.

12. Ball Speed is dependent of both before Impact and after Impact Clubhead Speed.

13. The Clubhead travels Down-and-Out until it reaches its “Low Point”.

14. Divots are taken “Down-and-Out” – not just “Down”.

15. The Club starts up-and-in after “Low Point” but the thrust continues Down Plane during the Follow-Through.

16. The Plane Line controls the Clubhead Line-Of-Flight. Clubface alignment controls the Ball Line-Of-Flight.

17. The Clubface needs to be square to the Line-Of-Flight only at Point of Separation.

18. Changing the Plane Angle has no effect on the Plane Line.

19. Stance Line, Plane Line and Flight Line are normally parallel.

20. For any given Line Of Compression (through the ball) every Machine must produce identical Impact alignments.

21. The relations of all Machine positions and motions can be described by a geometric figure.

Source: The Golfing Machine, by Homer Kelley. 1-L The Machine Concept.

Science and G.O.L.F

Science and G.O.L.F

This is a paper I wrote in college with regards to the theory of knowledge. It can explain the advantages of using science as the basis of golf instruction if you read with that in mind.

If there is an interest, I will do an application article solely for golf.

I give a distilled "lecture" of this when a student sees me for the first time. If you can change their minds, their actions will follow.

Thoughts become words, words become deeds, deeds become habits, habits become character and character, destiny.

Our destiny - to be and teach others become Golfing Machines.


Epistemology is the philosophical theory of knowledge or how we come to know things. Social psychology is scientific because it uses the scientific method of enquiry to study phenomena. There are other types of epistemologies; superstition, intuition, authority based and the rational-inductive method.

Superstitions are based on the subjective belief of magic and chance and are irrational beliefs that stem from ignorance or fear. They are anything but super; they disregard the laws of nature. Consider the notion of the number 13 being unlucky. On where do we base this belief on? Most of the time, they are simply passed on via transmission of cultures by socialization.

Intuition is the direct knowledge or awareness of something that we acquire without conscious attention or reasoning. Much like superstitions, it is an entirely subjective experience. While few decisions are based on superstitions, intuition has at times guided many of us into making snap decisions that proved to be correct.

Authority is a more universally accepted approach to the learning process. Here, information is learnt from the reports or teachings of a credible trustworthy source. We tend to believe more in a person who is credible than one who is not. In school, we learn from professors, read the textbooks they authored and rarely question their credibility.

Up to this point, keep in mind that we have not broached the issue of validity - how correct something is.

Authority can stem from two sources, one from ascription and the other from expertise. A policeman is an example of the former while a judge is of the latter. It is obvious that a person with ascribed authority may not be able to provide a valid answer to certain issues; a policeman will be without reply when asked about the workings of the judiciary system.

The method of authority is certainly a more rational approach to learning than are the methods afore-mentioned, but it is not without its flaws.

Our perception of authority may be tainted by personal feelings; I may believe what is told to me by an authority figure because I like him.

Thus I unquestioningly accept whatever is shoved down my ear and do not question the source of the authority’s information.

Perhaps, one of the most highly regarded methods of acquiring knowledge is the rational inductive argument. This is the primary method of acquiring knowledge in non scientific academic disciplines, such as history, philosophy, and literature.

After studying the text of an author’s works and the historical context in which they are written, a scholar draws some general conclusions about that author. A rational inductive argument may be well conceived and based on verifiable facts and be objective.

The process of arguing however is susceptible to subjectivity and bias. If I argue that a particular notion that is being forwarded is nonsense because I do not like the scientist, I am basing my argument on subjectivity, on my own personal feelings.

History is an area in which the scientific method of enquiry is not helpful. In “Evidence that Demands a Verdict,” Josh McDowell teaches: that scientific proof is based on showing that something is a fact by repeating the event in the presence of enquirers. There is a controlled environment where observations can be made, data drawn and hypotheses empirically verified.

The scientific method, however defined, is related to measurement of phenomena and experimentation and repeated observation. Dr. James Conant of Harvard writes that

“science is an interconnected series of concepts and conceptual schemes that have developed as a result of experimentation and observation, and are fruitful of further experimentation and observations”

Testing the truth of a hypothesis by way of controlled experiments is one of the key techniques of modern scientific method.

But if the scientific method is the only method of proving something, then I could not prove that I attended psychology class on Monday morning. There is no way you can repeat those events in a controlled environment.

Here is what is called legal-historical proof, based on showing something is fact beyond doubt. A verdict is reached on the basis of weight of evidence – 3 types of testimony – oral, written and exhibits. Using this method I can pretty well argue my presence in class via the proof of the registry, notes, professor and classmates etc.

The scientific method can only be used to prove repeatable things; it cannot prove or disprove persons in history events. It cannot answer if Napoleon lived or not. This is out of the realm of science and must be put into the realm of legal-historical proof.

In other words, the scientific method based on observation, data collection, hypothesizing, deducing and experimental verification to find and explain empirical regularities in nature, does not have final answers to questions as posed above. Absence of evidence cannot be taken as evidence of absence.

I purposefully included this to dispel any misconceptions one may have any the concept of science. Ask the everyman on the streets what is science and he will likely tell you, chemistry, biology and physics.

A thousand times no, science is a method and not so much a discipline/subject like biology and physics as many mistakenly believe. This is the reason why we make a distinction between the natural and social sciences of which economics, anthropology come within its ambit. Hopefully this will help clarify any misconceptions people hold about science and come to an understanding of why we can call social psychology a science.

Characteristics of Science

First, science is empirical, which means it is based on observation. Scientists must be able to demonstrate that what they claim to be true can actually be observed in reality. Commonsense reasoning and traditional or intuitive knowledge cannot take the place of this observation.

Second, science is systematic; it follows methodical and generally accepted procedures. Consequently, scientific research is always open to critical review and assessment by other scientists in order to determine whether errors or biases have influenced the conclusions.

As part of this assessment, scientific investigations are often repeated, a process scientists term as replication. Replication helps prevent unreliable or selective interpretations by determining whether other scientists reach the same conclusions using similar procedures. Replication provides further verification for scientific findings.

Third, science focuses on causation. Scientists assume that all events are caused or determined by something else. A major feature of scientific research is the search for these causes. For 2 or more phenomena to be causally related there must be an association between them.

For example when water is heated to 100˚c at an air pressure of one atmosphere, it will change from a liquid to a gas. As far as we know, there are no exceptions to this association. In other cases, the association between 2 or more phenomena is probabilistic.

This means that the occurrence of one event increases the likelihood or probability, that the other will occur, but the relationship does not necessarily occur in every case. Most associations involving social phenomena are probabilistic.

Fourth, science is provisional. The results of scientific investigations are considered tentative and always open to questioning and repudiation. There are no ultimate, sacred or unchangeable truths in science.

Finally, science is objective. Scientists strive to prevent their personal values from affecting their investigations. This impersonality does not mean that scientists have no values or emotional passions. Many are intensely concerned about social issues such as crime, divorce, environmental pollution, nuclear power, strategic arms control, equal rights and interpersonal relationships.

At the same time, scientists realize that personal values can, and probably will bias their findings. They have therefore introduced checks such as replication and provisionality to guard against the influence of personal bias on the body of scientific knowledge.

Science is not foolproof, but it is the most effective means of acquiring systematic, verifiable knowledge about the world. Science of course has its limitations, and it is crucial to understand which issues it cannot resolve.

Science is the preferred source of knowledge on issues that can be resolved through observation. Some issues are not amenable to such resolution.

For example, science cannot tell us which personal values are right or preferable because these are again matters of personal judgment. Some of us may prefer to eat our sandwich before drinking our latte, others may do it the other way around.

Science may show us how to live up to our values or the consequences of following particular values, but it cannot tell us which values to live by. This choice may be best served by religious teachings or traditional knowledge.

Role of theory

Where does theory fit in at this juncture? Theories are a set of statements that explains the relationship among phenomena. We use theories frequently in everyday life, for example, law enforcement officers investigating crimes.

In homicide cases, the first people contacted by detectives in general are relatives, friends and acquaintances of the victim. Behind such investigative procedures is the theory that most homicides are committed by the people who are socially close to the victim.

When we open doors as well, we are acting on the theory that the twisting of the door knob in a clockwise fashion will undo the latch that holds the door shut. This is just but one of many examples of the use of theory in our lives.

In like manner, in social psychological research we also have theories to explain the relationship between social phenomena. For example, the theory of residential propinquity states that people who have functional proximity in daily living are more likely than not to have close relationships.

The concept functional proximity is the independent or causal variable while the concept of close relationships is the dependent variable or effect.

If you don’t have a theory, what do you know to research in proving or disproving theory? The basis of research therefore is theory – every research topic is theory based.

Theories are not worth much, unless they are tested, and so the ultimate goal of research is to test theories. This testing allows social psychologists to assess whether a theory offers a good explanation of human behavior.

Theories can only be evaluated on the basis of valid research – research that is trustworthy because the researcher has taken pains to exclude bias and error. How can researchers be sure their research is valid and can provide evidence for and against theories? It turns out that valid research is guided by the properties of theories.

1. are about constructs
2. describe causal relations
3. general in scope

Because theories deal with constructs – abstract concepts – researchers have to be sure that the specific observations they make in their studies are in fact relevant to those constructs. I.e. researchers studying how social comparisons affect cancer patients’ adjustments to their illness must have some way to accurately measure the patients’ adjustment to ensure construct validity.

Theories describe causal relations, thus researchers must be sure that they know the causes of any changes in behavior they find in their studies. Research must allow the conclusion that the cancer patients’ successful adjustment is due to the social comparisons they make, rather than to some extraneous cause. This is commonly known as internal validity or experimental realism, where it can be concluded accurately that it is indeed the independent variable that brought about a change in the dependent variable.

As theories are also general in scope, researchers have to be sure that they have learned something about how people in general, not just a few individuals think, feel and act. Conclusions about social comparisons on patients’ adjustment would be most valuable if they held for those with other types of terminal diseases as well as home stay patients. In such a situation, we say that the study has external validity or mundane realism.

Research that meets these three criteria, we say has construct, internal and external validity. All three of these criteria are essential links in the logical chain by which research supports theory.

Although decisions about every aspect of research may have implications for all 3 forms of validity, construct validity has the most to do with how constructs are measured, internal validity to do with the design of a study and external validity with the populations and settings used in the research.

How To Study The Golfing Machine

For those golfers who have attempted a read of Homer Kelley's The Golfing Machine and found it difficult to understand, this user guide is for you!


First of all, TGM is NOT a method. It is merely a catalog of the things that happen in a golf swing and the things that should be in a effective golf swing.

The foundations of the book are the primary concepts per 1-L: "the Hinge Action (2-G) of an Angular Motion (2-K) operating on an Inclined Plane (2-F)"

The golf swing has 24 components (from putt to drive) and they each have a varying number of variations. Chapter 7 and 10

The golf swing passes through 12 sections. Chapter 8

The motion that makes up the golf stroke can be divided into 3 zones. Chapter 9

There are 20 points through which every swing must comply with in order to produce a geometrically correct swing. All these 20 points can be represented by a geometric figure. 1-L-1 to 21

The science of the book is laid out in Chapter 2.

Chapter 3 shows you the correct way to build your golf stroke.

Chapter 4 talks about Wrist Positions

Chapter 5 talks about Monitoring

Chapter 6 talks about the Power Package

Chapter 11 is a summary of the variations and outlines what are and are not compatible.

Chapter 12 contains zero compensation beginner stroke patterns for both hitting and swinging. It also contains a curriculum with which to begin learning G.O.L.F.

Chapter 13 speaks about non-interchangeable components

Chapter 14 talks about the role of the human mind in golf.

Should you study TGM with professional help? In the timeless words of Mr. Kelley: "Preferable with. Advisedly with! Imploredly with!!!"

Do not attempt to read the book sequentially, it is meant to be read hopping from one place to another.

If you have the ability to cross reference the book and at the same time understand it, you will become really good with the book.

Technique, not Effort. Cause, not Effect.

Technique, not Effort. Cause, not Effect

In my limited but enriching teaching sessions with students, I find a common thread that runs between the good students who graduate to greatness and the so-so ones who get mired in mediocrity.

What is the difference?

Per 3-B, "Eons of manhours are lost trying to substitute effort for technique and trying to eliminate effect instead of cause."

Technique is simply: "Skillfulness in the command of fundamentals deriving from practice and familiarity."

Applied in a golf sense, this simply means that we have an effective and efficient golf swing.

Technique stems from proper application of the scientific principles of the golf swing - physics which is the action and geometry which is the motion.

Technique does not and will never arise from applications of seems-as-ifs.

One seems-as-ifs is: "If I swing harder, then the ball must go further." This is giving effort precedence over technique and is the distinguishing hallmark of hackers the world over.

The relationship between effect and cause is one that is rarely understood by some groups of golfers and even instructors.

By way of analogy, a person unknowingly suffering from a brain tumour usually has unexplainable bouts of headaches.

The tumour is the cause but the headache is the manifestation of that malfunction in the head. Taking tons of Tylenol® only serves to provide a brief respite.

In much the same way, a bobbing (3-F-7-D) head which causes a thin/fat shot is simply the manifestation of a breakdown in the lead wrist.

However, if a wrong diagnosis is given, the student/player will be practicing aimlessly on "keeping their head down" with the end result being more thin/fat shots.

The bottomline here is that good players (often with the aid of a good coach) usually become good because they are able to pinpoint the cause and not the effects of the errors in their golf swing.

The hackers stay the way they are because they keep working the effects - much like taking Tylenol® will destroy a brain tumour.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Hall of Famer George Knudson owned his swing

Hall of Famer George Knudson owned his swing

By Irv Lightstone (June 2006)

After winning eight major championships under the tutelage of longtime teacher Butch Harmon, Tiger Woods did the unthinkable. He placed his career in the hands of another teacher – Hank Haney. One comment that he made after making the change public fascinated me. “I want to own my golf swing. Only two players have ever owned their golf swings. One was Ben Hogan and the other was Moe Norman.”

Coming from an already magnificent golfer, this comment was unusual, but also understandable. My first thought after reading the interview in Golf Digest was that Woods obviously had never seen George Knudson. If anyone owned his swing, it was George Knudson. Jack Nicklaus once said of George, “Here is a guy with a million dollar golf swing and a 10 cent putting stroke.”

What is it that challenges someone to aspire to a level that few people will ever achieve? In Moe’s case I always knew what it was. Moe and I, aside from travelling together and being good friends, trusted each other. Moe knew from the beginning, that if his prowess as a golfer were not at the highest level to sustain him, he would end up working in the old rubber factory in Kitchener, which in those years was akin to working in a coal mine. For someone like Moe, the factory was a reality. This was what drove him to achieve a level of proficiency that is now legendary in the golf world. As for Ben Hogan, I personally don’t know what drove him, but James Dodson’s biography, Ben Hogan: An American Life, does shed some new light on the subject.

Let’s return to George Knudson. I first met George when he was an assistant at Toronto’s Oakdale under Bill Hamilton, the Head Professional. Bill was not a golfer but he certainly helped promote George to the membership. I was at Maple Downs at the time and soon George and I, along with many others, such as Mel Taylor Joe Rice, Alvie Thompson, and Kenny Jacobs, became very good friends. George, all 130 pounds of him, was a good player, but so were all of us then. We played as much golf as our jobs would allow, but George’s appetite for practice and hitting balls was far beyond mine. I enjoyed life and the world around me. I’m not sure George had many interests outside of the game.

One winter, George was travelling and playing down south and struck up a friendship with Bunky Henry, another young journeyman golfer. Bunky suggested they stop in to see Harvey Penick on their way through Texas. Penick taught Ben Crenshaw, Tom Kite, Kathy Whitworth and Betsy Rawls. His credentials were impeccable. The simple lesson with Penick lasted almost four hours. To the best of my knowledge, that lesson with Penick was the only formal golf lesson George ever had in his life He did watch me putt for over an hour at Maple Downs during the 1960s, and asked me some questions. But he never hit a putt. George learned by watching talented players such as Hogan, Tommy Bolt, Ken Venturi, and Dick Mayer.

Back in Toronto the following April, on one particularly cold day, I called the pro shop to speak to George. Mel Taylor answered and told me George was on the range hitting balls. I couldn’t believe my ears. It was too cold to get a cup of coffee, much less hit balls. An hour later I called and George was still on the range, so I jumped in my car and drove down to Oakdale. As I pulled into the parking lot, I saw George, still on the range. I went over to where he was hitting balls and just watched. Even at the best of times George was not the greatest conversationalist.

Hit one. Shank one. Hit one. Shank one. After about 15 minutes with of silence, I finally said to George, “How is it going?” His response was “I think I’m getting it.” My response? “If you’re getting it, I don’t want it.”

Afterwards in the coffee shop, I simply had to find out what he was doing. “I cannot play the type of golf that I want to play and miss the ball both ways,” George said. He had discussed this with Penick, who had told him, “It’s virtually impossible not to miss some shots to the right, but I can teach you how not to hit it left of your target.”

George’s game improved beyond recognition that summer. He won his second consecutive and second of five Ontario Opens at Islington Golf Club by seven shots, over an excellent field including a dozen U.S. players.

The following winter George began to make his presence felt on the PGA Tour, winning the 1961 Coral Gable Open. His fellow professionals thought he had the best swing out on tour.

I knew that the year before when we played a practice round together in Coral Gables, the last stop on the tour every year before everybody headed for California after the Christmas break. We were playing a very demanding par 3 of about 185 yards with a large pond to the left of the green. The flag was positioned on the left, very close to the water’s edge. In those days, 185 yards meant 4-iron. Everyone else hit the ball well right of the flag – 50 to 60 yards – to the fat part of the green. Not George. He went right at the flag and the ball finished about 12 feet from the hole. As we walked to the green I said to him, “That was a rather gutsy shot.” He looked straight at me and said, “Irv, not really. I can’t hit it left.”

What is it that allows a golfer to own his golf swing? When you consider there might have been only three or four in the history of the game, the answer isn’t as complicated as you might think. It means repetition of the highest level. It means a swing plane that is not rerouted and does not change regardless of the club. It means impeccable posture and perfect balance. But most importantly, in the cases of Hogan, Moe and George, it means a perfectly square clubface approaching impact that remains square through the shallow, long and low action after impact. One need just look at pictures of the three of them in action.

After that 1961 victory, George went on to win seven more times on the PGA Tour over the next 11 years. In those years, if anyone in golf owned his swing, it was George Knudson.

Irv Lightstone

George Knudson
Canadian Golf Hall of Fame

Birthdate: June 28, 1937
Place of Birth: Winnipeg, Manitoba
Death: January 24, 1989
Category: Golfer, professional
Inducted: 1986

George Knudson, who possessed one of the finest golf swings of all time, was one of the Canada’s top PGA Tour professionals, winning eight tournaments in his 11-year career, more than any other Canadian before or since. At home, Knudson captured the CPGA Championship five times and was low Canadian professional at the Canadian Open on five occasions.

PGA Tour Victories
1961 Coral Gables Open
1963 Portland Open
1964 Fresno Open
1967 New Orleans Open
1968 Phoenix Open
1968 Tucson Open
1972 Robinson Open
1972 Kaiser International Open

Other Achievements
Individual champion, World Cup, 1966
World Cup winner with Al Balding, 1968
Canadian Professional Golfers Association champion, 1964, ’67-68, ’76-77
Millar Trophy winner, 1966
Canadian Junior champion, 1955
Manitoba Junior champion, 1954-55

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Weekend Hacks Will Always be Hacks

Weekend hacks will always be hacks
Mark Heller, Eastern Valley Tribune (Mesa, AZ)

For a man who immerses himself in mysticism and Eastern philosophy, teacher/author James Ragonnet can be blunt. Ragonnet is an award-winning English professor at Springfield (Mass.) College and a former golf coach. He’s a pupil of Buddhism, Taoism, yoga, flop shots and bunker blasts, and he carries a 4-handicap.

Recently, he wrote a book, “Golf’s Three Noble Truths: The Fine Art of Playing Awake,” which dives into those Eastern-based mental and psychological approaches to life.

It’s Ragonnet’s contention that studying these principles and applying them to everyday life can be beneficial on the course.
But for 9,999 out of 10,000 weekend golfers, he said, the game they have now is the best they’ll ever have, no matter what they spend on equipment or range buckets.

According to the National Golf Foundation, the average 18-hole score of just under 100 has changed by fewer than three strokes in the last 20 years.

According to the USGA, Americans spent more than $24 billion dollars combined on golf equipment and greens fees in 2005, a figure which has likely increased given the technological advances of clubs in recent years.

Combine those two facts and you’ll see, Ragonnet said, that that $400 driver or $200 putter isn’t likely to turn you into Tiger, or even save you five strokes.

“We go blind to failure,” Ragonnet said. “(Golfers) are like slot-machine addicts who relish their modest successes, ignore the habitual losses, exhaust their cash supply and walk away frustrated and broke.”

Beating driving range balls into oblivion won’t work either, Ragonnet said. Poor teaching (or lack thereof) and poor practice habits are Ragonnet’s cited bugaboos.
Beyond a few basics, the rest lies in what’s between the ears, and whether those habits are negotiable.

Properly dissecting a specific problem with your golf game is key, and a sentiment shared by Valley golf pros, some of whom believe many golf teachers don’t adjust their philosophies to each specific pupil’s needs.

“If you set up objectives for people it’s unbelievable what people will work on because it’s in their mind,” said Kent Chase, who runs his own Golf Academy at The Raven at South Mountain in Phoenix. “All of a sudden, they gain a skill instead of hitting random shots which don’t matter.

“People play golf and rely on quick tips and then they like or don’t like it. They watch the Golf Channel and try that. Eventually there’s an ad on TV and they try that. Read a book and try that. They go through life trying this and that.”
Ragonnet agreed golfers can practice until they’re purple, spray balls all over creation and never really put in the work to understand the why and how.

But after years of two to four rounds per month, it’s those two shots out of 10 that keep the weekend hackers coming back, even though Ragonnet said his research concludes their score will never improve.

“Why bother?” he said. “What’s the point of playing?”
Perhaps it’s because of bragging rights.

“They can’t wait to tell you about that perfect shot, and that rush is an addiction, kind of like smoking a cigarette or drinking,” said Linda Vollstedt, the former Arizona State women’s coach. “It keeps you coming back and it’s the adrenaline rush. You feel good about it.”

Vollstedt won six national championships with the Sun Devils. Like Ragonnet, she’s a big proponent of mental focus, and compared Ragonnet’s theory to recruiting.

“I wanted to recruit kids who know how to win — the kid who was on the state championship basketball team, not necessarily the top kid on a team which never won,” she said. “Your body is prepared to win. It becomes part of who you are. You’re literally programming your body and mind for certain routines.”

Chase teaches many juniors, whom he said are far more willing to accept change. Mike LaBauve, the instructor at Kierland Golf Club in Scottsdale, teaches students who are mostly scratch golfers, or close.

Improvement is difficult, they concede. So, unless you’re willing to find proper, individualized instruction, devote practice time to implement your lessons and change your mental approach, they said, most golfers might as well let loose, laugh and save that $500.

“It’s like fishing, I enjoy it whether I catch anything or not,” LaBauve said. “I just enjoy going to the lake. If someone asks me to go, I don’t ask if they’re biting. It’s great if they do. But either way you had the scenery and outdoors, and that’s how most golfers are.”

Golfers May Just Be Tired of Not Getting Any Better

“Golfers May Just Be Tired of Not Getting Any Better”
By James Ragonnet
[Article Launched: 03/30/2008 08:11:53 AM PDT

New York Times writer Paul Vitello recently reported that more golfers, lacking both time and money, are giving up the game. Vitello is correct on both counts. However, there’s another reason why golfers are giving up the game: Golfers rarely improve.

The simple truth is that most golfers have a flat performance curve. According to statistics from the U.S. Golf Association and The National Golf Foundation, the average 18-hole score of about 100 for recreational golfers has not changed in more than 20 years. Even though American golfers spend approximately $5 billion a year on high-tech equipment - including $500 drivers and $200 putters - they still don’t improve.

PGA Instructor Casey Eberting, who owns and operates several golf schools in Texas Hill Country, states, “Probably less than one out of every thousand golfers has the ability to make significant improvement in their golf game once they’ve reached a certain level.” Many golf instructors, including Eberting, assert that after three years, most golfers reach a point in which they won’t improve no matter what they do. If that’s true, golfers who play for 30 years will spend their last 27 years - or 90 percent of their career - stagnating. My playing, teaching, studying and coaching golf for over four decades confirms this sad reality.

I hope you are sitting down, as I have something shocking to report. My friend, Chuck, who has tracked and recorded the league handicaps of approximately 84 golfers for the past 33 years, recently told me something that sent a jolt through my shorts. Having reviewed the handicap histories of all 84 golfers, Chuck reported that not one golfer lowered his handicap in more than three decades. Not one!

Obviously, golfers do not play just to lower their handicaps. Most golfers play primarily for enjoyment. Well, how can golfers - or anyone else - enjoy themselves if they don’t improve? W.B Yeats wrote, “We are happy when we are growing.” Lacking sufficient improvement to offset the drudgery, golfers (unless they’re masochists) throw in the towel.

Think about it. If you can’t knit a simple hat after years of trying, why continue? If you can’t grow a few healthy tomatoes after years of trying, why continue? It’s the same with golfers. After years of trying, if you can’t lower your score and if you can’t hit more than one or two good shots for every 10 attempts, why continue? What’s the point?

Generally, golfers employ a standard for success - but not a standard for failure. Until golfers employ a yardstick for failure, they won’t assess their lack of improvement. Oblivious to their repeated failures, golfers resemble slot-machine addicts who relish their modest successes, ignore their habitual losses, exhaust their cash supply, and then walk away frustrated and broke.

PGA Instructor Jim Waldron of Balance Point Golf Schools states, “golf has the worst record in all of sports when it comes to students mastering the basic skills of the game.” Mike Pedersen, a PGA Professional Teacher, cites five key reasons why golfers don’t improve: poor fundamentals, lack of fitness, inadequate practice, wrong equipment and poor course strategies. However, there’s a more fundamental reason why golfers don’t improve.

Essentially, golfers don’t improve because they are poor learners. It’s that simple. Golfers can be divided between learners and non-learners. Learners improve - non-learners don’t. Case closed.

Psychiatrist Ronald Heifetz classifies problems into three types. Type One Problem: The problem is clear and the solution is clear. Type Two Problem: The problem is clear but the solution is unclear. Type Three Problem: The problem is unclear and the solution is unclear. Hitting a golf ball straight and far is definitely a Type Three Problem. Thus, golfers must become adroit learners. Accordingly, they must understand basic learning theory. Unless golfers understand precise and scientific concepts like “learning curves” and “feedback loops,” they can’t predict events and achieve positive results.

Also, golfers must understand that learning has two distinct phases: discovery and mastery. This is an important distinction. For golfers, discovery denotes (1) formulating an accurate mental blueprint of the golf swing and (2) acquiring the requisite drills to ingrain the blueprint. Without an accurate golf blueprint, golfers cannot make predictions, form explanations, entertain alternatives, develop comparisons and understand key principles.

On the other hand, mastery denotes gaining the ability to perform effortlessly and expertly. Mastery requires tedious and dedicated practice sessions using a variety of techniques, including slow motion drills, half-speed drills, weighted clubs, training devices, range balls, etc.

Golfers must master technique to forget technique. Mastering golf is like mastering the piano. After constant and tedious practice, pianists and golfers eventually drop technique from their conscious mind. That’s when their subconscious mind takes over.

Theorists have yet to formulate a “Unified Field Theory” - the Holy Grail of Physics - to explain the mysterious forces at work in the universe. Similarly, theorists have yet to formulate a “Unified Field Theory” - the Holy Grail of Golf - to explain the mysterious forces at work in the golf swing. Until someone finally demystifies and simplifies the swing, golfers in their quixotic quest to improve must activate their learning powers. Otherwise they will fumble along until they give up or die - whichever comes first.
[Copyright @2008]

• The author is a Springfield College (Springfield, MA) English professor and a golf coach with an interest in Eastern precepts and practices. His book, “Golf’s Three Noble Truths: The Fine Art of Playing Awake,” was published by New World Library in 2007.