November 15, 2012
Generally, we here at the PF find golf “accessories” to be unnecessary. We all know “that guy” at the range with the staff bag and matching “tour” uniform (complete with white belt). On the other end of the spectrum, there is “that guy” with everything including sharpie, bag tags, ball cleaner, towels, beer dispenser, groove sharpener,ball retriever, cigar holder, portable disco ball, and stereo system dangling from his 14-way cart bag that it looks like a Christmas tree. I say this, and look over at my own bag with a towel, bag tag, and brush hanging off the side… In any event, there is one “accessory,” however, that never seems out of place. We see the pros using them on TV every day, but really don’t think twice about it until we wish we had it. The scorecard holder.
Today, we review a golf necessity that truly stands the test of time and is worthy of any true golfer’s bag – Stanley Mayhem Scorecard Wallets.
Greg, the designer and manufacturer of these beautiful wallets, makes a wonderful product. Above is an example of one of a pair of custom-designed scorecard wallets that he worked with me on in record-breaking time. I must say, he was was great to work with. He took my totally unreasonable request to make these wallets in a half his usual time and made it a reality. A quick story: I had planned a trip to ATL to spend some time with JK and play a course (to review for this blog). I wanted to have these wallets as a thank you for getting us out to the course, but the plan eventually fell through. In any event, Greg was very accommodating and had the wallets in my hands prior to when I was scheduled to leave for ATL.
This picture is a little darker, but I wanted show the depth of the color of the dye used in this wallet. It is a very rich dark brown color. The letters on the bottom are “PF” for this blog. This particular model is called the “storyteller.” Other models include multiple pockets, custom insignia, and other amenities. I just wanted a basic model that used elastic, had a pencil holder, and provided a solid writing surface. The interior pocket on the flap is nice a nice bonus; I use it for holding my NCGA cards and a small amount of cash for on-course refreshments :).
Greg was nice enough to add a customization to the interior pocket – the two turtles. This was a shout-out to JK for something he said one of the first time we played a round of golf together as summer associates.
Another example taken from Greg’s catalogue: The Nettle:
Other options include choice of colors of leather: Bison Brown, Charcoal Black, Scarlet Red, Forest Green, Deep Blue, Sunset Orange, Natural, and Deep Purple. Greg notes that each wallet is dyed three times and sealed to prevent leeching of the dye onto clothing. He cautions that the wallet should not be used in light colored clothing the first few times that you use it, but I never had an issue with leeching.
Once you make the very difficult decision to forego picking up a belt from Greg as well, he makes the process very easy. Send him an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) with your idea and he’ll draw up an electronic design for you. You make any changes, and wait until Greg hand makes your custom design. Once your design is complete, Greg packages it up (very nicely, i might add) and ships it off to you. It’s that simple.
Total cost for 2 custom-designed PowerFade golf wallets – $160. Look no further for true golf luxury and craftsmanship. I have used this wallet since about April and will never use anything else. It has worn in well and only looks better with time. To get your own, get in touch with Greg:
July 10, 2012
Last week, JK and I had a talk about possible ways to help me improve my ability to hit greens in regulation. At that time, I was hitting my irons crisply and to consistent distances, but was still having problems controlling trajectory. This resulted in a lot of greens missed but with the ball pin high a few yards off-line. My problem was becoming more pronounced in the windy conditions I typically face in Northern California. After shooting a career round the previous Saturday, I sat down and evaluated my round. Of the 8 greens I missed, 5 were missed left, two long, and two short. The three misses to the right were with wedges, or were from the left rough. My miss, clearly, is left. On windy days, the little draw I have become accustomed turns into something between a hook and a duck hook.
JK suggested that, because my ballstriking with my short clubs needs to improve if I hope to keep shooting in the 70′s, I should take my clubs and have the lie angles checked. For a little background, the lie angle is the angle formed between the ground and the club shaft when the club is properly soled:
Like most things in golf, a small change in equipment specifications can result in significant changes in shot shape and distance. For example, changing a driver’s loft from 9.5 degrees to 10.5 degrees can significantly raise trajectory, increase carry, and decrease roll-out for a given player. The total distance change may not be significant, but it may improve the golfer’s chances of clearing that forced carry their 9.5 degree driver was not making. The changes to shot shape caused by flaws in lie angle are even more pronounced:
As shown, if the club is too “upright,” that is, the lie angle is such that the toe of the club is raised relative to the heel, the player will tend to miss left (left side of image). This makes sense because if the heel of the club is lower than the toe, it will make contact with the ground before the toe, causing the head to close through impact. If the club is too “flat,” that is, the heel of the club is raised relative to the toe, the player will tend to miss right (right side of image). This also makes sense because if the toe makes contact with the ground before the heel, it will tend to be dragged behind the heel and push the ball to the right. When the club is properly soled, it gives the golfer the best chance for making solid contact and hitting a straight shot. Small differences can be huge. For some reference, the total amount of variation in lie angle for any clubs is about 4 degrees flat to 4 degrees upright.
With all of this knowledge in mind, I decided to get the lie angles checked on my irons by a competent professional. My first stop was a big box store in San Jose. As is custom for fittings in such a store, the bottom of my club was taped up with tape that shows where contact was made with the ground. A plastic lie board was setup with a ball, and I hit a series of shots to determine what part of the club was making contact with the ground. So far, so good. Once we had determined that the lie angles on my clubs were too upright for me, the “clubmaker” at this store took one look at the results from one club and said all of my clubs needed to be bent “at least one degree.” The big box store also wanted to charge me $5.99 per club to have them bent. I’d need to leave my clubs with them for a week as well to have this process performed. If the clubs were not right when I got them back, I’d have to tell them what adjustment was necessary and wait another week. Thanks, guys, but I’ll go somewhere else.
Enter Brian Razzari. I called the Brad Lozares Golf Shop at the Palo Alto Municipal Golf Course on my way home from San Jose. I should have called here first because I was looking for someone that actually knew what he or she was doing. Upon answering, Brian was completely accommodating of my ridiculous request to come in within the next 30 minutes to have a lie fitting performed. He quoted me the very reasonable price of $50 to have the lie angles on each and every one of my irons and wedges (10 clubs total) adjusted based on a dynamic fitting he would perform at the driving range. He would watch me hit a few shots, take the club, bend it, and watch me hit more shots to determine the correct lie angle for each club. This is tour-level fitting, people. Brian also checked the lofts on each of my irons to make sure they were consistent. I also learned that Brian is a certified Titleist club fitter. He knows my AP2s better than most in the Bay Area. After about 45 minutes of hitting balls and bending clubs, Brian informed me that he bent my irons 2 degrees flat, wedges 1 degree flat, and did not adjust my 60* wedge at all because the sole already showed that it was at the correct lie angle for my swing.
I am not sure I can say enough good things about the experience with Brian, but if you are interested in making your game better, I highly recommend getting your clubs fitted to your swing so that you don’t start making compensations in your swing to make up for an incorrect lie angle. If you are in the Bay Area, I highly recommend a trip to Palo Alto Muni to visit Brian Razzari if you want a tour-level fitting experience for a reasonable price.
Palo Alto Muni: http://www.bradlozaresgolfshop.com/ or call 650-856-0881 and ask for Brian.
In yet another joint post, LG and I review a place near and dear to both our hearts, the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail–specifically, the course at Oxmoor Valley. Nearly two years ago now (Summer 2010), LG and I visited the RTJ Golf Trail for a 3-day trip through Alabama to play three sites of one of the most fun golf experiences in the Southeast, the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail (see www.rtjgolf.com) (Note: given that this was our second trip, the photos below will show the course at two different times). Although there are a number of trips in the Southeast that I am looking forward to taking some day (Pinehurst and Sawgrass to name a few), the RTJ golf trail is both reasonably priced and easily accessible (relatively) for both LG (who has relatives in Mississippi) and me (Atlanta)–in particular, the courses in Birmingham, AL.
Oxmoor Valley is one of two RTJ sites in Birmingham, the other being the Ross Bridge course. However, we have not played the Ross Bridge course because it is easily 3x the cost of playing the Oxmoor Valley, and, although we’re fanatical about golf, unnecessary cost doesn’t equate to greater value.
As previously mentioned, LG and I have visited multiple RTJ sites. For the price, there is little that is comparable to RTJ courses. For those that don’t know, Robert Trent Jones designed golf courses are typically long, undulating, and punshing while maintaining an understated elegance and natural beauty. 430+ yard par 4s and 3-teired greens are just some of the common elements of an RTJ course. But when he gets a hold of an excellent piece of real estate–as he’s done throughout Alabama–RTJ manages to produce excellent golf. And the courses are well-maintained, even in the winter and the dog days of summer.
What’s more, most RTJ sites include multiple golf courses in one site. Oxmoor Valley includes 36 holes of full-length golf and a par-3 “short course” that provides an excellent challenge. When LG and I visited the RTJ course several years ago, we opted to play the Ridge course and the Valley course in the same day. Halfway through the Valley course, we left and went back to the Ridge.
I have played about 130 holes of RTJ Trail golf (27 at Silver Lakes, 45 at Capitol Hill, 27 at Oxmoor, and 30-ish at Grand National, not counting short courses), and the Ridge course at Oxmoor Valley may be my favorite of all.
First, the clubhouses at all RTJ Courses are large and inviting lodge-type atmospheres, complete with full restaurants that serve very good meals to hungry patrons. The structures are adorned with memoirs of the great times one has playing golf and reminders of the history of the game.
A view from the first green back toward the tee at the Ridge course gives a great idea of what lies ahead. Rolling hills, meandering tree lines, green fairways, and precise layouts make shotmaking in critical demand for a good score. The visual obstructions often make tee shots intimidating experiences, seeing how many places one can miss the fairway. Still, little matches the natural beauty of a well-planned golf course, and RTJ has plenty of that.
Yet another indicator of the beauty of this course is seen at the par 5 3rd hole. A brave driver can place his ball in the fairway between the water.
Even if you manage to hit a career drive, RTJ leaves very little payoff. The uphill second shot to a pedestal green is an unlikely reach, even for the longest and most precise hitter.
What might be the signature hole of this course, the par 3 8th, is downhill and all carry over water. A nicely hit 7 or 8 iron (depending on pin location) will put you in a good spot for a birdie. A quick story from LG here: We have had two chances to play this hole in our time. During our first trip, the pin was located in the back right section of this green, and during our second, it was located in the front left location. During both trips, JK somehow managed to stick his ball in a position to have the longest putt imaginable on this green. I think he would have had about 5 feet of putts total left had the pins been swapped. I, on the other hand, have played this hole in even par for my career thanks to two nicely placed shots that left me a grand total of about 25 feet of putts on this green in two rounds. The closeup of the green below allows you to see this for yourself. Now back to JK.
As my memory serves, I don’t recall thinking this course was very long. Yet, at over 7,000 yards from the tips, no one can call it a short course. I suppose I was too focused on other features of the course to worry about the length.
Although I haven’t seemed to play well, I can’t blame the course at all for that.
Quick aside from LG: JK might not be able to blame the course, but I’ll definitely throw in a complaint. RTJ designs a hard golf course. I love them and would love to have one be my home course some day, but man, they can kick your tail. A quick example is the dastardly par-4 6th below.
The dogleg left hole measures 447 yards from the tips and requires a massive carry over a ravine. The more that I think about this behemoth, the less terrible I feel about making a quadruple bogey 8 on it during our last outing. The carry must be long and precise. The fairway slopes left toward the ravine and it is impossible to tell from the tee where the fairway comes out to save an errant ball. Moreover, the ravine cuts across the hole and makes any approach from the right rough a tall order. Oh, and even if you hit that monster drive, heaven help you if you have anything longer than a 7 iron in because this three tiered green demands a high, soft shot to get within range. Missing the green on any side, long, or short will provide a daunting up and down. My advice: play this hole as a par 5, or hope that your karma is better than mine. In two rounds, I am collectively 7 over on this hole alone. Now back to JK.
The drawbacks–it’s hard to say. The courses are not really walkable not only because of undulation but also because there is a lot of distance between greens and tees. They are typically out in the middle of nowhere, but Birmingham wasn’t bad at all. Not to mention, when you’re golfing, you typically don’t want to be in an urban center. The service is great. The cost is reasonable ($52/18 holes with cart).
One thing, you may want to check and ensure that maintenance is not being done during your trip. LG and I had planned to play one RTJ course during our 3-day visit that we skipped because it was being aerated during our visit. Thankfully, we checked when we called ahead–not sure they would’ve told us if we hadn’t asked.
All in all, though, it’s a great place to play golf.
PS, LG and I also STRONGLY recommend a trip to Saw’s BBQ after the round. Unbelievably good, if you like good BBQ: 1008 Oxmoor Rd, Birmingham, AL | (205) 879-1937 | sawsbbq.com
December 28, 2011
Anyone who reads the PF regularly knows how LG and I feel about our golf equipment–utterly superstitious. Inexplicably, we feel a connection to certain equipment that gives us more confidence. Whether it’s good balls numbered 7 or fairway woods that are 7 years old, LG and I have the things we each like.
For me, once I find something I like, I tend to stick with it. In accord with that, I REALLY like my wedges. I have figured out how to set them up correctly for me and my touch. The only problem is that I’ve basically worn them out. See photos below.
In accord with it, I looked at replacing them. However, I got such a good deal on them, there’s no way I could afford $190/head to replace them new (see http://www.fourteengolf.com/product/detail.shtml?P=53 and http://www.tourspecgolf.com/Fourteen-2010-MT-28-V5-Forged-Wedge). Them, I found out about rechroming.
Several places do it, but for price and quality (based on reviews), I chose to use The Iron Factory (http://www.theironfactory.com/) and well-known iron restoration specialist Jim Kronus. Kronus provided chroming services to many OEMs years ago but now provides services for orders as small as $30. When I contacted his business, I got a personal call from the man himself to discuss my order and to answer my questions on the process.
Placing an order is as simple as providing a letter stating what you want Jim to do, putting the heads in a box (small flat-rate box from the post office is $5.00), and sending them away to the address on The Iron Factory website. When the heads arrive, Jim will call you personally to confirm your order, take your credit card information, and answer any questions you may have. We discussed the need for the grooves to remain conforming to the new 2010 groove rule, and he informed me of some ways he could make it happen.
About a week and a half later, I received my rechromed wedge heads, as shown below:
Yes, those are the same clubs. I couldn’t believe it. Jim did a fantastic job. Not only do they grind out all of the dings and dents to make the soles smooth again, Jim adds back the requisite chrome to keep the head weight the same as when they came in.
Drawbacks, they weren’t super cheap, but they weren’t expensive either. At $38/head to regroove, restore, and rechrome (shipping included), I can’t really complain. I will say that I believe I asked at one point for bright chrome and I believe I received satin chrome, but I am not concerned: these look great, and bright chrome may been a bit too reflective for wedges. The last thing is that Jim sends all his orders out with signature confirmation. Since I wasn’t there to sign for the box, I had to go to the post office to get my box, which was a hassel given that it’s nearly Christmas.
However, the communication was great, and the final product was beautiful at a reasonable price. I’m very happy, and I’m looking forward to getting out there with these.
Customer Service: 7
December 7, 2011
Today’s review focuses on a niche in the golf industry: customization. In this case, custom club covers.
That’s right, I said custom golf club covers. Although it sounds over the top, many golfers like to customize their bag. Your clubs should fit you like a glove–lofts, lies, grips, shafts, and more. Customizing the appearance of your clubs is an extra step many golfers take to stand out and to put their own personal stamps on the game they love. For example, looking at LG’s bag, he even has his own custom ferrules (see http://thepowerfade.wordpress.com/2011/07/01/whats-in-the-bag-lg-edition/ for LG’s custom blue ferrules, seen best on the photo of his wedges). And, would Tiger really have been as great without his notable friend, Frank?
Personally, I haven’t ever believed that I had a good enough game to customize my own bag–and, quite frankly, I didn’t have a good enough bank account. However, this year, I’ve settled into my equipment, and, as a Christmas gift to myself, I decided it was time to customize my golf bag. Having just had my second child, a custom club cover dedicated to my two children was what I wanted.
The first thing I needed to do was find someone who could make it. For that, I can tell you–look no further than DelilaH at GirlyGolfer (http://www.girlygolfer.com/CLUB%20COVERS%20MEN.html).
I emailed the contact information on the website stating I had an idea and wanted to make a cover dedicated to my children. Delila responded in no less than a week–starting with an apology for how long it had taken to get back to me!
Delila (the H is for her last name) contacted me asking whether I had a specific idea, which I did not. I pointed out a few things I thought would be important for a personal cover: (a) I wanted yellow to match my bag, which is generally yellow in honor of my alma mater, Georgia Tech; and (b) I wanted an elephant and a giraffe somewhere on the cover because those animals signify my two children. Maybe I would add my initials, but it wasn’t required. Within two days, Delila was back to me with three different design options with various pricing. After about a day of deliberation, I picked one of the options and offered a few tweaks.
She boxed it for shipping that night, and I had it two days later.
Soup to nuts, from the “hey, I think I’ll get a custom club cover” to having the finished product in my hand it took Delila 10 days, and she was apologetic that it took as long as it did!
All of my reviews have a drawbacks section to highlight at least one thing I did not like about the process, the course, the application, whatever. The only thing I can say was a drawback was cost. As with any customization, the cost will not be a bargain. The custom cover shown above was $70 shipped ($64 for the cover + $6 shipping). However, Delila did an excellent job conceiving the design, making it, and putting it together, and it is an extremely high quality cover. I cannot complain about $70 for all of that work that she did. Some of the seams are not 100% straight and aligned, but I expected some variation as the covers are sewn, not mass-produced, and the small “imperfections” that might bother some purchasers give it the custom-made look that I prefer.
Altogether, I got EXACTLY what I wanted: a custom-made cover that is exactly my style and is the perfect accent to my golf bag (look for it in my upcoming What’s In The Bag post). The process was unbelievable, quick, and I could not envision it running any smoother than it did. Thanks, Delila!
February 22, 2011
As you may recall, last October I posted a “preview” of a review for a lesson with Mitch Lowe. I finally had occasion to take Mitch up on the lesson I purchased all those months ago.
Saturday Morning in San Francisco was a picture perfect day: clear blue sky with streaky clouds. Since I haven’t had a chance to play as much as I’d like prior to getting a lesson, I thought I’d get Mitch some “hard data” by playing a few holes and developing some statistics for him to analyze my game. This was also a wonderful excuse to check out Harding Park’s Gem of a short course – the Fleming 9-hole. This short course is composed of three par-4s and six par-3s. The holes vary in length from 140 to 235 yards for the par-3s and 260 to 425 for the par-4s. Having played few short courses, I was keen to try this one out to expand my horizons on this fantastic idea. There aren’t enough good things to say about this short course. It is set directly in the middle of the back nine of the famous TPC Harding Park. The big course is prominently featured on the Champions Tour and was the site of one of the most dramatic Presidents Cups ever played (I was actually there!). From my limited experience, I have gleaned that short courses generally get the low end of the maintenance support when compared to the marquee course. I was happily dispelled of that notion at the Fleming Course. The greens were impeccable and the fairways were trimmed as though the Presidents Cup were about to return. Also, the Fleming 9 were not short on the scenic views that Harding offers. The beautiful cypress trees that line the big course also have their counterparts on the short course. This truly felt like a mini-Harding experience. For $31 total, the deal could not be beat. No reservation required, just walk up and request to go out.
Having played a decent warm-up round, I went over to the range to meet up with Mitch at the appointed hour. At the beginning of my lesson, he asked me what I wanted to accomplish. I told him my goal was to work on my spotty iron play and to have a plan for improving my consistency and distance. He took these goals and ran with them. I started off hitting a few wedges and Mitch took video on his iPhone and quickly deciphered that my weak fade and spotty iron play was due to casting of the club. Sadly, this much I had gleaned from my own video before. Mitch, however, had a solution. His method focuses purely on getting the club to the right position at impact. Rather than focusing on the positions that my body might have been in, he focused more on getting the club square at impact with forward shaft lean. The videos he showed me proved that though my hands were fast enough to square the club and hit a straight shot, I was essentially turning my 7-iron into a 9-iron by adding loft and having a backward leaning shaft at impact. After a few adjustments, the later videos showed that I had indeed moved from a backward leaning shaft to a forward leaning shaft and was having to rely less on my hands to square the club. In the end, Mitch accomplished what few instructors actually accomplish: he created a plan for me that would lead me to achieving the goals I had set out at the beginning of the lesson.
As far as a review: Mitch was a consummate professional. He entertained my questions about playing in the PGA Championship as well as kept me on track with the principles he was attempting to convey. I believe his style works for me in that we discussed the thought or principle to me that he wanted me to think about during the swing and let me implement it by experimentation. I also watched him work with a beginner prior to my lesson. During that lesson, he was much more hands on and was interested in helping the beginner simply make contact. His style changes as the situation requires, which I find valuable in an instructor. He is very knowledgeable about the game and conveys his knowledge in an accessible and easy to understand manner. He also conveys a true love of the game. Toward the end of my lesson I asked how often he teaches lessons. His response was a big smile and said that it was his full time job. He truly enjoys giving lessons and the game. I would highly recommend him for anyone that needs a tune-up or introduction to the game, and I plan to continue taking lessons from him.
October 28, 2010
Though I generally do enough reading on a daily basis to never want to read anything “for pleasure,” Carl Hiaasen’s The Downhill Lie caught my eye. Before I begin raving about the wonderful writing, (actually) laugh-out-loud jokes, and truly touching story that Hiaasen has composed, I should provide a disclaimer: Hiaasen attended Emory University which is also my alma mater. I have no shame in admitting that this fact is the reason I purchased this book from the $5 shelf at borders. That fact aside, I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in feeling better about their own golf game.
Hiaasen describes his return to golf after a 32-year long break. His entry to golf, like many, was due to his father. He entered the game as a boy and never really took to it. Like many children, he found the game difficult and frustrating. After his father passed, however, he felt as though this might be a way for him to reconnect with him through the game he loved. With dry wit and imagery I have yet to find in another golf book, he describes his triumphs, travails, obsessions, and follies that nearly every person demented enough to play this game experiences. Ultimately, Hiaasen concludes his journey by realizing that passing the game on to his own son is truly his “contribution” to golf. If you have time, I highly recommend reading The Downhill Lie.
From the book flap: “Hiaasen’s chronicle of his shaky return to this bedeviling pastime and the ensuing demolition of his self-esteem – culminating with the savage 45-hole tournament – will have you rolling with laughter. Yet the bittersweet memories of playing with his own father and the glow he feels when watching his own young son belt the ball down the fairway will also touch your heart. Forget Tiger, Phil and Ernie. If you want to understand the true lure of golf, turn to Carl Hiaasen, who has written an extraordinary book for the ordinary hacker.”
Buy the book here