Sometimes, sobering moments occur that change your life, your outlook on life, or just the way you think of the things you have. I’ve recently lost two uncles in tragic fashion–both likely heart disease, both well before their times. Although only one of them was a golfer, they both impacted my life positively, and I’m thankful for the experiences I had along the way with them. Of course, it wouldn’t be appropriate–or good for our readership–if I posted my entire life experience on a golf blog, but I felt a little background as to why this series was being presented was important.

What got me thinking about writing this series was my uncle who was a golfer. I visited him in Pennsylvania when I was no more than 14 years old…I actually don’t remember the specifics, just that I was a golf nut and he volunteered to take me to the prestigious Indiana Country Club (in Indiana, PA). During that round, on Indiana CC’s signature par 3 over water, my uncle hit the ball to 6 inches from the hole. I was astounded. One comment he made astounded me even more. As he walked up to tap in his birdie, he stated off-hand “I’ve been playing the game for decades, hit probably hundreds of shots just like this, and never had a hole in one. Oh well. That’s golf.”

As I look back on it now, I wish I had had the chance to talk with him more. I wish we’d had the opportunity to shoot the shit about all things golf and life. No doubt he had a great many stories of life and golf intersecting that I could’ve learned from. But, more so, just learning about the highlights of his life and rounds of golf would’ve been enough. In any career of more than a few years, there are literally hundreds of shots to remember, to ponder, to tell stories about. His are gone forever, and only a few people scattered across the globe will know them. Part of the beauty of modern technology is our ability to capture a slice of ourselves in time and hold it in place in the memory of a computer or the internet. The PF blog helps LG and I communicate with all of you, but it also helps us convey stories to each other and to preserve some of the great memories we’ve had playing this beautiful game.

With that, I think it’s incredibly important to preserve the memories of my aces. You see, at the moment my uncle said those fateful words about never having hit a hole in one, I had already logged my first, and it was its own remarkable story.

Time to go foggy nostalgia on you all for a minute.

Flash back to the summer of 1997. Think about what you were doing, what was in, what was important. The dotcom bubble was blowing to a beautiful inflated awesomeness that we may never see again. Bill Clinton was practicing his indiscretions with White House interns. Me? I was a 13 year old kid going to see his best friend in Arkansas for the first time in years. My very first trip on a plane, and I flew to Little Rock, Arkansas, to then drive several hours to El Dorado. When you’re a kid, you don’t really care where you go, as long as it’s with someone you want to be around. My best friend, BW, was a little older than me. We thought we were so cool. Even though there’s basically nothing to do in the “city” of El Dorado, Arkansas, we found ourselves playing tennis (neither of us knew anything of the game), caring for his Basset Hounds, and–amazingly–playing golf.

I say it was amazing that we were playing golf for a lot of reasons. The obvious was that neither of us were wealthy. I had always learned golf from my Dad, who didn’t really have a great deal of grasp on the finer points of the game, but he loved it always. BW had never really had that kind of leadership. His Dad kind of played, but wasn’t really into the game. So the first hurdle was that BW didn’t really have an interest in the game.

But, more importantly, we didn’t have equipment! BW’s only set was a bunch of Ben Hogan blades and a couple of wooden fairway woods and driver (even in 1997, wooden head fairway woods were pretty obsolete). However, BW didn’t even have a golf bag to put the clubs in, or any number of golf balls. How in the world were we going to play golf?

Well, I did get an engineering degree eventually, and my early engineer shone through that day. BW and I put a 3, 5, 7, and 9 iron, driver, and 3 wood in a black garbage bag to take to the course. We didn’t have golf shoes, so we just wore tennis shoes. We had cargo pants, and we put as many golf balls into the pockets as we could find. Each of us had maybe 8 golf balls total. BW made a point to bring his special “birdie ball,” the ball he had used to make his first birdie. I still remember that it was a Maxfli with an “El Dorado CC” logo on the side. Crazy times.

BW and I marched our way up to the Lion Club Municipal Golf Course–the goat track of all goat tracks. To this day, I have still not stepped foot on a worse course. All of the grass on the entire course had been infested with a fungus so that enormous patches were mere dust. The greens…what greens? They just stuck a pin in the middle of a flat part and called it a green, maybe threw down some grass seed that wasn’t growing in the middle of the summer in Arkansas. This. Was. A. Hole. But we didn’t see it like that. BW and I were just being the kids that we were, going out to have a good time, and if that meant golfing, so be it. We each paid our $5 greens fee and walked to the first tee.

Now, neither of us were great golfers at the time, but I could hold my own. I shot under 100 sometimes, but usually under 110, which isn’t bad for a 13 year old. But this day, I was not having it. I topped shots, I sliced shots, I shanked shots…it was the worst round of golf I’d played in awhile. by the 5th hole, I had posted two 9s, an 8, and a 7. Worse, in anger I had thrown the last ball in my pocket into the trees after carding a 7 on the prior hole. I looked at BW for a ball. It was his last one too–the birdie ball. He warned me to be careful with it–in fact, it was his first birdie ball. I assured him that I would.

The par 3 fifth hole was only about 150 yards. On a calm day in Arkansas, that’s really not a tough distance to hit. Nonetheless, as I walked up to the tee, I remembered something I had read in a golf digest magazine. It was a piece about hitting consistent shots, which stated that you should be able to swing and hit the ball 75% of your usual distance to get your tempo set up, and then gradually work back up to the full distance over time. I decided my consistency was off, and I would try to hit this shot 75% or less. I pulled out the 5-iron (usually a 7-iron shot for me) teed up the birdie ball, and swung. The first pure shot I hit all day. It flew up in the air like a baloon, floated high but true, straight at the pin.

BW stated “nice shot……..VERY nice shot.”

the ball landed directly on line with the pin. I thought to myself “It was a very nice shot inde……..WAIT! DID THE PIN JUST MOVE?!?!?!”

I said to BW “I THINK IT’S IN THE HOLE!”

Not even worrying about BW’s shot, I started walking toward the hole, my heart beating fast as I imagined what might be. I slowly approached the green, tiptoed up to the hole, closed my eyes, crossed my fingers, turned my head to look down, and opened my eyes. The ball was in the hole!!!!

Pandemonium erupted. BW and I went crazy. It was unlike anything else I’d ever seen on a golf course. Finally, I had done something special.

But our elation was met with a bit of tempering–the ball was, in fact, the last ball we had. Neither BW nor I wanted to lose that ball. So, we walked past the next two holes, walked into the shack of a pro shop, and called BW’s mom to pick us up and take us home. We had been out for barely more than an hour when we should’ve been out for 4 or 5, but we were not going to lose that ball. I came back to Atlanta. My story was written up in the local paper, with picture from the local junior event. Maxfli sent me a hat. Ben Hogan Company sent me a letter congratulating me on my hole in one. For a little bit, it was pretty special.

Times change, and BW and I have spent less and less time together as the years have gone by, although we’re still great friends and talk every several months or so. He’s endured what many people cannot imagine in his life, and I pray for him often. But I guarantee that the times he thinks of this story, he remembers the joy of being a kid again and that once-in-a-lifetime type moment that we shared together.

I still have the birdie ball here on my shelf. I pick it up from time to time and reminisce about that day. What would’ve happened if we had a few more golf balls? No one will ever know. I still don’t know what the last 13 holes of the Lion Club play like, and I probably never will. Still, I remember that day like it just happened.

All of that said, my uncle’s tragic death helped me realize that I have forgotten as much as I remember about my life and these experiences. I wished his memories were somewhere that I could read them. Hopefully, someday when I’m gone, these memories will be around for my children to read and think about the good times that I remembered.

Anyway, that’s the story of my first ace. Stay tuned…I’ve got 4 more to talk about, and a few other interesting moments too.


Today we’re going to talk about weight. No, I won’t be telling you how unhealthy you are and how you need to work out. Rather, we’ll talk about weight as it relates to putters and how different weights affect the putting stroke.

In golf, there are two types of “weight”–actual weight (which is usually measured in grams) and swingweight (which is not really a weight but more-so a balance of weight). Both are important to putting, although personal theories vary about how much importance should be placed on one over the other.

Swingweight is simply a measure of balance of weight from the grip, shaft, and head of a putter–or any golf club for that matter. If a club has a light total weight, but 70% of its weight is in the head, then the club will feel relatively heavy and have a high swing weight. However, if a club is relatively heavy but has only 30% of its weight in the head, it will feel relatively light and have a low swing weight. As such, swingweight really tells you only about the balance of weight in the club, not the total weight. For putting, some commenters believe that swingweight is an important aspect. While it does play some role in how a putter feels, I have always felt that it is of relatively little importance because the hands do not hing in a putting stroke. If you have trouble preventing your hands from hinging, you may seek out a putter with a higher swingweight to try and make it more difficult for you to force the putter forward. However, it is unlikely that simply balancing the weight differently (i.e., by getting a lighter shaft and grip) will result in any material change.

The far more important feature is head weight. Head weight is exactly what it sounds–how much the putter head weighs without the shaft or grip attached. Putter head weight is typically measured in grams, and most technical spec sheets will say to the gram how much the head weight might be. Most production model putters are 330 or 335 grams. I say “most” because some recent models, such as the Odyssey Black series and some newer Scotty Cameron putters, actually have varying weights for varying lengths. This is an attempt by the putter maker to keep a consistent swingweight regardless of the putter length. Because one inch of shaft length is about the same (for swingweighting) as adding 10 grams of head weight, you will see that many putters now have a 10 gram relationship per inch of shaft length. Scotty Cameron’s 2010 models include interchangeable weights. 35 inch putters are 330g; 34 inch putters are 340g; 33 inch putters are 350g. Obviously, some putter manufacturers believe that swingweight is important, and they try to keep this consistent among the series.

However, how Scotty Cameron believes a putter should feel should not dictate what you like. Many players today are opting for heavier putter heads in general, realizing some of the benefits that “heavy” provides. What is “heavier?” Well, that’s up to you.

For starters, the standard for smaller, custom-made putter heads has risen to 350g. Most players using Sunset Beach, Kari Lajosi, Byron Morgan, Tom Slighter, and a host of other “custom” putter manufacturer’s models are opting for 350g as stock weight. In addition, many putter makers are going even heavier. Piretti offers putters heads at 370g stock weight, and LaMont Mann customs go upwards of 400g on occasion.

The trend in increased head weight can be attributed to a number of factors. Most notably, better greens mean faster greens, and faster greens need higher head weight.

wait…what did he say?

You read that right. Fast greens need heavier putters.

Many people don’t understand this. They inherently think that if a putter is heavier, it will automatically force a ball harder because of “conservation of momentum.” Well, first, there’s not really such a thing as conservation of momentum. But, even if you have a hard time following that, here’s how it works–there are two explanations; one is scientific, one is not. Either way, I think you can understand. But since I have an engineering degree, I’ll start with the science.

First, force is equal to mass times acceleration. Look up Sir Isaac Newton for more reading.

F=m * A

Next, kinetic energy of any object in motion is equal to one-half of the object’s mass multiplied by the square speed the object is traveling. See Newton, again, for reference.

E= 1/2 m * V^2

Energy must be conserved at all times, so the amount of kinetic energy the putter head travels with will be very important for determining how hard you hit the ball at impact.

so here’s how it works. Most people, mistakenly thinking that higher weight leads to a harder hit on a putter, believe that they will accelerate the putter with the same acceleration regardless of how heavy the putter is. Well, let’s try this out. Take a wiffle ball bat and try to swing it. Now take a cinder block and try to swing it the same speed. The amount of force you have to put in to accelerate the objects the same way is so great that it’s virtually impossible to do. Of course, this is an exaggeration to show the point, but it works the same with smaller differences in weight as well. Simply put, it is very difficult to change your force input on a putter to achieve consistent acceleration regardless of the weight.

So if acceleration isn’t constant, then what is? If we assume that force the user imparts on the club is the same from one stroke to another (which is much easier to accomplish), then a heavier putter head will lead to less acceleration (see F=m*a). If there’s less acceleration–and we’re starting from a still position, which we are in golf–then there is less velocity. Because velocity goes down, energy goes down (see E=0.5*m*V^2), but the energy goes down at a proportion squared to the decrease in velocity. Now, because we have higher mass, the energy will go up per the increased mass, but it only goes up directly with the increase in mass. In other words, velocity is much more important since any change in velocity will have a squared result on the energy. Thus, the increase in mass is easily negated by the decrease in velocity. This leads to less energy at impact, resulting in a slower ball speed coming off of the putter face.

science explanation over

For those who skipped below, the second (easier to understand) answer is that a heavier putter head is simply more difficult to move, which is what you want with a fast green. Fast greens require very small putting strokes to keep the ball from getting away from you. It is much easier to make small movements accurately with heavy weight, as lighter weight tends to float around and get jerky.

As such, the trend toward heavier weight has a lot to do with modern greenskeeping making even the local muni course run at speeds that would be tour-caliber just two decades ago.

As with all other sections we’ve described, it is very important that you don’t lock yourself into thinking that one weight is good and another is bad just because someone else says so. You must play with the equipment that gives you the best chance to play good golf. Mark O’Meara recently had a putter made that was 315 grams, an absurdly light weight by today’s standards. Why? His old PING Anser putter that he grew up with was right around that weight, and he felt most confident that he could make putts with that weight. That’s a full 35 grams difference (3.5 swingweight points for those that were paying attention) away from what I play, but if it helps him make putts, it’s the right move.

What this section is meant to show you is twofold. First, you must know that there are other options out there besides what you might see in a big box store. Take some time to test out different options. You might really like that new Scotty Cameron, but it might be that the only reason it feels so good is that it’s so much heavier than everything else on the rack (some new 2012 Scotty Camerons are as much as 360g head weight!). Even with your own putter, you can experiment by adding lead tape to increase the head weight. If the other specs of your putter are properly fit (as we’ve been discussing throughout this series), then you should be able to dial in the head weight without much fanfare.

However, the second point is that you should find weights that work for you, but be willing to mix it up if the green speed is dramatically different. I recently played on greens that ran upwards of 15 on the stimpmeter. I wish I had had a little extra lead tape in my bag to help me slow down the putter head for those greens. Similarly, when I play a particular muni down the street from my house, I always bring a back-up putter that’s a good 15 grams lighter than my current putter so that I can properly hit through the shaggy greens on the course.

Now, you may find you play better on slow greens with a heavier putter and vice versa for fast greens. If that’s the case, go with it, and understand that that is your game. This post, however, shows you the reason for the common knowledge as it stands today.

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 (greg.dibble@yahoo.com) 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:

greg.dibble@yahoo.com

First, I would like to extend a sincere apology to our readers for not having posted in such a long time. I have unfortunately been travelling too much to post regularly, but have also accumulated a wealth of other material for reviews that should keep the posts coming through the winter. Now, on to the review!

Today, I review the Course at Wente Vineyards. Wente has been a long time coming for me. I heard about this Greg Norman design course when I moved down to the Bay-Area from the Sacramento area, but I never managed to make it out there because the rack rate was too high and Poppy Ridge was right around the corner. But, in the spirit of reviewing new courses for our readers, I decided to scour Golfnow for the best possible rate and was able to get a discount of $25 from the rack rate of $115 and make it worth my while to check out Wente. By way of comparison: Poppy Ridge (just around the corner – and reviewed here by the PowerFade) is $87 for 27 holes on the weekend at NCGA rates. I have also seen exceptionally good offers at Costco from time to time that bundle Wente with another course that might actually put the price below $90.

Wente does, however, make up for the difference in price with service, facilities, and wonderful conditions. The picture above is a view of the putting and chipping greens that sit next to the largely apportioned clubhouse. These greens were probably the fastest I’ve played in Northern California. I was playing Titleist Pro-v1s because I heard I’d need the extra spin on these greens, and boy, they were not kidding. By way of example, my first pitch shot on the green pictured on the right was from near the tree to the middle pin. The ball hit about 4 feet short of the hole, checked up, and rolled out another 10 feet. With that feel in mind, we head to the driving range.

One of the awkward things about Wente is how far away the driving range is from the rest of the course. The cart ride from the clubhouse to the range took about 7 minutes. The nice thing though, is that the drive is beautiful. The picture above is part of the route between the clubhouse and driving range. The other part meanders through the back nine and heads to the top of a high cliff where the driving range is situated. The range is noticeably more exposed than the rest of the course and probably provides a good sense of the worst of the conditions you will face throughout the day. The view below is from the driving range back down to the course.

Now, for the actual course. Some stats:

Black – 7181 yards – 75.8/145
Gold – 6840 yards – 73.9/141
Blue – 6266 yards – 71.6/131
White – 5637 yards – 68.7/124 or 73.4/130
Red – 4866 yards – 69.4/122

I played this course from the gold tees on a hot, slightly breezy day in August. The course was in phenomenal conditions and the fairways were running out. Even then, however, the course felt much longer than 6800 yards. I found myself hitting much longer clubs into holes because of carries near the green, hazards, or uphill shots. On the back nine, the infamous Livermore wind picked up and really had the last 4 holes playing long as they were straight into the wind. On the last hole, a 457 yard par 4, I hit my best driver of the day to the right fairway and had to hit a perfect 3 wood to get to the front of the green. Fortunately for me, I was able to get up and down for a solid par there while a large wedding party was watching nearby. Some more views:

First Tee – Par 4

Fifth Tee – Par 5

Fifth Fairway – Par 5

Seventh Tee – Par 3

One of the most unique features of this course is “Little Lombard.” This meandering part of the cart path goes up one of the steepest hills I have ever seen on a golf course. The switchbacks that make up this part of the path give the feature its name.

The course was phenomenal. The tee shots provided a very clear view of how to play the hole, and a long, accurate drive was a must to have a chance at getting to the green in regulation. Hitting the rough at Wente meant you were probably hacking back into the fairway. To me, the views on the back nine were not as nice as those on the front, but the holes were more interesting. In particular, I recall the risk-reward 10th. This drivable par 4 (plays much shorter than the yardage) could have you tempting disaster, especially if you are in the middle of a good round. I decided to lay up with a 7 iron off the tee instead of hitting driver or 3 wood, but would consider going for it next time because there was more room behind the green than I thought.

Overall, I would call Wente a great course, but not somewhere I could play every weekend. My main reason for this comment is that the course is not really walkable (see Little Lombard). This is the kind of course where I would play a special round, or bring a client from out of town. From a purely financial perspective, Wente is not your best bet. Poppy Ridge, on any given weekend would provide you with a wonderful 27 hole experience for less than a good rate at Wente. The price does have some advantages. The course play relatively quickly because of lower traffic. I played my round in about 4 hours with a cart. Many notable names play this course often. Jerry Rice is known to frequent Wente regularly, and Annika Sorenstam hosts her charity tournament at this venue each year. In the end, I would not turn down an invitation to play at Wente, but would not think of it immediately for my weekend 7am tee time.

Scorecard: http://www.wentevineyards.com/images/headers/The_Course_Scorecard.pdf

Website: http://www.wentevineyards.com/golf/