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Make Golf Fun Again

July 4, 2016

Happy Am-exit day, everyone!  In the spirit of the occasion, the PowerFade team has decided to do something that the country as a whole is threatening to do: when faced with mass hysteria about the state of an alleged problem, we’re going to throw out everything anyone has ever done to try to fix a problem and replace it with an entirely new regime that has never been tried or tested.  In this case, we’re talking about the rules of golf.

In the wake of yet another rules fiasco at the U.S. Open that could have cost Dustin Johnson yet another U.S. Open title, several questions keep coming to mind: why are the rules of golf so damn hard to understand?  Shouldn’t they be easier to understand?  Why isn’t the USGA following their own rules?  And most important: are the arcane and unapproachable rules contributing to why golf is falling off in popularity in this country and around the world?

After discussions between JK, LG, and the AMTP, we have devised a set of rules for the weekend golf crew that we think will make golf fun again.  Disclaimer: in order to prevent these rules from becoming as cumbersome as “the Rules of Golf,” we have assumed a certain amount of knowledge of the “Rules” and of golf in general.  We’re not a rules making body, and the scores that result from playing with our versions should not be posted for handicap purposes.  Read: You’ll end up losing a lot of money in your regular $2 nassau if you start posting these scores, so don’t do it.

Rules of PowerFade Golf

Goals of our rules: Make golf faster, more fun, and keep it in the spirit of the game.

  1. The Game:
    1. …it’s golf.  Hit the ball into the hole in as few strokes as possible.
  2. Playing the game:
    1. Winter rules apply everywhere – No bad lies.  If you roll into a divot off the tee – move it.  If you get a fried egg in a bunker, roll it out, but stay in the bunker.  If you get a gnarly lie in the rough, improve it.  Mud ball? clean it.
  3. Scoring
    1. No penalty shots will be assessed for hitting into or out of hazards.  Not even if you ground your club in a bunker.
    2. All marked or staked hazards/Out of bounds will be played as lateral hazards if possible.  This means drop it within approximately two flag sticks of the nearest point you think it went into the hazard.
    3. If it is not possible to play a hazard/OB, yell over at your opponent and come to a fast and reasonable agreement about where you should play from.  Remember, karma is a bitch.
    4. On the green: only intentional putts count toward your stroke total.  If the ball moves closer to the hole at address without an intentional stroke, move it back to where it was.  If it moves away from the hole, play it as it lies.
    5. On the green: no more than 3 putts are allowed.  If you reach the green in 1 shot, the worst you can do is 4.  Once you reach 3 putts, pick up.  If the greens have been punched in the last 3 weeks, automatic two putts are mandatory.
    6. Once you reach 8 strokes, pick up.  If you both reach 8 strokes, the hole is pushed.
  4. Tees: Any set of tees that are 6,400 yards or shorter.  It may help to modify the scorecard by tearing off the top two sets of tees that are no longer relevant, or even part of the course, as far as you are concerned.
  5.  Equipment
    1. No limit on the number of clubs in your bag.  (You’re welcome, Phil)
    2. You may only use one putter per hole (no switching putters between putts).  (Sorry, Phil)
    3. You may NOT adjust an adjustable club during the round.
  6. Time of play: 15 minutes per hole or fewer.  There’s no scoring penalty for violating this rule, but don’t be a pill.  If your group violates this rule more than once in a given match, each member of the group must donate $5 to the local First Tee organization per violation.  If, at any point during the match, the total amount of the bets placed on the first tee has been exceeded by repeated violations of the $5 rule, any member of the group that has not already deposited his or her clubs in the nearest lake should do so, and everyone should trudge into the bar so as not to have wasted the entire Saturday.
  7. In general, discrepancies that are not addressed by the rules should be handled with common sense.  To the extent common sense is not available, trial by combat is appropriate, assuming no violation of Rule 6.

Next up: The PowerFade team reviews how well the rules accomplished their objectives by playing a round or two using them.  Please feel free to post your own reviews in the comments below if you use these rules during your next round!  If you’re going to troll this, please do so in a way that makes us laugh:)

The Anonymous Mini-Tour Pro presents: Shooting Your Best Score Ever

Are you looking to shoot your best score ever?

Well, good luck sifting through the red-stake-marked pool of advice that exists in all types of outlets that cover golf – magazines, the golf channel, your local pro, and of course your golf buddies. Good news though! This column will guide you through accomplishing just that.

The bad news, however, is that it’s going to require you to take a tee and prick the massively inflated bubble that is your sense of self. Take Mr. 85 for example: he goes around with his single digit index of 9.9 and consistently throws away shots by thinking that he should employ the same strategy as the pros. The most important lesson he should learn in order to shoot his best score ever is that everyone is really terrible at golf.

And yet, one might say, Tiger in 2000 won practically every tournament – he wasn’t bad at golf! False. Tiger would consistently take 60 to 75 shots to complete a round, of which only 18 of his shots would find the bottom of the hole. I will double check the numbers but I believe that is way less than 100% of his shots. Perhaps even below 90%. So you see, if Tiger would only put 18 of 69 shots in the hole, a terrible rate, and he was best ever, think how bad Mr. 85 must be at golf – really, really awful!

The goal in golf is to be the least awful you can be. Remember that next time you aim for a tucked pin from 240 out to an island green guarded by alligators.

So let’s go through some common scenarios and see if Mr. 85 can alter his decision-making in an attempt to shoot his least horrible score ever:

Putting

A classic scene when observing Mr. 85 preparing to hit a 15 foot putt is a series of useless rituals that will not put a dent in the high likelihood that he will 3 putt. The problem lies in the fact that the plumbob, 360 degree green reading, and 7 practice strokes do not turn him from a horrible putter into an okay putter but instead turn him from a horrible putter into a still horrible putter whose stupid rituals distract him from having correct speed on his putts and also hold up the group behind him – the same group who earlier in the round were also doing stupid putting rituals but are now drunk and stopped caring about score and may get violent if they see one more plumbob out of Mr. 85. Let’s break it down:

Best player ever: makes 10% of 15 footers

Mr. 85’s opinion: “What do you mean 3 putt? I’m gonna drill this!”

Mr. 85 reality: No drilling but many, many 3 putts

Solution: Skip the pre-shot routine and lag it to 11 inches short and 7 inches right of the hole for an unexciting 2 putt. You’ll thank me after the round.

Chipping

While putting is usually a struggle for Mr. 85, chipping is usually a relative strength. Just kidding! His chipping is putrid. Unfortunately, Mr. 85 does not know this because he hit that one chip close to the hole that one time. Let’s take the common situation of having a tough chip over a bunker with little green to work with.

Best player ever: hits a nice flop over the bunker that will be close 30% of the time, 15 feet past 69% of the time, and flubbed in the bunker once in a long while.

Mr. 85’s opinion: “Watch and learn, boys!”

Mr. 85 reality: 49.9% chili chunk in the bunker, 49.9% skull over the green, and that one chip that one time.

Solution: Chip it 15 feet past the hole, where he will probably 3 putt.

Iron shots

Putting and chipping are undoubtedly important but at least a 3 putt is only a single lost stroke. The result of certain iron shots, on the other ungloved hand, can be the golf equivalent of being beaten over the head by Old Tom Morris’ rusty brassie from the 19th century.

There’s no doubt that Mr. 85’s iron game is hideous. He hits chunks, skulls, slices, hooks, and whatever other negative golf terms exist to describe shots. There’s also no doubt that he will continue to be horrible. However, there is hope! Mr. 85 could change his target line. Tucked pin surrounded by bunkers? Go for the middle. Island green? Go for the middle. More than 200 out over water? Lay up.

Let’s take a specific example: second shot on 18 at bay hill from 210 out with the pin back right.

Mr. 85’s opinion: “Here comes a controlled power butter drawfade right at the pin!”

Mr. 85 reality: Too gruesome to be explained in this column. Not for the faint-hearted.

Solution: Go for left and long of the green where your chunk, skull, slice, and hook will all find grass and where you can chip on and make your 5, which is 2.5 strokes below your current average after choosing That-Which-Is-Too-Gruesome-To-Be-Explained.

Mr. 85 might be asking: well, at what distance should I stop aiming for the middle and start aiming at the pin? 150 yards? Answer: Hmmm….yeahhh…. how about at 100 yards and under just to be safe.

Driving:

The good news with the irons is that the worst Mr. 85 can do (usually) is hit it in the water. That means a nice drop up to where it entered the hazard! The driver, conversely, can introduce a whole new level of punishment in the form of white stakes.

The problem with Mr. 85’s driving is that he believes that he hits ‘ehhhh…. around 70% of my fairways?’ when in reality he’s hit 619 banana slices in a row. Now fast forward to Mr. 85 teeing off on a hole with an array of beautiful, soon to be damaged houses down the right side. Now fast forward to banana slice 620. Now fast forward to Mr. 85 calculating how long it would take him to hop the fence, hit a nice recovery shot back to the fairway without taking too big a divot off of the back yard lawn, and hop back over the fence, all before the angry pitbull in the yard tries to eat his FootJoys and the drunken group behind him gets rowdy. And that’s the best case scenario – worse case is Mr. 85’s playing partners catch him trying to play his shot from out of bounds.

If the latter happens, he would have to re-tee where he will be hitting 3. 3! With no progress made! Remember the beating you took from Old Tom Morris’ brassie? This is way worse. This is like taking Old Tom Morris’ spoonie, dipping it in a pool of anthrax, spearing a beaver with it, feeding it to an alligator, and then having it bite your leg while you’re doing the move where you take your shoes off to play the ball on the edge of the lake even though the sign CLEARLY said to beware of anthrax gators.

Solution: realistically map out your tee shots in a dispersion pattern that you can then adjust your target line on. That means Mr. 85 needs to know that he hits mostly boomerang slices and on the hole that has the houses down the right side needs to pick a new line down the left.

Conclusion

In short, we have learned that penalties from iron shots in the hazard or drives out of bounds are absolutely devastating to Mr. 85’s rounds. The value of the short game, while still a good opportunity for improvement, pales in comparison with the simple changes one can make in the target line. Follow these directions correctly and you will accomplish your goal of being slightly less terrible at golf.

No reasonable golfer would ever choose to live in an area that for half the year is ungolfable.  After spending the majority of one winter in Detroit, I am only further entrenched this view, but with maybe one small caveat.  Below is photographic evidence of this craziness in real life.

IMG_5109

If it wasn’t obnoxious, I’d repost the same image again just for emphasis.

Rather than move to a place with real sunshine and grass, someone decided this was a better idea.  The above image comes from the heated tees at a golf shop in Bloomfield Hills, MI.  This Sunday was the warmest day of the winter thus far, registering a balmy 37 F on the comically large thermometer next to the range.  I wasn’t the only hacker who decided to take advantage of the “sunshine.”  Indeed, I waited for patiently for 35 minutes to get one of 40 or so mats that were all teeming with eager beavers shanking away.  It was one of the few times I can say I was actually happy waiting in line because it was the first time I’d even heard a golf ball being hit in over a month.  All of this being said, the conditions on the heated tees were actually very nice.  Despite the tundra in front of me, It got so warm under the heaters that I had to take off my jacket and sweater!  I was never worried about my hands being cold, but the range balls were a different story.

Range balls have their own inherent issues – limited ball flight, low compression, but in these conditions the balls and air are so cold that distances and, indeed, ball flight become all but irrelevant.  Sure, the direction still tells you something about your swing path, but spin (peak height), compression (ballspeed), and general body temperature all become somewhat fluid and not meaningfully measurable in these conditions.  There was a kind of serene obliviousness to hitting balls this way.  Who cares where it lands?  I’m not going to see it anyway.  The targets are basically meaningless.  Honestly, I’m more concerned with just making sure the balls I’m hitting are not so frozen that they’re going to crack the hosels on my SLDR irons.

100 balls in, I find the bottom of my swing.  I’ll blame that on the conditions too.  But after the next 100, I feel as though I’ve had one of the best range sessions I’ve had in the last 6 months.  Why, you ask?

The conditions forced me to detach from my (totally unreasonable) expectations of my golf game.  Once I realized that I wasn’t going to see the ball land, that my 7 iron wasn’t going to go 165 yards, that my driver wasn’t going to rise beautifully to 2.5x the height of the net at the back of the range, and that generally any expectations I have of those things happening with any regularity were probably just as ill conceived, it became much easier to focus on the one thing that I actually could control and measure – contact.  Focusing purely on the quality of the contact I was producing for 100 balls did wonders for my confidence and allowed me to test various setup positions and tweaks to see how I could adjust this one facet of my game.

Focusing on a single measurable and focusing on improving that one element of my game was far more satisfying and likely helpful to my game than worrying about a host of interrelated issues and results.  The snow helped me realize a truth about practice I hear all the time, but rarely act upon in my own game: focus on one measurable at a time.  I hope the lesson sticks, but who ever heard of digging their game out of the snow?

-LG

Bonus:

If you’re a true PF-er, you might understand why this photo makes JK and myself crack up every time we see it:

IMG_5110

Ryder Cup 2014

September 25, 2014

It’s finally here. This year, the biennial matchup of US vs. THEM hits Gleneagles.

Tom Watson’s USA Team includes:
Rickie Fowler
Jim Furyk
Zach Johnson
Matt Kuchar
Phil Mickelson
Patrick Reed^
Jordan Spieth^
Jimmy Walker^
Bubba Watson
Keegan Bradley *
Hunter Mahan *
Webb Simpson *

And Paul McGinley’s Eurotrash squad includes:
Thomas Bjorn
Jamie Donaldson^
Victor Dubuisson^
Sergio Garcia
Martin Kaymer
Graeme McDowell
Rory McIlroy
Justin Rose
Henrik Stenson
Stephen Gallacher * ^
Ian Poulter *
Lee Westwood *

^ = first appearance
* = captain’s pick

It’s time for the USA to take one! Let’s GO US!

PF Birthday

October 6, 2013

Three years ago today, LG and I embarked on a journey. As many of you know, it started with a few conversations about the game, a few moments watching golf and beating the commentary to the punch, and an experiment to figure out if we could do any better. What came out of that was a place where we collect our thoughts and–hopefully–help others thrive in this glorious game into which we put so much energy and effort. Although the PF has seen a recent decline in postings and material (thanks to outside factors greatly influencing LG’s and my ability to have a few free moments in front of a computer), the PF remains a host for our thoughts, our memories, and at least a portion of our contribution to making this game better for those who come after us. We’re thankful for your continued readership, and we’re looking forward to more greatness in the future.

-JK

PF Update

September 3, 2013

Many thanks to LG for making the trip to my new locale to visit, meet the children, and play some golf. Many of you may not realize that for years LG and I lived 2,500 miles apart. Our contributions to this endeavor were almost exclusively electronic. Although we’re now a good bit closer in proximity, it’s still a big deal if we get together.

 

And, like all big deals, we celebrate well. Our last four PF outings have included Wolf Creek (Las Vegas, Spring 2012?), East Lake (Atlanta, Fall 2012), Pebble Beach (Monterey, January 2013), Spyglass (Monterey, January 2013), and Torrey Pines (San Diego, August/September 2013). Although I can’t vouch for the level of play, it was still a tremendous experience playing Torrey, and it’s always a great time when LG and JK get a chance to chat face-to-face. Now all LG needs to do is learn how to putt!

 

Thanks again to LG, and we’ll see you soon at another big time venue.

Tiger’s Greatness

August 5, 2013

As we turn the page on another Tiger Woods march to victory, I find it increasingly important to examine what we have witnessed. Greatness at a game that demands perfection is simply inspiring. So let’s start by taking a moment to soak in what we just witness. Tiger Woods just put one of the most important tournaments of the year (Firestone) on ice by shooting 61 on Friday, scaring 59 and breaking the course record, rendering the final two days a mere victory lap.

Lost in the shuffle of Tiger’s recent major drought is that his greatness had seemingly waned, so much so that, when I passed a TV on Friday and saw his round in progress, I assumed it was a flashback to a prior year. “The Tiger we have now doesn’t dominate tournaments anymore,” I thought. “Sure he wins Bay Hill and Memorial every year, but he needs outrageous flop shots and heroic putts to win.”

We’ve lost sight.

Tiger has won more than 1/4 tournaments in which he has played. He’s won five times this year. But we all think he’s not what he once was because he’s finished second and third in majors more times than most of his peers have made the cut.

It’s time to take a step back and admire what we’re seeing. The night before Phil Mickelson choked away the US Open for the sixth time, I sent LG a text reminding him that, no matter what you think of Phil, he is one of the all timers.

We’ve lost sight of what these players have given us. Let’s take a moment to appreciate it all.

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