Wednesday, April 25, 2018

The Week That Was: SoCal Trip Review

I flew to Los Angeles on Wednesday, April 18th, for a week of golf fitting, a golf presentation, lesson, and other golf fun.

The flight to LAX was a straight-shot from Orlando and we actually got to LAX in 5 hours, but had to cycle around in the air for a little while as there was so much air traffic congestion.  I always prefer the window and I like how Delta has screen monitors that will show you a map of where you are currently flying over.

Like this look at Juarez.  Cue the ominous Sicario music:

A post shared by Richie Hunt (@progolfsynopsis) on


I didn't reach my hotel until midnight (3:00 AM EST). I planned a visit to Fujikura HQ to get on their ENSO machine and had to leave by 8:30 AM.  I was greeted by the lovely traffic on the I-405.  I also rented a Camaro convertible which had no USB charger for my phone and I struggled to figure out how to get the controls to work.

The trip to Fujikura (down in Vista) took a little longer than expected.  I was greeted by Marshall Thompson, Fitting and Tour Rep for Fujikura.  I had shipped my clubs to Fujikura via ShipSticks and Marshall took a look at the clubs and had put together shafts for me that he thought I may like with the adapter sleeves for my Callaway Rogue Sub Zero driver.  He did the same with my hybrids.  My 3-wood is a Callaway Rogue Sub-Zero, but it is glued on.  And of course the iron shafts (Accra) are glued on as well.  But, he did have the Taylor Made P790 7-iron head and put a Fujikura Pro 115 iron shaft in there.

But first, Marshall showed me an awesome tour of the facility.  Explaining so much of the equipment they use to make their shafts and their ability to customize shafts for their customers.  One of the things I always remark about Fujikura is how different the shaft feels when you grab it by the fingertips.  It just feels like a sturdy, top of the line shaft that won't break and Fujikura has testing machines that test against it and all of their shafts have a lifetime warranty against breakage (no, not snapping them over your knee).  And all of their machines are state-of-the-art with their EI profile machine being a big highlight.  Here's a video with VP of Engineering, Alex Dee...giving a behind the scenes look:




I would check out Fujikura's YouTube Channel as well for other videos.  I was surprised by some facets of how they make their graphite shafts and learned a lot of things about graphite that I didn't know before.  I am convinced that it's just a matter of time before graphite shafts become the majority of shafts used by Tour players.  The only thing that hurts graphite in irons is that they can be too light and for the average consumer the price is higher than steel.  But I am confident that performance can improve with graphite in iron shafts, even for Tour pros.  And being able to not take such a toll on a golfer's elbows, wrists and shoulders is a great benefit.

After that we got on the ENSO machine.  The ENSO machine has been discussed here on the blog for a while:




ENSO uses 3D motion capture by placing the motion capture 'balls' on the shaft and the head of the club.  It can measure a myriad of different facets of what the golfer, shaft and club head are doing throughout the swing.

For instance, it can measure your hand speed throughout the swing.  They have found that almost all golfers reach peak hand speed on the downswing when their trail elbow connects to their body.


From there, the hands always slow down.  So, you could have a player with 60 mph hand speed at that point (picture above) and it could slow down to 25 mph club speed at impact.  There is no 'right way' or 'wrong way.'  But, that affects how the shaft reacts and that can affect the club head properties (path, AoA, face angle, etc).

There's a lot more variables, but what ENSO does is it takes all of those variables it measures and then it allows Fujikura to better determine what type of shaft is needed as well if it needs ancillary measures taken like it being tipped, soft-stepped, etc.

First up, I tried the new Fujikura Pro 115 iron shafts.  While the Accra Tour 100i's are a nice shaft, they are a little light for me and that causes some issues.  I could only MOI match my P790's to 2,670 MOI with the Accra shafts because the shafts are so light.  And as Fujikura explained (and it confirmed for me something I've thought for years), putting too much weight in the head can be a very bad idea.

And with the clubs being so light with the Accra shafts, there is some loss of awareness of the club and that can lead to high, slight pulls with a little draw.  With the Fujikura Pro 115's I was hitting them 5-7 yards further despite them being 1/4" shorter than my Accra's.  But the biggie was I was piping them right at the target and they flew a touch lower (which could be used in my case).

After that we looked at my driver which had a Project X HZRDUS (X-Stiff) shaft.  I really don't like that shaft.  It doesn't feel good and I could be striping the ball all day with a little draw and take, what I feel, is my best swing of the day and hit a cut.  We then saw that the Fujikura Speeder Evolution IV was a better fit for me.

While I liked my Fujikura Motore Speeder hybrid 8.8 shafts, they have a tendency to leave shots to the right.  And that was cured with the switch to a Fujikura Atmos Hybrid blue 8x shaft that I also hit further.

In fact, here's what I was finally fit for:


I would recommend this fitting with Fujikura with my utmost regard.  If you really want to get the very best information for fitting for a shaft, this is the way to do it.  And Fujikura has so many models with different profiles and so many different customized options...whether it be customization for shaft performance or customization for aesthetics...you really cannot beat what Fujikura has to offer.

Afterward, Marshall took me out with Jeremy Butler (Director of Sales) and John Hovis (Tour Manager) to Shadowridge Country Club in Vista.  Shadowridge is a private club and it's a very old school design which I greatly prefer.  You don't see many of those designs in Florida since they are always building around water, protected areas and trying to make a golf community.  I really think one of the advantages of California golf is that the land is quite good to design a course as long as you don't try to get to cute with it.  And Shadowridge was just fantastic all around despite me playing lousy there.  A 5+ hour plane flight and getting caught in LA traffic will do that to a golfer.  I cannot thank Fujikura enough for having me and they just reconfirmed my belief they are the Rolls Royce of shaft manufacturers.

***

Friday's plans were to take a 2 hour lesson with George Gankas.  It was supposed to be about a 1 hour 15 minute trip to see GG in Westlake Village coming from where I was staying in Hermosa Beach.  That took about 1 hour 45 minutes.

From watching the videos, I got the impression that the golf club where GG teaches was a goat track.  But, from the outward appearance it looked like a well kept public course.

The lesson with GG went great.  There were a lot of things about what he teaches that I thought I knew and I had sorta right...but was missing some key parts.  Then there were other concepts of GG's that I didn't know at all.  And I think that's what made the in-person lesson worth it.

For instance, I thought I had the posture correct because my armpits were over the balls of my feet.  But, what GG pointed out was my butt was still sticking too far out and I needed the butt in line with my heels as well.  That new posture felt weird, but GG gave some pointers on how to execute it and I started to get the posture down pretty quick.

We also worked on my ball position as GG felt I had the ball position too far back.  Something I've never been told before by any instructor.  And GG explained why he wanted me to move it up a little.  In all, I think the ball position being too far back helped explain why I did other things in my swing that were not as 'efficient' as I would like them to be.

We also worked on the backswing as I moved off to the right a little.  GG talks about this in his video where he wants to create a 'golf ball' of distance from the right hip at the top of the swing.  In the lesson, he explained that you did not HAVE to have that golf ball of distance as there were other effective ways to do it and we had to figure out what was the best way for me (we found that creating a 'golf ball' gap was best for me).

We then worked on the transition and downswing portions.  A lot of this revolved around my knees needing to get more flexion.  It was more knees and femurs based than hips for me.  But GG had two key checkpoints for me to look for:

At P5, the left hip should be lower than the right hip, but the pelvis should be square to the target line.

At P6, the hips should be level, but the pelvis should be roughly 25* open to the target

Finally we discussed how I was going to work on these things in order to implement them and ingrain them into my swing

From there, I had to drive back to Hermosa Beach which was supposed to take about 1 hour 15 minutes, but took me 2 hours.  Then I had a typical 2 hour drive to Murietta that took 3 hours.  By the time I got back to Hermosa for the night...I had spent roughly EIGHT hours on the road.

In Murietta, I was at Bear Creek giving a presentation on the analytics of the game hosted by golf instructor Tyler Miller.  Golf instructor Keith Morgan was there as well.  We went over the analytics of the game as well as the strategy and some of the psychology that goes into it.

I'm a very strong believer that psychology and analytics in golf go hand-in-hand.  Many golfers think that golfers with good performance metrics or that play the odds correctly do it because they are in a good mental state.  But, I believe it can often swing the other way...the golfer that may be in a poor mental state that 'plays the odds correctly' gives themselves a better chance to start to get themselves in a good mental state.

Most good players I come across tend to be too conservative off the tee by laying-up too often.  There's always that fear of the penalty of a bad shot and the idea that the golfer needs to be able to control bad shots and when they occur.  But in reality, bad shots are basically out of our control.

We know that if you're 1 dimple off or 1 degree off, that can be the difference between a good shot and a bad shot.  Since we are not robots, it's impossible to determine when a bad shot is going to occur as well as stopping bad shots altogether.

What we do have control over is our focus and our strategy.  And if you continue to play for your average swing and you do it with good focus...that's all you can really do for now.  If you hit bad shots that day...then it wasn't your day and you need to work on your ballstriking on the range so you can improve your results off your average swing.

But overly conservative strategies just mean a slow death instead of a quick death. And it never ceases to amaze me how many golfers get duped by the slow killer and cannot understand why they can't take their game to the next level.

Tyler brought me around to see the course and it is quite excellent.  They played the 1985 Skins Game at Bear Creek:



As far as Nicklaus designs go, it reminds me a bit of Muirfield Village.  Pretty generous driving areas for the most part.  But devilish approach shots and getting up and down can be done...but, it's a chore.  Plenty of awesome views to be seen along with the SoCal weather make for a great destination.


***

Saturday I went up to play Rustic Canyon with GolfWRX member ShutSteepStuck who told me his game was in 'shambles' beforehand.


Rustic Canyon is a Gil Hanse design and it's usually the preferred, affordable public golf in the LA area.  This is the first Hanse design I played and I really liked it mainly because Hanse made it a reasonable track to play despite how firm it is.

A lot of these types of American Links style courses tend to have too many blind shots (which I think are the death of good course design) and too much trouble that you don't know if it will come into play or not.

One of the things I found interesting about Rustic Canyon was the green surrounds were basically cut at almost the same length as the greens.  So those that really chop down on their chips and pitches would have a problem.  Given that I was coming off a lesson and some unfamiliar shafts in some important clubs, I played fairly well.


***

Sunday I got onto Hillcrest Country Club as the guest of Jeremy Shapiro and Spencer Torgan.  Hillcrest is another old school design that is right across the street from the FOX movie studios.

Hillcrest was in fantastic condition.  It's only about 6,500 yards, but it's pretty tight.  It wasn't ridiculously tight which is what old school designers would usually do. In other words, if you hit the driver well you'll be rewarded handsomely.  If you don't, you're SOL.

Hillcrest will be going thru a re-design/renovation soon.  There is some dislike for holes #3, #10 and #17.  I agree that #10 is a junk hole where you just hit 4-iron off the tee and then flip a SW in.  #3 is a little better.  I actually like #17, but with #3 and #10 it takes away from the uniqueness of #17.

Having said that...it was a really fun and awesome experience.  I have an affection for old Los Angeles history and since I love golf I enjoy reading about the historic golf courses, stories and figures in LA.  Here's a great Wikipedia entry on Hillcrest CC:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hillcrest_Country_Club_(Los_Angeles)


***

Originally I was going to play Torrey Pines on Monday.  However, after way too much driving I wasn't interested in taking another 3+ hour drive to San Diego.  Also, Torrey's greens were aerified 2 weeks ago.

I was going to get on Pelican Hill, but surprisingly the tee times were filled up on Monday.

That left me with going to El Dorado in Long Beach.  This is a muni course and they play the Long Beach Open and I see a few golf vloggers like BeBetterGolf playing there and I wanted to see what it was about.



Muni's are weird as it seems to depend on the state they are located in when it comes to the quality of muni courses.  For instance, New York State has a lot of great muni courses.  Most of them are built as part of a state park.

OTOH, Florida isn't the best place for muni courses. 

El Dorado was solid.  It's pretty short (6,500 yards from the back tees).  The front nine took 2.5 hours and then I played #10 and #11 and I quit as it was getting cold.  But, it's a solid track for the money.


FINAL THOUGHTS

When I bought my new car last summer, I was thinking about getting a Camaro.  I'm glad I didn't.  The rental was small, uncomfortable and didn't have that much pickup.  Much better off getting a sedan next time.

Where Florida weather is crazy when it comes to precipitation as it can be sunny out in one fairway and 3 fairways over it can be a downpour...California weather is really wacky when it comes to temperature.  You can drive 5 miles inland and spot a 15 degree temperature change.  Because I wasn't cognizant of that...I had the fun time of trying to checkout of my hotel, ship my clubs thru ShipSticks, check into the airport...all with a fever on Tuesday.

I needed to spread out my driving a little more.  The 8 hours of driving on Friday really tired me out for the rest of the vacation.

May would be a better time to come to LA than April because of the temperatures.

I'm not sure how I feel about a street named Isis Avenue.

In-N-Out Burger was solid, but not unworldly as I was led to believe.

LA remains my favorite city for food.  So much great competition and so many options to choose from.  I could really go there for the views and the food alone.

Can't wait to get my new Fujikura shafts!







3JACK

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

What To Look For: 2018 Texas Valero Open

The Tour comes to San Antonio for the Texas Valero Open which dates back to 1922.


The Texas Valero Open is held at the Oaks Course at TPC San Antonio which plays at 1,100 feet above sea level. Combine that with the gusty winds in the area, this can lead to some monster drives on some tailwind tee shots.

That wind also reeks havoc on the players. The 3rd hole routinely has one of the largest deviations in score for any par-3 on Tour. It’s a very shallow green where the players have to hit over water and if the tailwind is blowing hard enough, it can be impossible to get the ball to stop. It plays 213 yards from the back tees, but often times the tournament officials move the tees up to roughly 150-160 yards because the hole can play so impossible that it will greatly slow up the pace of play.



The course is a Pete Dye design which comes up this time of year with Harbour Town last week, TPC San Antonio this week, then TPC Louisiana the following week and TPC Sawgrass coming up 2 weeks after that.

I’ve played some Pete Dye links style course (yes, this isn’t a ‘true links’ because it doesn’t have the ocean nearby). Most notably Kiawah Island and The Dye Course at PGA Village. They are not exactly fun to play, particularly when the wind is howling. It can be nearly impossible to hit the ball to the fairway and I carry it about 275 yards on average. And then you can hit some very good drives on tough driving holes and end up with a goofy lie in the middle of the fairway.

Most players don’t like those features either and that makes for a weaker field.

This course is mostly about long and short approaches. Typically the top finishers drive it well here, too. But, there’s some luck involved due to the wind gusts.

PROJECTED WINNING SCORE: -12


3JACK’S FAVORITES

Luke List +2,200
Kevin Chappell +2,800
Adam Scott +3,000
Billy Horschel +3,000
Chesson Hadley +3,500


3JACK’S DARK HORSE PICKS

Zach Johnson +4,000
Keegan Bradley +5,000
Kevin Streelman +5,000
Ryan Palmer +5,000
Andrew Landry +15,000







3JACK

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

What To Look For: 2018 RBC Heritage Classic

The Tour comes back to Hilton Head for the 49th RBC Heritage Classic.


Harbour Town Golf Links was built in 1967 designed by Pete Dye with the help of Jack Nicklaus. Many people don’t realize that Nicklaus’ architecture mentor was Pete Dye.

The course plays to 7,099 yards at a par-71. It features very narrow fairways with some hazards, but dense trees lining the fairways as well as some oddly shaped greens. Harbour Town ranks as one of Dye’s best designs and is almost universally beloved by golfers of any handicap.

Personally, I’m undecided by Dye. I’ve played many of his designs that I thought were exceptional (Harbour Town, Old Marsh and Kiawah), many of them that I thought stunk (Pound Ridge) and many of them I found to be middle of the road (Dye Preserve and TPC Louisiana).

Dye’s courses often have very basic holes that were made due to him making the big splash with a few feature holes. That doesn’t quite bother me as in all likelihood, not every hole is going to be a home run and he can create a nice ebb and flow to the weaker designs compared to the feature holes. I tend to have a bigger issue with the blind tee shots to narrow landing areas where there is hazards on both sides and long of the landing zone. I think it’s very important to be extremely judicial with blind tee shots in golf and Mr. Dye certainly doesn’t share that opinion.

But, he designed a great one here and the players love it as well. The only issue is that it’s so tight that the bombers tend to stay away from it and it also comes right after Masters week, so the field isn’t the strongest one.

Most of the shots lost or gained will come from mid-approach shots and watch out for greenside bunker play as well if it gets windy and players struggle to find the GIR.

Projected Winning Score: -12


3JACK’S FAVORITES

Paul Casey +1,200
Matt Kuchar +1,600
Webb Simpson +2,500
Cameron Smith +2,800
Tyrrell Hatton +3,300


3JACK’S DARK HORSE PICKS

Emiliano Grillo +4,000
Jason Dufner +6,000
Si Woo Kim +8,000
Charl Schwartzel +9,000
Davis Love III +40,000




3JACK

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Berckman's Place at Augusta with Fried Eggs Golf

Before I get to the awesome video from Randy Smith from Fried Eggs Golf, I did have a couple of columns that I posted this week with regards to the Masters.

First up is my annual Players Who Can Win the Masters on GolfWRX:

The 24 Players That Can Win the Masters

Next up is my article for PGATour.com on Tiger's performance this year and how it stacks up against Tiger's performance from 2005-2009 as well as how well his top competitors performed in 2005-2009 vs. the top players in the world today.

Can Tiger Woods Win the Masters?

Here's the video from Fried Eggs Golf.  Just an incredible experience to hear about.









3JACK

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Width in the DOWNSWING by Chris Ryan

I liked this video by Chris Ryan and it has helped me quite a bit recently, including shooting a 65 (-7 under) at Victoria Hills this past Saturday.



When most people discuss 'width' in the golf swing, they inevitably discuss it with regards to the backswing.

Part of what has helped me recently is this video from Athletic Motion Golf:


It's not that I was consciously trying to make my downswing narrower.  But, I wasn't aware of what was happening (right arm was folding and causing the right shoulder to go into Internal Rotation instead of the preferred External Rotation).

Now I work on the left hip rotation, chest rotation while *feeling* like I'm straightening my right arm in transition...all before I get to P5.


By the time I get to P5...between the rotation of the lower body and chest and the straightening of my right arm, the right shoulder will go into external rotation with the left wrist going into flexion.  If I am able to do that by P5, I'm in good position to hit a nice shot.  If I'm late then bad things can happen.







3JACK

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

What to Look For: 2018 Houston Open

The Tour is at Houston this week for the 72nd Houston Open.



The Houston Open was sponsored by Shell since 1992, but ended its sponsorship last year. The Tour is currently seeking out a new sponsorship.

The event is held at the Golf Club of Houston, formerly known as the Redstone Golf Club. GC of Houston was built in 2003 and designed by Rees Jones and David Toms. It follows a Rees Jones type of design…very long (7,422 yards), pretty wide open and one drive-able par-4 (#12).

A couple of weeks ago I made this tweet on designers:



I did get some people putting Rees Jones as ‘the worst’ or ‘most overrated.’ Personally, I’m not a huge lover of Rees Jones designs, but I don’t think they are anywhere near the worst. They can be a little boring, but I would rather take a little boring than a bunch of gimmicky holes or the designer that designs a bunch of bad holes just so they can design 1 or 2 beautiful holes. Or the designer that creates a torture chamber or the designer has zero clue about how to create a nice ebb and flow to their design.

The general consensus I’ve received on Tour is that GC of Houston is fairly well received. It does tend to favor the long hitters because it’s so open and there’s virtually no rough on the course. But a mid-range power player can win here as well.

What I also like about GC of Houston is that it’s a great warmup for the Masters the following week as the courses have that similarities of being long, wide open and virtually no rough on the course. Also, the 18th is the final critical hole on the course and it provides for some excitement on Sunday.

PROJECTED WINNING SCORE: -16


3JACK’S FAVORITES

Justin Rose +1,000
Daniel Berger +2,500
Rafa Cabrera Bello +3,000
Byeong Hun An +4,000


3JACK’S DARK HORSE PICKS

Charles Howell III +5,000
Thomas Pieters +5,000
Jamie Lovemark +6,000
JB Holmes +7,000
Rory Sabbatini +10,000
Corey Conners +12,500







3JACK

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Season to Date Top-15 Green Zone Players on Tour 3.18.18

Here's the top-15 Green Zone (75-125 yards) performers on Tour. Green Zone has the lowest correlation to success on Tour, mainly due to a lack of frequency of shots per round as well as the lower deviation in performance.  For example, by the end of the season the typical worst performer from the Green Zone is still hitting their shots to roughly 28 feet to the hole.  That is still good enough to find a green and likely 2-putt (88% odds).  And the best performer from the Green Zone will likely end up around 16-feet to the cup which has 78% chance of 2-putting.

Green Zone success is important for shorter hitters who cannot reach par-5's in two as well as long hitters who struggle with precision off the tee (punching out to this distance to hope and save par).








3JACK