Sunday, June 27, 2004

Geeky Golf Stuff - The Launch Monitor!

Ah, Duffergeek heaven! The nice people from Callaway were at the Plateau Club today for a demo day. They also brought along the launch monitor so I had a chance to compare the performance of my much maligned Nike Ignite, my old TaylorMade R580 and some of the new Callaway Fusion drivers.

As a bit of background, after trying Rick's R7 yesterday, it became clear to me that part of the problem was that the regular shaft on my Ignite was too loose for me. My R580 has a stiff shaft so I brought it to the range this morning and tried it out.

Wait, let's get the stiff shaft jokes out of the way. I'll wait...... Done? OK. Let's move on.

I had much more control with the 580 than with the Ignite. I was looking forward to using the launch monitor as a way of getting some data. Here is what I found out.

First, the launch ball speed when I hit my driver is about 130 MPH. Given this, the nice people from Callaway say that I need a launch angle (the angle at which the ball leaves the clubface) of between 12 and 14 degrees. I also want a spin rate of between 3000 and 3400 RPMs. The combination of launch angle and spin rate should provide the best distance for the speed of my swing.

When I started out with the Ignite, I was only getting a launch angle of about 6 degrees. This was way too low, particularly given the 13 degree loft on the club. I move the ball forward some in my stance and teed it up a bit higher and started to get much better results. Then I tried my R580 10.5 loft with a stiff shaft, the Ignite with 13 degree loft and a regular shaft and a Callaway Fusion 10 degree loft with a stiff shaft. Here are the results for each:

Ideal for ball speed 126-135 MPH
Launch angle: 12-14 degrees
Spin: 3000-3400 RPM

Taylor Made R580
Average ball speed: 131 MPH
Launch angle: 13.6 degree
Spin: 3300

Nike Ignite
Average ball speed: 130 MPH
Launch angle: 11.4 degree
Spin: 4188

Callaway Fusion
Average ball speed: 132 MPH
Launch angle: 12.7 degree
Spin: 3077

What can we take away from this? Well, the Ignite has waay too much spin which causes me my consistency problems. Two things would probably fix this. First is getting a stiff shaft, which would also probably increase the launch angle. The second is getting a smaller head on it since the deep face helps to increase the spin. Good for people with a slower swing, not so good for me.

Second, while the nice Callaway people said that the Fusion was the best suited club for me (surprised?), my own 580 is equally within the ideal range on all categories. I think I will still try to reshaft my Ignite since I like the feel that it has (and the half full beer can 'boink' sound it makes when I hit it well) but there is a good chance that the R580 will be accompanying me to Hawaii next month.

I love having data to back things up :)

Wild Kingdom - Golf x2 at Plateau Club

So Paul has joined the Plateau Club now. This will make our decisions about where to play much easier now. Cheaper too. We played there twice this weekend, on Saturday with Rick and on Sunday with Matt, an intern at Microsoft this summer who is a member of the Harvard Golf team.

My Saturday round was pretty mediocre. I only hit 6 of 14 fairways and my long irons and woods were pretty inconsistent. Mid irons were good but a little directionally challenged. The high points were my putting and the bump and run. For putting, I was on fire today, ending up with only 28 putts. Wow! Eight 1 putts and no 3 putts makes for a pretty good round. This made up for some of the seven penalty strokes (ugh!). I ended up shooting a 94. After lunch, we tried some of the back 9 again and I was 3 under for 5 holes. Something was starting to click. On 11, I hit a good driver tee shot, then two 5i shots to be next to the green. Rather than trying to get as much as I could on the second shot with my 3 wood, I was just going for the 160 yard range. I was a little short of that target, but safely in the fairway. I think I'll be keeping that strategy for a while.

Sunday was just as much a nature walk as a golf round. On the third hole, someone came by to tell us that the bear had been spotted in the area. We never saw the bear, but we did see a hawk circling and hovering over one of the ponds looking for frogs, a couple of deer and two coyotes - one of them a pup - wandering along the cart paths. I've seen the coyotes before, but it is rare. Today I saw them twice.

My actual round was a little less wild (fortunately). After trying Rick's TaylorMade R7 driver yesterday, I started to figure out that part of my problem with the Ignite is the regular flex shaft. So today, I brought back my stiff shaft TaylorMade R580 and it was a lot better. I hit 8 fairways today (not great, but better than yesterday) and generally had more control with my driver. More on that in a different post.

On one and three, I had bad second shots that cost me a ball, but in both cases I sank long putts to save bogey. I expanded on the bump and run using it over longer distances to try to reduce the risk of errant wedges and that helped some as well. I need to get used to it more to get the feel, but I used it to pretty good effect today. Putting continued to be "on", I sank 4 long one putts and several other long putts. Only a couple of 3 putts (unfortunately, one on my only GIR). Rescue irons were crap today, very right. 3 and 5 wood were also both pretty crappy. It was nice to have a driver I could begin to trust again though.

My final score was 92. Not bad and it would have been better if not for my nemesis hole 18. I had not lost a ball since 3 but 18 did it to me again. I got greedy with my 3 wood and pushed it right into the trees. Ah well.

Paul had a tough round today with an injured hand but he kept at it. Matt did very well on his first time at the plat. It took him a while to get used to the Plateau greens but he was really feeling it on the back 9 saving a bogey at 11 with 2 penalty strokes and with birdies on 13, 15 and 17. He finished the day with 79, quite good for a first try at the Plat.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Trees! - Golf @ Bear Creek Country Club

Dave invited me for a round at his club after he joined me at the Plateau Club a few weeks ago, so we met there around 10:30 this morning and headed out. I hadn't played at Bear Creek before, though I played against someone from there last year in one of the Washington Cup tournaments. Bear Creek is a very nice course, it reminds me of Sahalee in that the trees lining the fairways are very mature and while the course can be a bit narrow, it is also very fair.

On the range before the round, I was hitting the ball very well. Large divots after the ball and a high trajectory. Even the driver was doing pretty well. This was pretty much the theme of the day. I was making great contact and while there were a few errant shots, most of my clubs were doing pretty well today. My putter started out really bad, I had three 3 putts in the first four holes, but once I relaxed, they started dropping and I finished the last 3 holes on the front 9 with 1 putts.

While my final score wasn't great (94) I think a fair amount of the higher scoring holes were more related to not knowing the course very well, rather than not hitting the ball well. For example, on 13, which is a downhill par 3, I pulled an 9 iron on Dave's recommendation which ended up being just a little short, but what I didn't realize was that it would bounce right into a bunker. I muffed the first bunker shot and ended up with a double bogey, but if I had known the course better, I probably would have gone 8 iron in the first place and been on in one.

Similarly on a severely uphill par 4, I hit a great drive and was 150 from the pin. I hit my 7 iron but because it was more uphill than I thought, the ball plugged into the high wall of a bunker just short of the green. I got out of the bunker in one, but it took another shot to get on and I again walked away with a double.

The par 5 18th was the worst though. My driver was doing great all day, so I used it on this hole, but it's luck finally ran out. I sliced it off of a tree and into a creek and had to take a drop. My next shot was hit really well, but a tree jumped in front of it and left it well short of where it was heading. Then it happened AGAIN on a different tree! After that I hit a great shot that went right to the green but by this point it was too late to do any better than a double bogey.

The course was very nice though and I would love to play there again. I ended up using every club in my bag (except for my 53* wedge, though I should have used it on at least one hole). The thing that kept me going though was how well I was making contact with the ball. No topped balls all day and only one real fat shot. Fun! Now we need to see if that will stay with me through the weekend.

Monday, June 21, 2004

A Family Affair - Golf @ Mount Si

My parents were in town for the past few days, up from North Carolina, so we played a couple of rounds. The first was last week at the Plateau Club. The plat was ornery as usual, taking it's share of balls from each of us. Today, though, we went and played at Mount Si. While it is a heck of a lot easier than the plat, it is still a beautiful course, particularly when the weather was as nice as today.

I've been working on keeping my left arm straight through the swing. Very straight. It has the advantage of adding consistency around hitting the ball cleanly, but if I don't turn my shoulders right, it can lead to a nasty pull as I come over the top on the way down. I battled with that a bit today, hitting only 4 of 14 fairways, but rarely missing it by very much and ending up with mostly bogeys in a round of 88.

The other big change today was that I went back to the Futura putter. My DFX putter gives me good distance control, but pretty lousy aim. My Futura tends to be the opposite, but with the greens hardening around here, leaving the ball short is getting to be less of an issue.

I was also playing around with Rick's 2 iron rescue club and my Cleveland Launcher 5 wood (which has been sitting out the last couple of months). They both go about the same distance, but I think I prefer the 5 wood in that it was a bit more forgiving. The biggest problem is that the 5 wood looks so much like my 3 wood in my bag, I pulled the wrong club on one tee shot today and hit it very well, but not as long as I expected. I suspect a new head cover could fix that pretty easily.

For my next round, I think I will go with the 5 wood in the bag, but no 4 iron and no 2 iron. My Ignite is still on probation.

Saturday, June 19, 2004

This is the way to watch the US Open

I'm sitting at a blackjack table at New York, New York in Vegas, watching the third round of the US Open on a TV behind the dealer. THIS is the way to watch golf on TV! Now if that dealer would just start playing like Tiger has been....

Sunday, June 13, 2004

Member / Member Tournament - Golf @ Plateau Club

This was my first Member/Member Tournament at the Plateau Club. Unfortunately, Rick wasn't able to play this time around so I was paired up with a guy named Dave. Nice guy with a swing that is kind of like John Daly -- minus some of the control. When he connected, though, the ball went really far. Since his handicap is more than 10 strokes above minue, though, he had to play to a lower handicap to keep to a maximum 10 stroke differential. Not the biggest deal, but those strokes would show up over the weekend.

We started with a 9 hole skins game on Friday night. The course was set up as tough as they could make it. The front 9 was playing from the blacks and all 18 had insane pin positions. We didn't win anything (only 2 skins counted overall, since they needed to be unmatched across the whole 29 team field) but it was a fun evening. The actual tournament started on Saturday with an 18 hole best ball Stableford scoring match. Fortunately, they were doing the standard Stableford scoring where there are no negative points. This would help us in the end :)

On the first day, I get off to a really slow start. The high point was hole 10 where I birdied the hole (hadn't ever done that before) which was a net eagle. 4 points! The low points were 4, 5, 8 and 17 where I had net double bogeys for 0 points. I had way too many holes where I tried to make up for a bad tee shot and ended up just digging myself into a hole. We ended the day with 34 points in 26th place out of 29 teams. Not very good.

For Sunday, my goal was to play safer after a bad tee shot. If I had a bad drive, get back into the fairway and keep plugging away at it. This strategy worked much better and while I still didn't play that well, I was able to salvage a point or two out of holes that I would have clearly blown the day before. The scoring for Sunday was different. Rather than best ball, we would count both scores so it could be twice as good, or just as bad, depending on how both players are doing. My putting started out terribly. For the first few holes, I couldn't sink anything. I would hit the green after two or three shots and then three putt to put myself out of the points. Terrible. When we got to hole 5, I muffed my second and third shots and hit the green lying 4 with a 24 foot downhill putt to save bogey. I tapped it and it rolled straight into the hole. I've never been so happy to hit a bogey, until the next hole when the same thing happened again. Each of these bogeys were net pars so I got 2 points for them. On 7, I had a net birdie and by the end of the front 9, we had a combined 31 points. Clearly better than the day before.

The back 9 wasn't as good, but we finished the day with 53 points for a two day total of 87 and in a tie for 18th out of 29. I would call that in the middle of the pack and I was quite satisfied with it. It is interesting when you play a tournament like this where you are not looking at your total score, just how you did on each hole. It isn't quite match play where each hole is a new game but it was was still fun.

Friday, June 11, 2004

Whoops, I forgot how to play golf

Two rounds in two days, both pretty icky. I played at Newcastle yesterday with Clint, then played in a practice round for the Member/Member tournament at the Plateau Club today. While Tuesday's round was a high point, I seem to have forgotten how to consistently hit the ball since then. Several times at Newcastle I got into a mode where I was shanking my iron shots and slicing both my driver and 3 wood on tee shots.

Now in both of these rounds, the conditions were pretty extraordinary. At Newcastle, we were dealing with 15-30 mph winds and at the Plat today the course was set up for the tournament's skins game so the pins were tucked into the nastiest parts of the greens. Both of these had a pretty significant impact on how I was playing, but I think the bigger issue is that I'm trying to hit the ball too hard and as a result, I'm not coming through it cleanly.

I think the other issue is that I'm now expecting myself to hit it well and adding a bunch of pressure to really nail it each time so I am thinking more bad swing thoughts about "what if I don't hit this right" or something. The main rounds for the member/member start in the morning. My main goals are to relax and not try to swing too hard and to have fun. The odds of our team winning are pretty slim, so don't focus on that, just have fun playing a round with a slightly different focus than a normal round.

And set up slightly left of where I think I should be
And take it back slowly.
And keep my back to the target as long as possible
And swing through the ball
And don't forget the weight transfer
And finish the swing


Tuesday, June 08, 2004

New Eyes

As you may have read in Splorg, Salami and Tears, I have been trying hard contact lenses for the past week or so.

Big mistake.

Those things are like little torture devices for your eyes. And to make it worse, I CAN'T SEE ANY BETTER WITH THEM IN! See, whenever you look up with them in, they slide up when you blink and then slide down again. Since they are much smaller than soft lenses, you can actually see them moving around over your eye. It looks kind of like an extra eyelid sliding over your eye. Whenever this happened, my eyes would start watering and it would take a couple of seconds to get back to normal again. LAME. Then when I tried to take them out, they would slide over the wrong part of my eye and I still needed to slide them around with my finger to get them back to a place where they could 'pop' out. How is this easier??

So today I went back to the doctor and we tried soft lenses. A HUGE difference. I can see better, I can't feel them, and if you ask me, they are at least as easy to put in and a lot easier to take out. I'm going to keep trying the soft lenses for the next week or so, but so far they are much better than those hard eye tormentors!

Coming together - Golf @ Plateau Club

I got out for an early round at the Plateau Club this morning. There are days when it all kinda comes together for you and today was one of those days. I didn't get a chance to warm up, mostly because the range was hitting from mats today and I didn't feel like going down there just for mats, so I went straight to the first tee.

First shot of the day... Boom! 246 yard Ignite drive to the left center of the fairway. Cool! Next shot carries the junk and is sitting about 60 yards from the flag in the right rough. Third shot hits the green, 2 putt for a beginning par.

This usually means one of two things. No... it only means one thing. Things are going to get worse from here on. Today, though, felt different. I was relaxed, it was a beautiful day, let's just see how the day goes.

On 2, I catch up to the pair in front of me and they let me play though (wow, that was quick) so I do and on my second shot, the ball rolls down to about an inch above the lip on the greenside bunker. I walk up to it, trying to figure out what I am going to do and just as I'm about to pick out my lob wedge, the ball drops down into the bunker. Phew! I get out pretty well, 2 putts and I'm on to the next hole at +1 after 2.

I bogey the next 2 holes and then par 5, 6 and 7 and I'm sitting at +3 after 7 holes. Not until my 3rd shot on 9 do I finally lose a ball. I escape 9 with a double and have a 42 on the front 9. Cool!

The back 9 isn't quite as smooth, starting out with 4 bogeys but I can't complain. On 13, things start to get icky. I lose my 3 wood tee shot to the right (again with the either 3 wood or driver dilemma). I take the drop and hit a 7 iron that ends up about 30 yards short of the green. I muff a wedge shot about 10 yards, then I bump it up with my 9 iron and it goes in for a chip in bogey. Phew!

A couple of doubles at 14 and 16 (par on 15) and I walk up to 17 at +14 after 16 holes. I set a goal of getting a par on either of the last 2 holes. On 17, I hit a drive about 220 to the right center of the fairway, then a Rescue 3 iron to about 25 yards short of the front of the green. Hit a wedge to about 4 feet and sink the putt for a birdie! That is the second birdie on 17 in two rounds! Cool.

I bogey 18 after a lost tee shot and finish the day with 86, my best round ever at the Plateau Club. Yay! The things I've been changing seem to be settling in now. Who knows if that will last, but I hope it does because the Member/Member tournament starts this Friday :)

Monday, June 07, 2004


I looked out the window last night and saw a yellow sky. Kind of odd, that. Then I went out front and saw this over our house. There were actually several rainbows though this picture only catches the brightest one. This is a stitched panorama from 4 pictures.

Sunday, June 06, 2004

Return of the Ignite - Golf @ Twin Rivers

The Ignite has returned! I figured out the timing to hit it straight again and just in time since we were playing at Twin Rivers which has 4 holes over 450 yards. Twin Rivers is a pretty simple course, generally wide open with a slope from the back tees of only 102 so we were expecting to shoot pretty low and we did not meet our own expectations. I was the first person to par a hole and that wasn't until the third hole.

The best hole for me was 17 where I decided to go back to my 3 wood for the tee shot and sky'd it to the right only about 120 yards or so (why can't I have both my driver and 3 wood working at the same time?). I was far enough right that I couldn't see the flag because it was behind a tree, but I knew pretty much where it was so I took my 5 iron and tried to hit a cut shot that would end up near the green. I hit it well and it did exactly what I wanted it to do, landing just short of the green and rolling to about 15 feet. Paul said that it actually took a bad bounce and would have been right next to the hole otherwise. So I lined up the putt and drained it for a birdie.

The final total was an 82, which I can't complain about though that maps closer to a 91 at the Plateau Club. I was hitting the ball pretty well and we did have a good time. Now I need to go back to the Plat and see how my recent improvements will show up there!

Saturday, June 05, 2004

Bad T'wards - Golf @ Carnation Golf Course

My Dad has a saying when you hit a shot that doesn't go where you want it to go. "Your distance was good, but your t'wards was off." After playing a pull or draw for the last few rounds, today most everything was going very straight. But when you are expecting a pull, dead straight can be a problem. That issue accounts for most of the 6 double bogey holes I had today. The improved distance (and the fact that Carnation isn't that difficult of a course, even from the back tees) accounts for the 9 pars I had.

The 4th hole is a 237 yard par 3. I tee'd off with my 3 wood and hit the green. Wow!! 2 putted for par.
The 11th hole is a 171 yard par 3. I tee'd off with my 6 iron and was dead on the pin as it rolled over a hill onto the green. It ended up about 8 feet below the hole. 2 putt for par.
31 putts which isn't too bad. The greens were pretty soft and reasonably fast. I left at least two balls right on the edge of the cup.

The other 3 of the par 3s I just hit way to the right, trying to draw the ball in, but it just went straight as can be. The last 2 were stupid because I KNEW that it wasn't going left anymore, but I still played it that way. Duh!

Friday, June 04, 2004

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

We just got back from seeing the new Harry Potter. It is fantastic! By far the best of the three. It tells the story well without including a lot of unnecessary substories from the book. The cinematography is what really sets it apart though. It is much darker than the earlier movies both thematically and visually and everyone seems so much more real. The kids wear regular clothes and the magic isn't as "gee whiz", it is more just part of the world.

Very well done.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Hey Dad, I'm writing code!

As part of my sabbatical, I am sucking both of my children into the insanely addictive world of software development. Yesterday we had our first C# class. It was going along ok until I showed them WinForms. Then it all became something they could actually use. They were hooked. Kate created an application that uses a variety of controls to explain what 1337 (Leet) is and how it works. Zach is working on an app that let's people choose their favorite PC, PS2, Gamecube, XBOX, etc games. When they need to use a new control, they use the MSDN docs and figure it out.

This morning as I was taking the dog out for a walk Zach said to me, "Hey Dad, I'm writing code!"

He's hooked :)

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Intelligolf for Smartphone!

I've been waiting for them to come out with a new version of Intelligolf that would work on my Smartphone. It has finally happened! I already have the PocketPC and Palm version, looks like I need to buy it again...

Solo Eclectic - Golf @ Tall Chief

It was a beautiful day today, and after doing a few things around the house, I headed out to Tall Chief for a solo round. I used to play at Tall Chief a fair amount before joining the Plateau Club. It has the advantage of rarely being busy and thus it is a good fallback when other places are full. Having not played there since December of 2002 (it was very cold that day -- my dad and I had to wait for the greens to thaw before going out) I figured today would be a good day to see how different my game is from then.

As I got there, I noticed that there were several foursomes of older women already playing. They warned me it could be slow going but that they were only playing the front 9 so I decided to give it a go. They were right. After shooting par on the first two holes (great start!) I caught up with them on the third hole. They were playing REALLY slowly so after playing 3, I went back and played 2 and 3 again. That cleared up 4 and 5 but then I caught them again on 6 and it looked like it was going to be a while, so at that point, I jumped ahead to 10. At this point it was all clear and I could go as fast as I wanted to. I figured I would come back and finish up 7-9 again at the end.

After lots of waiting, though, I was pretty stiff and not hitting the ball well, so I spent 10 and 11 just getting warmed up again. Now the back 9 at Tall Chief is.. um... weird. Starting on hole 13, the fairways and greens are all sloped, pretty heavily. You can hit to the middle of the fairway on 13 or 14 (both par 5s) and the ball will bounce or roll hard to the left. Overcompensate to the right and you're in the trees. I ended up double bogey on 13 and bogey on 14. The final 4 holes have slanted greens and perhaps it is just the time of year, but they were in pretty bad shape today. I could not get a par for any of these last 6 holes, mostly due to lousy putting. I had some great tee shots though. I also played the par 3 #15 about 4 times just to try some different shots out. Never better than bogey though.

Then I went back to 7 (190 yard par 3 across water) and hit the second most memorable shot of the day. I hooked a 4 iron which crosses the fairway, hits a tree on the left and shoots to the right, ending up directly in front of the green, about 10 yards short. Chip up, finally sank a putt (the front 9 greens aren't as crooked) and got back on the par machine. Par on 8 and bogey on 9 put my front 9 total at 39. I figured I would try 10 and 11 again now that I was in a groove. My tee shot on 10 sliced into the fairway on 9 but when I got to it, I saw that if I went straight at the hole and I could clear the trees that separate the fairway. 175 yards to go, but heck, why not give it a try. I pulled my 5 iron, set up a little right to play a pull and let 'er rip. The ball flew perfectly straight, right through the gap in the trees, lands just right of the green, bounces up to the back of the sloped green, then rolls to the top of the hill, turns left and rolls down to 6 inches from the hole. Tap in birdie. Most memorable shot in quite some time -- too bad no one else was there to see it :)

Finshed with a par on 11, giving me a 41 on the back 9 and a combined 80 for the day. My best score there previously was an 87, though that was from the white tees and I played from the blues today so I would say this was a pretty good improvement. I'm stil getting used to playing a pull with my irons, but when I trust it, it works great. I just need to remember that the same thing doesn't work with my woods. The 3 wood was still the star of the show today. I took a couple of shots on one of the par 5s with the ignite but it continues to slice and not be much farther than the 3 wood, so it is still suspended :) I hope I can get that worked out before the member/member next week. Perhaps I'll give it a go tomorrow morning at the plat.