Jack Dirkin, One Of The Best Golf Swings?

Now, more than ever before, we see near-perfect “textbook” golf swings being televised from the world’s professional golf tours. Names such as Tiger Woods, Adam Scott, Ernie Els, Charl Schwartzel, Louis Oosthuizen, Rory McIlroy and Michelle Wie come to mind when we think about the game’s best swings. But there are many similarly great swings from the amateur ranks that are unknown simply due to their limited exposure. One of them is Jack Dirkin. But even if Jack follows Tiger’s march to the PGA, it’ll be well over another decade before you get to see his swing on a pro tour. That’s because Jack is only 5 years-old! Is it crazy to think that a 5 year-old possesses one of the best golf swings in the world? Take a look at his swing below and let me know what you think!

The First Back-To-Back Female Champion at Augusta National?

Kelly Xu became the first female champion ever at Augusta by winning last year’s inaugural Drive, Chip and Putt Championship at the age of 9. She now has the opportunity to be the first back-to-back Drive, Chip and Putt Champion as the only returning champion this year. You can watch her attempt to complete this historic feat on April 5, 2015 live at Augusta or on TV at 9AM ET on the Golf Channel. The Golf Channel is also broadcasting profiles of some of the competitors during their shows “Golf Central” and “Morning Drive”. While I haven’t seen it, I know that there’s one on Kelly because I was on the Penmar golf course when they filmed it! Below is my “behind the scenes” video. Look out for this special talent!

Thorlos for (Almost) Free!

Think Hockey When Playing Golf

Watching my LA Kings’ amazing march to the Stanley Cup this year was a revelation to me. Not about hockey nor the will of champions, but about the golf swing. I noticed that the hockey slap shot is quite similar to a full golf swing. The key is that a properly executed slapshot requires that the hands are slightly ahead of the puck at impact. This is the same principle that applies to the golf swing. It’s no wonder that so many hockey players are great golfers, including Happy Gilmore!

They are so similar that I find it helpful to visualize a slap shot when I setup and swing a golf club. I imagine that the golf club is just a disproportionate hockey stick with a longer shaft and shorter blade. First, I picture that the leading edge of my golf club is the blade of a hockey stick and I align it square to the target. Second, I make sure that my hands are slightly ahead of the ball with the shaft leaning back to the ball like a slapshot. Lastly, I pretend that I’m Anže Kopitar blasting a slap shot past the goalie into the net for the win!

Think Hockey When Playing Golf

Watching my LA Kings’ amazing march to the Stanley Cup this year was a revelation to me. Not about hockey nor the will of champions, but about the golf swing. I noticed that the hockey slap shot is quite similar to a full golf swing. The key is that a properly executed slapshot requires that the hands are slightly ahead of the puck at impact. This is the same principle that applies to the golf swing. It’s no wonder that so many hockey players are great golfers, including Happy Gilmore!

They are so similar that I find it helpful to visualize a slap shot when I setup and swing a golf club. I imagine that the golf club is just a disproportionate hockey stick with a longer shaft and shorter blade. First, I picture that the leading edge of my golf club is the blade of a hockey stick and I align it square to the target. Second, I make sure that my hands are slightly ahead of the ball with the shaft leaning back to the ball like a slapshot. Lastly, I pretend that I’m Anže Kopitar blasting a slap shot past the goalie into the net for the win!

LA Area Golf Deal: Moorpark Country Club

FYI, there’s currently a great deal at a great LA-adjacent golf course, Moorpark Country Club, from Livingsocial. It’s a voucher good for 36 holes with cart for only $69 on any Monday – Thursday before August 30, 2014 (there’s other deals for Friday – Sunday too). Enter promo code SUMMERSTART for another 20% off. So the net price is around $55. It’s only good through Sat., June 21 at midnight so act quickly!

LA Area Golf Deal: Moorpark Country Club

FYI, there’s currently a great deal at a great LA-adjacent golf course, Moorpark Country Club, from Livingsocial. It’s a voucher good for 36 holes with cart for only $69 on any Monday – Thursday before August 30, 2014 (there’s other deals for Friday – Sunday too). Enter promo code SUMMERSTART for another 20% off. So the net price is around $55. It’s only good through Sat., June 21 at midnight so act quickly!

Golf Tips – The Proper Golf Grip II

The golf swing is such a finicky thing. One day you may be striping the ball as pure as Adam Scott and the very next day you may be $hanking it like a rank beginner. WTF? Since the golf swing requires so much precision, the reason is often a breakdown of swing fundamentals. Even an infinitesimally small change can throw a monkey wrench into a golfer’s swing. The fact that these changes are frequently unnoticed by the afflicted golfer in turn leads to disbelief and frustration.

I think that the most important, but also the most overlooked fundamental is the grip. I’ve already posted Butch Harmon’s proper grip technique, but I recently came across another excellent video on the topic below. It covers some important elements that Butch does not. After viewing and fully understanding both of these videos, there’s no excuse for not gripping the golf club correctly every time!

Congrats Kelly Xu!

Penmar’s very own Kelly Xu won the Girls 7-9 Division at the inaugural Drive, Chip & Putt Championship held at Augusta National Golf Club. She was among 8 kids to beat out over 17,000 other competitors from around the nation. Since her division was the first girls championship to finish, she was also crowned Augusta National’s first ever female champion. Somewhere Martha Burk must be smiling.

Here at her home course, Penmar by the Sea, all the locals are thrilled and proud of her. Anyone who has had the pleasure of knowing this exceptional 9-year-old girl knows that her personality and character matches her talents on the golf course. Unlike some other junior golfers who take brat to the extreme, Kelly is sweet, smart, happy and humble. All of these qualities are readily apparent in her interview with the Golf Channel’s Michael Breed. It is just priceless!

Good Luck Kelly Xu!

As a single dude without children, I normally wouldn’t watch the Golf Channel’s coverage of the Drive, Chip and Putt Championship National Finals at Augusta National Golf Club on Sunday, April 6. It’s basically the biggest golf competition for kids featuring the top 88 junior golfers from across the U.S. and Canada. However, I actually know one of the competitors so I’m excited to watch it. Her name is Kelly Xu and we share the same home course, Penmar by the Sea here in sunny Los Angeles. I’ve blogged about this 9 year-old wunderkind before and at this point in her development, she can probably beat me straight up!

All the Penmar regulars are very proud of her and we gave her a gift and this card pictured above to wish her luck. Good luck Kelly, all your Penmar friends will be watching and rooting for you!

A Picture of Frustration

The adage “a picture is worth a thousand words” is always true. On a recent outing to my 9-hole home course, I came across a curious sight at the 7th hole. I just had to snap a picture of it with my iPhone to share it here. To someone who doesn’t play golf, they probably have no idea what happened. But to any golfer who has played the game a reasonable amount knows exactly what happened. Here’s the picture translation in a thousand words:

A golfer played (or tried to play) golf. The golfer played poorly, or at least below their expectations. The poor play continued and the frustration level of the golfer built up like the steam in a pressure cooker. Finally, at the 7th hole, the golfer blew a gasket from hitting an awful shot with an iron. The golfer took the iron and broke the club out of anger and frustration. The rest of the thousand word description are all swear words spoken by the golfer!

Put Backspin on a Golf Ball!

One of the things that fascinates golf viewers is the backspin that professionals can impart on the golf ball. Oohs and aahs are usually heard when a ball lands on the green, skips to a momentary stop, and then rolls back as if on a yo-yo string. Amateur golfers struggle to replicate this impressive feat largely because they don’t know that there are several necessary conditions for it to happen.  Here are some of the things to maximize your chances of spinning the ball back on the green:

  1. Use a premium golf ball:  The primary benefit of a premium ball over it’s lower-cost brethren is that it is composed of multiple layers of different materials.  The outermost layer is made of a soft yet durable material that is designed for maximum grip.  This makes a premium ball spin much more with irons.  A Top Flite rock just wont cut it.  If you want to suck it back up on the green, you’re going to have to suck it up and spend some green.
  2. Use a high-lofted iron:  The combination of high trajectory and high spin makes the ball spin back on the green.  The higher, the more it will roll back.  When it comes to golf clubs, the higher the loft, the higher the trajectory and higher the spin.  It’s simple physics.
  3. Swing hard:  The higher the swing speed, the higher the spin.  Again, simple physics.
  4. Make proper ball contact:  With irons, the clubhead should make contact with the ball on the descending part of the swing path.  This minimizes interference from grass and debris and maximizes spin.
  5. Have a clean lie:  When there is grass between the ball and the clubface, it becomes vaporized upon contact.  This grass juice reduces the grip and consequently the backspin.  This is why it is nearly impossible to back it up on the green from the rough.  There’s just too much grass getting between the ball and the clubface.
  6. Have clean and deep grooves:  Much like the grooves in tires channel away water to allow clean contact with the road, grooves in irons allow clean contact with the golf ball to maximize backspin.  The greater the groove volume, the more grass juice it can whisk away.  That’s why it’s important to clean grooves before every shot and play with the deepest and widest grooves allowed.

Golf Enjoyment Depends on Your Expectations!

I have played golf long enough to know that the level of enjoyment that you derive from this godforsaken game is highly dependent on the expectations that you place upon yourself. If you set a high level of expectation for your golf game, you are more than likely to disappoint yourself. In fact, the Golf Gods will make this a certainty. There’s no enjoyment in that.

In other sports, it’s perfectly fine to set lofty expectations and actually have a reasonable chance to exceed them. These are rational sports where there is a low variability in one’s performance. For instance, I’m an accomplished tennis player. Sure I can play poorly on a given day. But I would never play as badly as a beginner or even an intermediate level tennis player. Playing poorly in tennis is just a slight negative deviation from normal. Not so in golf. When I play badly in golf I can be mistaken for a rank beginner. It’s simply amazing how easily one can lose one’s golf swing. But I’m not alone. I’ve spoken to countless other golfers who experience the same phenomenon. I suspect that it is a major reason why so many golfers quit the game altogether.

So the key to long-term enjoyment of golf is to recognize and accept it’s uniquely irrational quality. Lower your expectations and you’ll raise your enjoyment!

Golf Enjoyment Depends on Your Expectations!

I have played golf long enough to know that the level of enjoyment that you derive from this godforsaken game is highly dependent on the expectations that you place upon yourself. If you set a high level of expectation for your golf game, you are more than likely to disappoint yourself. In fact, the Golf Gods will make this a certainty. There’s no enjoyment in that.

In other sports, it’s perfectly fine to set lofty expectations and actually have a reasonable chance to exceed them. These are rational sports where there is a low variability in one’s performance. For instance, I’m an accomplished tennis player. Sure I can play poorly on a given day. But I would never play as badly as a beginner or even an intermediate level tennis player. Playing poorly in tennis is just a slight negative deviation from normal. Not so in golf. When I play badly in golf I can be mistaken for a rank beginner. It’s simply amazing how easily one can lose one’s golf swing. But I’m not alone. I’ve spoken to countless other golfers who experience the same phenomenon. I suspect that it is a major reason why so many golfers quit the game altogether.

So the key to long-term enjoyment of golf is to recognize and accept it’s uniquely irrational quality. Lower your expectations and you’ll raise your enjoyment!

I Finally Broke Par!

After golfing for almost 20 years, I finally achieved one of my life goals. I broke par this month and below is the scorecard. Yeah, I know it wasn’t a full 18 holes, but it is only a 9-hole golf course. Baby steps, right? At just a hair under 2,500 yards, you might also think that it too short to count. But I play this course without woods, so I think that it evens things out. For example, the 6th hole is a 423-yard par-4 that I almost never reach with two whacks from my trusty 3-iron.

On this historic day, I was playing well, especially my short game. After 7 holes I stood at par and was excited at the prospect of shooting par for the first time in my life. But a great tee shot on the par-3 8th hole led to an unexpected tap-in birdie. My nerves started acting up on the 9th hole knowing that I had the opportunity to break par, let alone shoot it. I hit the fairway but my approach shot came up short in the rough. My chip left me a tricky 7-footer for par. Sinking it would mean breaking par so it was easily the biggest putt of my entire life. Knowing that my nerves could easily get the best of me if I let my mind think, I didn’t take any more time than normal. I figured the worst that could happen is that I shoot par, a great accomplishment. But the Golf Gods smiled on me for once and I sank it! I’ve been on Cloud Nine ever since.

Keegan "BaBaBooey" Bradley

The days of the polite “golf” clap being the loudest sound heard at PGA events are long gone. Like foreign Asian carp crowding out native fish in the Great Lakes, shouts of ridiculous phrases are increasingly drowning out the pleasant applause. It started years ago, presumably when Tiger’s immense popularity drew in casual fans who previously wouldn’t be caught dead on a golf course. The man who first coined the term “You da man!” and yelled it after a Wood’s swing sparked an irreversible chain-reaction. He broke a long-standing and unspoken rule to not speak. When people realized that shouting after swings doesn’t automatically boot you off the course, it encouraged other non-traditional golf fans to participate. “You da man!” and “get in the hole” were popular for a time, but it eventually got old and was replaced by more nonsensical phrases such as “mashed potatoes” and “bababooey”.

Needless to say, the expanding shouting phenomenon is troubling to many traditional golf fans. Even golf announcers are starting to express their dismay during broadcasts. Can you imagine what the PGA golfers must think? Anyone who plays the game knows that maintaining focus and concentration are keys for performance. One would think that these things are easily disrupted by an idiot yelling “Chewbacca” for attention. I would think most PGA pros side with Ian Poulter who has publicly expressed his disdain for the annoying interruptions. He wants the PGA Tour to take action:

But evidently there is a small number of PGA pros that don’t agree with Ian. Incredibly, Keegan Bradley actually encourages fans to engage in this obnoxious behavior. He even had “bababooey” stamped into his Cleveland wedge. If this isn’t the golf apocalypse, I don’t know what is…

Kelly Xu, Future LPGA Star?

Several years ago, I moved to the eclectic beach town of Venice, CA. One of the local gems I’ve discovered is a 9-hole golf course called Penmar by the Sea. Unlike most 9-hole courses, this course has holes of “real” length. For example, there’s a par-3 that plays 200 yards and a 423 yard par-4. It’s a great course for beginners making the transition to full-length courses and can be challenging for mid to low handicappers who forgo their woods.

Due to the difficulty of getting anywhere in LA traffic, I’ve now adopted this great little course as my “home course”. I’ve come to know some of the local regulars and they’re an interesting bunch. One intriguing local is a sweet little 9-year old girl named Kelly. She genuinely loves to play golf and she practices virtually every day. She has an unbelievable swing, not just for an 9-year old but for any age. See it here for yourself:

I’ve played a round with her once, and she almost beat me straight up. Talk about a humiliating experience! But it was a joy witnessing her complete game. Her driving, chipping and putting were all superb. Her skills are so good, that she actually won the Drive, Chip & Putt Southern California Regional in the Girls 7-9 division last month! She now advances to the national championship at Augusta National Golf Club held on the Sunday before the 2014 Masters. Wow, what an amazing accomplishment and an amazing reward. Good luck Kelly!

Kelly Xu, Future LPGA Star?

Several years ago, I moved to the eclectic beach town of Venice, CA. One of the local gems I’ve discovered is a 9-hole golf course called Penmar by the Sea. Unlike most 9-hole courses, this course has holes of “real” length. For example, there’s a par-3 that plays 200 yards and a 423 yard par-4. It’s a great course for beginners making the transition to full-length courses and can be challenging for mid to low handicappers who forgo their woods.

Due to the difficulty of getting anywhere in LA traffic, I’ve now adopted this great little course as my “home course”. I’ve come to know some of the local regulars and they’re an interesting bunch. One intriguing local is a sweet little 9-year old girl named Kelly. She genuinely loves to play golf and she practices virtually every day. She has an unbelievable swing, not just for an 9-year old but for any age. See it here for yourself:

I’ve played a round with her once, and she almost beat me straight up. Talk about a humiliating experience! But it was a joy witnessing her complete game. Her driving, chipping and putting were all superb. Her skills are so good, that she actually won the Drive, Chip & Putt Southern California Regional in the Girls 7-9 division last month! She now advances to the national championship at Augusta National Golf Club held on the Sunday before the 2014 Masters. Wow, what an amazing accomplishment and an amazing reward. Good luck Kelly!

Howard Stern’s 300 Yard Drive?!

Howard Stern is known as the original “shock jock”. Now he is shocking the golf world with wild claims of his golf prowess. He recently attended Jimmy Kimmel’s wedding at the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa in California where he visited the driving range to kill some time while his room was being prepared. This is the first time he ever swung a golf club and yet he claims to have driven the ball 300 yards multiple times. As proof, he posted this video of his golf swing:

To all the experienced golfers out there, does it look like Howard can possibly drive it 300 yards? I mean it looks good considering he’s never hit a golf ball before, but 300 yards?

Howard is also making an impact on the PGA Tour. He’s partly the reason why there’s ridiculous people yelling stupid stuff during PGA broadcasts now. Yelling “Bababooey” is the calling card of Stern fans and they have been showing up at PGA Tour events with more frequency since Stern has started replaying them on his show. I think all golf fans are now fed up with these antics, but can you imagine how the pros must feel? Ian Poulter is one pro who is clearly annoyed:

No matter what you think of Poulter, I think we can all support him in this regard.

Muscle Back Blades Are Swing-Improvement Irons

Almost a decade ago I wrote this post about how I changed my irons from so-called “game-improvement” cavity back irons to muscle back blade irons. Basically, my golf swing had worsened while playing cavity back irons and became better with muscle back blades. I’ve concluded that “game-improvement” is clearly a marketing coined term designed to sell clubs to golfers. It’s not a stretch for the consumer to assume that such clubs will improve their golf swing. Heck, that’s what I thought at first. But in reality, “game-improvement” clubs are designed to simply improve the results of a bad golf swing. That’s a big difference.

Now that I’ve played with blades for virtually the last decade, I believe that they are the best type of irons to improve your golf swing. I recently came across this promo video for the new Mizuno MP-4 forged muscle back irons where PGA Tour Pro Charles Howell III expresses a similar sentiment at the 4:47 mark:

Howell explains:

If my son decides he wants to play golf…I would start him off in a set like this [muscle back blade irons]. You can tell right away when you hit is solid. You can tell right away how to draw the ball [and] fade the ball. This iron right here, if you play golf with this every day, you’ll actually get better. It will make you a better player.

So, if cavity back irons are the “game-improvement” irons, then muscle back blades are the “swing-improvement” irons!