By: Chris Billingsley
Consider this scenario;
You push your tee ball right of the fairway and it settles down in the rough amidst a small grove of trees. You are 160 yards from the flag, but your path is completely blocked by the massive trunk of a tree. It's blocking your view, so much so, that you can't hardly see the green itself. Running all the way from your ball to the right side of the green is a small pond. To the left; a large bunker. With the flag placed on the front left corner of the green, a miss left would leave you short sided (meaning the flag is tight to the side you have to chip from), a miss right is wet. You do have the option of a relatively simple punch out to the fairway to the left of you, but you'll have to get up and down from 150 yards to save par.
So what are you going to do?
You options are:
1. You could go left of the tree, taking a line that starts out over the water and try to draw/hook it on to the green.
2. You could go left of the tree, towards the bunker and hit a low fade.
3. You could pitch out and try to get up and down from the fairway.
Make your choice now... it's okay, I'll wait.
Sitting comfortably in our lazy boys most of us make the right choice. Punch out to the fairway. We know this to be the right play for 99% of golfers. Heck, even the vast majority of players who make a living playing this game would make this choice. But for some reason, when we are faced with a scenario like this, we choose any option but the smart one.
This is not a fictional scenario, this was a dilemma I faced during our regular men's night round. Granted, this was on the back nine (and only the front 9 counts for men's night) and by the time this scenario presented itself, we were embroiled in a 3 man best ball on the back and both of my partners were in good position.
So I recklessly went with option 2. Try to hit a low fade around the tree and try to get it to chase up to the front of the green. I am a 2 handicap, and have ON OCCASION, hit a low fade with the five iron I was trying to use here. But this is a very difficult shot - especially for an amateur. It's a shot that was way above my pay grade, and one I had no business trying. The margin of success was so small that the only way this worked out in my favor was if I got extremely lucky. The problem with this decision centers around all the bad things that could happen if I didn't execute it perfectly.
So I know you're all dying to know what happened.
As you may suspect, I missed the green left...so far left in fact that I even missed the green side bunker. The ball careened across the cart path settling in a collection area to the left of the green. About 20 yards away. Now I'm faced with an up and down over a bunker to a tight flag with a green that runs away. With my emotions simmering, I lumbered towards my ball, grumbling to myself about how dumb a decision that was. Wouldn't I have been better to hit a shot from the middle of the fairway? Now, I'm no mathematician, but I can guess that as a 2 handicap, the probability of me making par from a perfect lie in the middle of the fairway is more likely than doing it with this delicate shot I had before me.
Just to muddy the waters a little, and give something to those who agree with my decision, I managed to hit a brilliant flop shot to about 20 feet, leaving myself an 20 foot uphill putt to save par.
Which I missed. :(
Regardless, my point is that the shot I had to pull off to have even the slightest chance at par was infinitely more difficult than the shot from the fairway would have been. And more difficult than the shot from behind the tree.
Whether I made par or not is neither here nor there. Even if I managed to make par here, chances are the next time I took the risky shot, it would not pan out. The point I'm trying to make is that I was steaming mad when I left that green. I put myself in a bad position off the tee, and instead of "taking my medicine" and taking the relatively simple shot, I put myself through a roller coaster of mental and physical emotions and then made it worse by getting upset because I made bogey. Truth be told, it could have been a double or worse. Much worse.
But what did I really expect? That I'd hit a perfect low fade, from a tough lie, from behind a tree, that ran a perfect distance and trundled on to the green giving me a decent look at birdie?
Of course I did.
And therein lies the problem, and the subject of my next post. The unrealistic expectations we place on ourselves are actually robbing us of our true potential.
Many of you may be quick to point out that I could have still made bogey or worse from the fairway...and you're right. Happens all the time. But we'd be in a much less stressful state mentally and physically and more likely to bounce back on the next hole if we took a much less stressful route. We'd make better swings and overall put our body through less stress.
Instead, we go to the next hole tight; with negative thoughts wreaking havoc on our psyche and confidence. Not surprisingly, we make a poor swing/decision on our next shot, and suddenly our round has gotten away from us.
While this round meant nothing, and maybe in a tournament round of individual stroke play, I'd punch out. Maybe I'd think I need to "do something". Time will tell the answer. In my experience, the old adage of "You play how you practice" is usually correct. And if I did it today, chances are good I'll do it when it means something too. And chances are really good I won't be able to get such a delicate flop to 20 feet.
So the next time you are faced with a shot that is making you cringe, listen to your body. It's not the right decision. Find the stress free way to get back in to position, and give yourself a chance to get up and down from the fairway.
You may not make your par, but you will certainly be in a better state of mind on the next tee.
To better golf,
P.S Keep you eye out for my next article about how our our unrealistic expectations can ruin our games.
Incredible perseverance by Beau Hossler as he finishes his match one-handed to give Texas a berth in the NCAA Final.
Texas junior injures his shoulder on the 15th hole of his semi final match, and finishes one-handed to win.
By Chris Billingsley
It's the thing we love most about sports. The underdog rising to glory, the athlete who shows heart and determination to overcome the obstacles and emerge a champion. Bobby Baun scoring the winning Stanley cup goal for the Toronto Maple Leafs on a broken leg. Tiger Woods' historic U.S Open victory over Rocco Mediate at Torrey Pines with a fractured tibia.
Well, chalk up another in the list of great victories whilst overcoming seemingly insurmountable pain. Playing Andrew Levitt of USC, University of Texas Junior Beau Hossler appeared to injure his left shoulder on his approach shot on the 15th hole. Persevering through the pain, Hossler even putted out of the bunker on 17. He'd go on to win the match 2 and 1 and help his Texas team advance to the NCAA finals.
Unfortunately for Texas, the Cinderella story didn't have a fairy-tale ending. Hossler was unable to compete in the final, conceding his match on the first hole the eventual champs from Oregon. Though the matches went to extra holes, so one has to wonder if the championship outcome might have been different if Hossler had been able to play.
Watch the golf channel video on golfwrx here.
The Thirteen Under SRX golf polo will change the way you train, and help you play better golf.
By: Chris Billingsley
Our mission statement, simply put, is to help you play better golf. Whether it’s through the articles on our blog, expert advice from our guests, or our new line of performance apparel, ThirteenUnderGolf was created with lower scores in mind.
Better Golf Starts Here.
It is no secret that the number 59 is significant to golfers everywhere. It is the holy grail of scores. -13. A 59.
But this year in particular, the number 59 has an elevated significance as 2016 marks the 59th anniversary of Ben Hogan’s legendary instructional book, Five Lessons - The Modern Fundamentals of Golf. Written in 1957, Five Lessons quickly became the most widely read instruction book in history. Tiger Woods once said that the only person to ever truly, “own his swing” was Ben Hogan.
Not coincidentally, this year ThirteenUnderGolf will release it’s first polo, the SRX, a high performance shirt that will not only help you look and feel good on the course, but can help you play better too. Made of a proprietary blend of a moisture-wicking polyamide, the SRX may just be the most comfortable shirt you’ll ever wear. But it’s modern fit and classic styling is just the beginning.
THE SRX Acronymn
Mr. Hogan was adamant that the connection of the upper body was central to making solid contact. In Five Lessons, Mr. Hogan says,
Mr. Hogan would go on to say that his golf shirts had a worn spot on the top of his shoulder. With the SRX, your chin need only spy the THIRTEENUNDERGOLF logo on your shirt before beginning your downswing. When you accomplish this task, your tempo will improve. With an full, unhurried backswing, you may be pleasantly surprised to see that even your distance has improved.
The X Factor - A pre-shot routine and Training Aid in one.
Some of the most popular swing aids like the Tour Striker Inflatable Ball, the Tennis Ball Necklace made famous by PGA TOUR star Martin Kaymer or placing a towel under your arms (pic below) are designed to help golfers develop the feel of maintaining the connection between your upper arms and your chest
While all of these work well, and you could certainly use any of these in your practice along side the SRX, we all know that your range game, doesn’t always translate to the real game out on the course.
This is where the SRX will help you play better. It will change how we train, because for the first time ever, you can now take the aid you train with on the range, straight out to the course - even in your most competitive rounds.
HOW THE SRX WILL HELP YOU TRANSITION FROM RANGE TO COURSE
How many times have you been hitting it beautifully on the range, only to get to the first tee and hit a shot that resembles something from a horror show? Imagine if you could take the swing you had on the range to the course?
Well, now you can.
Using the Sync the Stripe, Rotate Under Method, you can begin to groove your swing on the range. When its time to go out to the course, just keep doing what you’ve already done so well – Sync. Rotate. Swing.
THE X FACTOR - A PRE-SHOT ROUTINE
The key to being successful under pressure is to have a solid pre-shot routine. One of the keys to a good pre-shot routine is it’s simplicity and repeatability under pressure. Using the SRX polo as trigger points in your pre-shot routine, you are able to clear your mind and focus on what is important – making a swing free of negative self talk and doubt.
A golfers story..
You reach down and pull a few blades of grass from the perfectly manicured 18th fairway. Rubbing them between your fingers, they trickle to the ground. It's the final hole of the championship, and you’ve held off a charging defending champion but are clinging to a narrow one-shot lead.
The wind has died and confident in your yardage, you stand behind the ball and pick your target. Your eyes close, your breath is shallow, but you breathe deeply, filling your lungs, then exhale, releasing any tension.
In your mind’s eye you visualize the shape of the shot. You see it. You feel it. Confidence oozes from every pore as you step into your address, and then run through your check list, settling into your posture and alignment.
Comfortable in your SRX polo, you look up at the target, then back at the ball.
Sync the Stripes. Your biceps press against your upper chest. Your shoulders rock back and forth and you ingrain the feel of a synced upper body.
Your shoulder and arms turn away from the ball in unison. Rotate Under. Your shoulder slides gracefully under your chin, and you spot the ThirteenUnder logo in the corner of your eye.
In a smooth transition eerily reminiscent of the grace and elegance of the legendary Sam Snead, your lower body begins your powerful downswing. With your body unified, synced in perfect harmony, your club strikes the ball, sending tiny waves of electricity coursing through your body, a sensation only a perfectly struck shot can create.
In the corner of your eye, you catch a glimpse of the ball as it rockets into the sky on a towering trajectory. You hold your finish. Posing. Frozen in time. Breathing in this moment.
As the ball plummets towards the earth, adrenaline courses through your veins. All the work you’ve put in has finally come to fruition.
The ball lands on the green, bounces once then stops dead, two feet from the hole. Thanks to the practice you’ve put in with your THIRTEENUNDER SRX polo, and a rock solid pre-shot routine, victory is yours.
Let the celebration begin.
Better golf starts here.
How I used Trackman to help keep my driver on the planet.
By Chris Billingsley
I was able to recently partner with GolfWRX and write an article for them. What I did was outline a 10 months journey to improve a driver that was wildly unpredictable - so much so that I couldn't even have it in the bag during our club championships.
Mark Elliot, the TRACKMAN at Sunningdale Golf Club in London, Ontario (www.golfperformance.ca), and I set out to use the data we obtained from Trackman and learn how to make subtle changes to feel more, and think less.
The results speak for themselves.
Read the full article here.
Paul Wood, Vice president of Engineering at PING discusses the viability of single length irons.
By Chris Billingsley
Earlier, I wrote about Bryson DeChambeau and his bid to be the first amateur to win the masters using single length clubs. I also discussed my own experience with using single length irons. You can read that article here. Today, GolfWRX posted a fascinating article written by Paul Wood, Vice President of Engineering at PING, about this very topic. As someone who has tinkered with the idea of single length irons, I read the article with a keen interest.
He makes many of the same points and problems that I outlined earlier, but with his expertise and background in golf club design, he carries the credibility I humbly lack. If you are curious about the science behind single length irons and if they may be something you want to try, I've included an excerpt, outlining Mr. Wood's feelings on the matter below. For the full article, follow this link: http://www.golfwrx.com/378342/should-everyone-play-single-length-irons/
SHOULD EVERYONE PLAY SINGLE LENGTH IRONS? By Paul Wood, VP of Engineering, PING via www.golfwrx.com
"So, all that said, is there a benefit to having at least the majority of clubs in a set at the same length? It’s a tough question to answer, because the results can only really be built up over time using a single-length set on the course. The trade-off seems to be better consistency when switching from iron to iron in this set, but the driver and fairway woods will feel very different from the irons, and it might be a struggle to achieve good distance gaps in the set.
The fact that at least one player has had good results on the PGA Tour shows that a single-length set can be effective, but that does not mean that it would work for everyone. The most famous current exponent of the single-length iron set also plays extremely upright lie angles, is a dedicated disciple of the Golfing Machine instruction system, and has been working diligently at this for years. His single-length iron set is matched for mass, swing weight and MOI, and allows him to use the same swing plane for all of his irons. However, the metal woods are still longer, lighter and have higher MOI. It’s probably unrealistic to expect that just chopping down your shaft lengths will by itself make a big difference. You can see from Table 1 that to make a standard 5-iron at 7-iron length, we also need to add 20 grams to the mass of the club to make it match.
I suggest the best candidates for a single-length set of irons are higher swing-speed players (who don’t have trouble generating distance) who want to take the time to experiment with their game and determine objectively whether the pros outweigh the cons. I don’t recommend that anyone buy such a set on a whim. It takes a lot of effort to adapt a set designed for progressive lengths into a functional single-length set. If you are interested, at least go and talk to a master club-builder for advice.
In the future I could see this approach working for people just taking up the game. In that case, I foresee a set featuring just a few clubs, all the same length. Out of curiosity, I’m tinkering with some single-length irons and hybrids myself right now. As my scientific training taught me, I’ll remain skeptical until I can verify some measurable improvement in my results."
Think you could shoot 59 with a golf ball made of goose-feathers? What about a ball made from tree sap? Get the low-down on how the golf ball has evolved into the one we play today.
The Evolution Of The Golf Ball
Article reposted with permission of the North Lakes Resort Golf Club in Australia.
Over the years, the humble golf ball has undergone several improvements and alterations. This infographic discusses the evolution of the golf ball, from the handcrafted Feather Ball, right through to the Haskell Ball and Today’s Standard. With each development, we get closer and closer to the golf balls we know and love today.
A Short History of the Golf Ball
We start off with The Featherie, also known as the feather ball, back in the 15th century. This ball was handcrafted, by stuffing a handful of tightly packed wet goose feathers, into a wet, leather outer shell pouch. This would then be sewn up and left to dry. While this ball was tough and travelled well, it was expensive to produce.
Have you ever wanted to be a Caddy, but thought it impossible? Think again. Let Michael McLaughlin, a local pro caddy show you how.
"Keep up and shut up."
By Michael McLaughlin.
Curled into your cozy armchair, you’re watching the latest PGA or LPGA tour event on the Golf Channel, when suddenly the announcers fall silent allowing the microphones to pick up the interaction between the player and his/her caddy. It goes something like this;
“You’ve got 152 yards to the front of the green; the pin is back left 20 yards, so make it 172 to the pin. Nice smooth swing”.
It’s at that moment, that it suddenly dawns on you. You’ve been watching golf for years, you know this game in and out. Maybe being a caddy is something you’ve always wanted to try. Well, I know exactly how you feel. Because I felt it too. And through perseverance and hard work, I am pleased to call myself a caddie.
How it all started
Twelve years ago I read an ad in the local paper seeking volunteer caddies for an LPGA event in Portland, Oregon and realized that this was my big chance.
“I’ve watched thousands of events on TV, and I’ve played the game for years. I can do this!”
I wanted to be the guy in the bib, providing exact yardages for the top female players in the world.
But what I didn’t realize at the time was that it is not as easy as it seemed.
As a volunteer Pro-Am caddie, I’ve been fortunate to volunteer or caddie for the LPGA’s best known players, Paula Creamer, Michelle Wie, Laura Davies and former Worlds #1 player Yani Tseng. Through this experience, I was able to walk the course inside the ropes with the game’s biggest players.
And you can do the same.
I’m what they call a Local Caddie. Unlike a LPGA tour Caddie, a local caddie may be more familiar with the golf course lay-out, the slope or contours of the putting green and more importantly, hidden course secrets that give a player an advantage over the competition.
Pay your dues!
Now, I’m considered a Local Pro Caddy. Sounds professional right? After a few years working the Pro-Am’s, alongside the pro caddies, I thought to myself, “I can do that, it doesn’t look that tough.” Sure enough, after a few years volunteering as a caddie, I was finally inside the ropes, realizing my dream of being a professional caddy for an LPGA event.
But getting there wasn’t easy. I had to pay my dues.
I spent a few years inside the caddie tent, hoping the Caddie Master would call my name to carry a bag with a world class player. Year after year, my patience wore thin as I watched younger guys getting a bag before me. I understand that my age may have held me back. I mean, what player wants a fifty-something guy carrying their bag? But perseverance, hard work, reliability and most of all, patience, finally landed me a bag and the opportunity I most desperately wanted.
Now in my fifth year as the local pro, the Caddie Master enthusiastically calls me “steady Eddie” for my punctuality. Each year, I schedule a vacati0n from my full time job to be available for this event. The Portland Classic is the longest running golf tournament on the LPGA tour. This year’s event begins June 27th. The usual schedule of events begins with a Monday Pro-Am, followed by Tuesday practice and another Pro-Am on Wednesday. As with all professional events, the Tournament runs Thursday through Sunday.
All tournament players are required to have a caddie. Players who need a caddie inquire at the caddie tent. The Caddie Master will choose from a group of around fifteen or so hopeful caddies. When your name is called, you meet your player, shake hands, and off you go carrying an over-weighted golf bag. Not sure why they have to carry so much junk inside the bag!
My five years have earned me the distinction of one of the “Top five local caddies”. As the event nears, there are a handful of players that call the Caddie Master prior to the tournament and request the best caddie. Last year, 2015, I walked in the tent and was told from my Caddie Master, “I got you a bag for the week”. At that point, I knew I was one of the top five. Naturally, that makes me feel like one of the guys and a pro.
Normally the Portland Classic is held in late July or early August when it’s hot. Although you may think it always rains in the Northwest, you’d be wrong. Summer temperatures can reach 100 degrees.
And carrying an LPGA bag in the blistering heat is no picnic.
A course loop is usually five miles or 15, ooo steps on my Fit Bit. Fortunately, tournament sponsors provide water or power drinks on every tee to help us stay hydrated.
The pro-am is all about fun. A scramble format that includes four lucky guy’s or gal’s (usually high handicappers), a LPGA pro and her caddie, me! Usually there’s a guy who can bomb every tee shot and believes every hole is a long drive contest or the guy, who believes he’s a pro, asks “what’s the yardage Mike?” and coolly shanks his shot to the adjoining fairway while the pro lands her shot on the green close to the pin. But it’s all for the fun. For the most part, the entire round is relaxed, though at times you can feel the hint of serious competition. With cash prizes and corporate bragging rights on the line, you can bet the “sticks” in the group will want to win.
Now that the Pro-Am’s, range, putting and course practice is behind you, and all your notes are written in your yardage book, it’s tournament time.
It’s Thursday. You meet your player two hours before tee time for range and putting warm-up. During the putting time, you head over to the caddie tent to collect first round pin sheet (pin location), check the day’s weather forecast, and note wind direction and speed. Maybe poke your nose in on some caddie chatter, anything that might give you and edge on the field.
Standing in the first tee I look around and admire the two other tour caddies. I see in the corner of my eye the Golf Channel tower with the camera square lens pointing right at me, goose bumps start to rise and tingle. I instantly tell myself, “please God, don’t let me mess this up.”
The tournament officials start with a check list of questions; ball brand, club count and any devices such a range finder, oh and the coolest part, the sponsor’s bib! My player declares her ball brand, number and with a round of handshakes with the players, the tournament begins. As her name is announced, the crowd applauds with enthusiasm. She acknowledges with a sly wave, and with driver in hand she zings the ball right down the middle of the fairway.
I collect the driver, slide the head cover on and pick up the bag. As we stride down the first fairway, I remember the advice Colin Cann (Paula Creamer’s long time caddie) gave me;
“Mike, keep up and shut up.”
About the Author
By nature, Michael is an avid sports fan. Growing up in the Pacific Northwest and watching his beloved Seattle Mariners play many games in the former King Dome; he turned his love of sports into a passion that he shares with his wife, four children and three granddaughters.
Never one to back down from a challenge, Michael turned his hobby and knowledge of golf into an exciting adventure when he became an LPGA Local Pro Caddie. When he’s not working, Michael can be found following the local high school basketball teams, or traveling to various sporting events that include watching his granddaughters play basketball.
It is the night before the Master's...