Sunday, December 22, 2013

Definitely Rusty, But a Productive Week

My golf game definitely feels a little bit like it is the middle of winter right now. I am fairly inconsistent and certainly not very sharp in any aspect of my game. With that said, I had a great week of practice this past week and can tell that a lot of good stuff is happening. My drills were very difficult for me in the early part of the week, but I was able to practice every day and felt much more proficient by the weekend. Because the weather was so nice, I actually ended up with a fairly daunting list of things that I had to accomplish based on the practice goals I set for myself last weekend. I am proud to say that with perhaps a bit of liberty on my short game practice time, I did accomplish all of my goals. I was also able to have quite a few matches with my friends, and I have to say that I was too inconsistent to ever have a great result on the course, but my game felt much better and the results improved as the week progressed. All-in-all it was definitely a very productive week, and I know that I am moving in the right direction as the 2014 season nears.

I am very excited about the new clubs that I got after my work with Titleist in California. Like I said before, there are no drastic changes in my golf bag, but I do have some new options that I think are going to work quite nicely in long iron/hybrid category, and I am also very pleased with the performance of my new driver.

Perhaps the most exciting thing of all about this past week is my new workout routine. More or less for the last four years, I have just been "winging it" with my workouts, and though I feel like I am in very good shape, I feel like my new workout program from the Titleist Performance Institute is going to help me strengthen some of the deficient parts of my body that cause my golf swing to be somewhat inefficient. I am doing a lot of bridges to try and get my glutes firing and also doing specific mobility exercises that target my hips. The new workouts actually have a lot of variety and are much different then any workouts I have ever done before, so I am excited for the possibility of new benefits.

Everything on the golf front is looking up! Now it is time to keep working hard at it but also to start really soaking up time with my wife and family for Christmas. I love this time of year, and always have. It is special to my family and me, and I am so excited to share it with Alicia for the first time as my wife! So please come back for news about my golf game, but more importantly for now, enjoy a Merry Christmas with your family!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Two Big Weeks

I've been able to have a couple of quick practice sessions since returning home from my visit with Team Titleist in California, but it is time to really get to work. Just more than two weeks from now, I will head out to begin the PGA Tour's 2014 season with the West Coast Swing, and I will be ready to go when I leave. I have some work goals for the next two weeks, and I am excited to get after them. Here they are:

I. Putting
 
1.) Use alignment sticks and some form of "gateway" to check putting stroke and alignment twice per week
2.) For each day that the temperature reaches 40 degrees or higher, I must complete one of my putting drills (3-footers/6-footers/lag-drill)
 
II. Short Game
 
1.) Complete 30 minutes of short game/wedge practice for each day above 40 degrees and 1 hour of short game work for each day above 60 degrees
2.) Chip-in at least once for each day that is above 40 degrees
3.) Hole one bunker shot each week
 
III. Ball-striking
 
Hit the nine ball flights with 3 different clubs at least twice each week
 
IV. Fitness
 
1.) Complete every single bit of my workouts from the TPI (which I haven't received yet)
2.) Perform at least 10 minutes of mobility exercises five days per week

For the next two weeks, I will get these goals done. In addition to all of this, I'm going to have some competitive matches with my buddies and soak up some great time with loved ones over the Holidays, but I am pumped to get back to structured work. I will also be thinking a lot about the things that I want to accomplish in 2014 and will be writing down a new set of goals for next year. My goals will not look the exact same as the 2013 version, but one thing is for sure: I will have "Outcome" goals and "Map" goals to help me reach them. I enjoy goal setting and I believe in its value. Time to get to work!

Thank you for keeping up with me and caring about me. Come back for practice reports and updates as I move forward.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Great Information; Great Equipment; Time to Go to Work

My trip to Titleist’s test centers in Southern California was a big success. Visits to the Scotty Cameron Putter studio, the golf club test site, and the Titleist Performance Institute (TPI) lab were all very beneficial for me. I am currently traveling back home and am excited to get to work armed with a lot of new information and a couple new toys as well.

On Tuesday afternoon, I spent four hours with Scotty Cameron’s right-hand man--his only putter fitter. During that four-hour time, we essentially confirmed everything that I have done over the years to work on my putting. My stroke is not flawless, but it is extremely consistent, and my putter was square to the target through the impact zone on each and every putt that we filmed. We also determined that my current putter is very well suited to me. It is highly unlikely that I will change putters anytime soon, but we ordered a new putter that is very similar to mine with a slightly different head and sight-line set-up just so I can have another option if I ever want a fresh look. I left the putter studio feeling great about the way I roll the ball and convicted to keep doing what I do.

Wednesday morning I met with three of Titleist’s best club fitters. I’m not too into tinkering with equipment, but I’m always open to things that can make golf easier for me. One area of my bag on which I really wanted to work was my long iron and hybrid configuration. My hybrid (19 degrees) is my favorite long club, and I’ve always felt that I struggle just a bit with my long irons. We did some great work in that area. I tested the new AP1 irons in a four and five iron, and they were great, and then I also added new options in the hybrid department. I tested 18, 20, and 23 degree hybrids in the 913H-d line, and I hit them all very well. I will do some practicing with all of them over the winter, and when it is time to compete, I will decide what combination of longer clubs I want in my bag. I will probably either carry the 20 degree hybrid and the AP1 4 iron or I will use the 18 and 23 degree hybrids and leave the four iron out of the bag. I’ve never liked the idea changing things week-to-week, but this set up will give me the opportunity to tailor my long iron needs based on the golf course. I’m very excited about the new options. We also ordered a new 3-wood, but I’m really not sure what it is. I hit it well, though, and I’m going to love it! I hit a new driver, too. It is very similar to the one I played all year but has a slightly softer shaft and a degree more loft. It felt great, and the guys said my numbers looked a little better with the new one, so I’m excited to give it a try on the course. We didn’t change anything about my wedges or short irons, and I’m great with that. Overall during the fitting, we didn’t make any drastic changes. I have some new toys to work with over the winter, and I really do think that they will make a big difference for the better, but the transition to the new clubs should be seamless.

The TPI lab is where we really started to uncover new information. I could go into great detail explaining all of the stuff we did on Wednesday that I don’t really understand, but instead I’ll just share what I do understand. I don’t create very much power in my golf swing because my lower body isn’t working properly. Rather than going straight to the driving range and trying to teach my lower body how to work properly, the TPI went to the gym to try and figure out why my lower body doesn’t work properly. There are two major things that are disconnecting my lower body from my upper body in my golf swing. First of all, I have very limited internal rotation in my right hip, and this makes it very hard for me to load my weight into my right side in my backswing. Secondly, I have developed poor posture and do most of my activities, including exercises and my golf swing, with my lower back significantly arched. This posture severely limits hip mobility. I am going to follow a new workout plan designed by the TPI to help improve my hip rotation, and I am also going to focus on changing my posture in daily life to have a “neutral spine” rather than an arched back. This plan will help me become more efficient on the course without having to make large or conscious changes to my golf swing. My time with the TPI was extremely cool for me. It is interesting to see the golf swing approached through the lens which they view it. I will get the workouts that they create for me sometime on Friday, and I truly believe that doing them will improve my golf swing.

The folks at Titleist are definitely in my corner. They worked hard for me this week, and I’m excited for the new products and new information I got from them. However, the coolest message I got from them was consistent across the board. I’m going to paraphrase their message like this: we are here for you and will do everything we can to help you, but remember, what you’ve been doing for the past four years works, so don’t change too much. That’s powerful advice and is something I truly believe. I will always look to things that can help me improve, but the core of my strategy will never be new equipment or swing changes; it will be hard work and commitment to a great plan.

So now I have some new information and equipment that can both be helpful, and it’s time to make the plan. I’m going to leave it at this for now, but I already have most of my ideas in place for my plan the rest of this “off-season.” I’m going to publish my pre-first­-tournament-of-2014 goals in the next couple of days, but I’ll already be getting after them even before that.

Thank you very much for following me and caring about me. Keep it here for goals and updates as I get to work!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Rested, Ready, and Thinking towards 2014

I feel refreshed, motivated, and excited. Following the final round of the PGA Tour event in Mexico, I committed to myself and my wife that I would go a full two weeks without touching my golf clubs. I did it, and it definitely served its purpose. I was able to spend some quality time being a husband, rest my body a little bit, and rekindle a fire for golf that had really never burned out. I am now back to work, and though some nasty weather is trying to make things difficult for me, I am ready to have a very productive month as I prepare to kick off the 2014 portion of the PGA Tour season.

First of all, however, let me catch you up just a bit on the events of the past 3+ weeks since my disappearance from all forms of social media. I spent the first week after my final event of 2013 working on our new house. Alicia has done a wonderful job turning the house we bought into a home, but I need to put my “manly” touches on it, of course! More like my obsessive-compulsive, ultra-organized touches, but “manly” sounds better. So I did that for a few days and then we were lucky enough to get to celebrate our wedding for a second time as great friends and family joined us in Knoxville, TN, for a second wedding reception. It was a beautiful occasion and gave us a chance to share our marriage with a lot of special people who were not able to attend our ceremony in Kansas City. What’s even better is the fact that the timing of our second reception segued perfectly with Alicia’s Thanksgiving Break from work and allowed us to have a honeymoon. We traveled back to Mexico and spent five days on the beach in Cancun. It was a beautiful spot, and we really enjoyed ourselves. The honeymoon didn’t end perfectly because Alicia picked up a very nasty case of food poisoning the night before we left, but, in her words, the ensuing days forced me to “prove my vows,” and we came through them feeling closer than ever. All in all, the break from golf really was very nice for me, and I’m so thankful for the time that I was able to spend with my beautiful wife. She is a stud for supporting my crazy travel schedule all these years, and I’m really looking forward to being able to take her with me on the road a little bit more often moving forward.
 

 

We arrived back in the States on Saturday, November 30, and on Monday, December 2, I awoke anxious to get to the golf course. I started my “comeback” to golf with a fairly relaxed but thorough week of practice. I worked with Bobbo a couple different times and played two matches with my buddies. I got bested in both of my matches, so I know that I have work to do, but I was actually fairly pleased with the way my game felt. I did some good short game and putting work, too, though I haven’t written down any specific goals yet for this one-month offseason. Having a plan for my practice has been one of the things that has fueled my consistent improvement, so I know that I need to publish some goals to direct my practice and hold me accountable. I will do that soon. One thing I have decided for certain is that I’m going to be even stronger, more fit, and more flexible when I hit the road (air) for Hawaii in early January. I had a great week of workouts last week and intend to keep that up throughout the winter and into the tournament schedule next year.

Right now, I am actually on my way to Carlsbad, California, to spend a couple days at Titleist’s manufacturing studios. I’m not a big equipment tinkerer, but I’ll be spending Tuesday and Wednesday with some brilliant people who have a lot of resources to help make sure the best players in the world (a category in which I will soon belong) are using the equipment that is best tailored to their games. Though I certainly don’t ever want to over-think my equipment, I know that these folks will give me some useful information and make sure that my clubs are the best fit for me. I’m very excited to learn from all of the people at the club-fitting studios, but the opportunity that most excites me is the full afternoon that I will be spending with the creators of the Titleist Performance Institute (TPI). The TPI has studied the golf swing from a biomechanical viewpoint and can create workout programs specific to each golfer’s swing that can help him be more efficient. I honestly don’t even fully understand what all the TPI can do for me, but I am very excited to learn from their years of research and expertise. I will keep you posted on everything that I learn.

My visit to the Titleist facilities this week is actually the main reason for my delay in writing specific goals for this short offseason. I want to learn from them and see if any information I gather guides my practice in one direction or another. I am already hungry to improve, and I know that anything I learn during my visit this week will only fuel that fire. I imagine that by the time I land back home in Knoxville on Thursday night, I will likely have a list of goals for the remainder of the offseason ready to go.

Steady improvement has characterized my professional career to this point. If I can continue that trend, my potential is limitless. I know the formula, and I am excited to get after it!

Thank you for caring about me and keeping up with me. Keep it here for news from my exploration in California. I’m going to get back in the habit of keeping this blog updated now!

Close Calls and More Progress

I'm playing good golf, and it's really fun! I haven't been able to put enough consistently good play together yet to have a good...