Wednesday, May 30

Putt Speed

I'm a big believer in keeping things simple on the golf course. The game is hard, and trying to do, or think of, too much just compounds an already difficult challenge.

I've picked out a couple of basic things to do on my two or three trips to the golf course each week. They're my focus. I'm not worried about score. (It's pretty pointless, really.) I just want to make more consistent swings and sharpen up on the greens. The scoring will take care of itself. And if it doesn't, I'll enjoy golf anyway.

One of the two basic things is putt speed. I used to be a good to very good putter. Now that I'm older and don't play (or practice) much, I can be an OK to good putter, or a pretty stinky putter.

So much of the game is on the greens. I realized the other day I needed to simplify to improve my putting. I play a course that has relatively fast greens with a fair amount of slope and undulations. I decided to concentrate on one thing: speed.

The lines can be hard to pick out, but I figure if I can get the speed right, my putts will end closer to the hole -- and some might actually drop. It worked well today. I didn't have a three-putt and burned the edge on three birdie putts at the 2nd, 6th and 8th holes. (I made about a 10-footer for birdie on 7.)

I was happy to shoot 39 after being four over for the first five holes. (Not that score matters.)

The Armchair Golfer

Tuesday, May 29

John Derr and the Funny-sounding Putter

John Derr is a legendary golf journalist and CBS radio and TV announcer who began covering the Masters in 1935. John occasionally writes to me, and today I have another one of his interesting stories to share.

In the 1950s John met a fellow named Karsten Solheim on the practice putting green when he was covering the Sahara Golf Tournament in Las Vegas. The unknown Solheim was showing around his invention, a putter that made an unusual sound.

You can read John's full account at Down the Middle.

More John Derr:
Masters Major Achievement Award Interview
Sam Snead's Triple Slam Golf Bag (Part 1)
Sam Snead's Triple Slam Golf Bag (Part 2)
Sam Snead's Triple Slam Golf Bag (Conclusion)

The Armchair Golfer

Monday, May 28

Ron's 100-Hole Marathon to Fight Cancer

Ron Montesano (Ron Mon of TravelGolf.com) is a golf blogger with a good cause -- Chip In for Carly's Club, a charity event to help kids with cancer.

Read Ron's blog post here. Then please consider making a donation in Ron's name and root him on as he plays the 100-hole benefit marathon at Westwood Country Club (Buffalo area) on June 18.

The Armchair Golfer

Friday, May 25

Oops! Armchair Golf Misquotes Vince Lombardi

“Golf isn't everything, it's the only thing.”
(not said by) Vince Lombardi


Historical note:
Vince Lombardi won five NFL championships and two Super Bowls as head coach of the Green Bay Packers.

This misquote brought to you by The Armchair Golfer.
Getting it wrong for the love of the game.

Wednesday, May 23

The PGA Tour's 10 Toughest Courses

Following are this year's 10 toughest courses (so far) on the PGA Tour based on average strokes over par.

1. The Masters: Augusta National Golf Club (7,445 yards, par 72)
Average score: 75.881
Average strokes over par: 3.881
Winner: Zach Johnson

(Armchair comment: Maybe Augusta should try to get a U.S. Open.)

2. Arnold Palmer Invitational: Bay Hill Club and Lodge (7,137 yards, par 70)
Average score: 72.054
Average strokes over par: 2.054
Winner: Vijah Singh

3. Honda Classic: PGA National Champion Course (7,241 yards, par 70)
Average score: 71.958
Average strokes over par: 1.958
Winner: Mark Wilson

4. AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am: Pebble Beach Golf Links (6,816 yards, par 72)
Average score: 73.397
Average strokes over par: 1.397
Winner: Phil Mickelson

(Armchair comment: It's rare these days for the Tour pros to play a course under 7,000 yards. Relatively short, Pebble still plays tough even at a par of 72.)

5. The Wachovia Championship: Quail Hollow Golf club (7,442 yards, par 72)
Average score: 73.280
Average strokes over par: 1.280
Winner: Tiger Woods

6. The Players Championship: The Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass (7,215 yards, par 72)
Average score: 73.248
Average strokes over par: 1.248
Winner: Phil Mickelson

7. EDS Byron Nelson Championship: Cottonwood Valley Golf Club (7,030 yards, par 70)
Average score: 71.118
Average strokes over par: 1.118
Winner: Scott Verplank

8. Buick Invitational: Torrey Pines South (7,568 yards, par 72)
Average score: 73.033
Average strokes over par: 1.033
Winner: Tiger Woods

9. PODS Championship: Innisbrook Resort (7,341 yards, par 71)
Average score: 72.005
Average strokes over par: 1.005
Winner: Mark Calcavecchia

10. WGC-CA Championship: Doral Resort and Spa (7,266 yards, par 72)
Average score: 73.000
Average strokes over par: 1.000
Winner: Tiger Woods

The Armchair Golfer

(Source: PGATour.com)

Monday, May 21

Interview with Luke Swilor, Canadian Tour Rookie

I've posted a Q&A with Luke Swilor at Down the Middle.

Luke recently qualified for the Canadian Tour and has been playing events in Mexico. He sounded off on qualifying, the state of his game, life on the tour, and why he believes he'll make it to the PGA Tour. Enjoy.

The Armchair Golfer

P.S. Follow Luke's tour adventures at Luke Swilor's Road to the Tour.

Sunday, May 20

Padraig Harrington Captures Irish Open

He had to work overtime, but Padraig Harrington became the first Irishman to win the Irish Open in 25 years, outlasting Barry Dredge of Wales in a one-hole sudden-death playoff at Adare Manor. Ranked No. 12 in the world, Harrington closed with a 71 and a five-under total. Dredge rallied with a 68 to make up three shots and force the playoff.

“I found it difficult today. All the way through I was more nervous there then I had been in many a tournament and I had to work very hard to stay focused and stay calm,” Harrington was quoted as saying by the BBC.

The last Irishman to win the Irish title was John O’Leary in 1982. O’Leary was on hand to see Harrington’s emotional victory.

The Armchair Golfer

Thursday, May 17

Jack Fleck Report

Since he doesn't have his own blog, I guess you might call this the unofficial blog of Jack Fleck.

But Jack does have his own Web site (link at right in sidebar). And he has a laptop, too. Not bad for an 85-year-old U.S. Open champion.

I've been talking to Jack on a regular basis since I spent four days with him last month at the Legends of Golf in Savannah. I had a great time there, and might hook up again with Jack and the other golf legends later this year.

Today, Jack told me he doesn't plan to attend the U.S. Open next month at Oakmont. He has a lot going on and doesn't want the travel hassles.

Jack tied for 52nd at the 1953 U.S. Open played at Oakmont. Ben Hogan won that year, his record-tying fourth National Open. Of course, Jack denied "The Hawk" a record-breaking fifth U.S. Open two years later at the Olympic Club in San Francisco.

The Armchair Golfer

Wednesday, May 16

My New Golf Outpost: 'Down the Middle'

As many of you know, this golf writing thing can really get out of hand. But hopefully in a good way!

The Most Valuable Network (mvn.com), a pretty large online sports network, recently asked me to write their golf page (blog format). Because they asked nicely and are flexible and reasonable people, I said yes.

So consider this your official invitation to now visit and read Down the Middle.

I'll keep the ARMCHAIR GOLF BLOG going and anticipate covering similar subjects (but with few duplicate posts). If you like this blog, I hope you'll also enjoy Down the Middle.

Of course, I always encourage your comments and feedback.

The Armchair Golfer

P.S. If you have a golf blog or golf site, links to Down the Middle are much appreciated.

Name: Down the Middle
URL: http://mvn.com/golf

Monday, May 14

Butch on Phil

There's much optimism in the Mickelson camp this morning. Here's what Butch Harmon said in the New York Times:
He’s got as much talent as anybody in the world other than maybe Tiger. And I think if we can get him out in the fairway, he can rival Tiger. He has a short game as good or better than Tiger’s. It’s a mind-set. It’s just a matter of trying to get him to play a little more conservatively and not quite as aggressively. That may be a bigger problem than the swing.
But does Phil Mickelson have the mental toughness and laser-like focus of Tiger Woods? No, I think not. Nonetheless, Oakmont should be interesting.

The Armchair Golfer

Saturday, May 12

No Players Championship for Me

Unfortunately, I've not seen one second of The Players Championship. My prospects for tomorrow don't look all that good either. I was out of town on business all week, had a quick getaway with my wife to celebrate our anniversary, and tomorrow is Mother's Day.

None of this bodes well for tournament viewing. However, I'll try to sneak in a few holes tomorrow afternoon. From what I've read and seen online, it should be an interesting finish.

Can Phil close it out? Will O'Hair withstand the pressure? Might Luke Donald break through with a defining victory? We'll know in 24 hours.

The Armchair Golfer

Friday, May 11

Armchair Golf, the Board Game

In the April 1960 issue of Golf Digest, I ran across this ad:

ARMCHAIR GOLF -- a fascinating, new game that duplicates all the shots, situations and results of an actual round of golf!

Here at last...is an amusing, absorbing game for any calibre of golfer. Armchair Golf re-creates the drama, action and unpredictable results of an actual round of golf, but in the comfort of the "nineteenth hole," or the golfer's rumpus room.

Armchair Golf is complete with all the hazards, penalties and situations encountered on a golf course. It is possible to shoot from a hot, sub-par round to a score in the hundreds! Armchair Golf makes it possible for golfers to play their usual betting games...and that's where the real fun comes in!

EQUIPMENT INCLUDES: 19 inch x 19 inch game board containing a nine-hole course printed in full color; 4 sets of clubs; dice; scorecards; instruction sheet.

$4.50 Post Paid

(end of ad)

A Canadian firm distributed the game. I saw another small ad in a vintage golf periodical for Pete Dye Golf Course Design and Construction in Indianapolis, Indiana. It included his residential number. How quaint.

The Armchair Golfer

Friday, May 4

Oops! Armchair Golf Misquotes Charles Dickens

“It was the best of tee times, it was the worst of tee times.”
(not said by) Charles Dickens

Historical note:
Charles Dickens was an English novelist.

This misquote brought to you by The Armchair Golfer.
Getting it wrong for the love of the game.

Thursday, May 3

Has Golf Gone Off Course?

A Wall Street Journal special report published last month suggests as much.

"The game has tried hard to draw new players. But it may have missed a bigger opportunity: getting more rounds out of its most avid golfers."

The report states that the major components in golf have gone all out to woo new golfers to the game, capitalizing on the worldwide popularity of Tiger Woods. And it has worked: three million new golfers take up the game each year. The downside? About the same number give up the game. I'm no math whiz, but I believe that's a net gain of zip.

Another distressing fact: For the first time in 60 years, more golf courses closed than opened last year.

According to the report, now many are calling for a new strategy, one that focuses on the loyal, passionate base of existing golfers.

(This is common sense to any student of Marketing 101. It's far easier and less costly to sell to an existing customer than attract a new one.)

Ways being discussed to improve the golf experience for existing golfers include speeding up play, cutting green fees (and other expenses), and giving amateurs even more technologically advanced clubs to improve their performance.

No argument here, although I'm a bit cynical about the technology aspect. Perhaps if they did more to support the avid golfer (and increase his or her rounds), fewer golf courses would have to close.

The Armchair Golfer

Tuesday, May 1

PGA Tour to Unveil New High-Tech Scoreboards

The PGA Tour is set to debut 22 new high-tech scoreboards at The Players Championship that are 75 percent larger than current scoreboards and function much like the giant video screens in modern sport arenas.

The new scoreboards will have capabilities that are much closer to television in terms of text, graphics and video. They're mobile, wireless and engineered to alleviate glare.

“Technology is moving down the road and we’re moving with it,” the PGA Tour's Steve Evans told the New York Times.

The Armchair Golfer

(Source: New York Times)