Monday, July 14, 2014

Custom Club Fitting

Back in May I was approached by the PGA Tour Superstore to participate in their Custom Fit Club Fitting Event. Basically, I come in for a free fitting with a professional and the store gives me free equipment. The only matter that gave me pause before saying yes to this opportunity was that most of my equipment is fairly new. I replaced my irons in Spring of 2013; my driver and three wood are about two years old. My mentality about clubs is that if they are still working, they retain their space in my bag. The Cobra four hybrid that I carry is 8 years old.

So, I said yes and went in for the club fitting since I am at a stage in my ongoing love affair with golf, where being armed with more information and custom fitted equipment could only bolster my game. As an aside, the head professional at my home course informed me that by accepting over a certain dollar figure in equipment, there was a chance that I was giving up my ability to compete in certain amateur competitions.

Disclaimer, I have been approached several times to use different golf products and talk about them publicly and I have said no. When we relocated to Chicago in Spring of 2013, I fell in love with the PGA Tour Superstore in Downer’s Grove, Illinois because of the broad selection of equipment they offer, particularly for women and the plethora of golf apparel. As you know if you follow me on social media, I have quite the assortment of golf clothing. This is a store I shop at frequently and talk about constantly anyway.

One Sunday afternoon back in May, directly after a round of 18, 
I met with Dave Sluder, the head club fitter at the Downer’s Grove PGA Tour Superstore for a full bag fitting.  Before I touched a club, the fitter measure my arms and hands. I went into this completely opened minded and willing to listen to all of the feedback I was given. Most locations of the PGA Tour Superstore have eight monitors.

We started with a driver fitting. My last two drivers have been Taylormade, so I tested the SLDR. Lofting up wasn’t working out for me and I was getting too much spin with this particular driver. After demoing several drivers, we deduced that I was getting an ideal launch angle and spin rate with the Callaway Big Bertha driver with 13.5 degrees of loft and a 50 gram Mitsubishi Fubuki Zeta Graphite shaft. I also added a Big Bertha 3W and a 5W to my bag. I was a little uncertain about carrying a 5 Wood because in the past when I have carried one it has been used infrequently.

Before we moved on to the iron fitting a discussion ensued about how people focus on the wrong numbers on the monitor. To summarize, ignore the distances you see on the monitor and focus on your launch angle, spin rate and club head speed. These are the numbers that are critical.

Dave put tape on all of the irons that I was going to demo so that we could see where on the face I was making impact on good swings and mishits. I demoed six sets of irons. The club fitter remarked that my set up to the ball, grip and the manner that I come through the ball were all good. When I did have a mishit it was tempo related and closer to the heel. I was fitted for Titleist AP1 714s 5-W bent 1 degree flat with Mitsubishi Kuro Kage 50 gram graphite shafts. I also added a Cleveland 588 54 degree wedge to my bag.

Finally, we moved on to a putter fitting. The club fitter remarked that I had too much wrist involvement in my stroke. To compensate for my non-quiet wrists Mr. Sluder suggested that I consider going with an oversized Superstroke 3.0 grip. I ended up settling on an Odyssey Versa Black White Black Putter.

Prior to writing this particular blog post I wanted to play with my new equipment for several weeks before I gave an honest assessment as to whether this club fitting was beneficial to me. The Titleist  AP1 714s were backordered until mid June and that threw a wrench in the works.

For the past three weeks I have been playing with my new equipment. After the first round I decided that in order to keep my rounds fun while adjusting to the new driver, I would continue to carry my old driver, a Taylormade RBZ with 10.5 degrees of loft. I had the space in my bag to do a Phil. What I found with the new driver was that when I mishit it, I was spraying the ball errant. Going from 10.5 to 13.5 degrees of loft is a massive adjustment. The notion ideally is to get more carry. In one instance where my contact was perfect with the Callaway Big Bertha I murdered a drive 30 yards past my longest drive on a particular hole.

The Titleist 714 AP1s, I want to marry them.(to borrow from my kids' everyday slang) My feel is incredible and the ball gets up easily. Sadly, I do have a slight gap in my bag. I would love to add a 3 iron back in, once I have the driver situation sorted out.

The 5 Wood whose purpose I deliberated has become my favorite club in the bag. It’s is a lot easier to hit off of the fairway than a 3 Wood. It is nice to be confident holding a club.

The only club that I was fitted for that I am not enamored with is the putter. I love the oversized grip but, I have found that I simply have less feel off the face of the Odyssey Versa Putter. My old putter is not broken; it’s a Nike Method Putter. I have such great feel off of the Polymetal face.  Sadly, I am not carrying the new putter. I most likely will re-grip my Nike Putter with an oversized SuperStroke grip.

Go get a fitting. If you are going to spend major money on equipment, do not buy it off the rack. You are cheating yourself if you do. The PGA Tour Superstore will soon have 22 locations. They have well informed club fitters, who are not paid commission to push given equipment on you.

In closing, the best thing about being presented with the nice opportunity of the Custom Club Fit Event was that I get to pay it forward. I am donating a set of irons to the First Tee of Chicago. Our teenage babysitter expressed an interest in the golf team at her High School and I am giving her a game improvement set of Pings I have in my garage. This is a great way to grow the game, by giving your old equipment to newer golfers.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Offseason

Although, I would love to make excuses for failing to update my blog for,gasp, over a year, all I can offer you,readers is that life has gotten in the way. Most of you are aware that I relocated from Washington, DC to Chicago, IL last March, well I have finally readjusted to life in yet another big city. Now, that I feel everything is in balance again I can focus again more indepthly on all of my interests, including this blog, Fabulous Follow Through.

One of the greatest readjustments in relocating is entirely relevant to Winter golf, in that last year I was able to play all but, one weekend in DC when it was 22 degrees and the ground was completely frozen. Those of you that follow me on Twitter will recall the infamous video of me on course last Winter with the cordless drill, by drilling into the ground, I was able to tee it up. There was minimal snow in DC last Winter, whereas here in Chicago this year it started snowing on October 22nd and has yet to cease. Packing away my clubs during the Winter was not a contemplated thought in the past, I was mystified by my Midwestern friends that would undertake the aforementioned ritual every year. One of the members at my prior club in DC actually cackled at me when I informed her as to how I was going to play during the Winter months in Chicago. My friend, Dixie actually gave me an entire informational packet relevant to Winter Golf as a parting gift.

Winter golf,what was I thinking? This is my front lawn.

My clubs are not quite packed away because I simply cannot bring myself to do that. I love them. They are a part of me. The local indoor range and Top Golf are only a short drive. Intermittent practice has been occurring. Additionally, I have a practice net complete with a mat in our storage area, chipping net and a practice putting device scattered about the house.  A friend sent me a Birdie Ball and I have been randomly hitting that around the house too, I reason I cannot do too much damage, unless of course I crash into something with my backswing.

Exercise has always been a big part of my life, in DC when I was not golfing I was kickboxing and doing some yoga. Last Summer, I joined a studio here in Chicago and I instantly realized how beneficial increasing the amount of yoga I was doing was on my golf game. A large portion of yoga is simply focusing simply on your breath. I recall Phil Mickelson saying after he won the Open Championship last year that coming down the stretch remembering to keep breathing was crucial. I have heard this said numerous times before by other professional golfers in post round remarks. This really resonates with me where my own game is concerned. When you focus on your breath it forces you to slow down and simply relax as you step up to your shot. It provides you with a clear mind and allows you to visualize your shot.

During these harsh months, I have thrown myself into my yoga practice to also strengthen my core,flexibility and balance three things that are critical for making solid contact with the golf ball. I have also participated in a gong meditation workshop, an inversion workshop, a 30 day plank challenge, a 30 day squat challenge and have started meditating daily for 20 minutes at a sitting.

Five times a week I venture to the studio and either do a core strengthening class or a sculpting class which incorporates weights. The days that I am unable to get to the studio, I work on inversions at home on my mat. Simply getting upside down requires an insane core and when you fall over, as I often do, it humbles you.


Me working on a yoga inversion known as tripod.

The past year has been incredible, I managed to take 4 strokes off of my game, meet a wonderful group of my golf Tweeps and travel to Amelia Island, Orlando and Atlantic City to play golf. Locally, I attended the BMW Championship and got to meet one of my absolute favorite golfers, Lee Westwood.

Me and the future US Open 2014 Champion, Lee Westwood.

This year I have  a trip to the US Open at Pinehurst and a trip to the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles, Scotland planned. There are so many things coming golf related that I look forward to and wish to share with all of you here on the blog. Thank you for taking the time to catch up with me in this off season. Please follow the blog.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The 13th Woman

Yours Truly at the Ryder Cup entrance mugging with an artist designed golf ball

Sitting on my sofa at home watching the final day of Ryder Cup 2012 at Medinah, I suddenly felt like a passenger on the Disney Tower of Terror Ride.If you are unfamiliar, this is a nauseating ride where you go up,up,up and then the bottom drops out.This is precisely what occurred for the American team supporters this past Sunday.I expected to be crying tears of joy on Sunday along with a blubbering Bubba Watson due to the 10-6 lead that the US held going into the final day of play. Surely, Ian Poulter, a Matchplay God with dogged enthusiasm couldn't carry the entire European Team on his back. Boy,was I wrong. I ended up cringing and crying on Sunday night due to whatever occurred at Medinah on Sunday, a collapse, a massacre or simply stellar play by Team Europe.

Since Sunday I have been forlorn over the European victory which yielded a score of Europe 14 1/2 to USA 13 1/2. I still haven't decided where I believe the blame should fall for what occurred but, it was a horrifying spectacle that as the matches were finishing the US players were not garnering points. Brandt Snedeker's match was particularly difficult stomach as his game just completely left him on such a high profile stage, losing 5 and 3 to Paul Lawrie.

As the 13th man, I will accept some of the blame for what occurred on Sunday; I left Chicago Saturday to head home. I wanted to share my Medinah 2012 experiences with you on the most positive of notes, with the US having regained the Ryder Cup. I now have a Ryder Cup 2012 pin flag,hat and shirt that I am looking at in a very bittersweet fashion. I did have a wonderful experience at Medinah and in Chicago in general. I took 337 photographs on Thursday at the practice round alone, which I have edited into a slideshow to share with you here on the blog.

A great billboard of Captains Love and Olazabal greeted spectators at the tourney entrance

Thursday morning I met the most wonderful group of teaching pros adjacent the 2nd tee box at Medinah, from the Illinois section of the PGA. They were kind enough to inform me of the best viewing spots on the course due to their personal familiarity;quite a few of these gentlemen had played MCC several times. The spot directly behind the 245 yard Par 3 13th green was noted to be an excellent spot for spectating. They also had interesting things to say about the course setup and that due to drought conditions there were some bare spots in the rough that Davis Love the III had opted to cut down.

Tiger Woods,Steve Stricker and Dustin Johnson were practicing together on 18, at this point I got distracted and separated from my Illinois' friends. I went into frenzied photography mode and starting encountering many of the players practicing. Here is a slideshow of some of my photographs:

On the 12th green I met up with Brian Katrek of Sirius XM PGA Tour Radio, which was a very cool experience because I am a regular caller to his show, Teed Off. I also had an opportunity to meet Michael Breed of the Golf Channel's Golf Fix who was working on the broadcast along with Katrek.

Friday, I arrived at the Medinah Country Club at 6:30am and followed the first match out, Jim Furyk and Brandt Snedeker versus Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell in alternate shot format. I was shocked when Jim Furyk was driving off of the 1st Tee for Team USA. It was a great match to follow, when Snedeker put a ball into the trees off of the 4th tee, Furyk had to come right into the area where I was standing to hit their second shot. Later in the day, I was standing adjacent Phil and Bones in a wooded area.

On the 12th tee box I had the privilege to meet up with one of my Twitter friends from Northern Ireland. We spent the rest of the day together on the course, rooting for opposing teams. His favorite chant is, "stand up for the Ulstermen" and his objective was to coerce me to support Team Europe. I reassured him that I only support the red, white and blue and that these colors don't run. Watching the afternoon Fourball, I had what was the coolest of experiences, I was introduced to Gerry and Rosie McIlroy. They were lovely people and it's obvious where the number one professional golfer in the world obtained his incredible demeanor.

My friend Gary and me strike a pose after a full day on the course Friday

Much has been said about the crowds and whether they were disrespectful. I can reassure you that the spectators on the whole were fabulous. I met tons of Americans and Europeans while I was out walking. People were in good spirits. There were very few idiots in the huddled masses; I attribute any poor behavior to the fact that people were served beer starting first thing in the morning. The volunteers were spectacular, from the on course marshals to the shuttle lot attendants.

Some patriotic Team USA Fans show their spirit.

Fans that went full on European Flag with an homage to Rory

One very inventive spectator

My only regret is not having stuck around for the weekend. I have my name in the lottery for tickets to the Ryder Cup 2014 at Gleneagles. If I am lucky enough to secure passes, I will absolutely go to Scotland to support Team USA, especially if my favorite pro, Bubba Watson makes the team.

So that's how he hits it Bubbalong;he's a giant.