Thursday, May 28, 2009

Happy Birthday! me! I got myself the Adams Idea Pro Black irons. Pics when they get in tomorrow.

Friday, May 22, 2009


He didn't look tired there, haha.

1-1, off to Orlando.

Has LeBron Hit the Wall?

Though I've occasionally brought up the possibility in conversation, I never actually believed it to be true. LeBron James is HUMAN. For years, I've lauded Kobe Bryant for his stamina, and marveled at James' unbelievable workload, but it seems that it's FINALLY caught up to him. To be fair, LeBron weighs in the area of 265 pounds and plays the game at a speed that Kobe simply can't match- in fact, few outside of Chris Paul and Leandro Barbosa can, and plays a much more active role in help defense. Combined with last years long playoff run and the Olympics, that's a lot of calories expended in the past year and half or so without any real layoff.

So, is he finally tiring out? I suspect he is, and that it's for the first time in his life. I've personally never seen him looking the way he has at the end of game 1 and near the end of the 3rd in game 2. There's simply no spring in his step. Any basketball player can relate to the feeling of "heavy feet" that inevitably comes with too many days playing for too many hours.

At some point, most players learn that you have to pace yourself. You simply can't go full steam 82 games a season (plus playoffs and international ball), 42+ minutes a game on offense AND defense without tiring by the end of the season. Even ironmen like Iverson took his breaks (on defense, unfortunately), while Kobe Bryant plays at a much more measured pace.

A valuable lesson for LeBron James, but one that could possibly cost him this years Championship. While I believe the Cavs will beat the Magic in 5 or 6 games, Cleveland will be unlikely to beat the Lakers or Nuggets without Lebron playing at full strength.

Of course, this could all be very premature. While there are definite signs, they aren't overwhelmingly convincing. Hopefully, this malaise is simply the cause of a couple of bad night's sleep or a flu he's kept hidden so we can all return to being Witnesses.

Thursday, May 21, 2009


I've always been a streaky putter- the type who has the ability to read a 40 foot triple breaker and the touch to cozy it up there, but the same guy who can lip out 3 3 footers in a row.

Lately, I've been focusing on two specific aspects of my putting stroke- 1) aim, alignment, posture and 2) touch. Sounds like that pretty much covers all of putting, huh?

Careful analysis of my grip and set up revealed why I had a tendency to stub putts (grazing the grass) and leave them right lately- too much shoulder tilt away from the target, and a grip that required some contortion to get the forearms level. I agree with Pat O'brien's philosophy that the shoulders should be LEVEL when putting. I've been running into the same problem in my pitching and chipping- too much axis tilt away from the target.

From this, I've extracted two very basic fundamentals

1) level shoulders
2) level forearms

Note how little shoulder tilt Vaughn Taylor has with his putter set up

compared to Phil Mickelson's (best wishes to the Mrs) full swing set-up

I made some set up changes (grip, ball position, shoulder level) and found that my stroke was much freer and more athletic. Setting up correctly, I could simply direct the putter squarely at the back of ball, thinking only of how far I wanted the ball to roll. In order to keep my mind free of mechanical thoughts, I've been using a drill Nick Faldo used to use, described here.

The important parts are quoted below:

"Now, feel the corner of your lower thumb on the grip that is closest to the target. On your right hand (for right handers) it will be the corner of the nail on the outside of your thumb. Take some practice strokes feeling that corner pointing at your target at the end of the motion. Now execute some three to six-foot putts making sure to hold the point at the finish of the stroke.

By doing this you will discover that the ball goes the direction you pointed good or bad. Two things will come from this drill: (1) your focus will shift away from the putter head and ball; and (2) you will complete your stroke, giving you better rhythm and distance control."

This drill worked wonders for me, helping me trust my stroke as well taking any "hit" out of my motion.

For more putting tips, I suggest checking out Pat O'brien's site as well as Geoff Mangum's.

Pat's site has some other information about his ideas on how set up influences the stroke (which I agree very strongly with), and Geoff's site has a lot more technical information on how to develop touch and green reading ability. If you can sort through all the technical talk, Geoff has some great imagery than can help you visualize your putts better- which essentially means, he can help you PUTT better.
Since my goal as an aspiring professional is to someday be "putt[ing] for dough", both these sites are money in the bank.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Hip Fitness and Golf- Preventing Injury and Producing Power

As a basketball player in high school, I favored the Bill Walton style of play. In other words, run hard, go for every loose ball, don't slow down till you're physically unable to keep up. Unfortunately, along with concrete courts and my complete ignorance of joint health, long hours on the court left me with a myriad of knee and ankle injuries- most significantly, a fractured right ankle and a 2 year long bout of tendinitis in the left knee.

However, these incidents introduced me to the importance of fitness in injury prevention. In fact, after 2 years of visiting the best orthopedists in the tri-state area, a rather scruffy doctor with terrible bedside manner actually found the cause of the problem- tight calves. Apparently, he had seen similar problems in Army recruits because of the extended running on hard surfaces- meanwhile, every other doctor had suggested an indefinite schedule of rest and ibuprofen.

The realization struck me- I had missed two years of basketball (and I believe, a chance at a scholarship) because of a TIGHT CALF. Clearly, stretching was more important than I had given it credit for.

This brings me to fitness and golf- specifically, hip fitness. Like most rotational sports, golf requires you generate and absorb a huge amount of force with your hips. The fact that these forces are asymmetrical and repeated in huge numbers (especially at the range) only increase the possibility of injury due to decreased mobility/strength or muscle imbalance. Proper hip health is key to preventing back/hip injury. The fact that the greater range and ease of motion should allow for a more powerful, free flowing swing is a bonus.

In golfers, there are two specific problem areas I'd like to address- the hip flexor and the hip rotators. Studies show that limited hip mobility highly correlated with back pain (

This very basic hip flexor stretch should be held for 30 second to a minute and performed on both sides. Hip flexors are often very tight due to a sedentary lifestyle. Extended periods of sitting tend to tighten the hips and weaken the glutes.

The supine bridge is a great basic exercise to strengthen the glutes. Personally, I found that my right glute was weakened due to my earlier ankle injury, which puts me at greater risk for back injuries due to asymmetry. This is further exacerbated by the fact that the left side of my back is stronger, as I am a right handed golfer.

Finally, internal hip rotation is often limited by tightness in the external hip rotators, which have to absorb the force of our swing (particularly on the left side). My ankle injury caused me to develop compensations in my gait leading to limited internal hip rotation on the right side also.

If you visit that video directly, there are a coupe of other internal hip rotation stretches also.

These are just a start! In order to maintain a healthy back through the rigors of golf (and life) hip mobility and core strength must be exercised in all dimensions, not just the few stretches I've shown here- these are just a starting point.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Congratulations Henrik Stenson!

Unfortunately, this is still the third image that appears under a quick google image search for "Henrik Stenson." He's similarly (un)attired in the second, though thankfully clothed in the first.

While his notoriety for his clothes shedding episode will likely follow him his whole career, it will now be a humorous footnote rather than the defining image.

I think he (and we) much prefer this one, as he practices hoisting the trophy on his daughter on his way off the 18th green.

Watching his flawless Sunday performance I couldn't help but be reminded of Jack Nicklaus. There are, of course, the immediately obvious similarities- the height, the hair color, the distance- but there are a few others which I find more interesting.

His swing features a full, high finish that reminds me somewhat of Mr. Nicklaus, as well as his discipline in choosing the 3 wood repeatedly. This strategy allowed him to take advantage of his prodigious distance (especially on the firm, fast fairways) while still giving him a good chance of staying on the fairways. He also shares with Mr. Nicklaus a high ball flight and great accuracy with the long clubs- things that go hand in hand when playing a course as firm as Sawgrass this Sunday.

Finally, he was rock solid over his short putts this week, going 51/51 inside 5 feet. Whether or not his hot putting will continue remains to be seen, but as long as he
keeps his "iceman" demeanor (sorry Retief, Mr. Gervin), smart play and accuracy with the long clubs, Stenson is sure to be contending in a lot of Majors in the near future.

Top photo from the

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Even men love shopping

As I mentioned in my first post, I am an aspiring tour player. To help kickstart my journey, I'm getting new clubs that I can grow into (as opposed to old clubs I've long grown out of). I'm currently playing a set of Tourstage TS-202's (wonderful clubs for the low-to-higher capper who doesn't come in too steep) with some high launch graphite shafts in jello flex.

Since I'm away from my golfing base of operations, I'm thoroughly enjoying the process of picking clubs. It's basically all I can actually DO golf wise, besides studying instructionals. Luckily, like all men, I enjoy shopping- as long as it's something I want.

So far, I've ordered a PING Redwood Piper S which should be arriving on Monday. The specs are almost exactly the same as the Taylor-Made Spider, which I putted amazingly with but could not bear to look at. Most importantly, both are face balanced with 1/2 shaft offset and similar lie angles at 35". These specifications allow me to set up over the putter with a clear look at my putting line to maximize my natural aiming abilities (did you know that many anthropologists and biologists theorize that the only reason the giant, unwieldy human brain actually helped us succeed is it allowed us to better calculate trajectories? A skill that must have come in very handy when trying to hunt mammoths and other dangerous prey from a distance during the ice age).

Much darker, bluer finish in person.

Before I get to the meat of my set, let me detail the pieces I WON'T be replacing- yet.

My driver- the FT-i tour 9.5*: doesn't fit great, but until I get my swing a bit more settled I'd like to wait on the most expensive club in the bag

3 wood- sonartec ss 2.5- definitely needs a reshaft, but bearable for now.

3 hybrid- srixon ad 18*- great club that no one's ever heard of. So easy to hit I think I'll just hold on to it and get it regripped. If you can hook this thing, you need to take a look at your swing.

Now for the FUN part. On , a site with a forum I frequent, I've heard endless praise for club fitter/maker Joe Kwok, especially his attention to detail and the consequent consistency of the sets he builds. With a bit of his advice, I've settled on an MP52/62 combo set.

MP-52 4-6i

and MP-62 7i-PW

and perhaps an MP-R 54* to cover the gap to my MP-R 60*.

At this point, I'm considering getting the clubs rawed (stripped of all plating) or copper plated. Hopefully Joe Kwok will have someone who he usually sends this kind of work to. At the very least, I figure it'd be better to get the processes done beforehand so that he can take care of any weight changes.

Do you readers have any insight on how raw/copper plated irons will feel and wear? And any advice on where to send my clubs and how much it would cost?

Edit: I've found out at that "copper chroming" is the best way to go, for anyone who's interested.

Friday, May 8, 2009

The Basics of the Ideal Golf Swing

The ideal golf swing takes full advantage of our athletic instincts to reduce our swing thoughts to simply "aim and fire". Through thousands of years of evolution, our bodies are well trained to take advantage of our senses and muscles to apply the clubhead the way we want to. However, setting yourself up to take advantage of these instincts is rather difficult to do, especially without understanding how they work.

Very simply, there are two basic ways in which the body will attempt to apply force to an object with a stick. One can be seen in a home-run swing- the swinging instinct. Because the player is trying to hit the ball upwards (a push in relation to the eye-line. The terminology can be confusing- the player is actually pulling with the left side to "push" (in golf terms) the ball to the right of the eye line with a right handed player.

The other method can be seen with someone chopping a log he is standing on. In relation to the eye-line, this is a pull since the axe is traveling out-to-in. This chopping motion generates power with the underside of the arms and back more evenly.

In golf, these two methods can be seen in amateurs (read: hackers) of all sorts. The over the top slice is an attempt to chop the ball, while the sliding tilting drop kick is an attempt to hit it like you're hitting a home run.

Combining these two actions offers the potential to reduce technical swing thoughts while creating a more technically sound, powerful, repeating golf swing.

The Value of the Setup

If these statements are assumed to be true, then the question becomes "how do we take advantage of these instincts?" The key is the setup. At address, we do a number of things- we establish our perspective (and therefore, our aim and visualization) of the shot, and we "aim" the appropriate muscles to move in the right directions to put the club into a good backswing position. Most players don't pay enough attention to the specifics of address. Simply by standing a little taller, or a little more tilted away from the target, or with a slightly strong grip pre-arms certain muscles to fire. If those muscles are the incorrect muscles for the golf swing, then we MUST perform compensations to attempt to bring the right muscles into play. This can be seen in the manipulations and tilting and sliding of the average amateur.

Building a swing- Backwards

I approach building a swing (and swing theory- both my own) the way I approach a golf hole. You start at the green, the end, the most important part. To me, the golf swing ends at impact. Anything else is window dressing- useful diagnostically but otherwise irrelevant.

In order to build a swing around impact, I studied the man who I believe had the least compensations coming into and out of the hitting area- Ben Hogan. It was actually the way he talked about his dreaded miss that helped me understand how he was such a powerful, efficient hitter. Mr. Hogan described it as "the terror of field-mice" and a hook so bad you could "hang your coat on it"- a sure description of a smothered PULL hook, rather than a slinging, overdrawn hook. In concert with his descriptions of his desire to harness the full power of his right hand, I realized that the late Mr. Hogan was almost trying to come over the top as hard as he possibly could. The powerful clearing of his left side and his lateral action along with his perfectly slotted backswing position allowed to him try to come over the top without ever actually being able to.

Essentially, I believe that Hogan harnessed the power of the longest, most solidly struck shot for the average hacker- the pull. It is this right handed action that he described a side arm throw. Try it- from a golf stance, you will inevitably throw it to the left of the target. However, also pay attention to the way your right wrist naturally rolls through impact, storing and releasing the power of your core without ANY conscious thought.

It is this attempt to come over plane that reveals the key to Hogan's swing- the ability to go from a cupped position at the top of the backswing to an arched left wrist through impact with minimal manipulation of the hands.

From this position, he can TRY to come over the top as hard as he wants, and all that will happen is he will swing faster and the club rotate squarely through impact without any manipulation, and the left side will respond by clearing harder to the left, causing a reactionary arching of the left wrist through impact.

By understanding and rehearsing this action through the hitting area, we start to instinctively understand how we can simply extend this action further back and through to create a full swing, as your weight transfer and extension and all the technical aspects fall into place in response to the longer swing.

Taking a step back, this picture shows Hogan right after he transitions into the down swing. His famed lateral shift has already occurred (a movement he was aware of but did not consciously perform, I believe), but once again, he in perfect position to simply "hit" as hard as he can. From here, any attempt to get back to the ball by coming over the top will require tremendous manipulation and a momentary lapse in our athletic instincts. Power applied through the right will be responded to by a pull of the left side (the baseball swing)in an attempt to hit the ball. As a side effect, the face will rotate aggressively but consistently early in the hitting area- the answer to the question many of his contemporaries had asked; "how does he avoid hitting a slice from there?", referring to his seemingly wide open clubface coming into impact.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Two of the best swings on tour

It's no coincidence that two of my favorite swing on tour have a lot in common. Both are powerful, simple, and consistent and feature a full, unfettered release of the right side. They also both play a long, straight ball flight.

Without further ado, Anthony Kim and Sean O'hair.

In O'hair's swing there's a slight looseness or overextension of the left shoulder at the top of the backswing, a trait shared by Sergio Garcia. It is this move that causes the slightly upright backswing and the small flattening of the plane in transition- much more exaggerated in Garcia's swing. From the looks of it, it seems like the result of an effort to keep the club as far away from their head as possible in order to create width.

It's visible at 0:51 of this video. Is it possible this left shoulder move helps create more of a delayed hit? It also seems like it might introduce some inconsistencies.

P.S. One swing I really like that's stayed under the radar is Tim Clark's. A birth defect and below average athleticism and size prevent him from being especially long, but there are few players I can think of that are more accurate (or aggressive) with a fairway wood in their hands. His simple repeating action deserves closer examination in the future.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Mapping out my home course

Just for practice.  Trying to see if I can find any new angles- noticed some things that I didn't notice in person- more room behind the green on the left on 2nd than i realized, for example.

View horsehoe bend cc in a larger map

Friday, May 1, 2009

Lakers and Cavs

The obvious favorites for the finals are the Lakers and the Cavaliers.  Here's my breakdown of the matchup.

The Cavs- Mo Williams has proven to be a better player than I expected.  The same is true for Lebron (as mentioned in a previous post) as I didn't expect him to apply the effort on the defensive end that he has this year.  I attribute this to his Olympic experience.

However, despite Mo's obvious skills, the Cavaliers as simply TOO heavily dependent on Lebron.  While I'm not sure I could devise a method to slow him, I wouldn't put it past Tex Winters and Phil Jacksn to figure something out.  If they CAN find a method to slow him even a little bit, the Cavs will be in SERIOUS trouble.

The Lakers-

The Lakers are simply a more talented offensive team.  They downside is that they employ players who have defensive talent but not the mistake-free basketball IQ that you need in the playoffs.  Lamar Odom, for example, obvious has the athleticism and size to have a chance at slowing Lebron- not to mention Kobe.  However, Odom lacks the mental game to allow him to truly fluster James- a player with superior basketball IQ.  The same is true of Trevor Ariza. 

This, of course, leaves Kobe- a rather risky prospect considering the dangers of foul trouble and the emergence of a post game in the Detroit series.  I seriously doubt Kobe could handle LBJ backing down due to the weight and strength issues.

The Verdict
The keys, actually, are the bigs.  Pau Gasol will wear big Z ragged.  Varejao would be an obvious substitution but his offensive deficiencies could easily disrupt the Cavs offensive flow.  If Bynum's mental and offensive game round into shape, the Cavs bigs will be rather seriously outmatched.

The x-factor will be the way the Cacvs defend Kobe.  Delonte West is an obvious choice for early harassment, with James another obvious choice for his physique and skills.  If Lebron (or less likely, West) can slow Kobe 1 on 1, forcing the other Lakers to score in pressure situations repeatedly, the Cavs will have a rather significant advantage.

...and x-factor 2- Andrew Bynum.  His youth might allow him to be a force on the defensive boards with his superior size compared to Varejaoa and athleticism when compared to Ilgauskas.  His presence on the offensive and defensive glass along with some fast break baskets could be huge.

Phil Mickelson DVD

His methods are great.  I almost hope it fades into obscurity so that I'll have to compete against fewer people who have studied his technique as closely as I have.

There are a few things that he never talks about that still helped me greatly.  Carefully examining the way he sets up to the ball, he plays almost every shot with a slightly (at least) open face.  This allows him to take advantage of the bounce on his club.  The other is the way that slow motion video allowed me to closely examine the way he sets up to the ball.  When I copied his setup positions, I began to get the same feels I've been getting from the address position of my full swing.

Thoughts on the golf swing

I've recently made some revelations that I believe have allowed me to "complete" my swing changes.  Of course, for most (if you're not Hogan/Nelson/Watson) the swing is an ever evolving organism.

Key among these revelations is the value of the setup.  As a former archer, I equate the alignment and position of the spine/hips/shoulders to the alignment of the string and sight on the bow.  You must set up so that your backswing (drawing the bow) allows you to set the correct muscles to apply force through the ball.  Your athletic instincts will always play a major roles in attempting to allow you to hit the ball towards your target, but these instincts can cause you attempt to correct your impact conditions with rather inconsitent methods, like standing up through impact or flipping our hands.

The proper set up will allow you to simply bring the club away from the ball, coiling and transfering your weight instinctively, and then, before the backswing ends, transfer your weight to your forward foot while keeping the club in front of your body.  By the time the club actually begins to change direction, you should be able to hit as hard as you can with your right side. 

These two things are the keys- shifting your weight for power and slotting your arms (especially your right) in a manner than they can apply maximum force in a manner that directs the ball to the target.  My theories in the set up to follow.

Intro to yoonie's blog

I'm an aspiring professional (touring) golfer who's desperately looking for sponsorship.  My game is coming along well, and with the upcoming opportunity to put in the neccessary time I'm confident that the tour is in the cards for me.

The purpose of this blog is 3 fold- to keep track of my progress as I work on my game to bring it tour standards, to write about and refine my theories on the golf swing, and to occasionally talk about the other sports- football, futbol, basketball- I love so I have a digital record of my predictions (for better or worse).

Just for predictions I've made that I'm proud of- the vulnerability of the 16-0 patriots when forced to rely on the runing game which resulted in the inability to take of a giants defensive line that was focusing on Tom Brady, my belief that Dwyane Wade was going to be the best young player when I saw him as a rookie, and the effect of Chauncey Billups on the Nuggets.  

My less proud predictions include believing that Carmelo was better than Lebron (after their rookie years), but I credit Lebron's transformation to his time with Kobe and Wade on the olympic team.  I also predicted were gonna lose just about every series in the playoffs- on the other hand, I predicted the weaknesses in the Laker's offensive trends.