Earl's Recent Past Golf Blog's

Octobeer 19, 2019

Southern California Junior Golf Reunion







In less than a month, I will be attending a Southern California Junior Golf Association reunion. Those invited played junior golf in southern California between 1960 and 1967. Looking at the list of former junior golfers that I played with, I was amazed at the accomplishments that this group of golfers has achieved. The achievements are too many to list, but they include PGA winners, Senior PGA winners, USGA Amateur titles, two NCAA individual champions, two USGA Junior Champions, International Professional and Amateur titles, numerous state Professional and Amateur wins, and many colligate All-Americans. Most attended and played golf in college with a large percentage earning golf scholarships. I counted fifteen former juniors that played at one time on the PGA Tour and others that made golf their life profession. Many others choose different paths after college and became successful businessmen and entrepreneurs. One of the attendees has dubbed this as the Golden Age of junior golf in California. It will be great fun getting together and sharing old stories and catching up.

I was seven when my family moved to southern California. One of the first things my father did was join Candlewood Country Club in Whittier. Every weekend, I would go with my father at seven in morning and not get back to Long Beach until dark. Candlewood had a ton of junior golfers, so we were always playing golf, putting of nickels, hitting balls, or swimming in the club's large pool. The older kids were good golfers and it was a goal of mine to be as good as them. I started playing in junior golf tournaments when I was nine. When I was eleven, my mother and two other mothers formed a group that would transport Bob Carson, Kemp Richardson and others to junior golf events all over southern California in the summer. Most of the tournaments were one day events. By the time I was in college, I had played almost all of the good golf courses in the area.

At the time that I was growing up, I didn't realize the great opportunity and competition that I was being exposed to in my area. At Candlewood in my age bracket, we produced four players that went on to play on the PGA Tour and one junior, Greg McHatton that won the USGA Junior Championship. In my hometown of Long Beach, I was friends with and competed against Terry Small (NCAA champion), Kemp Richardson (two time USGA Senior Amateur Champion, etc.), Terry Hartshorn (UCLA All-American), and Roger Cleveland (yes, that Roger Cleveland, founder of Cleveland Golf Company and head club designer for Callaway). The standard was high, but at the time you didn't know that. They were friends that also were good golfers and you wanted to beat them. The players in southern California set a standard, at the time you didn't know the bar was that high, but that was the goal to reach if you wanted to compete and be accepted.

Tom Kite once asked Harvey Penick (Hall of Fame teacher and Kite's coach), what his best advice was when he first went out on the PGA Tour. Penick told him to "always have dinner with good putters." In other words, hang out with the best, play golf with the best, and don't hang around negative thinkers. For my readers who are in differing states of enjoyment with golf. Know what you want from you golf game. Is it social, physical exercise, enjoying the environment, or competition? Then seek out the playing companions that best bring out your enjoyment. If it's getting better, play with the best players that are available.

There will be countless stories that I will be revisiting in a few weeks. Hope you will be interested in my reliving these past experiences.

September 12, 2019

Improve your Putting Feel

Earlier this year I attended a PGA seminar that was conducted by Stan Utley. Stan is a winner on the PGA Tour and is a highly regarded teacher specializing in the short game. He has written four excellent books on the subject. As a teacher, you must always be open to new ideas and new ways of communicating your thoughts and concepts to your students. First he talked about the basic functions of the putter and wedge. Then the motion required in making a consistent effective strike. Last he shared his insights on conveying this knowledge to his students.

I gleaned many useful tips that are now added to my reservoir of golf knowledge. What I would like to share with you today is a way to improve your putting feel that I got from this seminar. Stan believes that the putter should be swung from a central pivot point with a concept of "dead weight". The putter is swung back to a certain point; at that point energy has been created based on the length and height of the backswing. Once the desired backswing has been created; the club is allowed to swing back to the ball, letting gravity to take effect. Once the putter makes contact with the ball there is a loss of energy and the putter will slow down and come to a stop soon after the ball. The "dead weight" concept is that the clubhead with be swung back to the ball with little or no effort, much like a pendulum does once it has reached the top of its' arch and allowed to swing back. This is a condensed simplified version of his putting method.

The best putters have very smooth rhythmical strokes. There is an arc that the putter travels and the arms and shoulders facilitate this action. The hands provide the feel, but not significant power. Swing the club back far enough to create enough energy to be able to swing the club back to the ball to produce the correct distance. Taking the club back too short will necessitate adding power to the stroke, usually resulting in a jerky motion. Bringing the club back too far will require you to manipulate and slow the club down to regulate distance. Both will cause problems with accurate distance control.

Watch Rickie Fowler, Jordan Spieth, or Tiger Woods. They have great repeatable strokes that incorporate much of what Stan Utley likes in a putting stroke. They have a long appropriate backswing with a flowing unforced motion back to the ball with a finish that is shorter than the length of the backswing. In most cases, your follow-through should never be longer than your backswing. Follow-throughs vary depending on the distance of the putt, but generally a putt under 20 feet will have a 2 to 1 ratio. Take back 6 inches and follow-through 3 inches.

If you are inconsistent with distance control, try this drill. On the practice putting green take three balls and intentionally swing back further than you are comfortable and then let gravity take control and let the putter swing naturally back to the ball. Do not stop the club after contact, but let it stop on its own. You will find it difficult not to interfere with the downward motion of the club and the hit. Hit the three balls and judge which balls were struck with the least interference. Your eyes and hands should be recording the feel for this distance. Repeat until you can freely swing the club with no interference. The balls should be now consistent in distance. Vary the length of the backswing and evaluate the distance each with achieve. Your eyes and hands are what judge distance, trust them. This drill will greatly help you gain feel for the putter.

Putting is an art form. There are physical and mechanical elements that make putting easier to accomplish. But even if you master the mechanical, you must putt with visualization and feel. Stan Utley's method works, but it might not be for everyone. He would like longer backswings with shorter follow-throughs. His pros on Tour have had a lot of success. But other great putters adhere to "as far back you take it should be how far through you should go". I could go on with the variations of excellent putters, but generally their fundamentals were pretty close. What needs to be remembered is that putting is a feel. Let the eyes lead the action and trust your hands for the feel.




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