Are you trying to learn or maintain?

The title begs a simple question.  It is the time of the season where it is most beneficial to really define your goals for the rest of the year.  Is it time to maintain and test your current skill set or is it time to continue improvement.  For most of us, we never are honest with ourselves and actually ask ourselves this question.  So, my aim is to ask you some questions as part of an awareness quiz for what side of the line you stand on.

Are you ready to maintain and commit to playing “your game” for the rest of the year.  Well, do you have anything to get ready for?  Are you playing in any tournaments?  Do you have a competition or a trip that you are preparing for?  If so, maybe it isn’t the best idea to embark on a massive swing change.  Part of this preparation phase is to simply acknowledge where you stand and analyze your current shot dispersion.  One of the best ways to become aware of your current skill set is to book a session on Trackman or with one of the golf professional staff.  There are multiple ways you can test yourself to find your strengths, weaknesses and tendencies.  Basically, we’ll be able to not only tell you things like average carry distance, but also average dispersion (left/right) and any outliers that can pop up (the big miss).  You can use this data to know what to spend the bulk of your practice on as well as play “your game” more effectively.  For example, I found out that my tendencies are to miss my short irons left and my long irons a little right.  So, when I’m playing a short shot and the pin is on the left corner of the green, I know that it is prudent to not aim at the flag.

We are always improving – that is a desire of the human condition.  However, it is imperative that you know when you should be seeking massive change and when you should be refining your skills through intentional practice sessions.  If you are content with your playing ability and can shoot scores that make you happy if things fall in to place during the round, I would say there is little need to change anything too drastic.  If you are really unhappy about your game and your inconsistencies, I would venture into the world of golf instruction to gain new perspectives and practicing habits that will allow for personal growth on and off the course!

Paving Asphalt

Getting back into golf season is kind of like repaving a road. Hang in there with me…
It is important to evaluate the deep cracks and potholes left over from a volatile winter off-season. Perhaps, we can negotiate these hazards and drive near, over or around them, but sometimes we cannot. Perhaps we take a quick golf lesson to plant some flowers in those deep potholes (like they do in Ecotopia). Eventually, there will be a stressor that reveals those holes in the pavement (i.e. playing in a club event, etc.) like a deluge of rain washing out the flowers and leaving a gaping hole in the road.
So, I ask you, how deep are your potholes? Sometimes they are not very deep and will not get worse. Every now and again, we reach a critical breaking point when we need to do some excavating and repaving. Remember, this is a process. It is important to be mindful not only when you are excavating, but also choosing who will be pouring the asphalt into the pothole. There is a process of pouring (coaching and receiving instruction), smoothing (grooving new motor patterns), compacting (practicing smartly), making the new material flush with the old (integrating it into a swing), letting it settle/seal/dry (patience during the entire process), and finally being ready to drive on the new road (taking the motion to your game with confidence).
Be aware of where you are and where you want to go. If the road that you choose requires paving some potholes, contact your local, friendly PGA Professional and come up with a roadmap to high tail it to your destination!
Also, keep in mind that all roads need paving at some point!

Made vs. Holed Putts

This “tip” is more of me urging you all to start thinking a bit differently on the putting green. How often have you hung your head in disgust when a putt misses the hole after you have made what you think is a great stroke? Guess what? Golf isn’t fair, and I hear life isn’t either. I will agree that there are very few sounds better on this earth than a little white (or neon green, red, purple, etc.) ball falling into a cup. However! There is little that we can do to control what that ball does after it leaves our putter face. Many will argue with me if fate and destiny truly exist, but to be scientifically objective about the situation of a golf ball rolling on a green, there are many different variables working for and against that ball going into its rightful home.
The following mindset is one that will start alleviating the unnecessary stresses we all put on ourselves to get that ball into the hole (in fewer shots). Start delineating between “making putts” and “holing putts.” Know that you have the ability to “make” every putt. It is simple. Roll your ball on your intended line with your intended speed. If you do that, you have “made” the putt. Whether or not that ball goes in the hole is a completely different issue and one that sometimes you are accountable for (chose the wrong line or wrong speed, failure to acknowledge grain/dew/other condition, etc.), but very often, you may not be accountable for (imperfection in the green, etc.). When we get obsessed about “holing” every putt we see, we immediately believe we are a poor putter if the putt we hit does not go in the hole. This can often lead to a downward spiral of putting confidence and many poor economic decisions of buying new putters or regripping, etc. (we in the golf shop don’t mind these irrational buying decisions).
So…. it is a great time to get out to a practice green and start committing to making every putt. Refrain from hitting putts for the sake of hitting putts and react positively or negatively if the putts go in or if the do not go in. Go through your process on every putt. Decide if the putt is uphill, downhill, sidehill or a combination of multiple slopes. Pick a path and a speed for with the ball to roll on that path. Make every putt. At that point you can learn where your strengths and weaknesses are, objectively. Do you have a tendency of over-reading break? Do you have a knack for leaving putts short? When you commit to making every putt, you can find your truest shot pattern and be objective through the learning process. Use this shot pattern as feedback and soon enough, you will be holing more putts, guaranteed!

Down Under Par

An overall reflection of golf seen in Oceania…
For the past two months, I have been travelling around the Southern Hemisphere and no, the ball doesn’t go down into the hole counter-clockwise and I was not attacked by any hoop snakes or drop bears.  I have learned much about the culture and the game of golf down under.  Given the context of these articles, I’d like to reflect upon how the game is played.
Golf is simple.  It is a challenge and it is an opportunity.  It is meant to be played with others, but against yourself.  It is meant to be enjoyed with fresh air and to be talked about amicably with friends afterwards.  It is meant to be laughed at.  It is meant to be a game.
Golf is also serious.  It provides an honest competition that is equitable to all that participate.  Therefore, people that play this game here seldom make excuses and are highly congratulatory to highly adept play.
It seems to have been learned that learning comes from within.  It comes from objective observation of the present moment.  Learning what you do well and when and where you need to focus more attention.  Aussie golfers seem to be very Socratic in that most know that they know very little, but are open to knowing more (a very “empty cup” Zen student approach).
So, I conclude my thoughts and implore you to take a position ready to learn.  Learn from every putt, from every sliced drive and from every chunked wedge.  Gain insight and humility from every pure strike and snake holed.

Paparoa – the world leader in pasture golf

After arriving in Auckland, Ryan and I headed north through a multitude of small towns that I can’t for the life of me pronounce or even remember.  We stopped along the beach for a lite and delicious lunch at a small beach town, hit the grocer and butcher in Warkworth, the coffee shop in Matakana and a small Op Shop (thrift store benefiting local ambulance companies usually).  I learned that that is pretty much the format to every New Zealand town – cafe, butcher, gas station, op shop, dairy, and a pub.  Simple but very good living.

Eventually, we arrived back to his humble abode above the estuary in Mangawhai (the ‘wh’ becomes more of an ‘f’ sound) Heads.  There is Mangawhai Village which is situated deeper inland and near the estuary of the tides which forms a bit of a harbor/wetlands and Mangawhai Heads which is a residential area/town that is closer to the ocean and surf beach.  Ryan drove us down to the surf beach for a quick dip in the Pacific to offer a bit of an awakening to my senses after the long day of travel and to give us some energy for the rest of the afternoon.

Next on the agenda was a trip to the Paparoa Golf Club. Ryan had never been there before, but had heard great things about the experience.  He knew that there would be not many signs to get there and there probably wouldn’t be anyone at the club to show us around (a typical rural honesty box system).  What he didn’t know was how difficult it would be to find this place.  We made it to the town of Paparoa (imagine the bare bones as listed above) and saw a sign with a directional arrow stating “Paparoa Golf Club 10 km.” Good sign as we didn’t think there’d be any signs!  We continue up this road (which soon thereafter turned to gravel) for about 10-12 minutes passing a fork in the road about halfway. We haven’t seen any signs or any signs of anything other than farmland and so we decide that maybe the fork in the road was the way to the golf course.  We flip a U and continue down the hill from whence we just came and hung a right at the aforementioned fork.  Down this road we go for 10-12 minutes and still we see nothing.  Now we are almost at wits end as we decide to go back to the original route and continue just a bit further up the road.  We pass a couple of right hand turns that look promising, but there is nothing in the immediate sight looking down these roads, so we continue forward.  After 5 minutes of driving and seeing nothing new, we backtrack again to those promising looking turnoffs and FINALLY, see just over the crest of a hill (not far from where we initially flipped the first U of the day) the sign for Paparoa Golf Club.

Let me tell you, it was worth every wrong turn we made.  We park the car next to the structure at the top of the hill deemed the clubhouse and after opening the door, I see a little sign and coin drop detailing the $5 green fee and plea for honesty.  A humble clubhouse complete with gentlemen’s trough and shower, Tuesday scorecards and Saturday scorecards and a bulletin detailing some membership notes.  We find a gate to the first tee and much like my experience at Silvies Valley Ranch, “if you open a gate, close the gate.”  We’ll address why on the back 9.  The first required some local knowledge as it doglegs alongside the road and from the tee, it certainly appeared that you didn’t need to hit it very far right.  When I found my drive in the left side of the fairway (I thought I would be right-center), I knew I was in for a bit of a day of surprises.  I had just a flip wedge and figured I would land it short of the green as I just saw Ryan land on the front and bounce over the crowned putting surface.  My ball hit a soft spot and ended up short of the green and short of the fence encircling the green.  Many Americans would have no idea why a fence would surround a putting surface, but when you met the maintenance team at Paparoa, you’ll be soon to find out!  **HINT** they’re not Baaa’d at their job.

So we continue on and play a couple of nice little holes with unique green complexes (the second is built into a hill with a sharp fall off right and the 4th is a nice medium length 3 par with the fall off left of the tiny green.  Then we haul across the road again, opening and closing paddock gates to keep the grounds crew where the club wants them.  The 5th/14th is a magnificent hole that entices a long drive over a crest to set up a short iron into a well protected greensite where short is in a clever hazard and flying your ball to the green would likely have your ball rolling long.  The 6th and 7th shared a really wide fairway begging strategically placed shots for those that have played many a round at PGC.  The 6th plays uphill to allow for an absolutely stunning treat at the 7th tee overlooking the ridges and rolling canyons of the rural Northland. The 8th and 17th had vastly different tee shots to the uphill 3 par.  We played both of them to get the true experience and given the windy conditions and many sheep maintaining the course, the approaches were quite difficult!  Playing one of my patented low running shots was a huge risk in that I didn’t want to peg one of the wooly beasts.  Alas, my shots were safely executed and left 2 par putts to be holed (1 successfully).  The home hole also played uphill, into the wind and into the sheep.  As Ryan lamented, “this fairway is cut a bit tighter” and while I didn’t notice a huge change in firmness or roll, my approach was one of the best of the day leading to a tap in par 4.

Paparoa, you were a true gem and now that we know where you live, we’ll be back again someday soon!

The “off-season” – a ramble

As many of us are starting to wrap up our golf season across the Northern Hemisphere, we watch on as many PGA Tour newcomers and veterans alike embark upon their 2020 adventures.  It is hard to believe the off-season lasts as long as it does (18 days?), but that is the beauty and the beast of a wraparound season.  I don’t know about you, but I have issues with my body after two days of consecutive golf – it’d be very difficult to go week after week of golf only to have a very small window before the next season.  The “tour” has become a bit of a strategic game (when and where you want to play), instead of actually touring around the country (and now world) week to week.  I know there are MANY reasons why the schedule is the way it is, but I can’t help to think that some of the camaraderie of old on tour is lacking because it has become a pure endeavor of personal gain replacing the brotherhood of the road.  It seems that the emerging player is traveling with their team of coaches (which can be lonely as these coaches often cannot relate to the tribulations of the tour) rather than their contemporaries who are experiencing everything in real time.  I would love to see the TOUR market more of the “Spring Break” crew vibes showing the behind-the-scenes of how these professionals travel and support each other.

The offseason is a time to recharge your body, mind and soul.  Most professional athletes are playing injured (because they have to OR feel like they have to) and so it is imperative to prepare for future years by adding yin to the yang of the season’s energy.  How do we bring energy frequencies that are riding high from the season down to a more sustainable level?  We must breathe.  We must slow down.  We must reflect.  We must journal.  We must converse with friends and family.  We must condition.  We must stretch.  We must eat well.  We must exercise (our mind and body).  We must love.  We must read.  We must study.  What is more important – getting right back to the grind OR setting ourselves up for a great stretch in 2020?  I think that the sustainable answer is the obvious one…. or maybe the obvious one is the sustainable one.  Think about where you are in time, space and mindset and ask yourself if you want to be here again in one year.  If the answer is yes, try to replicate the last 365 days.  If the answer is no, write down how you want to be and MAKE IT HAPPEN.  Find some YIN to the YANG or maybe some YANG to the YIN.

We are going to explore a new concept soon…. 2020 Vision!

Until then,


Walk? Ride? You decide.

The age old question of how to get around a golf course.


I suppose it isn’t such an “age old” question but more of a “age young” question when we consider the origins of the game.  The game, invented nearly 600 years ago, has been without transportation choices for approximately 85% of its lifespan.  The 1930’s introduced a rudimentary pull cart because of a lack of caddies.  Since the 1950’s the golf cart has offered people with health concerns and limited mobility the opportunity to golf.  Fast-forward to today, and now there are numerous ways to “get a round” in.

Many argue that the game should be experienced fully by all senses.  When you walk a golf course, you give yourself the potential to fully immerse yourself in the grounds.  You can feel the turf beneath your feet.  You have more time to purely reflect between shots and take in the environment.  You can “connect the dots” between shots and literally play the course as it has been GIVEN to you.

Pace of play standards in this country have increased the stigma that trotting around a layout in an electric or gas-powered golf cart is a more efficient and speedier option.  Power carts also give the user opportunities to socialize with their riding partner.  If you choose this option, keep in mind that you will often have to travel “more mileage” on the course as the cart is carrying equipment for more than one person if you are playing in a group.  Lastly, carts carry heavier agronomical effects, which demand additional care for the course.  There are always pros and cons to innovations that make things more accessible or easier for humans.

The last decade has introduced several updates to course transportation that has attempted to solve some of the issues surrounding pace and impact to the turf.  Golf boards, bikes and scooters are single passenger options that are lighter and often have larger tires that do not compact/impact the grass plants as much as a traditional power cart.  The single passenger feature allows each player to go to the location of their ball to play their shot.  Perhaps, this solves many problems, BUT what about socializing?

Everyone plays golf for different reasons.  As a golf professional, it is my job to ensure that every golfer gets the most out of their golf experience. What is the trick?  Make sure that your WHY matches your HOW.  If you are constantly leaving the golf course in a less than fulfilled state, start asking yourself why you play the game.  Many golfers are looking to score better and enjoy the people they choose to play with while taking in the fresh air.  Most people do not play golf to exist faster, but actually to SLOW down the hustle and bustle of everyday life.  I urge everyone to try walking (if you are physically able).  Start with three holes in the evening.  Add a few more and play nine.  See if you are able to enjoy your game just a little deeper and connect with a few more souls along the way!