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Great Golf Drill Playing the 9s

Every once and awhile you come across a great golf drill that helps break up your range time. Playing the 9s is one of those great golf drills that sharpens your shot making and helps to build some confidence when you face similar challenges on course. The other component that is really enjoyable is the addition of perceived stress on each and every shot. Closely simulating, I don’t know, playing golf? Bingo! If you want to play well you must practice well. People that are aimless in practice will pretty much mimic those results when it counts. Got a question for you. Have you ever played a course with a 300 yard wide fairway? Me neither, that’s why practicing on the range without very specific targets can be detrimental.

Playing the 9s

The 9s, how do you do it and why does it work? It’s really simple, and it’s something I learned from a Golf Digest bit that Johnny Miller did a few years ago. Seen it crop up other places on YouTube, but his method seems to work best for me. Follow these steps, rinse and repeat as often as you like.

  1. You will need 9 golf balls- preferably of the range variety.
  2. A target…finite, small. You can do this drill with really any club, but personally the 6 or 7 iron seems to work best.
  3. The drill is simple now. You will hit each of the shot shapes in order, high or low, your preference.

Fade- Hit a low, medium, and a high trajectory fade to the target.
Straight Shot- Hit a low, medium, and a high trajectory shot to the the target
Draw- Hit a low, medium, and a high trajectory shot to the target.

Challenge

Simple right? Well, in theory it is, but it’s demanding if you have exacting standards. For example, give yourself a small target, say a 15 foot circle. When you hit the fade, make it fade into the target. Try to control the depth of the fade (how much the ball fades). If it’s an issue for you, you know where you need to improve. The straight shot is a straight shot. I’m not talking about the ball that starts out straight and leaks a little bit to the right….that isn’t what you want….you want it straight to the target. Same goes for the draw. Starting out you may only get 2 out of 9, but that’s okay. If you are really strict on your grading those misses are probably pretty serviceable come your Saturday foursome.

I can honestly say, the best I’ve ever done is 8 out of 9. The high draw eludes me, especially under pressure. Good to know for the future when htting that shot means something. You can mix the drill up if you like, start with the draws, finish with the straight shots if that jiggles the change in your pockets. Maybe you want to start with the high shots across the board, it’s all you my friend. The only rule is you have to hit all 9 shots and you only get one attempt at each. Keep score to track your ball striking progress. I’ve found I can get a lot of meaningful work in and not have to hit 500 balls in the process. Don’t be that guy hitting balls without purpose, it’s counter productive. You can up the ante further when you play with a friend. Can we say $1 a game? Now, now, not advocating gambling, just putting a little skin in the game. Make it for a coke, whatever. Practice with purpose and intention and you will see your results skyrocket.

Hope you like this drill. Drop a comment below…appreciate the feedback.

Hit’em straight and good luck on your next round.

Surlyn Dimpled Missiles – Ranger Danger

Surlyn dimpled missiles careen blindly through the sky all too often perishing in the depths of the creek fronting the tee box on the first tee at Trophy Club Atlanta. Friday the 13th and sequels et al, Jason would fare better with his iconic machete. As we wait, two groups ahead of us still to tee off, I wonder about Jason and would he do us a solid, emerge headlong from the brush, slashing down the multi ball playing bastards on the first tee? A momentary flash of brilliant carnage plays clearly in my mind, the spell broken by the hosel rocket second attempt of the said repeat offender….”where did that one go?” His playing partners answer in unison, almost as if on cue, “in the hazard, dead with the other one”. A little embarrassed, he says “I’ll drop with you guys up there”. I’ll give him credit, he kept his head down. That’s one piece of solid golf instruction he will not be accused of ignoring. The truth of the matter, the whole group was dropping in the fairway, his playing partners had put 4 O.B. between them (but they would search for them mind you), and the other was in the creek bed as well. That creek bed is rich with newly embedded golf balls. Poor golf balls hoping for renewal and a second chance at life on Craigslist or maybe in a driving range bucket. Of course these dudes teed up from the blues, obviously the white tees were below their playing capability.

Harsh? Possibly. Warranted? Yes, I dare say, it’s most definitely warranted. I do not tread heavily on the new player trying to have a good time. This isn’t aimed in your direction, you are learning the game and you have a right to play. You paid your money, hell, I’d tell a pompous ass hat like me to go scratch. Given, when I was a new player and I sucked…like really bad, we could slow play somewhat, but not from multiple tee shots. Strictly army golf. We played 1 mulligan per side, after that you were dropping. You aren’t my target here with this post. A post surely to alienate some, possibly aggravating many others. It’s the habitual line steppers, those peeps who just bring it all to a grinding halt on a gorgeous Sunday. In the capacity I serve as your “Golf Ranger”, you must know that I abhor the 5 hour round. It is a blight that must be stricken from consciousness. We must do better as a people, a tribe not unlike the 12 led by Moses out of the wilderness. We must help each other cross that river to the land of milk and honey. Now the first tee isn’t always a true indication of the group in front of you. I’ve been known to play like a hooker if I don’t have a chance to warmup. No offense to those in the profession, it’s meant in the strictest golf definition: “One that hooketh the ball way left of the intended target (right if you are a lefty), usually precipitated by a violent flip of an overactive bottom hand. Often accompanied by use of obscene language all days except Sunday”. If you have the time look it up, it’s in Webster’s, a sub definition for the criminally insane. It’s also, not that uncommon and generally accepted in principle to play 2 from the 1st, primarily when you just got to the course and teeing off with no warmup. Understandable. I don’t begrudge this practice. To be honest, this group didn’t really bother me too much, nor did the group that followed which reenacted the whole bloody Shakespearean tragedy with astonishing accuracy. The group I was in, I must admit, were flagrant violators’ of the commandments I so ardently hold fast.

Let’s be clear here, my twosome was on point. My son and I had a little “principal” money game going. Playing a modified Stableford using our handicaps to keep things equitable. I guarantee you this much, that little shark would give me a mulligan like never. If I was on my death bed he’d tell me….”that’s 3 old man, oh and I’m going to miss you. You going to pay me my $1.75 from our last match before you go?” The guys we were paired with were Irish, had to be, I almost started calling them the Mulligans. At least one of them hit 2 off of every tee. Sometimes, they both did. That’s not golf. That’s paying $50 bucks, going to a driving range and supplying your own golf balls. Why do that? After the 2nd hole, my kid goes….”5 hours dude, this is a 5 spot easy”. Needless to say, we tried our best to stay in rhythm. Impossible when you are constantly in a holding pattern. Hang on, don’t get mad at me just yet, I haven’t clearly given you a proper picture. On the second tee, we are waiting for the group in front to mount up. They aren’t good, but they are within the flow, keeping up with the group in front of them. This will be our last sighting of them for some time. They are still in driver range, so I hit a hybrid on a par 5, effectively giving myself no chance at going at it in 2. This place was jammed up, why wait? That long approach would have been my 4th full swing of the day, probably not pulling off a 230 yard shot to a tight green to reach it in 2. Playing this hole as a 3 shot, missionary style, no frills, in and out, put the baby to bed. I clip the ball well, it’s piped, dead center. My son rips a driver, a little right, but solid. The first guy has some sense, he knows the driver is evil, so he takes something a little less detrimental out of the bag, makes a serviceable play. The other guy, pulls the driver. He took notice of my hybrid play…”beautiful shot”, to which I respond, “thanks, playing it up in 3, tight hole and it’s early”. “Smart play”, he says and pulls his freaking driver. “I got to give it a go”, he chuckles (like a crazy person). He proceeds to hit a towering, majestic, a truly massive bomb completely out of play, but at least it’s a red staked area. Drop one in play and move on. I start towards the cart, to which I hear, “I’m going to hit another one”, oh boy. Not, “Is it cool if I hit another one?” To make it worse, he has to go back to the cart to get another ball (another horrible habit), rummaging through his bag for a new egg he goes back to the tee box….and the group behind us is pulling up. At that point, we should have just headed back to the clubhouse, asked for a raincheck and made our way home.

There are a few things I would like to highlight in the commandments of golf, if such a thing existed. Might need to write one as a living document and add it to the blog. Always, and I mean always, carry an extra ball with you. Why? Well from the tee, if you hit it O.B. (designated with white stakes) you will need to hit another one anyway. If you aren’t sure the ball is O.B., you would need to hit a provisional, again reloading. Reason enough to carry two balls wherever you go. Secondly, you can go O.B. or into a hazard with approach shots thus necessitating dropping and hitting another. So in my estimation, having 2 balls is generally better than having just 1 (there is a joke in there somewhere). The second thing, have consideration for the other parties trying to enjoy golf as well, especially when paired up with strangers. If you are constantly reloading and hitting additional shots, generally you are single handedly destroying the golf experience for those around you. I was pretty geeked up to play this round. Building some good golf momentum. Granted, I never score well at Trophy Club, but I was still amped to put down a good one. If we actually kept score for these two, I promise you, it’s at least double par when you count all the penalties. Not to mention, the number of balls sent packing, never to be found, staggering. If you play golf in this manner, having 2 balls is a minimum requirement. Probably need to add a sleeve to you sock as well.

Our round lasted exactly 5 hours. On the dot. On two occasions we had to wait on the next tee before teeing off. On both of those occasions, I tried to nip the reload in the bud. Here are the steps to the super secret advanced tip to move it along when paired with habitual line steppers:

  1. Make sure you are in the leading cart. Hit your tee shot, meander back to your cart, replacing your weapon. Avoid too much small talk. Eye contact is discouraged as well, think looking into the eyes of a wild animal and other rules of engagement.
  2. Stealthy, and I mean be Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible, get in the cart ready to drive after the last tee shot.
  3. After the shot is struck, start driving to your ball. If it’s a good one, give him “nice one, or that’ll play”, if not….the ubiquitous “I’ll just drop up there”, should follow, moving things along.

By hole 12, I was out of small talk. Cranky. Maybe by 15 they sensed our collective disconnect and started to pick it up a bit. I say that, but it’s completely possible they exhausted their seemingly endless supply of fresh golf balls. Anyway, we were finally waiting on the last two holes for greens and fairways to clear. On 18, I was mortified when the group in front were walking off the green. They were in their carts on the side of the green when a member of our group sends one in hot, clipping the cart path in front of them. All they could see was me, standing by my ball as I looked back to the offender. We were now really, “those guys”, guilt by association. The whole time I’m thinking, why would you ever hit a ball near people, with that swing, like ever? I’d be nervous at a driving range hitting next to this guy off of mats. If I was in that group and got hit, assault charges would surely be pending. Easy, I don’t advocate violence, I meant I would surely press charges for assault with a deadly weapon…exactly what I meant.

Hoping you found my undercover work illuminating. It’s a dangerous world out there in the burbs with all that fresh cut grass, McMansions, and 24 packs of Pinnacles at the ready. Again, we have a mission as a people to build that bridge beckoning the masses to join our sovereign cause. Willful and responsible play. Not the drunken golf orgy that so often plagues our great pastime. If you are a golf mentor to a friend who exhibits these golf character flaws, I implore you to help him. Give him insight and guidance. Preach the gospel of efficient play.

Fantasy and the PGA Championship

Fantasy golf, a trip down the primrose path as they say. Longtime fantasy football participant, not so naive to the ways of “skilled” gambling endeavors. Decided to take the plunge during the Open Championship at the urging of my brother in law. Frankly, really didn’t understand the scoring triggers and methodologies employed to score well in these contests. My lineup was full up with rookie mistakes, my picks all “probable winners” not fantasy golf scorers per se. I believe all my guys made the cut, but none of them really pushed my team up the ladder as only 2 were really in contention and the other 4 well..they made the cut.

That was then, like so 4 weeks ago, I’m better now and excited about the PGA Championship. My lineup is set, but I’ve decided to hedge my bets as it were and add a backup lineup. This week is building up to be very exciting. So many different players have a real opportunity to take home a major championship. Rory is back! Tiger is…well sort of back..maybe…hoping he can make a run. Jordan, the new number 1 player in the world? Then you have Bubba, DJ, Rickie, can I get a Phil in the house? It’s insanity in Wisconsin. As always the PGA field is obnoxiously deep. It seems to have been quite awhile since we’ve had a out of nowhere winner, scooping up the Wanamaker Trophy a la Rich Beem or Y.E. Yang in grand style. Somehow, I don’t see that happening this year. A funky aside, it still stymies my cognitive capacity grappling with the fact that Arnold Palmer never won this tournament. How can that be?

The favorites to win this major are a plenty. We can run down the list, but most pundits feel it’s Spieth, Rory….and then everybody else. I don’t believe we’ve reached the point where these two players are the only players when on their game can’t be beat. Just isn’t so, anybody, and I mean anybody can be beat on the PGA tour. The second wave of favorites include the likes of Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler, and possibly Adam Scott. All long hitters of the golf ball, 3 of which haven’t closed the deal at a major. It’s highly likely, these guys will probably win I’d say 6 majors between them career wise, but until they breakthrough they hang in purgatory clinging to the rope leading to golf immortality. My guess is Jason Day would be the next member into club, have a hunch he may breakthrough this week. Frankly, I’d be happy if any of the 3 amigos were “made”….as it were. Who else? What about Kuchar? This place screams a Stewart Cink’esque win for the veteran. He’s long enough, no doubt, and makes birdies at a rate rivaled only by Donald Trump’s headline making comments. Maybe a dark horse? Henrik Stenson should be a contender this week. His game is trending in the right direction and he has the confidence when he’s dealing to hit any shot in the book. Let’s hope he keeps the temper in check, though I believe it’s the engine fueling his unrivaled intensity. The one player I really like this week is Brooks Koepka. This guy is a player who can hit it long…..no make that stupid long. He can putt it to boot. A win would install him into the conversation with the other bigs, maybe spreading the wealth as it were being the independent party in a 2 man race for supremacy. I certainly don’t believe Brooks is flying under the radar, he’s a threat every week.

Lots of choices. You can field a pretty competitive fantasy squad with many of the above players. Unfortunately, there is a salary cap (Draft Kings). So who are the other guys trending up, that won’t blow your budget. I can’t divulge them all, but there are a few guys I like to make some noise at Whistling Straits. Justin Thomas has had a very good year. Pound for pound, he might be the longest driver of the golf ball on tour. He makes birdies and a lot of them. He ranks 8th on tour for number of birdies (359) and 6th in eagles (15). I like those numbers on a course purported to be open and favoring the long hitter. Hideki Matsuyama is another player trending in the right direction. He ranks in the top 10 for total driving (7) and ball striking (7) which are two skills that are at a premium this week. Strokes gained tee to green he ranks 4th. He’s not what you would call a bargain in the draft, but I would call him an excellent value. Patrick Reed, or as I like to call him, “Steady Freddie”. Somehow, this seems like a down year for him, yet he ranks 9th in Fed Ex points. He hasn’t been knocking on the door in a while and maybe a little bit of the bravado is waning. This guy is a fighter and he has shown signs of life as of late. His early round pairing is intriguing. To me, he seems to feed a little bit off his playing partners. G Mac (Graeme McDowell) looks to have resurrected himself from a dismal season…which could do wonders for Reed. Somebody tell Reed this is a Ryder Cup match….he’ll go bonkers.

There are couple of other guys I like this week to have a good tournament, but alas, I can’t give them all up. I’m trying to win too. It’s all there for the taking. Looking forward to tremendous tournament and hoping for a historic finish. Maybe Spieth wins his third or Rory comes back to win after a long layoff. Maybe Tiger finds it just in time to make the playoffs. Or J Day, finally gets his first changing the landscape of the PGA tour. I know the pros can’t wait to embark on those legendary 6 hour rounds starting off split tees. Good luck and enjoy the final major of the year.

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