TEACHING PRO
Janina Jacobs 
Teach a kid golf -- the right way
Friday, April 29, 2011
By Mark Anderson

Do you long for the good old days of air travel?  That is, when you could bring your golf clubs and the airlines would lose them, maim them, misdirect them, and then deliver them to your hotel as you are checking out – but at least back then you didn’t have to pay for the privilege?

 

It’s almost as if the airlines have singled out golfers for excessive fees, knowing that packing for the sport is difficult at best:  You have to take into account all types of weather contingencies, golf clothes vs. fancy duds, golf shoes vs. street and dress shoes, hats, golf balls (how many do you take?), umbrella, and of course, your golf bag full of clubs.  There’s virtually no way to get all of that paraphernalia into a carry-on.

 

Or is there a way around it?

 

In the past few years of traveling all over the world for golf, I’ve streamlined packing to the extent I can survive with only one carry-on, regardless of whether the trip lasts 3 days or a week.  Impossible....for a woman, you say?  Not so.  How I do it, well, I’ll leave that for another column.  For now, let’s talk about the biggest and most expensive issue:  Golf clubs.  Usually they constitute the double whammy: a second and oversized bag.

 

Most people are dependent on using their own clubs, which is rather surprising since these same folks probably were never measured for proper clubs via correct club-fitting anyway.  The majority of people I play with should be using different clubs, usually for a variety of reasons. m So, why not use golf travel as a way to save money, but also as a means for trying out new clubs?  Rent or borrow them.

 

In another era, rental clubs were saddled with a poor reputation.  If you had to rent clubs, it was almost implied that you weren’t a serious golfer, or you couldn’t afford to buy them.  Therefore, golf courses and resorts spent little or no time, effort, or expense to provide top of the line offerings in the rental club department.  Rental set selections were almost as bad as Rent-A-Wreck cars.  The clubs were old, used, abused, with the newest, hottest clubs on the market unavailable at any price. 

 

However, it is a far different story now.  Today’s golf resorts understand the hassle and expense of lugging golf bags around and have done a complete 180:  rentals are now often a perk for those who sign up for special frequent customer Ôclubs’ like the Fairmont Hotels’ President’s Club or when you stay at places like the Ritz Carlton or Walt Disney World.  Hyatt’s Gold Passport has a ÔNo Hassle’ package for all leisure guests to encourage last-minute bookings; $25 gets you a set of clubs, golf balls, and a glove.  Many hotels with courses attached will usually have golf schools too, which use name-brand equipment companies like TaylorMade, Nike, Titleist, Callaway, Cleveland, Hogan, and Cobra.  A variety of sets will come in regular, senior, or stiff flexes, which incidentally is slowly taking the place of men’s and ladies designations;  you can also get regular or extra long lengths.

 

There are also companies specializing in online club rentals where you can order exactly what you want at varying rates according to club type, how long, and where: Rentalclubhub.com, Golfrentalandsales.com, Golfclubsaway.com, to name a few.  In most cases, you can order clubs online by 4 p.m., they’re delivered to your hotel or the course by 7 a.m., you play, and then you leave them at the course or hotel, where they are picked up later.  Insurance is offered should you anticipate a mishap.

 

Some people may even opt to rent clubs as opposed to buying them while at home.   This may seem strange to folks who have a garage full of clubs, but it does make sense.  Here’s why:

 

1)    You can play the latest and greatest clubs featured on tour;

2)    You may keep a club or set as long as you want, when you are finished using the clubs, return them, as is;

3)    You can shop from your home computer and avoid equipment overload when visiting a mega store full of every kind of club that is made;

4)    Your clubs are never outdated nor do you Ôoutgrow’ them;

5)    Your outlay of cash is much less at a time

6)    You are not stuck with clubs you hate or will never use;

7)    If you decide you want to buy a club, most rental companies will let you;

 

Skeptical players will insist you can never play as well with rental clubs as you do with your own clubs.  To some extent, this may be true.  But I find it a challenge to try different clubs at every destination.

 

I stopped taking my own clubs years ago, after about the fourth or fifth time the airlines Ômisplaced’ them.  My game has not really suffered; in fact, I can play quite well with whatever I’m given as long as the shaft flex is regular, not stiff, the grips are decent, not worn or slippery, the putter doesn’t have too much loft (yes, you can see it) and the driver isn’t more than 11 or 12 degrees with a pronounced hook or slice face (though drivers rarely have slice faces).  That may sound like a lot of caveats, but really, it isn’t and every club has been able to accommodate my wishes. 

 

And, just so you know, good things can happen with borrowed clubs, consider this:  in March I was invited to play in the Bacardi Par-3 Championship at the Southampton Princess in beautiful Bermuda – a stone’s throw from Philly.

 

One of the assistants, Will Tucker, had some TaylorMade clubs all ready for me, but after chatting a bit he asked if I’d like to borrow his clubs, an older set of Titleist DCIs.  I decided to take his set and the rentals to Port Royal GC, where I was playing a casual round that morning.  I opted to use the TaylorMade woods and Will’s irons in the tournament.  I aced the second hole I played and very nearly aced another, 4 holes later.  At the end of the two-day event, I tied for the Ladies Division Championship.   Will was ecstatic and has since gotten an ace of his own, the first in his 15 year career...only because I warmed up those borrowed clubs.

 

The point is, if your swing is somewhat sound and your fundamentals are decent, you can play good golf with just about any club.  Put your money into golf lessons instead of expecting the newest clubs to fix your game. 

 

And, for those of you who have about 25 putters in your ClubCave.......I’ve always said this about putting: it isn’t the putter, it’s the putt-er.

 

Janina Jacobs is a multi-media consultant and freelance writer specializing in golf, business, music, nutrition, fitness and women's issues. These days, much of her efforts are devoted to her blog on the international golf and travel website, The A Position.  Her full bio is here.

 


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Masters: Was Rory McIlroy hurt by the pace of play?
Friday, April 15, 2011
By Mark Anderson

The final round of the 2011 Masters was probably one of the most exciting finishes in recent Masters history.   Pre-tournament predictions abounded everywhere but were quickly amended after Tiger returned to sparks of his former greatness on Saturday.   But the two questions on everyone's mind likely were:  Could Tiger put together two great rounds back-to-back, possibly setting him up for a much needed win?  And, could Rory hold on?

Since all Hades broke loose in Tiger's world, he has not been able to put enough good rounds together for a victory.  Rory has been a resilient performer and has finished strongly in a number of events, including majors.  However, there is one question nagging at me for which I know there probably is no correct, tactful, or available answer:   Did the seemingly slow play of eventual winner Charl Schwartzel have an appreciable effect on Rory and Angel Cabrerra as they waited...and waited...and waited to hit their shots? For Rory, obviously the wheels came off.  But was it because the field was catching up to him as they played ahead – including Tiger, though not in his never-miss-a-putt mode – or was it because he didn't have the experience to deal with delays and temper his tempo accordingly?

We have all been there, though perhaps not in contention for anything as serious as the Masters green jacket.  We've stood behind groups with players who lollygag and take endless practice swings and size up imaginary breaks and visualize their shots, ad nauseam.   We've stood patiently while players up ahead wait to hit par-5's when their drives didn't even make it half-way there.  We've rested hands-on-hips, hoping the offenders glance back to see that we are waiting.  Patiently.   Well, maybe not so patiently...but we usually feel powerless to do anything about it except to grouse.

During the Masters TV coverage, we couldn't gauge where Schwartzel's group was in relation to the group ahead, and thus truly assess if there was an official slow play situation.  And if there had been, would we see Masters Rules Officials timing the players – let alone penalizing anyone? In recent years, there has been talk about the lethargic pace of play as Masters threesomes take almost 5 and ½ hours with the final days' twosomes needing 4 and ½.   As amateur competitors in USGA tournaments, we'd definitely be on the clock.  But it was difficult to watch Charl take practice swing after practice swing and go through his obvious visualization techniques, especially while parked in the middle of the fairway and not having to hit recovery shots, which do take more time to size up.   Are 3 or 4 practice swings really necessary?  Are 8 or 9 needed for a chip shot?   I found myself getting agitated and talking to Charl through the TV to 'just HIT the ball!!'  No one is arguing with Schwartzel's results and his place in Masters history.  But at whose expense?

Do you remember when Sergio Garcia used to grip and re-grip – up to 35 times (I counted them) – before he finally took a swing?   These are learned habits.   Sergio unlearned that one, thank goodness.  Slow play on our courses can be unlearned as well – that is, if those in charge will speak up.

If Rory McIlroy was asked, point blank, whether or not the pokiness of the group in front had an effect on his back nine meltdown, what do you think he would say?

Janina Parrott Jacobs, or the Silver Fox, is a multi-media consultant specializing in golf, business, music, nutrition, fitness and women's issues.  She blogs about golf at The A Position. A 4 handicap, she lives in Michigan.  Her full bio is here.


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Golf-wise, what to give up for Lent
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
By Mark Anderson

For those of us who are Christian or, in my case Catholic, or who celebrate the Easter Season, we are smack dab in the middle of Lent, a time which used to mean "giving up" something choice, like chocolate or ice cream or pop or watching TV...or for older adults, alcohol.   These days, the emphasis is more on service to others or improving your life, rather than deprivation.  A good move, I think.

As the golf season approaches sun-starved northern climates, wouldn't now be the prime time to "give up" some bad golf habits in favor of new and better ones?   Here's a Top-10 list to get you started, 5 habits to lose and 5 to gain:

The BAD:

1)    Stop looking at putts from 15 angles or plumb-bobbing as if you truly know, exactly, how it works.   Your first thoughts are usually accurate and you should trust them.

2)    Don't go to the driving range and immediately grab your driver, swinging as hard and as fast as you can – hitting 45 balls in 10 minutes.  This does NOT help your swing and only reinforces poor technique. 

3)    Give up playing from the Back Tees so you can "get your money's worth."  If your handicap is in mid-teens or higher, you should move up more toward Regular Tee status, or below 6,500 yards.  You will get your money’s worth just fine, and maybe even shoot a good score while feeling that your money was well spent.

4)    Stop arriving at the course five minutes before your tee time.  This is not courteous to your playing partners and the lack of any warm-up isn't good for your body.  You'll feel rushed for at least the first few holes, and by then, your round is usually ruined.

5)    If your handicap isn't in the single digits, don't even bother trying to give out golf tips or lessons, especially on the course.  No one wants to hear them.

The GOOD:

1)    Care for the course as if it is your own by doing extra clean-up.  Repair your ball mark and two others (not just one).  Replace divots and/or use the sand/seed mix to fill.  I know you've heard this before but until I play a course with every divot filled and no ball marks, I'll keep harping.

2)    Bring a kid or two out to play golf, teaching them proper etiquette – and donate to the Platt Caddie Scholarship fund while you're at it.  This is the future of our game.

3)    Cut down on practice swings.  You don't need them and they delay the game needlessly...OK, OK I hear the groans already.  Take one swing and a waggle.  No more.  Just enough to ease the tension.

4)    Practice the game from 100 yards in and your handicap will go down.  Guaranteed.  Unless you don't want it to go down...then keep busting drivers as in Bad # 2.

5)    Try to eat some nutritious food, which helps performance and stamina.  Fruits, sandwiches with whole grain breads, and natural energy bars are so much better for you than dogs-n-chips.  If your course doesn't stock these items, ask.  And drink water rather than soda pop.   Consumption of too many soft drinks is one of the  reasons we are fat.

Janina Parrott Jacobs, or the Silver Fox, is a multi-media consultant specializing in golf, business, music, nutrition, fitness and women's issues.  She blogs about golf at The A Position. A 4 handicap, she lives in Michigan.  Her full bio is here.


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’You swing like a girl’
Thursday, March 10, 2011
By Mark Anderson

Almost 40 years have passed since Title IX was enacted and, still, a comment like "You swing like a girl" is perceived as an insult.   For those of you who haven’t been around that long, Title IX legislation addressed the lack of females’ sports opportunities in high school and college and allowed women to play on men’s teams if there were no comparable women’s teams.

Not too much is said anymore about the law since women's athletics have become a major factor in most schools.  Come to think of it, you don’t hear the old Virginia Slims cigarette slogan, "You've come a long way, baby," which came out a little later and capitalized on Title IX by the portraying women athletes as prime cigarette smokers...obviously not so appropriate today.   But it surely sold a lot of cigarettes at the time.

"Swinging like a girl" is a phrase no man wants attributed to him, though why that should be is buried deep within the psyche of many males who still assume superiority to women in a number of areas.  Golf is one of them.   C'mon guys, you know you do.   I’m simply putting it out here in the open.

During one of the semi-final matches of the PGA Tour's Accenture Match Play Championship on Saturday last month, the always-effervescent Johnny Miller quipped that eventual runner-up Martin Kaymer had a "swing like a girl."

Quickly, the comment took off running with a mind of its own when pundits everywhere assumed an it was an insult against Kaymer.   CBS Announcer Peter Kostis hit Twitter with "Ha Ha!  I think Johnny just said Martin Kaymer has an LPGA swing!  Wow."  

So why was the comment taken negatively to mean Kaymer's swing resembled that of an uncoordinated and talentless woman rather the athletic swings of Yani Tseng, Paula Creamer, Annika Sorenstam, Karrie Webb, or even Michelle Wie?   I'd bet on their games against 95 percent of the male golfers out there.   In many ways, it is still a man’s world.

However, some forward thinking has emerged among the educated and learned fans of the game.  The consortium of golf writers, editors and instructors comprising the website The A Position posted a running discussion on their new site, GearEffectGolf.com. Comments reflected some enlightened thinking among those who follow the game closely.

Quite often I'm told by men that I "play like a guy" – and they do mean it as a compliment.  And, I've accepted the comments in that way, so I'd suppose I'm as guilty as anyone in the reverse situation.  Of course, the question I should really be asking is, "Which guy?" 

For all I know, they could be talking about Charles Barkley.

Janina Parrott Jacobs, or the Silver Fox, is a multi-media consultant specializing in golf, business, music, nutrition, fitness and women's issues.  She blogs about golf at The A Position. A 4 handicap, she lives in Michigan.  Her full bio is here.


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Aren’t you the girl who cheats?
Monday, February 7, 2011
By Mark Anderson

"Hey, aren't you the girl who cheats?"

Imagine hearing those words as you walk to the first tee.   A number of years ago I was playing in a charity outing when this fellow decided it was "cheating" to allow me to play the Forward Tees, as I had been instructed to do by the Tournament Chair.

This issue has always been a bone of contention between men and women; and because many courses still only have one set of tees rated for women – and usually three or four for men – one must ask the question, "How can every woman who plays golf, regardless if she has a 36 handicap or a 2, possibly be lumped into only playing one set of tees?  The answer is, they shouldn't".

For years, I'd played the regular Men's tees, mostly because I grew up doing it and also because I played on men's golf teams where everyone played the same tees.  But I was always at a disadvantage, always shorter than the guys off the tee.   On a positive note, I was also more accurate and had a better short game, mostly out of necessity.   Back then, we weren't really taught a power game, but rather a method with more finesse.   There were a few women who could bust it, but I was not one of them, which does not mean I wasn't often victorious.   Great length can foster a false sense of being indestructible.  It helps, but does not guarantee that you'll win.

Today, courses are getting longer and longer while equipment improvements appear to help some golfers hit it farther.  The surprising truth is that the average handicap has not moved in years.  Most people still cannot break 100.

On the LPGA Tour, driving distances have increased, making it exciting to watch, and giving inspiration to the average woman golfer that maybe, just maybe, she can do it too.   However, there is a giant chasm between what the professionals can do versus what the normal golfer can.  Usually, this results in under-clubbing and golfers often come up short.   On the charity circuit, I am frequently paired with women.  Many who hit average drives of about 130 yards will then come to a 130-yard par-3, ask me what I'm hitting, then take out the same club and expect to hit the green.  Again, they fall far short.

The fact is, most clubs and courses are just too long for women to play despite jibes from men about "the Ladies Tees".   Oddly enough, when clubs want to change and shorten the distances, it is often the women who complain the loudest...and I have no idea why.  Perhaps it is because that's how "it's always been done."

Ladies, do you get discouraged when you just can't reach the green?  This may ease your mind:  There is a new study out that concludes that yardages set for most women's Forward Tees is way too long.  This is really nothing new to those who have struggled to reach par-4's in three or four shots and par-5's in more than that...but now it has been quantified.

 A "fairness test" compiled by Jann E. Leeming and Arthur D. Little was recently posed to women golfers through their Blog, "Golf With Women," and the result is that women have been playing from tees that are about 1000 yards too long.  Comparatively, LPGA pros would have to set their tees at 9,600 and PGA pros at 10,400 yards to equate what the average woman faces at 5,600, quite a "normal" yardage at many clubs. 

 Women were asked to respond to the following questions on www.golfwithwomen.com:

1) How fair is a 5,600-yard course for the average woman?

2) What would you think if we told you that a 5,600-yard course would be equivalent to an 8,400-yard course for average men?

3) How about an 11,200-yard course for Matt Kuchar?

So, what do you think?

What was deemed "fair" was calculated as having all players hit the same clubs into greens.  With these figures, very few courses would consider 4,200-yard tees which would be the norm for most women, who generally hit their drive approximately130-140 yards.

How do you calculate what is right for your game?  Little suggests playing a course that measures 30 times your average drive.  If you don't know, or tend to exaggerate like most players do, then try this:  calculate how far your 9-iron goes and multiply it by 2 to get your estimated driving distance.

Example:  If your average drive is 175 yards, "your" course yardage should not exceed 5,250 yards.  If you hit it 190, you can move up to 5,700 yards.  If your 9-iron travels 80 yards, double it, and your estimated drive is 160.  160 x 30 suggests a course measuring 4,800 yards.

Men could certainly benefit from this formula for tee selection as well.  I believe no one should move back from the Forward Tees or Senior Tees until they can at least break 90 – and I'm being generous.

I've seen countless men step up to Demon Tees at 6,800 yards when they couldn't hit the ball 200.   And "getting your money's worth" shouldn’t necessarily mean an exercise in futility, searching for golf balls in wetlands, woodlands, and water hazards all day long.

Women should have fun on the course and not feel compelled to make excuses for lesser lengths.  Ladies, make your intentions known and ask golf courses to move up those tees for more playable conditions...and ask, also, for more than one set of tees to be rated for women.

Janina Parrott Jacobs, or the Silver Fox, is a multi-media consultant specializing in golf, business, music, nutrition, fitness and women's issues.  A 4 handicap, she lives in Michigan.  Her full bio is here.


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Beginnings: Daddy’s girl
Thursday, January 20, 2011
By Mark Anderson

Many people wonder how an inner-city Detroit girl raised in the 1960's became an international golf competitor, speaker, and writer.   I wonder myself.  But extraordinary stories often have ordinary beginnings.

You could see them almost any day of the week, usually late in the afternoon.  The little girl was about eight, the boys a few years older, the dad a tad gray – and balding.  But, given that marriage to the mom didn't happen until later in life, they were more than ready to start a family.  The kids came pretty quickly. 

The dad learned to play golf as an Army sergeant, a Lou Gossett-type drill instructor, in WWII.  All of his soldiers went through strenuous exercises under his command, with many trying to weasel out, though not succeeding.  One sole recruit, an Australian professional golfer named Jim Ferrier, struck a deal:  "Go easy on me, Sarge...and I'll teach you how to play golf."

Soon the dad was shooting par on some little-known tracks on or near the California coast:  Pebble Beach, Spyglass Hill, Cypress Point, Pasatiempo.  In those days, patriotic course owners and private club members allowed their precious soldiers the luxury.  When the war ended, the dad could have become a professional golfer, but back then golf pros entered clubhouses through the rear door.  The money would not have been enough to care for the woman he was about to marry, nor the kids they planned to have.  So, he became a Detroit firefighter instead.

He didn't stop playing golf.  Instead, he tore up the local scene, a feared opponent everyone tried to defeat.  He lost infrequently.

The flexible schedule of a firefighter allowed him to play golf a lot, but more importantly, he had the time to do something else.  Those kids he hoped for?  He had them now and would teach them to play golf.  The right way.

And so, you could see them almost daily on the back nine of one of the city courses, Palmer Park.  They practiced, they missed shots, yet the lessons in etiquette and good sportsmanship were in plain sight.  Seemingly endless groups played through, but the dad and his brood never minded.  The kids were extremely polite.  There would be no temper tantrums or rude behavior allowed in this foursome then...or now.

When I think of the patience of that dedicated dad – my Dad – I marvel at the countless hours he spent fashioning the four of us...and a Mom who chauffeured us everywhere.   You see, Dad didn't simply teach us to play golf.  He also formed us into baseball, basketball, hockey, football, tennis, and bowling competitors and, yes, even ping pong players.  Mom covered the arts: music, education, food preparation.  I thank God for the luck to be borne of parents who had time for us and for a Dad who didn't discount his only daughter in favor of the boys.  Girls didn't play many sports and certainly not golf in the 60's...but I surely did.  And I couldn't imagine that every girl didn't do the same.

Dad, we called him Buckaroo, passed away in 2009 at age 93.  But the lessons learned and the experiences I've had will find a place on these pages in the months to come.  All little girls should be so lucky to have grown up as I did.   Keep that in mind if you're ever tempted to shortchange one kid over another – male or female.

Janina Parrott Jacobs, or the Silver Fox, is a multi-media consultant specializing in golf, business, music, nutrition, fitness and women's issues.  A 4 handicap, she lives in Michigan.  Her full bio is here.


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