PARALYSIS BY ANALYSIS
Ryan Gingrow, Whitford CC teaching pro 
Argh! The horrors of slow play
Thursday, August 25, 2011
By Ron Romanik

I am suddenly inspired to address an alarming trend that most golfers would agree is currently hurting our great game.  No, I am not talking about the great advances in equipment, especially the controversy surrounding the long putter.  I am talking about s-l-o-w play.

 

My moment of inspiration came while I was caddying for a member from Whitford CC in a State Amateur event last week.   Exact moment?  The 8th fairway at the Country Club of York.  Exact time to inspire?  Roughly 12 excruciating minutes.

 

Under golf’s pace of play policy, the group in front of us was making okay time for their match, as rules officials watched from a distance.   What I witnessed on the green in front of us, however, was mind-blowing at times and a textbook case of the kind of dawdling that needs to be banished from the game.

 

Practice is for the range and the short game area, not for the course in the middle of a competitive round, while others in the group are trying to keep pace.

 

Specifically, I watched a player 3-putt the 8th green.  Okay, three-putting on a fast green does not make for slow play.  Heck, if the player 5-putted, who cares, so long as they do it in a reasonable amount of time?

 

What set me off was the selfish slowness of it all.  Each putt was meticulously examined, reviewed, reconsidered, like the U.S. Open was on the line.

 

Meanwhile, back down the fairway, my player and I waited and waited and w-a-i-t-e-d, along with the opponent in the match.  Up ahead on the green, Miss Stall (thinking four-corners in basketball here) was taking three and four full rehearsal putts. Even the tap-in 2 footer (the third putt that wasn’t conceded), required the full pre-shot routine.

 

Much of this time-wasting foolishness was a result of the pressure from Miss Stall’s caddy, I’m sure, who also happened to be her dad, coach and no doubt future business manager.  At one point, he actually straddled the line of one of his daughter’s putts, crouching like Carlos Ruiz, staring into her face as she lined up the putt.  Maybe she had something in her eye and asked her dad to take a look.  Who knows?  I can’t explain that move.

 

Her routine was just as slow off the green.  Several times I watched as this young player took several practice swings for a short pitch shot, holding her finish position, seeming to watch the ball trickle to the hole in her mind.  If all this didn’t take hours, it felt like it.  I’m pretty sure my good-luck beard was a little grayer in spots when we finally got off the course.

 

So, here is my advice, especially to young players:  Golf is not a game to take lightly if you want future success.  However, remember that you are learning to play the game.  Just because you don’t see a play clock or shot clock behind each green, as a quarterback or point guard would in their respective sports, doesn’t mean you can let the world wait on you.

 

The majority of your mental and physical preparation should take place on the practice tee, before the round.  After repeating the process of your pre-shot routine and your swing so many times on the range, your body and mind will ultimately follow on the golf course.

 

Juniors, from the moment you tee off and you feel the first-tee jitters – and you will feel jitters -- trust your swing.  During the actual round, just react.

   

And a note to parents, too. If you want to caddie for your son or daughter, caddie.  But coaching is for the range.


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Ryan Gingrow, teaching pro Whitford CC 
What you can learn from the British Open
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
By Ron Romanik

The third Major of the year has come and gone

The third major of the year has come and gone.   Sun, clouds, rain and wind.  Sun, clouds, rain and wind.  Without a well-deserved victory by well-liked player, those elements would have been the story of yet another Open Championship. There is one more chance for an American player to help buck the trend that has dominated golf for much of the last two years.  Phil, Dustin and Rickie were all close waiting to forge ahead, but just like wishing for four days of perfect weather in the south of England, it never happened.

 

There is much more, however, to take out of watching the Open Championship for the normal golf fan, the mid-to-high handicapper.  The style of golf necessary to succeed on links courses can actually benefit your games here in the States.  A claret jug is not at stake for you, but maybe lower scores can be just as rewarding and cause you to celebrate with a few pints of "black stuff," as Darren Clarke referred to Guinness on Sunday.  So pay attention, Mr. or Mrs. Handicap because this is for you.

 

Wind

 

There is no doubt that the wind is the harshest element of links golf.  But the number one thing you hear pros say when they play in the wind is to make sure to swing easy.

 

Can you take this swing thought with you anywhere,  to any course you play?  Absolutely. Swinging harder can cause two major problems.  One, poor balance; two, imparting too much spin on the golf ball. 

 

Set up a fan at home or practice one day when the winds are up.  Learn to keep your balance until the finish of your swing, and until your ball has landed. 

 

How many times at Royal St. Georges did you see a player attempt hit his ball high into a green?  Not many.  Playing under firm conditions, the goal was to keep their ball below the wind, often playing three-quarter swings and running their balls up to the front of the greens.

 

Have you ever played your shots to the fronts of greens instead of chasing pins?  Why not take a club that will get you to the front of the green, avoiding bunkers, heavy rough and the trees surrounding many green complexes?  Take an extra club and flight the ball lower and keep it under the tops of the trees.  There is nothing that says golf has to be played in the air. 

 

Recovery shots

 

Recovering from trouble is the norm, if your game is a little off when playing across the pond.  The best players in the world take their lumps and attempt to recover as quickly as possible.  Shots are played out sideways and backwards from deep bunkers.  Shots from the heavy gorse are played with sand wedges.  Putters are used from 30 yards out to curve a ball on the ground around a bunker.  Has it ever taken you three shots to get out of a bunker?  If you are not a skilled bunker player, and you are faced with a wall of sand or sod between you and the green, hit it out backwards to the fairway.  After all, a bunker is a hazard. Sometimes it’s better to swallow your pride and take a stroke to play your shot to a safe area, rather than pulling off a shot which you can only hit one out of ten times. 

 

Mickelson’s new attitude

 

Phil Mickelson tied for second at Royal St. Georges, his best finish in any Open thus far.  He went into the week with a whole new attitude.  He convinced himself that this was his first chance to play links golf and took what the course gave him.  It almost worked. 

 

As for you, do not try to out-smart a course.  Play the shot which lies in front of you.  If you can’t hit a draw, don’t hit it.  If your fairway woods roll more than fly, pull an iron.  Learning to hit shots that you can actually hit will also help make this game more enjoyable for you (and for your playing partners).

 

Yes we are blessed with more sun and fewer windy days during the summer months in Pennsylvania, but focus on playing your game as if you were an ocean away.  Play the ground game.  Leave the air for the guys who don’t work a nine to five!


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Ryan Gingrow 
For Fatherís Day, a surprise trip to the U.S. Open
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
By Ron Romanik

So a day planned a few weeks in advance to surprise my dad with a trip to the US Open at Congressional for Father’s Day, ended

Step back a few years to 1995.  I was home for the summer prior to my sophomore year of college and my dad suggested going to see my first major golf tournament.

 

The host club was Congressional Country Club and the event was the U.S. Senior Open.  I remember a few things from that day.  Jack Nicklaus "fatting" a chip shot from the approach of the 11th fairway.  Seeing Tom Weiskopf during the second round, having no idea that he was going to be crowned champion two days later. 

 

My dad remembers one "special" memory that he never fails to mention whenever Congressional Country Club is mentioned.  We left the course that evening after stopping by the merchandise tent only to find it closed.  We wanted a souvenir before heading heading back to Pennsylvania after a long day of watching golf.  I spotted a trash container with the official U.S. Senior Open logo on each side.  Large and cumbersome, I managed to fit the large box container in the back of my dad’s Honda Accord and off we went.  I never knew that action of minor thievery would be remembered by my father for so many years. 

 

We returned to Congressional in 2005 for the Booze Allen PGA Tour.  By then, I was in the golf business and living in Richmond, Va.; and my dad met me at Congressional for the event.  We hung out mostly on the 3rd green and watched Sergio Garcia knock in a remarkable chip shot from just behind the green. 

 

Congressional seemed to be a place where my dad and I had enjoyed many special moments in golf together.  I knew the 111th U.S. Open was coming to Congressional, but hadn’t decided that I wanted to go and make the trip.  But as the Open neared, I knew I had to find a way to get back to the course -- not just go back by myself, but to surprise my dad for Father’s Day.

 

As a PGA Member, I receive complimentary admission to the event each year, but I did not want to go alone.  A couple of well-connected friends helped me get a ticket for my father for the final round on Sunday.

 

A week in advance, I secretly communicated to my dad’s wife the surprise I had in store.  On Saturday, I traveled to my dad’s house in Hanover, Pa., trying to surprise him that I was coming home for Father’s Day.  We watched the end of the of the third round of the Open on TV, then had  dinner, drank a few beers and tossed a soggy, wet tennis ball around to my dog.  I needed to tell my dad of my plan for Sunday. 

 

"Hey, dad,"  I said, grabbing a copy of Sports Illustrated with a map of Congressional on the inside.  "Look at this page and tell me where you want to sit tomorrow."

 

He looked at me and paused.  I wasn’t sure if it had sunk in yet.  He said, "No."  I said "Yes...we are going to the Open tomorrow."

 

After the 90-minute trip down to Congressional Sunday morning, we parked and hopped on the shuttle bus. As we entered Congressional just off the 17th fairway, I was reminded of 1995 and 2005.  This time we were both older and, hopefully, wiser.  But what attracted us to the event was the same thing:  Our passion for golf.

 

My dad had taught me the game at a very young age.  I would wack a putter around at a par 3 golf course named Sluggos, just east of York, Pa.  It wasn’t until about the 7th grade that I began to take the game more seriously, and it would be four more years before I beat my father for the first time.  Over the years, my dad and I definitely have had our moments on the golf course -- several that I will not mention (I had some growing up to do).

 

At Congressional on Sunday on we went to watch the golf; we soon found ourselves on the same knob behind the 3rd green, where we watched Garcia six years earlier. 

 

Me, my dad and my cousin, who went with us, were three of 40,000 fans at the course that day.  Fans were stuffed in bleachers, stacked behind and under trees, lined eight- and nine-deep at each tee box, green and fairway approach.

 

Birdies were going up on the boards early by many who started out their final rounds over par.  My father, my cousin and I crossed fairways and perched ourselves on knobs behind greens to witness the early action.  What we would see later could be the beginning of a long list of majors for Rory McIlroy. 

 

Being a spectator early on was manageable.  We could get close to some greens and tee boxes to see the players coming through.  I even made eye contact with a friend who caddies for Brian Gay, and we exchanged a handshake and a quick conversation at the fourth tee box.  But that mellow atmosphere would change as the 3 o’clock hour approached and so would the ability to get close to the players.

 

As we were standing outside the ropes to the left of the fairway on the first hole, waiting for the leaders tee shots, you could hear the echo’s of "Rory, Rory, Rory" and "Let’s Go Rory" throughout the front nine.  Before he drilled a fairway wood down the fairway and avoided a divot by a centimeter, I thought to myself that even Tiger, who has heard louder ovations for his play, probably never had an entire following of fans voice his name that loudly prior to teeing off. 

 

Following McIlroy for all 18 holes would have been asking for a possible trampling by the bulls of Pamplona.  A little fresher in the legs than my father these days, I would serve as the leader and direct my father to where we would try to catch the action next. 

 

After watching McIlroy’s approach into No. 1, we headed over to the seventh tee box, an up-hill par 3.  From there we had a nice view over to the sixth green, a reachable par 5 that day.  I played the course, firmer and faster, in 2006 during a PGA Section Championship while living in Virginia, and I remember having a 4 iron into that green.  But on this day, Lee Westwood caught my demons and he hit his second shot into the front right pond as I did. 

 

Here is a helpful hint to any of you who want to see a U.S. Open in the future, more specifically at Merion in 2013:  When you get well ahead of the leaders on Sunday, and you find yourself standing against the ropes guarding the tee boxes in hopes of getting a great look at the next group coming to the tee, get ready to be disappointed.  Is there really a reason why seven, yes seven, marshals need to be surrounding the back of the tee with there hands held high, saying "Quiet Please!"?  Each one of them seemed to block our previously perfect view.  I found myself trying to always make sure my dad had the best view to see the action.

 

McIlroy and Y. E. Yang came through the seventh and headed up to the green.  What accompanied this final group was spectacular.  I would say easily there were 50-60 people inside the ropes.  From USGA Executive Director Mike Davis, PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem, agents, close friends, media members from ESPN, NBC and The Golf Channel, even Isao Aoki from an Asian media group following Yang, to dozens of photographers ready to capture a possible historic photo, the following was intense. 

 

This was the red carpet of golf.  It just so happened that the red carpet was laid out for McIlroy after each tee shot. 

 

We headed to a familiar spot on the back nine, settling in to the left of the 11th fairway, where 16 years earlier we had witnessed my father’s golfing hero and mine growing up, Nicklaus, fail to hit a solid pitch shot.  It was comforting to know some things in life hadn’t changed.  It was still my dad and I, at Congressional, watching golf and nothing else mattered at that time.

 

For most of the day, I had been traveling with a large, bright green leprechaun hat tucked in the back of my shorts.  I had given the hat to my dad during a family Christmas exchange a few years ago.  With Irish blood in me, I figured I would support the Northern Irish player at some point during the round.  On went my hat as McIlroy strutted up the 11th fairway and as he approached the 13th tee box.  My dad joked that he wouldn’t stand beside me if I wore the hat.  Really?  My dad had to be worried about being embarrassed by me?  Ha!

 

With the sun finally peaking out and my dad and I getting tired from the nearly eight hours at the course, we decided to watch the finish at No. 18 from a bleacher behind the 10th green.  The mob of people lining 18 and sitting in the stands was impressive.  What was more impressive was looking over at the leaderboard just behind the pond behind the 18th green and seeing how far the 22-year-old was out in front of his chasers.

 

It was good to see Rory celebrate with is dad on this day, and it was good to be with mine.  We headed back to catch the shuttle to our parking spot, but not before stopping in the merchandise tent to grab a couple of souvenirs from the day.  This time the tent was open.

 

The merchandise tent is more like a department store and the responsibility of running this store lies with a friend, Michael Quirk (thanks Michael for the lunch vouchers as well)!  A great job he does each and every year.  He has a watchful eye over the massive sales floor; having his staff stock the shelves to make sure there is quality merchandise available right up to the final minutes after play. 

 

So our day at the U.S. Open at Congressional Country Club, planned a few weeks in advance to surprise my dad, started early and ended in a sea of red and white (on the scoreboard)!  A dominating victory by a player, whose nation’s flag carries those same colors, was not expected.  What was expected was a great day to celebrate Father’s Day and I will always remember my dad’s words to sum up the day, "This was the best Father’s Day I can remember!" 

 

Good luck next year on Father’s Day, Beth.  Beth is my sister.

 

Ryan Gingrow is PGA teaching professional at Whitford CC.  His full bio is here


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Ben[6/23/2011 8:06:16 PM]
Thanks for sharing you story.You and your father are both lucky.
Mom[6/23/2011 1:00:10 PM]
GREAT ARTICLE FROM BEGINNING TO END! THANKS FOR SHARING THE MEMORIES; PAST AND PRESENT.

Ryan Gingrow 
Play nine holes in your mind
Thursday, May 26, 2011
By Ron Romanik

I am always unsure of what I will learn from my first month of teaching at the start off a new golf season.  April 2011 was no different.  Each year that I teach, there is a new thought or concept that seems to be easier for students to grasp.

 

So, what have I learned so far this year?  My students want to play better. 

 

Wow!  Now there is a revelation!  Who takes a golf lesson with the goal of getting worse?  How could I overlook that simple goal of scoring better on the course for so many years?  Sure, I have talked many times about playing better, scoring better and so on, but I have never actually really stepped out of the teaching box and stressed practicing with a purpose.

 

As the season moves into June, it is time to refocus  -- refocus on lowering scores so my students can see results.  Not many players have the time and energy to commit to truly changing a faulty swing.  Most want to lower scores, hit the ball farther and cleaner and improve some aspect of their short games.

 

So as the season moves on, I have to marry a sound starting position and a more technically correct golf swing for my students and the ability to shoot lower scores on the course.  I cannot just be the guy they come to to make their swings look perfect on the range.  I have to be strong and guide my students into playing better golf...on the range! 

 

Try this out the next time you hit balls.  In your mind, play the front 9 of your course on the range.

 

Don’t hit the same club twice in a row.  Pull out your driver, then your 6 iron, then your wedge.  Play a par 3 next.  Hit a hybrid club to a long par 3, or hit a punch 9 iron to a back pin.  Practice the shots you are going to be hitting on the golf course.  Chances are that perfect 7 iron swing that you have grooved on the range with flat lies and perfect turf, will not be the same on the course.

 

Sure, there will be days on the range when you need to concentrate on one aspect of your game to make swing changes effective.  But don’t beat a new swing into the summer sod.   Feel the changes taking place, and put your swing into play on the range before you head to the course.  Simulating the course on the range will test your new swing and will create comfort on the course the next time you play. 

 

Ryan Gingrow is PGA teaching professional at Whitford CC.  His full bio is here.


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Ryan Gingrow 
Is it May already?
Friday, April 29, 2011
By Ron Romanik

I am always unsure of what I will learn from my first month of teaching at the start off a new golf season.  April 2011 was no different.  Each year that I teach, there is a new thought or concept that seems to be easier for students to grasp.

 

So, what have I learned so far this year?  My students want to play better. 

 

Wow!  Now there is a revelation!  Who takes a golf lesson with the goal of getting worse?  How could I overlook that simple goal of scoring better on the course for so many years?  Sure, I have talked many times about playing better, scoring better and so on, but I have never actually really stepped out of the teaching box and stressed practicing with a purpose.

 

As the season moves into June, it is time to refocus  -- refocus on lowering scores so my students can see results.  Not many players have the time and energy to commit to truly changing a faulty swing.  Most want to lower scores, hit the ball farther and cleaner and improve some aspect of their short games.

 

So as the season moves on, I have to marry a sound starting position and a more technically correct golf swing for my students and the ability to shoot lower scores on the course.  I cannot just be the guy they come to to make their swings look perfect on the range.  I have to be strong and guide my students into playing better golf...on the range! 

 

Try this out the next time you hit balls.  In your mind, play the front 9 of your course on the range.

 

Don’t hit the same club twice in a row.  Pull out your driver, then your 6 iron, then your wedge.  Play a par 3 next.  Hit a hybrid club to a long par 3, or hit a punch 9 iron to a back pin.  Practice the shots you are going to be hitting on the golf course.  Chances are that perfect 7 iron swing that you have grooved on the range with flat lies and perfect turf, will not be the same on the course.

 

Sure, there will be days on the range when you need to concentrate on one aspect of your game to make swing changes effective.  But don’t beat a new swing into the summer sod.   Feel the changes taking place, and put your swing into play on the range before you head to the course.  Simulating the course on the range will test your new swing and will create comfort on the course the next time you play. 

 

Ryan Gingrow is PGA teaching professional at Whitford CC.  His full bio is here.


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Ryan Gingrow 
Making a list and checking it twice
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
By Ron Romanik

Rankings.  We all enjoy debating topics that lead to heated, yet friendly, verbal exchanges.  What course in the area is tougher day-in and day-out?  We may rank our favorite golf holes or debate who should be ranked ahead of whom in the latest World Golf Rankings.  The Official World Golf Rankings mean as much to their sport as do the AP and Coaches polls do in college basketball.  UCONN wasn’t ranked to start the year.   Look where they will be ranked after winning Monday night’s NCAA Championship game.

 

The only good thing about rankings on the PGA Tour?  Entry into Major or World Golf Championships.

 

How about rankings which might be important to your own golf game?  Take a moment to start to think about rankings that can help you.  I’m not talking about ranking your favorite course or even who makes the best driver.  I’m talking about what holds down the number one position on your own list of areas where your game needs attention.

 

As with all things that need to be remembered, make sure you write down your rankings or type them into your smart phone.  Start out with a list of ten golf skills, with 1 being the part of your game that needs the most attention.  Do this at the end of each round, while your memory is still fresh, and before that in the 19th hole. 

 

If you need help with many facets of your game, your rankings might look a little something like this:

 

10.  Putting

 

9.  Driving

 

8.  Fairway Woods...

 

...and to the skill that needs the most work:

 

1.    Bunker Play

 

If you are a more skilled player -- someone with a handicap of say, less than 10 or 15 -- you might want to be more specific with your ranking system.  For example:

 

10.  Check and Release Greenside Chipping

 

9.  Flop Shots

 

8.  Sand Save Percentage...

 

...and to the skill that needs the most work:

 

1.    Hitting a Fade from the Tee

 

Whatever your area of concentration, be specific and honest when ranking with yourself about skill level.  Saying "I am going to work on my putting" is not going to help.   Rather, "I need to work on my left-to-right, downhill breaking putts" is a better approach.  The more specific you are, the more the brain will be able to remember your major challenges.

 

How many of you are quick to add your score up when you are done a round?  Some of you may even stand on the 18th hole and quickly compute your front and back total.   As soon as your last putt drops, your round is now past and the score can’t and will not change.

 

But what can change?   Your approach to improving.  Instead of adding up your score, rank your skills of the round just ended.  Know what you want to work on before you head to the range or the short game area.


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Itís only spring -- donít peak too early
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
By Ron Romanik

So If we all can learn something from the exciting month of March and all of its heartbreak, celebrating, buzzer-beating heroi

So If we all can learn something from the exciting month of March and all of its heartbreak, celebrating, buzzer-beating heroics and late second-half collapses, maybe this one very important message will dominate your brain waves at the beginning of your golf season: Do not peak too early.

 

Sure, the first round of golf this season might go like you have deamed it would all winter:  a few birdies, a few sand saves, drives covering the center of a soggy pre-spring fairway.  Your season will start strong and will only get better.  Wake up.  While these are all good and positive thoughts to have, let a little realism creep into your bag.

 

Controlling the ups and downs on the golf course, not only for each round, but also for each golf season is paramount when looking to achieve greater heights on the course.  Sometimes a winter off is just what your mind and body need for you to play better when you lug your clubs to the fairways and greens for the first time the next year. 

 

A fresh mind, a newly-fit body from your grueling winter workout regimen (hopefully a few of you have left the couch) and you are ready to go.  Ready to go with a simple word that will play a major role in your game during the hot and humid summers of Southeastern PA:  Expectations.

 

Peaking at the beginning of the season can set a high expectation level, which can often leave you reaching far into the fall.  Understand that your spring season is much like spring training in baseball.  How many times do you see a pitcher, after he tosses no-hit ball for three innings, running off the mound in excitement, pounding his barely sweaty mitt during a Grapefruit League game?  If you saw "Doc" (Halladay) doing this before the season started, wouldn’t you worry that he might be peaking a bit early?

 

April should serve as your month to get in golf shape for the summer.  Take the good with the bad.  Be as happy with your 92 as your 82.  If you stop and think, there is more to learn from the higher scorer.  At the end of the month, ask yourself what things you did well and what things you did not do so well.  From there, starting off in May, goals can be set and weaknesses can be improved upon and strengths can be sharpened. 

 

Controlling your expectations before, during and after a round is just as important as spending hours at the driving range, putting green and short game area.  Too many birdies too soon will be equaled by too many bogeys the more you play.

 

Why do you think they have Club Championships and Member-Guests in the summer months?   If they moved the U.S. Open to March, wouldn’t you think that was a bit odd?  Use the beginning of the year wisely and peak when performance matters the most.

 

Ryan Gingrow is PGA teaching professional at Whitford CC.  His full bio is here.

 

 

 

 

 


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