Friday, March 29, 2013

Changes to the blog

The few of you who follow will note that I've flipped some of my old posts into hiding.  I'm trying to eliminate a theme that dominated last year's return to a full pro tour:  "Why am I not getting results?"

Two reasons for this:
1)  I am a proponent of process-oriented thoughts. 
Governing how one approaches tasks should take priority over the results.  That becomes extremely difficult when one is getting smacked around the course on a week-by-week basis, but it is probably more important at that time.

2)  I figured out that equipment contributed to the problem
Most pros play the 2007 Titelist ProV1 ball.  It has the Callaway cover with the internals of the current ProV1, giving it the best of both worlds.  I tested the 2012 ProV1 against it (bounce, roll distance, weight, spin tests) and it appeared comparable.  It wasn't until a couple days before National finals that I realized that this was not the case.

All year long I couldn't figure out why I was getting slightly different kicks, especially when it is a hard putt off the back rail.  Apparently the surface of the 2012 ball is different enough to enhance skids when hitting a ball hard directly off a rail; it gets worse the harder you hit it.  The older ball, even if it has the same amount of use, changes direction and rolls out far quicker.  At nationals, my ball was skidding almost a foot at times while a switch to the older ball reduced it to 3-4 inches.

In hindsight this makes sense.  My best tournaments were overseas at World events (medalist at World Masters, Top-10 at World Crazy Golf) where the balls and equipment are different.

So how is that impacting this year?
I made a lot of swing changes thinking that it was spin _I_ was imparting on the ball.  I'm clearing the board and determining what really needs to be fixed.

Friday, August 10, 2012

National tournament in Richmond, VA

It's been a while since I have posted here.  I've been spending time building a course template to upload photos/videos of lines for courses at my website.  You'll see some of that work here as I used this upcoming national tournament as a test.

So this weekend we have our fourth and last national regional tournament this year.  Sadly, we don't have the turnout I hoped.  Part of that is because we are in the doldrums of the season.  It has been a long year and it is easy to get people out for early events; for those of us who have struggled (like me) it takes much more resolve to keep plugging away.

What made things worse is that two weeks ago we had a state tournament here and the scores scared people off.  Averaging 25 per 18-holes wasn't good enough to get in the top half.

So we have about 40 pros and 30 of them would not be a surprise if they win.  (While I believe I can get on a rush for a 6-round tournament, others would be surprised)

In any case, it is about 12 hours before tee-off.  Rain and thunderstorms are in the immediate forecast, which means that this will be another tournament where practice conditions are different than competition conditions.  At least I've played and practiced in the there is that...

If you are curious about the course, I've put together a library here:

I'll try and update tournament results between rounds here:

Monday, July 23, 2012

Time to gear up for Eastern Open

Over lunch today I'm looking at the scores from this weekend.  While we had a strong field, it will have much more depth at the Eastern Open on August 11th-12th.  I'm not sure how scores will be better but, assuming the weather cooperates, they will.

Here are the scores courtesy of Billy Caudle (
Sat AM tournament scores
Sat PM tournament scores
Sun tournament scores

Some notes:
1)  Shooting in the 60s for a three-round tournament is something that happened only in the last decade.  Slower carpet is a big factor as you can charge more holes.  Greg Newport shot the (T-)6th best non-local tournament 54-hole score and lost by one to Rick Shelton who shot the (T-)2nd best non-local tournament 54-hole score.  Not best at that course.  Best in the 40+ years of history. 
All-Time PPA Tournament Records
Richmond Course #2 and Course #3 both have histories of people shooting in the 60s and losing a tournament.  Well-maintained course that rewards putts on-line with good speed.  Except for hole #7 on course #2.  At least for me.  Personally, I was hoping the rains would create a sinkhole and remove that cole permanently from the course.
2)  Shooting a 25 ten years ago would get people chatting and pointing your direction.  This weekend it got a pat on the back and a "you'll get 'em next round" comment.  75 did not finish in the top half on Sunday and got T-10/21 in the Saturday PM tournament.  There is no room for a bad stretch on this course.  In a six-round national tournament there is no time to make up a bad round either.
3)  I plan on putting together a library of lines with photos/videos.  Weather cooperating I will make Richmond #2 my first addition to the video library.  Will host on my website when up.  What you would expect are a lot of holes with straight putts.  What you will see are: 6 non-bank holes, 1 single-bank hole, 10 double-bank holes, and one bang-a-lang with four-to-five banks.  (#7, my nemesis, is a non-bank shot...I think the double-banks are "easier" than most of ths straight shots)
And most of the double-banks risk coming down a hill if you miss.  Careless disregard for where deuces end up is not only encouraged...but may be required.

I can take a couple things from this weekend.
First, my rounds got better each day.  More repetitions are needed.  I'm likely going to cancel my trip to Wilson, NC next weekend to practice in Richmond.  Since I'm going to compete in Hastings, I'll be missing the Southern Tour championship and don't need a qualification spot; plus a six hour drive to compete on the "squirreliest" course in Putt-Putt doesn't seem worth it. 

Second, while researching the PPA records I noticed that my 15 aces in a row at Martinsville in 2008 would put me on the list of best runs.  Woot for me. 

Third, I'm getting closer to my first "perfect nine".  I'm hoping with enough reps I will get it in practice next weekend.  Knowing I can do it and experiencing it might make the difference when competing.

Next week:  Practice in Richmond?
Next tournament:  Eastern Open on August 11th-12th?

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Sat VA Tournament - Richmond, VA

To no big surprise to anyone following this season, it rained again in practice.
Rain image

Good turnout for today's tournament.  Even Greg Ward, back-to-back Putter of the Decade, showed up to get some repetitions in before our National Regional event here in August.  When I saw him arrive, to steal a phrase from the Bad Boys movie series, I thought, "This Sh*t just got real."

Sure enough, even with limited practice this morning and rain saturated carpets, the scores were incredible.  My day was done early.  In a three-round tournament, one bad round keeps you from finishing in the top half (and cashing).  Pro "par" was 25 for each 18-hole round.  Shooting a 32 is impossible to recover from as you need to shoot 23 the last two rounds just to cash.

Case-in-point:  Even Greg Ward couldn't recover from his first-round 28.
I think his cash rate over the last 20+ years is 98% to 99% and he failed to cash by a single shot.
So as much as people have read me complain about how hard it is to recover from a bad round, here is the best putter of the last 20 years not being able to recover from a round four shots better than mine.

Shows that I need to be playing far better early in these tournaments if I want a chance to compete.
I'm not I have even less slack than him.

I was happy with my improvement as the day went on.  In most groups my last round would have won, but I made 10 of the first 12 and lost a stroke to my playing partner (and others).  Was really pulling for Bill (my playing partner) to close out his round.  He missed the last three holes and ended up at 22...could easily have been a 19. 

Here are the results from the morning.  Didn't play in the afternoon to get out of the rain and get some well-needed rest. 
SAT AM Pro Results

Monday, July 9, 2012

If you can't stand the heat...stay out of Columbus, IN

As hot of a weekend as I've experienced in a long time.  Perhaps more so than the infamous PPA Nationals week in Lubbock, Texas.

Deciding to take care of myself and avoid the heat, the lack of practice was certainly a problem.
I'd rather take this weekend off and stay healthy than risk being back for an extended stay on the IR.

Some decent things to take away though...

First, towards the end of Sunday I started figuring things out.
The 11 and 10 on two of my three front nines were elite...and of the misses could easily have gone in.
The back has a lot of makeable holes that I was just a little off on.  Some tweaking in September for Nationals week will dial it in.

Second, with permission from Isberg and the World Minigolf Federation, I was able to show some of the features from Bangolf Arena.  Positive feedback that I think will grow as more people take a look.
The compare two putters feature seemed to strike a chord, especially for people who were in the hunt for the win; gives them a chance to see where they can improve and who to learn new lines from.

Third, I had the best shrimp cocktail of my life at an airport of all places.  Harry and Izzy's at Indianapolis airport.  Fresh horseradish in the cocktail sauce.  Shrimp practically the size of my palm. 

Some highlights of the weekend:
- Winner averaged under 24 per round.  In fact, the winning amateur was under 24 for the first day and led all divisions.

- Rick Alessi shot a 19, missing Hole #3.  Hole #3 gives the occasional "tween" and lips out; he got it and then made the next 15 to show who is boss.  Could easily have been the 4th perfect round in PPA history.  Will we see one the week of the Nationals?  Hole 18 is not an easy hole so we might find someone looking history in the jaw knowing that the most difficult hole is left to play.

- Averaging 26 a round in the pros will not get you in the top half.  Avoiding the bad round is critical, especially in a 6 or 8 round tournament.  Kevin Lacey posts another Top-3 finish at a Nationals this year, but the 28 was too much to overcome.  Look out for him in the National Finals.

Unofficial results are here:
2012 PPA/APA Northern Open Unofficial Results

Next stop:  Southern Tour in High Point, NC on July 14-15

Saturday, July 7, 2012

PPA Northern Open - Day 1 Results

Day one is in the books.
It was a tough day of sledding in the heat for everyone as the air temperature was up to 105F; estimate that the temperature on the concrete was around 120F.

Thanks to the owners for providing some tents for shade and water on the course. 

I didn't play well, but considering I didn't get much practice...I got what I got.  I think I hit about 10 balls per hole, which is nothing considering it is my first time here.
But I do have a good feel for the course now.  It's all about learning the course well enough to come back in September for Nationals, so in that respect it is a success.

Tournament results are via Bangolf Arena.  Thanks to Isberg Software and the WMF for arranging us to use this software package.
Day 1 - 2012 PPA Northern Open

Forecast tomorrow is 90F and rain.  Time to learn the wet shots....

Monday, July 2, 2012

Technique: Checking balance of golf balls

Been off for a few days as internet/cell access has been limited due to the storms here in the DC area.  The cleanup is still going on but my prep work for future tournaments is still moving on.

Next weekend I'll be participating in the PPA Northern Open in Columbus, IN.  As part of this I've bought a box of the Titelist Pro V1s that I normally use in minigolf tournaments.  Unlike most minigolfers, I prefer a crisp ball out of the box for new tournaments.  Many of the players on tour are using worn down balls that, to them, give better roll and more consistent kick off the rails.  I haven't determined if there is merit to this or if this is mental...

One piece that I do believe in is in the balance check of a golf ball.
Ralph Maltby has a good video explaining his methods here.
I agree with the concepts in his video with the following changes:
1)  One doesn't need a kit.  Warm water and epsom salts work just fine.  Adding a couple drops of jet-dry or dishwashing detergent is optional.
2)  "Perfectly" balanced golf balls are rare.  This is why mechanical devices marking balls always find a spot to mark (referred to in the video).  Virtually all balls, given enough time, will slowly rotate so that the lightest part of the ball lies on top.  What we are concerned with is how quickly the ball moves to this position.
3)  A ball that stops in a different location from the original mark does not necessarily mean that the ball is perfectly balanced.  I haven't run across it often, but some balls make it through the manufacturing process with multiple biases.  If a ball stops on different spots, you need to make sure that small deviations don't roll back to these individual spots.  If it does, you have a ball with multiple biases and it needs to be thrown out.  If the ball keeps coming up at random've found a rare balanced ball.  Put it on a pedastal.  Burn incense.  It's a joyous day to celebrate.

So why should we even care about the balance of a golf ball?  I could refer you to Pelz or others that have measured the impact of a poorly balanced golf ball, but let's take a different tack. 

Lawn bowlers used to throw balls that had weights inserted to have a certain intended bias.  This bias is designed to allow a curve to the path of the ball when thrown on the lawn.  Rob Judson has a great write-up on the mechanics of lawn bowling here that includes the physics of bias.

If we were to place a ball on the ground with the bias pointed out (light or heavy point away from the putter), when it is struck it would behave like the image on Page 9.  The bias on the ball is equivalent to a topping force that will push the ball in the direction of the heaviest point; this is because the center of gravity is to one side of the axis that the ball is rotating.

How much the ball turns and when it takes effect depends on two things:
1)  The amount of the bias.  This is why we are concerned with how quickly the ball returns to the spot in the spin test.  Faster implies more bias.  So we want to keep balls with low amounts of bias.
2)  How hard the putt is struck.  The bias based on the topping force will have more effect at slower ball speeds.  A graphic at the bottom of Page 10 showing impact of bias at different speeds shows this impact.

So we keep balls with low bias and tee them up so that the light spot is on top.  (Heavy on top is equivalent)
The purpose of this is that the heavy and light spots are not on the same axis of rotation when the ball is struck; while it is almost impossible to align them perfectly it does minimize the bias (or topping force) that will pull the ball at slower speeds. 

In the PGA world, this works fine.
In the PPA minigolf world, there are some complications. 

First, as soon as a ball hits a rail the location of the bias is likely no longer on the axis the ball is rolling on.  This is a function of where the bias is located at the point of impact on the rail and the angle of reflection off the rail.  If a ball is randomly not "getting off the rail" one should check its balance; it is possible that this is impacting the shot and a lower biased ball is needed.

Second, any time a spin shot is played (cut or hook) the bias will impact the curve of the ball.  In theory one could take advantage of the bias to increase the impact of the spin.  However, since PPA rules dictate that only one ball is allowed to be used each round* and these shots are not used often, this is not an option.

All in all, PPA minigolfers will want to use a ball with as low a bias as possible.  This is also true for PGA golfers.

So we have that in common...

I still need to think about how this would be used in the World Minigolf Federation minigolf world.  Considering that each ball is about $15-$20, buying multiple balls and spin testing them is not an affordable option.  However, if it is a common ball, a team competing at an event may have five to seven of the same type and might be able to select a ball out of their group that is better than the others.

T-minus 90 hours until my flight out.  Game on.