First Round of the Year

I played my first round of golf at Wakonda for 2012 yesterday. I was in fact the first one to play at 8am -usually there is a morning crew on Saturdays that plays early despite the elements but none were present. I suspect that they like everyone else, was waiting on the 60+ degree weather later in the day. It was around 40 degrees when I teed off, but I was inspired. I parred the first hole which leaves me generally happy if nothing else happens during the round. It was the perfect drive that faded ever so slightly away from the blocking tree on the left and landed 170 yards away from the green. With the pin forward and middle and green elevated about 20 feet, with an aggressive 1-2 club wind cutting left to right, I barrel rolled a slightly drawn 5 iron that lifted into the cross wind and straigtened out, landing hard on the front slope and rolling without momentum onto the green, ending up 8 feet away from the hole. Missing the birdie, I made a 4 footer for par.

The rest of the round was a story of trying to trick the wind, but I got handsy and it showed. The 9th hole capped a decent round for me with a par -an 8 iron sent 165 yards with a stiff wind at the back, landing on the fringe, a running chip to 4 feet, and putt for par. This leaves me with a great deal of hope for this year, my final year at Wakonda to hit par. And that is bittersweet because my favorite place to be in Iowa is at the Wakonda Club on a Saturday morning before sun up, when the pro shop and first tee are shrouded in blue twilight. May the ball ever find the hole for you.

Father’s Day Golf

Father’s Day passed with several fun things happening. First, I got to play guilt free golf in the morning, and I shot  an 84. Given the goal of playing par or better by Halloween 2012, I feel good about my progress. The secret sauce can be seen in the statistics from my Golfplan app.

In May, I was suffering from inconsistent play, and despite daily practice, was unable to make progress. Then I realized that trying to fix your own golf swing is a bit like removing your own gallbladder -something theoretically possible, but highly unlikely in practice. I sought professional help, and at Wakonda Club, we are fortunate to have Aaron Krueger who is a gifted instructor. Over two sessions, he was able to provide one critical principal that has changed my game. It is no surprise that it boils down to grip and stance, alignment and tempo.

It has been a revelation. This round occurred without my usual blow up holes, and I was surprised by the score at the end. And this has been no fluke -I have repeated it this past week and today, on a casual nine, I shot 46 despite a pair of double bogeys and a triple bogey. There is no question that professional instruction is the fastest way to improve.

That wonderful round on Father’s day was followed by swimming with the family and then a barbecue at home of L.A. Galbi, a Korean-American dish that I’ve always had in restaurants but never at home until I came across a recipe on Maangchi’s web site (link). It was clearly one of the best father’s day’s I’ve ever had.

The Perfect Game

Wakond Club No. 1, from blue tees, May, 2011

The perfect game in baseball is a rarity among rarities. Only a handful of no-hitters are seen in a season of baseball, but the perfect game of 27 consecutive outs and no base runners has been achieved only 18 times in baseballs modern era. In golf, the perfect game is all 18 holes played in par or better, and it is a seemingly reachable perfection. Like a dangling fruit just out of hand’s reach, par golf sits there printed on the score card. For the majority of golfers, it is as unattainable as pitching in the major leagues.

The quixotic and perverse nature of golf is that anyone with the means can play a round where a professional tournament is held (aside from uber private locales). And during that round, the average golfer may get a glimpse of perfection in the form of a par on a famous hole, a perfect sand blast to within a foot of the cup, or a chip that clatters against the pin and settles into the hole. These transcendent moments of golf perfection are gobsmack hits of opium for the golfer that brings the poor hack coming back for more. On the score card though, these bright spots of perfection are just holes in the roof letting in shafts of celestial light. I used to keep a golf log, and over the course of two years, my best scores on every hole on my home course resulted in a perfect 72. It was in me, but I suppose I never let it out.

Woe betide the golfer who yearns for more and tried to do something about it. I have finished reading the testimony of John Richardson,  who did such a thing and is the proselytizer of the perfect. His book, Dream On: One Hack Golfer’s Challenge to Break Par in One Year (link), is an engaging story that requires golfist faith -the faith that the honesty of the player is a given and that his tale is as true as a score card submitted for handicapping at the clubhouse. It is no big fish story, John’s tale.

I find a lot of things in common with John. We are of similar age growing up in areas where golf is part of the social mesh -me in North Florida, and John in Northern Ireland. I spent many years at the now defunct Baymeadows in Jacksonville, Florida, dreaming of playing with the best while struggling to break 90. Both of us admired Seve Ballesteros and his swashbuckling approach to the game. Both of us gave up golf to become working adults -me to go to college, medical school, and postgraduate training, John to work at becoming a successful  entrepreneur. And both of us took up golf again at similar points in life, after marrying and starting families.

What is different about John was that he took his obsession and channeled it into a deliberate path to perfection. At  the start, he struggled to break 100, but within a year, he broke par. While it was no surpise, the ending of the book in the kind of ethereal round of golf that all hackers dream of, the tension and drama were there nonetheless. The great thing about the book is not necessarily the end result, but the year long journey he took. John proved that all the well worn excuses that golfers have about themselves -including mine about not letting myself be scratch, are mistaken justifications for continued hacking. In fact, whenever he fell into a rut, it was revealed to him that it was a swing error, something as elemental as grip, posture, stance, and alignment, and not always his negative thoughts. That is correct -it’s not your negative thoughts, but instead bad form and lack of practice that leave your game rotting at bogey or worse.

He does seek professional help -and I have taken this advice by taking my first lesson with our amazing new club professional, Mr. Aaron Krueger. He also sought clinical motivational advice -not a shrink, but very close, because a golfing rapture is limned by golfing madness. And he practiced. A lot. Particularly his short game.

This is like one of those miracle baseball movies you can get where some average Joe all of a sudden is throwing heat in the big leagues. I read his book with the same suspension of disbelief that I have for big fish stories, with golfing faith. It gives me hope, and a renewed sense of purpose. So what does it all mean?

I will hereby publicly declare my intention to break par by the end of next season (October 31, 2012) and bring you along with me. May good golf come walking with me and endow my ball with angel wings.

First Match


Golf is about competition, and it starts with competing against the racing horses of fear, ambition, greed, and pride. In competing against others, golf is a beautiful combat sport. Wakonda holds several competitions and the season long two man best ball tournament is among the best in that very strong teams can get beaten by seemingly weaker teams, based on how well the players master themselves and their competitors. Today is a good day for golf as there is no lightning, but it is raining and cool in the forties. If no one shows, I will be disappointed. Pictured above is my ball marked with my golfist symbol – a golfball with angel wings.


Extreme Golf

I took tax day off and played a round during an ice storm. Good for building character, playing in inclement weather is useful in testing your game against many more variables than just the usual yardage, light wind, lie, elevation, incline, etc. Add to it slickness of grip, 35mph prevailing winds, stinging rain and sleet, and hypothermia and you have a sport -Extreme Golf.

Golfshot- Golf GPS and Golfplan -a belated review


Wakonda #2 from the tee


The distance from the tee to mid green with about 20 feet of elevation -an 8 iron

Several years ago, after I got my first iPhone, among the first and most useful programs was View Ti Golf, which I reviewed a while back. It was after several overly confusing updates and broken functionality, that I stopped using View Ti, and moved to Golfshot GPS.

While I had meant to review Golfshot GPS, I was too busy actually using it to put a good review together -I did comment on it a couple of years ago, but it is the addition of analytics and instruction from Paul Azinger via Golfplan that make this sing.



What they achieved is they’ve simplified the geekiest part of tracking statistics. The simplest method has always been keeping track of Fairways, GIR, Strokes from 150 yards, and Putts on a score card. Golfshot has made it even simpler by making the input of strokes, fairways, and putts, along with sand and penalty strokes mere flips of menu dials.


You can use the program solely for getting distances on all the golf courses in the US (and supposedly the planet). This will cost you 29.99. There is a lite version for free which offers scoring and the analytics. To tell you the truth, the GPS is nice, but I try to set up my shots with sight and local knowledge -its the statistics which make it worth using this program.

All the data is stored in the cloud and so you can use this app on multiple devices even on a GPS-less ipod touch or Wifi-iPad. The program works very well on Android as well (though readers of this blog know my feelings about Android).

The scorecard shows the parts of the game that I have to concentrate on -GIR -meaning my mid irons to pitching wedge, and sand -avoiding them and getting out of them.

The complementary half of this is Golfplan which is currently at a promotional price of 0.99. Mr. Azinger is a great communicator and passes along in 1 to 2 minute videos perfectly executable knowledge to the average golfer. I think the best results can be had for the advanced beginner to 10 handicapper and this appears to be the target audience.

The stats are analyzed and a customized lesson plan is created for drills and instructions. Given the cost of private golf lessons, this is beyond cheap at just under a buck.
The problem with golf instruction is that most golfers take a band aid approach to lessons -thinking one or two lessons to straighten out the ball is enough.


That’s like going to the doctor once to start treatment for a serious condition and then treating it yourself. Finding a good professional isn’t hard -every golf course has a PGA professional dedicated to improving play. It’s committing to a series of lessons over years that is tough -in terms of time and cash.
Gofshot GPS and Golfplan both get 4.5 stars on the App store which is basically a perfect score. I agree and outside of signing on with a golf instructor for a year’s worth of weekly lessons, this is the best thing since sliced cheese. I will update everyone on my progress.

Sent from my iPad

Swing 2011 v1.0

The winter is ebbing and spring’s arrival is a bird’s song chirping behind the grey fences of March. This is when my golf ambitions begin to rise, and I’m back in the golf hut for a another season’s preparation. My swing is much better than it was several years ago when I began this blog, but the real barrier to lowering my handicap was never ball striking, but rather the short grass and the grey matter. I’ve studied books on mind-spirit-action-golf, taken lessons from great masters of the game, and have electronically tracked and analyzed every aspect of my game. This year, I’m just going to go at it with just me, the sticks, and the tiny white ball. What’s promising about this approach -dumping several 15 footers for par over a weekend in a warmer part of our country a while back and managing my game for 2-3 strokes onto the green with twenty year old clubs that weren’t my own -my first round since last fall with no warmup or practice from the tips on an unfamiliar and challenging course I shot a 96 with three triple bogies. Just swing.


Wakonda Club Number 9

The hole is 178 yards long from the blues, slightly downhill and depending on the prevailing winds needs anything from a 7 iron to 3 hybrid. It’s an easy 3 if you just let the clubs do their work, but try to muscle this hole, a 5 or worse awaits.


HDR photography on iPod Touch 4th Gen

When the iPod Touch 4th Generation was announced, it was disappointing to find out that the rear camera would be substantially lower in megapixels and quality than on iPhone 4, and would not feature HDR. HDR is high dynamic range photography. Your eyes are HDR, but a picture from a cameraphone is not because it takes pictures in a single exposure. Too long an exposure and all the dark areas have better detail with washout of lighter areas like the sky or light colored walls with patterns. Too short an exposure, and all the dark areas turn black, but details like clouds and cracks in white stucco come out. HDR is a way of combining elements of two or more pictures where the exposure is optimal for the particular region of the picture.

The result is a mix picture where all the elements in foreground, mid ground, and background get optimal exposure. The iPhone 4 has this mode of image taking -the only drawback is that because two pictures are taken, the camera must stay still. Alas, the iPod Touch did not come with this capability built in, but it wasn’t too soon before an App showed up in the App Store.

Pro HDR is the name of this app, and it’s great. The two images above were taken in the afternoon and the shots while not perfect, are good enough for the web. Pro HDR does a good job of stitching two images into one. At a &2.99, it is a great bargain.