The Fallout From My Gym Fainting Incident

So I passed out during a workout the other day.

Most people I told the story to thought it was quite funny, but I was a little concerned. Although I did some Googling and discovered that others had passed out under similar circumstances, I have a heart condition (atrial fibrillation) and suspected that there might be something a little more sinister at play than your average, garden variety fainting episode.

I went to my doctor today to get a professional opinion. After hearing me out and asking a few key questions, she came to an initial diagnosis: my heart rate was way too low (about 45 beats per minute), which was probably due to me being overmedicated.

Furthermore, she discovered a potential ‘conflict’ between one drug I’m on and the others. Apparently I never should have been put on this drug without first being tested to make sure that there wouldn’t be an issue. Whoops.

I’ll be going back to my doctor tomorrow to get blood tests and an echocardiogram carried out, and I’ve got a followup appointment in eight days when we will discuss the results. Furthermore, I’ve been instructed to stop taking one of the three drugs I’m currently taking, and halve the dosages of the other two. I have no idea how this is going to affect me, but we’ll find out soon enough!

Finally, I have been forbidden from doing any sort of weight training for the time being, so my gym membership won’t be getting any action for a while.

Hopefully this will all get sorted out soon enough and I’ll be able to pick up from where I left off. Well, not exactly from where I left off, because that was slumped over on the floor of the gym toilet. But you get what I mean.

In the meantime, there’s nothing to stop me from practicing my putting!

Putting Drills and Quality Practice (My Initial Thoughts)

I mentioned a home brewed putting drill in yesterday’s post, in which you attempt to putt 3-footers between two pint glasses (3″ apart) in a row; 100 putts per day, divided into 10 rounds of 10.

I’m conscious of the fact that made up drills might not be the best to follow, and that it would probably benefit me to incorporate a little more ‘science’ into my training. I’m sure my putting coach (Andy Gorman) will be able to help me with that in our next session, but I wanted to keep myself busy with something in the meantime.

I performed far better in this drill than I expected, sinking 96 out of 100 putts.

Putting drill results

This got me to thinking about the importance of quality training versus the quantity of training. After all, the last thing I’d want to do is sacrifice quality for quantity, nor do I want to lull myself into a false sense of security by thinking I’m doing well when I might only be fooling myself.

I’m tempted to think that my drill wasn’t anywhere near what I would consider ‘perfect’ practice (if such a thing existed). For example, perhaps 8-10 golf balls deflected off a pint glass and through the gap; I don’t know whether those balls would have sunk into a standard 4¼” cup.

But that’s not all. Here’s a bigger question: when it comes to putting practice, is the ball going into the hole the best outcome? I’d argue no.

I’ll explain my thinking. There are three things a golfer needs to get right when they putt the ball. He must:

  1. Aim along the correct line
  2. Hit the ball along that line
  3. Hit the ball with enough pace (but not too much) to fall in the hole

If you break putting down, I believe those are the three things you need to get right.

Now consider this: what if I sink a three foot putt but have actually got all three of the above things wrong in the process?

This is easily doable. Assuming an even lie, I could erroneously line up the ball left of centre, then drag the ball right slightly (thus setting the ball off on the correct path), and hit with just enough power to sink deadweight into the hole (as opposed to the 12″ of carry that Andy recommends).

To put it another way, assuming that the three variables listed above are the only three fundamentals you need to get right when putting, there are seven different ways (i.e. differing combinations of the above fundamentals) to screw the process up and just one way to do it totally right.

So when it comes to sinking a three foot putt, you can fool yourself a number of times, in many different ways, that you did everything correctly.

If I were to honestly assess the my putting today, I would estimate that perhaps only 20-30 of my putts were aimed correctly and hit along the intended line with the appropriate amount of pace (to reasonable tolerances).

That puts a whole different perspective on my performance, doesn’t it?

With the above in mind, I’ve got some ideas on how to practice putting more mindfully, with the intended end result being more value for each practice putt you hit.

Aiming

Assuming you’re going to line up your ball as I discussed under Aiming a Putt in yesterday’s post, you could go through a simple exercise to see what your aiming is like.

First, aim a ball at a small target (using the line or arrow on the ball) then take a photo. Upload the photo to your computer and draw a line (using basic photo editing software like Paint in Windows or Preview on a Mac) extending from the ball to the target to see how accurate you were.

This exercise might reveal a trend you have in aiming (for example, perhaps you often line the ball up a little to the left of centre).

Out of curiosity I decided to give this exercise a go three times from around three feet. Here was the outcome (click to enlarge):

This is a small sample size obviously, but it is interesting to note that I was considerably off target on one putt; probably not far enough off target to miss a three footer, but certainly enough to miss a longer putt.

I intend to run this experiment again from various distances, lining up the ball as if it were under match conditions, to see how reliable my aim is. I’ll need to be getting this right the vast majority of the time (ideally always) in order to keep my putting reliable.

Line and Length

‘Line and length’ is a term borrowed from cricket (another sport I love), but if it’s not already in wide usage in golf, perhaps it should be. After all, both are key to putting. You have to set the ball off on the right line, and you have to hit it at a good ‘length’ (i.e. pace).

But let’s start with the obvious: you might hit the ball on a perfect line and length, but it’ll be for naught if you didn’t line it up properly first.

This is where a line drawn around the circumference of your ball can really help you ascertain what went right (and wrong) in any given putt. While plenty of golf balls have a short line or arrow that can be used as a guide, I prefer a longer line to give you a better indication of how your ball is lined up.

Golf ball aiming line

For a decent homemade solution for drawing lines (pictured above), push your ball half way into the end of a toilet roll tube. You’ll then be able to draw a pretty clean line around its circumference with a felt tip or wet ink pen. As an alternative, I’ve just ordered one of these and will let you know how I get on with it in a future post.

To test the ‘line’ of your stroke, I would recommend removing a target altogether. Just focus on getting the line penned onto your ball to go end-over-end when you strike it. If you’re doing that, you’re hitting the ball straight, which means that (assuming an even lie) the ball will go into the hole if you aim it right and give it enough juice.

Speaking of juice, you may quickly notice by observing the ball’s travel that even if the line starts out going end-over-end, as it slows the line will wobble. This demonstrates that lower speeds have an effect on the rotation of the ball, which leads to the obvious conclusion that the faster the ball is hit (assuming it is hit cleanly), the longer the ball will travel true.

Once you’ve got your line nailed down, I would recommend bringing a distance target into the equation. At this point you could revert to aiming for a particular target, as you’re going to want to achieve both the best line and length to hit that target.

However, I would still argue that you shouldn’t use a cup (or something similar). Instead, pick a small, flat target that represents the cup (like a penny), followed by another small target around 12″ beyond  that represents where you want to hit the ball to. As I alluded to in my previous post, you don’t want to hit to the cup; you want to hit through it in order to give yourself the best possible chance of sinking the putt.

In this case, a good putt would be represented by three things:

  1. The line on the ball travelling end-over-end
  2. The ball travelling over the initial target
  3. The ball stopping within a reasonable distance of the secondary target

Until I’m shown otherwise, that’s how I’ll be judging my putts from now on. I’ll put this to Andy when I next see him and find out what he has to say on the matter.

My First Putting Lesson With Andy Gorman

That's Andy on the right...not me on the left though.

That’s Andy on the right…not me on the left though. Photo courtesy of the PGA.

Today was a day of absorbing an awful lot of information.

I had a 2 1/2 hour session with Andy Gorman, putting coach extraordinaire. I only putted around 20 balls throughout the entire session; the rest of the time was spent absorbing a lot of information.

While that information is still relatively fresh with my head, it’d probably be a good idea to get it down on paper!

Common Putting Myths Dispelled

Andy was keen to tell me that a lot of what I might have read about putting is wrong (in his opinion). While I’m not one to mindlessly follow someone’s advice, most (if not all) of what he said made an awful lot of sense.

Fortunately, you don’t have to rely on my sketchy recounting as Andy has put together a couple of videos in which he dispels two common putting myths:

Since Andy is my putting coach, I will embrace all of his opinions and teachings and see where they take me. The proof will be in the pudding!

For more of Andy’s videos, check out his YouTube channel, Arc Golf Concepts.

Putter Type

Sorry White Smoke...you're not for me.

Sorry White Smoke…you’re not for me.

The first thing I discovered is that the brand new putter my mum bought me for my birthday is not right for me.

It’s 34″ long, which is pretty standard, but Andy has a different opinion on putter length to most people. He advised that I get myself a 37″ putter.

Now I’m largely ignorant to the specifics of golf club specifications, but I understand that 37″ is an unusual length. I may be 6’2″, but I don’t think many golfers in my height range use a club that long.

While I don’t fully understand Andy’s logic (and would find it even more difficult to transcribe it in a cogent manner), I do buy into his point of view. For me it was intuitive; when he had my putting with a longer putter, it felt more intuitive. And when it comes to golf, I’ll go with my instinct and what feels best every time unless there is a compelling argument for me to change.

Andy advised that I get myself a See More putter, on the basis that they are designed with his stance and putting stroke principles in mind. I’m not one for gadgetry when it comes to golf (or sport in general), so the See More putter’s seemingly simple and functional design appeals to me. I’ve asked Andy to get one on order, and I’ll return my putter to American Golf for a gift certificate. Sorry mum!

Putting Stance

We spent a fair bit of time on the putting stance today.

A couple of things immediately became clear when Andy played back a couple of videos of my strokes:

  1. When using a shorter putter, I was hunched over the ball in what looked like a rather uncomfortable stance.
  2. My head was tilting slightly to the left, so that my eyes weren’t perpendicular to the ground.

I also noticed that my ball positioning wasn’t consistent, but Andy didn’t mention that. (In fairness, I’m sure there were a hundred things he noticed but didn’t mention; there’s no point in overwhelming me.)

With a longer putter, my stance immediately looked better. Now I’m sure my technique is far from cured at this stage, but I feel that I made my first positive steps towards an excellent putting stroke today.

Aiming a Putt

We didn’t talk a huge amount about aiming a putt, but I think that’s because Andy views the process in a very straightforward manner:

  1. Aim the ball at the hole
  2. Hit the ball cleanly along the line you are aiming for to a spot around 12 inches beyond the hole

If you do the above two things correctly (assuming an even lie), the ball will always go in.

It was a joy to watch Andy putt from around 8 feet to the hole. He lined up the ball (which had a straight blue line around the circumference) with the hole, took his stance, then hit it. The blue line went end over end in a perfect rotation and inevitably ended up in the hole.

As far as I can tell, there are no restrictions to how you can mark your ball in professional golf, so it seems silly not to give yourself the best possible chance of putting by marking a straight line on the ball. I’m not just talking about the little arrow or line that some balls have; I’m talking about a proper line that will enable you to line the ball up with the hole (or where you want the ball to go, depending upon the lie) with relative precision.

The logic behind aiming to hit the ball 12 inches beyond the hole is simple: doing so gives it the best possible chance of going in the hole. Andy gave a great example of the thinking behind this, which I’ll paraphrase:

If you hit a putt deadweight to the centre of the cup, it will just drop in. But if you hit the ball on the same length a centimetre (or even less) to the right or left of the centre of the cup, it won’t drop.

By hitting the ball firmly enough to take it a foot past the cup, you are making the hole ‘bigger’ by ensuring that if it touches the edge of the cup, it will still fall.

In short, it is inexcusable to putt a ball short. You’d always rather be three foot long than three foot short; after all, it’s still the same distance for the cup for your next putt if you do miss!

Drills

My homemade putting setup.

My homemade putting setup.

Today was almost exclusively a day for absorbing information and making a decision about my putter, so I didn’t have any drills to go away and practice with.

The only thing Andy did say about drills was that hitting the ball end-over-end (so that the line remains straight throughout the ‘flight’ of the ball) is a good idea. It may sound stupid, but I hadn’t previously considered the fact that hitting a ball end-over-end demonstrates that you are hitting it dead straight, and thus will putt the ball on a true lie if you’ve lined it up correctly.

Who knew putting could be so simple? ;-)

For the next few days I’ll carry out a simple drill of my own making. I’ll attempt to putt 3-footers between two pint glasses (3″ apart) in a row; 100 putts per day, divided into 10 rounds of 10.

Once my new putter has come in I’ll book my next lesson with Andy, in which I’m sure we’ll get started properly!

18 Holes at The Warwickshire (Kings Course)

The Warwickshire

So here we have it: the first round of golf I’ve played that will be published here on my blog, for posterity and nostalgia!

And what a setting for it: The Warwickshire Golf & Country Club. As far as pleasant golfing venues go, you couldn’t do much better, in my (admittedly limited) opinion. It was a beautiful day too; set fair for 18 holes on the Kings Course (one of two 18 hole par 72 options at the venue).

At 6,535 yards off the yellow tees, I knew I was in for a challenge; especially considering that Kings Course is a Championship course (The Warwickshire has previously hosted the Senior European Tour and the Midlands PGA Final).

That challenge was clearly reflected in my score:

The Warwickshire (Kings Course) Scorecard

I’m player B (initial “T”).

To be honest, I was pretty pleased to shoot 114. On a good day (and on a more forgiving course) I will shoot in the low 100s, so I feel that my 114 was reflective of a decent round of golf; especially considering that the longest club I used was a 5 iron. (If I go any lower than that, I’m liable to slice most shots.)

I was especially pleased to shoot two pars late in the round, which gave me a little peek at besting Dan; a friend of mine who will typically beat me by 10+ shots. It also put to bed a late fightback from my dad, but he always bottles it on the last few holes anyway ;-)

The Warwickshire, Kings Course, Eighth Hole

I tried muscling my way over the water with my trusty 5 iron on the eighth hole (pictured), but I splashed out about 10 yards shy of solid ground.

My long putts were pretty good today, but my short putting left a lot to be desired; I missed a healthy handful of putts within six feet. But to look at things from the bright side, that means I have plenty of room for improvement when I get cracking with my first putting lesson tomorrow with Andy Gorman!

The round took about 4 1/2 hours in total, so it was a long slog. My thighs are still very tender from my first personal training session on Friday; crouching down to read the greens was pretty painful! But all in all I had a great day and can’t wait for tomorrow.

TaylorMade White Smoke IN-12: My New Putter!

TaylorMade White Smoke IN-12It’s my birthday on 5th September, and I received an early present yesterday from my mum: a new putter!

It’s a TaylorMade White Smoke IN-12. You’ve got to embrace the ridiculous names they give clubs these days.

Now I didn’t pick out this putter, so I’m not sure if it’s for me yet. It feels fine (I’m a fan of blade putters), but I have a putting lesson with Andy Gorman on Monday, and I am going to ask for his advice on the matter. I have a gift receipt from American Golf so I can swap it in for something else if it isn’t the putter for me.

Given that I’ve been using a 20+ year old hand-me-down putter for the past few years, it’s about time I got something a little more modern.