Category Archives: Golf Tips

Mini

The Mini & Me

Mini

About two years ago, I put a club in my bag that was at first a curiosity and has now become a necessity. It’s the original SLDR Mini Driver from TaylorMade.

For those unfamiliar, the Mini is a 3-wood made for the tee, a driving 3-wood if you will. It has an oversized head and fairway-friendly lofts of 12, 14 and 16 degrees (I play the 14). At launch, the club was touted to have a greater accuracy off the tee at the sacrifice of a few from your driver – and that’s exactly what it does. Mine plays to about 260-280, which is about 20 yards less than my driver, and hits probably twice as many fairways.

After two years of playing this club, I’m still finding uses for it, as I was reminded this week when I played the quirky par 4 7th at Encinitas Ranch. Those who play it know the tee shot is blind and played to a funky landing area to set up your approach. You need about 220-250 yards to get a clear look at the enormous green, which is usually a hybrid or long iron play off the tee. Taking anything longer (3-wood or driver) involves a more accurate tee shot that normally just invites trouble (canyon on the left, hillside rough or OB on the right).

On Thursday, I pulled the Mini and striped it down the right side into Position A. That notches another hole where I’ll play this club off the tee forever.

I’m prompted to write this post by a series of experiences I’ve had with this club over the past month and a couple conversations that made me realize how few people are playing it, or have even heard of it, that probably should be.

My club is the original version. TaylorMade has since updated it in the Aeroburner line and Callaway has its own, which I’m told has some real pop. So the club has obviously caught on or they wouldn’t be making more, but strangely I’ve never encountered another on the course. I always feel like I’m holding demo day when I play and always get questions about it.

Every time I have success with the club, I recall the early skepticism from a local pro – “Just what everybody wants – a shorter driver.”

And that’s just it. Maybe they should. As long as they gain accuracy.

At my peak, I could hit my driver 310-320, and while I miss those extra yards on occasion, the Mini proves adequate more often than not used as my main driver. That said, I’m not trying to play the long par 4s at Torrey with it.

I ended up playing all five Oregon courses with the Mini because my regular driver, the Cobra Fly-Z is an inch over standard, which I discovered is an inch too long for my travel bag. D’oh!

I thought about finding it as a rental, but opted to play the Mini and my Rocketballz 3-wood, which is driver long, instead. Both proved plenty adequate, though playing at elevation didn’t hurt for picking up a few more yards off the tee.

Before I left, I played a warm-up nine at Maderas – and again found another ideal Mini hole. For the unfamiliar, the hole is a par 4 with a creek carry. People take everything from driver to long iron here. I pulled the Mini and hit the perfect tee shot. The fairway runs out at about 280-290. My ball was sitting perfectly at the end, my longest tee shot ever on the hole, and made for an easy opening par. I’ll never play the hole any other way now.

I mentioned my shot and club choice on Twitter and it prompted a curious reply and how I play it and why, calling it an “unusual” club choice. That made me mentally connect to a round I played in Washington the week of the U.S. Open. None of my playing partners had even heard of the club much less hit it.

That made me realize what a low profile this club has after two years on the market. I can’t recall ever seeing a commercial for it and I may have never heard of it if I didn’t cover the equipment industry.

Among other things, it’s a great club for beginners. I had a novice player hit it during a round in Laguna and find immediate comfort with it, so much so that she bought one the next week. Anymore, that’s an easy purchase. You can find one used for $50-$75, far less than your average driver.

My original post about the Mini mentioned the opening holes at Twin Oaks, a tight stretch, being a perfect shot scenario for the club. And, indeed, hitting the Mini is the only time I’ve ever hit every fairway and green in regulation over that stretch.

In Oregon, I was pin-high on a drivable 280-yard par 4 and got up and down for a birdie. Threes are rare with the Mini, but so are 5s and 6s. It keeps me playable more often than not.

I’ve often called the Mini my “safety driver,” meaning I default to it when I’m hitting my main driver poorly, as I was a year ago. But I think that sells the club short now. I continue to find strategic uses for it, as I did Thursday.

So before you buy your next driver in the search for more yards, you might consider a Mini and opt for more fairways. I have, and it has changed my game for the better.

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X-Golf X-Plained: A Q & A With X-Golf Founder Chris Mayson

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With the advent of swing-analysis technology and video, the teaching of golf has changed greatly in the last decade, but practice, at least for amateurs, largely has not. For many, it still consists largely of solitary swings on the range with indefinite results and a random regimen.

This is the learning experience Chris Mayson is looking to change with X- Golf. X-Golf incorporates teaching and practice in a group setting in hour-long sessions with a single-skill focus and a competition at the end to increase intensity and engagement.

Mayson conducted a successful pilot of the program two years ago at Maderas Golf Club, but he held off on the launch until an optimal web site – x-golf.net – and compatible app. could be developed since X-Golf is a technology-driven and tracked experience.

“We wanted to make it as good an experience as possible when we launched and the app. really (improved the program),” Mayson says.

X-Golf will debut at Maderas on Oct. 19th. Mayson will conduct four classes daily during the week and a two a day on the weekend. Class attendance is unlimited and costs $150 a month.

Mayson is the Director of Instruction at the Maderas Golf Academy and coaches players on the PGA and LPGA tours. X-Golf is a concept gleaned from his nine years of instruction and wanting to see more players experience meaningful and successful practice.

He shares more about the X-Golf experience in the following Q & A.

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What was it in your instructing experience that led to this concept?

I wanted to get people more engaged and involved in their practice. Too often a lot of people get bored with their practice and don’t know what to work on or how to get better.

(As an instructor), even when I’d give people really detailed practice advice after a lesson, I’d still rely on them going away and doing what I asked them to do, sometimes for weeks or months at time. Some would do (what I instructed), but many wouldn’t.

I wanted to create something with simple skills to learn that culminated in a competition at the end to keep people engaged.

And what’s the benefit of buying sessions vs. individual lessons?

This way, the player can see the instructor as much as they want – they can come every day – and really work on improving and making sure they’re on the right track every day.

How did you structure the pilot, and what made it successful?

We did mornings and evenings in groups of eight to 10, with different ages and levels of ability. Everyone loved it.

They got a very structured, detailed practice for an hour but there was also a social element to it. It makes it more fun when you can meet people and develop friendships. And that’s the culture we want to develop – and that culture helps keep people engaged and focused.
We did for two weeks, covering putting, short game and the swing, and ended each with a competition.

The feedback was very encouraging. I sent out a survey and everyone loved it so much that I knew I was on to something.

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What do you like about the app., and what role does it play?

It’s really clean and simple. You book your classes on there, view your instruction videos and it shows your personal records. All your results get graphed so it tracks your progress and there’s a leaderboard to show how you did against your peers.

And some of the instruction videos are quite creative. Here’s one with the “Happy Gilmore” swing.

X-Golf will have you doing the Happy Gilmore to improve your power, sequencing and swing speed. For more out of the box, fun practice like this, join X-Golf.

We’ll also do a little training Big Break style. I will have a flop shot wall, six-foot circles, goal posts, SKLZ training aids, etc.


What level of golfer are you targeting?

It’s good for anybody from beginners to Tour players, but I think it’s really going to be perfect for people who play golf and love golf but don’t have time to play a lot or practice much – and maybe they don’t have a lot of money for instruction.

This provides them focused practice in a short amount of time – and it’s fun and affordable.

What benefits as an instructor have you seen from focused practice?

I think in a typical practice someone grabs a driver or 7-iron and starts hitting balls without any real rationale, so it lacks engagement.

With X-Golf, there’s a single skill every day – whether it’s bunker shots, flop shots or short putts – and you get the entire hour to work on that discipline. So by the end of the hour, you’ve had a focused, engaged practice and the competition simulates the competitive aspect of the golf course and gives you that intensity you need.

What’s the ideal class size?

Between eight and 16.

How long to does it to take to complete the full course in X Golf?

Every day is an hour, but it’s randomized practice. You might repeat a practice, but that could be three months out. There’s not really an end to the program because there’s always something to learn or work on.

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How are fundamentals addressed in the program, like grip, aim and set up? What if I have a fundamental flaw hampering my progress?

We’re going to discover those things organically. If someone can’t hit a draw, then the coach will look at why they can’t and correct what’s limiting them. That’s where the individualization comes in.

I think you actually see that a lot in professional golf these days. Jordan Spieth doesn’t have a textbook golf swing, but it’s very effective. Phil Mickelson is another one. There are a lot of different golf swings out there, but they all know how to play the game and compete.

That’s what matters.

Classes will be mixed?

In the beginning, yes, but I can see cultures developing that give the classes identity. For instance, I can see hosting a young executives group in the morning. And maybe juniors in the afternoon. We’re going to do four sessions a day during the week and two a day on the weekend, so I think those things will just develop.

What’s the overall intent of X Golf?

Fun. Social. Focused. Quick. Competitive. That’s X Golf.

You can register for classes and download the app at www.x-golf.net. Media inquiries can be sent to socalgolfblog@yahoo.com. Questions for Chris Mayson can be sent to chrismayson@hotmail.com.

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Chris Mayson on KUSI: Holes No. 1 and 3 At Maderas

You can score early at Maderas Golf Club and bank some strokes on the front nine that you’re likely to give back on the more difficult back nine.

In his latest video lessons, Chris Mayson shows you how to play holes No. 1 and No. 3, a pair of early birdie opportunities. Consider this your Maderas starter kit.

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F As In Fox: Things An Epically Failed U.S Open Broadcast Could’ve Tried

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In the days following the 115th U.S. Open, the criticism of Chambers Bay has largely died down, but the throttling of Fox has not, and with good reason.

While there’s no guarantee of another major at Chambers, Fox is contractually capable of sabotaging these things for another 11 years (Tiger will be 51 and probably still stuck on 14 majors).

Fox is a football network clearly out of its depth covering golf. They produced a clueless, lifeless broadcast that did a complete disservice to a major that gave them only everything you could ever want in a golf tournament.

We won’t waste space repeating the rightly deserved criticisms here, but the whole thing got the blog thinking about the state of golf TV broadcasts in general and here’s why:

Fox promised to break the golf broadcast mold and instead took it to the kiln and had it re-fired. How much of that was dictated by the USGA, I don’t know, but that’s of no concern here. The lack of imagination and innovation, and let’s break it down further – effort – was where a lot of the ire should be directed, but it also speaks to a larger point: There’s a stultifying lack of creativity around the game right now and in particular in golf broadcasts, which have changed how much again this century?

Maybe the networks became lazy over the past 15 years from simply having to point a camera at Tiger and pray that he made the weekend, but golf broadcasts on the whole have progressed about as far as newspapers in that time, meaning they haven’t.

Fox’s playbook seemed to be to hire Holly Sanders, point a camera at her, and the course, and pray. We see how well that worked.

As followers of the blog know, we don’t take this tone often, but we come not to denigrate but rather to be the Golf TV Think Thank Fox had two years to visit and didn’t. (Oh wait, they shaded the greens; my bad.)

What follows is a list of a few things Fox could’ve tried if it actually cared about progressing the golf broadcast model. What’s odd is that some of these come straight from the football broadcasts Fox knows well. Such as …

Mike up a player – How has this not happened? Well, we know why it didn’t happen when a certain would-be-sailor was world No. 1, but then don’t stream them live. You revisit snippets like they do with the NFL players. Is there a reason we can’t get a wire on Jordan Spieth, who is an extraordinarily and unusually verbally expressive player on the course? He talks through an entire shot process out loud with his caddie. Don’t catch random bits. Give him a mike and capture the whole thing and thereby let fans into the game, just like it does in the NFL. And if you can’t mike a player for some reason, how about a caddie?

Seriously, how has this not been done, especially in a sport perceived as mostly having generic humanoids as players? Someone with a personality and media saavy, like Pat Perez, for instance, should jump at the chance to do this.

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Player profiles –
For the broadcast, this is two-fold, seeing as they eschewed any attempt to profile profiles (because Jordan Spieth is a household name already, right?) and introduce them to the uninitiated, but I more mean capturing them in a graphic box like they would with an NFL QB. Example:

Tim Tebow, Philadelphia Eagles
Strengths

Running

Weaknesses

Everything else, particularly if it involves throwing anything with laces

OK, that one is a bit exaggerated in jest, but you could easily do this in golf and give some feel for a player who’s known or unknown to you. If you don’t know the player, as a golfer you can identify to the player type. An attempt:

Jordan Spieth
Strengths

Clutch putter – the best on Tour and perhaps one of the best ever.

Unshakable on-course composure

A knack for rising to the challenge in big moments (see: 2015 Masters)

Weaknesses

A 21-year-old body doesn’t deliver some of the power of his peers – yet

A Tip To Try

Looks at the hole – not the ball – on short putts

You could capture quirks about players, especially unconventional ones like Bubba Watson, and make them known to average golfers who don’t necessarily have the acumen to catch some of this stuff.

Build a replica green complex and teach a little – Chambers Bay has the on-course footprint of a small nation state. They could’ve easily found room, and you know they had the budget, to build a 19th hole for TV purposes only that could’ve served as a place to teach. Recreate some of those crazy lies and show how they were, or could’ve been, played. On the whole, golf broadcasts teach very little in relation to what they could be doing.

You don’t want it to break up the flow of the action, but when the tournament field is in neutral – as it was for long stretches at Chambers – you’d have time to do this instead of show a parade of bogey putts.

The more golf I play the more I’m reminded how much the general public doesn’t know about the game. TV is the best vehicle for it, but they have to be committed to it. Instead, Fox committed to nothing.

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Document the building of Chambers Bay – The appeal of the tourney was largely the new venue, something we rarely see in a major, much less in such a break from tradition as Chambers Bay was with the U.S. Open’s traditional style of play. Having famed architect Gil Hanse on to do some course commentary was a nice thought, but not nearly enough. Something closer to the exemplary document the Golf Channel did could’ve been produced and parsed into something akin to ESPN’s 30 for 30 shorts and doled out over lulls in the action. That the course turned into such a story, which was totally predictable, only makes this even more of an oversight.

Send Joe Buck to the bench and go to the pen – Monotone Joe would’ve been great for a chess match or a bingo tournament, but not the U.S. Open. His lack of emotion, enthusiasm and any ability to set up his golf comrades, who were a JV team themselves, was a killer. (To that end, Jay Delsing? Jay Delsing? Does Jay Delsing even want to listen to Jay Delsing cover the U.S. Open?)

When you turn on ESPN for the British, you get a certain golf giddiness in the voices of Mike Tirico or say Scott Van Pelt, because they’re genuinely excited to be there. Golfers connect to that passion and are just the same turned off by a lack thereof. Buck should’ve been allowed to stay home and re-laminate his St. Louis Cardinals baseball card collection if he couldn’t get up for the big game.

Not going to speculate on replacements, but Fox has a year to figure it out. Make this priority No. 1.

Social media, anyone? – On the whole, I’m not a huge fan of Twitter/TV trend (sorry, Twitter), but I’d make an exception for golf broadcasts, which currently do none of this. I mostly don’t like that Twitter is used as a vehicle for easy sensationalism in a lot of other sports, but golf has many thought contributors who add much to the discussion and context while watching tournaments. I know because I follow these people.

It would’ve been only too easy to turn on Twitter during the Tiger-tastrophe, but I’d rather see it used to highlight great play and contribute to greater understanding of the game, but a little snark might not be a bad thing for comic relief in a sport that can always use a little. Speaking of which …

Anyone have Will Ferrell’s number? – I’m not trying to bring the Dennis Miller/MNF disaster to golf, but the game could use a lighter side along the lines of what David Feherty provides. Ferrell cut some legitimately funny short clips for Pinehurst last year (Will Ferrell predicts the British Open: “The French.”), showing a passion and interest in the game.

If you’re truly getting outside the box, why would you not try something like this? For example, Will Ferrell riffing on fescue. You wouldn’t have watched that? Really? You don’t want to make a mockery, but a laugh track certainly beats dead air or a broadcast that’s simply flat as Fox’s was.

Clearly handing Fox a 10-year deal for the Open was a major mistake. They’ve got a chance in 2016 at Oakmont to prove it wasn’t. I suggest they get busy – now.