Monday, March 06, 2006

"Tour Tempo" vs. The Swing-Setter

It's hard to compare a golf book with a golf 'gizmo' but these two very different offerings have (I think) the same objective.

John Novosel's book, Tour Tempo (DoubleDay), has the general premise that we swing too slowly, particularly in the backswing. Novosel used his digital movie camera and his laptop computer to time the swings of top players and found that they all followed the same general rhythm: that their downswing took one-third the number of camera frames as their backswing and that their full swing was much quicker than the amateur's. (In general, we're close to speed coming down, but some 30% slow going back.) He's packaged that in a CD loaded with sound tracks that you can swing to, in order to reprogram your own timing.

David Leadbetter's Swing Setter would seem to be something quite different. It's a pseudo golf club... a training device. It's shorter than a 5-iron, weighs 50% more, has a molded training grip, and no actual club head — just a plastic ball on it's tip. The main feature are the two 'balls' that are mounted along the shaft, spaced equally between the end of the grip and the tip. The 'balls' are actually split in half (the upper half fixed in place) and held together by adjustable magnets. Fully loaded up with gimmicks, the club also has a six inch pointer that extends out the butt of the grip and a simulated club-head that attaches to the shaft right below the grip. It comes with a very well-done DVD training lecture as well

When you use Novosel's sound tracks, if you're the typical amateur, you'll find that the swing he's advocating is very fast. You'll hear three 'beeps,' one to start your backswing, a second for the transition down, and the last for impact. You'll have to both hustle and shorten your backswing to conform to that second beep.

(The speed is impossible to convey in words, so I'll include a short sound track in my next podcast (#19) that will be posted later this week.)

Leadbetter's gizmo has the same objective. The upper ball has weaker magnets and your objective is to 'snap' that ball apart on the backswing (gravity re-sets the ball at the top) You then snap both balls at impact on the downswing. To snap the upper ball, you'll find that your backswing has to be brisk and your wrists have to whip the club into a set position at waist height. Depending on how strongly you've set the magnets, snapping the second ball at impact will require you to really throw the club through impact... a full and violent release.

Tour Tempo is $25, while Leabetter's Swing Setter is $120. For my money, the Swing Setter is far superior. Leadbetter provides a series of drills that you can do in front of your TV in about 10 minutes. You'll build your golf muscles, and you'll get a new sense for both swing path and for the mechanics of a full release.

If any of you have experience with either product, this would be the time and place for you to post a comment.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Two (Old) Books

A discussion this past week caused me to dig into my (too extensive?) golf library and to recheck Holographic Golf, by Larry Miller (HarperCollings, 1993). It's a great little book that is 80% mental game. I haveto like it, because Miller's basic idea is to learn three static positions: address, the top of the backswing, and the finish position. Get those right, he says, and everything else will fall into place.

If you've been reading my essays and/or listening to the podcasts, you'll see the parallel.

But, beyond the physical, Holographic Golf is loaded with mental twists. Check out my "Tips" page for the best.

Besides Holograpic, Miller has also published Beyond Golf, which deals as much with your life as with your game.

I recommend both of Miller's books. The issue is availability, but I'm sure you can find used books on E-Bay, or elsewhere on the web. Good Luck

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

The Hole of the Third Eye

(I can't help myself... forgive a small bit of personal pride here.)

The current quarterly issue of The University of Michigan's Alumnus magazine arrived yesterday, and I was pleased to find a feature review of my novel.

A brief quote from the article:

"This novel intrigues readers by its promise of a story that weaves together golf lessons and life lessons. It delivers on that promise as the author develops an unconventional plot and sympathetic characters who arrive at an unexpected finish at the Hole of the Third Eye. In Wayne Smith's capable hands, this refreshing change-your-life novel entertains the reader."

(Some people have said they can't find the link to the book. On each GolfingZen page, you'll see a menu list in the right-hand column that contains the link to the book. Check it out!)

Monday, February 06, 2006

Tour Tempo

Tour Tempo is a book that came out last year. I looked at it then and quickly rejected it. (But I'm not telling you why!)

Now, my friend Becky Dengler (LPGA/PGA member and a Golf For Women Top-50 Instructor) has told me I need to take a second look, and I've promised that I will.

The book's basic concept is that the last unrevealed secret of the golf swing is the tempo of the expert's golf swing. The claim is that we amateurs swing back too slowly, forcing us to lunge forward on the downswing. The premise is that a faster backswing will take out all our errors and inefficiencies.

And faster it is!! One student describes it as "trying to snatch hot toast from the toaster." The book includes a DVD that contains videos of experts and amateurs and mp.3 sound files with repeating "beeps" that teach you to re-time your swing. You can transfer them to your iPod and take them to the course with you (illegal, however, for posting handicaps).

I've promised Becky a report-back, and I'll post that here as well.

In the meantime, I'd very much like to hear from anyone who's already worked with the book and the sound files. How did it work for you?

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Slingshots: An Update

Last October, I wrote that I'd put new Nike Slingshots in my bag.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I must record that my old Pro-Combos have been re-instated. I found the Slingshots too "harsh" in feel and my short-game trajectory was too penetrating; probably my fault, but I couldn't do anything with any 'softness' or 'touch.'

So... are the Pro-Combos a temporary thing? I have no idea what else I might choose, so I'm looking forward to the big Spring demo-day events.

If you've put new clubs in your bag recently, what did you choose? And... in the words of Dr. Phil... how's that working for you?

Monday, January 23, 2006

Zen Podcasting

Upon further review… I think recent programs have been more than a little skewed toward “golf” and away from “Zen.”

But, as usual, the Universe has sent me what I need, in the form of several other podcasts that touch on “Zen” in a way that is very supportive of what we’ve been discussing these past weeks.

(As a side-note, I recently had a fellow podcaster comment that he had no reason to cooperate with me, a “competing” program. Remember that in Eastern philosophy there is only one of us in the room anyway, so anything we do to enhance each other only acts to enhance everyone.)

The Zencast: This is probably the definitive pure “Zen” program. It is a straight recording of a weekly dharma talk given by a West Coast Zen teacher (Master, monk, roshi, etc.) As such, it is too long (~55 minutes) and is marred by dead spots, questions from the audience that can’t be heard, and the occasional guest teacher who misses the mark.

But the primary leader is very low-key and has a non-confrontational way of helping you see things from a different perspective. It’s ideal for when you have a long drive and is certainly worth several listening before you decide if it is for you, long term.

This past week’s talk reminded me that meditation (or “mindfulness”) comes in many forms and is an essential part of your golfing mind. I’ll talk more about that on the podcast.

GolfSmarter: This is a strange program (and who am I to talk?) whose prime purpose is to promote TeeTour, Inc. a business that provides hole-by-hole course-management tips for destination golf courses. The podcast follows that format, talking to a course’s head pro about the proper strategy for the more difficult holes on the course (“Hit your tee shot at the left fairway bunker and let it kick off the slope.”) I’m not at all sure why someone would want to listen to details concerning a course you might never see or play, but they show several rave reviews on iTunes, so I assume they’re doing something right.

However, within their first three shows there are two good features. In the first program, the guest is Perry Andrisen ( who is a California pro. In the discussion, Perry says that a key to good golf is to “ramp up your “Fun-Meter,” an idea I have to agree with and will be talking about on my next podcast. Then, the full second program is an interview with Dr. Joe Parent, author of “Zen Golf.” Make it a priority to get that one on your MP3 player and listen to it several times.

Concept Golf ( This is not a podcast, per se. It is the web site of John Toepel Jr., and its primary purpose is to market his book, training aids, and his school. John was on the Tour for four years in the mid-70’s with moderate success. What attracts me to John and his methods is that he maintains that most instruction is only personal preferences, an attempt to force you to conform to someone else’s individual swing style. Toepel holds that there are a few key principles and that you must use those to build your own individual swing. (Sound familiar?)

While not a podcast, John does offer monthly telephone discussions: 45 minutes where Toepel is “interviewed” (by a loving disciple) followed by 15 minutes of questions from those listening. Those have been recorded and you can download them to your player. I’d suggest that you listen to a few, just to get John’s different perspective, but be aware, John’s books and lessons are very expensive. (Maybe that’s why he’s billed as “The Golf Genius?”

Golf Talk Radio: Hosted by a teaching pro, Chuck Evans. Each program is an interview with either a playing or a teaching pro. A little on mechanics, a lot on the mental side, and a very occasional bit of preaching.

Hooked On Golf: A brand-new attempt by an (electronic only) friend of mine, Tony Korologos. His first posting — completely unintentional, I think — is brief and hilarious. He’ll get better, as his blog is well done. See if he can top himself when he puts up his second attempt.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

A Stocking-Stuffer Book?

As often happens, I got sucked in by the Barnes & Nobel "impulse" table last week. I was on my way out with my gift purchases and ended up looping back with several copies of Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart: Thirty True Things You Need to Know Now, by Gordon Livingston, M.D.

I think you'll find the book to be a perfect choice for family and friends, and at $18/copy, it won't break your budget. You may, however, have trouble finding a copy; there were about 20 on the impulse table that day, and the next day they were gone.

The book ticks off thirty brief observations, each with a short essay that can be read in 5-10 minutes: perfect for your nightstand.

None of the topics relate directly to golf, but you can find a golf parallel in many of them. In fact, I'll be using some as fodder for my essay page. Here are two examples:

If the map doesn't agree with the ground, the map is wrong.

Livingston's source for this learning was a field exercise at Fort Bragg. As he stood studying a map, his veteran platoon sergeant asked if he (Livingston) had figured out where they were. Livingston's answer was that they should be near a hill but the map didn't show it. The sergeant replied, "Sir, if the map don't agree with the ground, then the map is wrong."

Of course, that isn't literally true. The map is correct, but the interpretation we're making is wrong.

How true of golf! As we continue to slice our way around the course, shouldn't it occur to us that our model, our premise about the golf swing, must be flawed and that we need to change? (Remember the Ben Hogan quote I recently gave you, where he said that most golfers underestimate themselves?) Instead of changing our map, we just assume we're doomed to continue with the same flawed methods and to get the same poor results.

It is difficult to remove by logic an idea not placed there by logic in the first place.

I leave it to you to draw the golf corollary.