The first semester is in the books, and when the second semester begins Friday, May 8th, I’ll officially be a sophomore – four months into my 16-month program at the Golf Academy of America. We have two weeks off between semesters, and the last few days have given me a chance to reflect on what I’ve learned so far. Here now, is a brief recap of semester No. 1:
Tournament Golf – Mondays
If you’ve ever played tournament golf, you know it’s unlike anything you’ve ever experience before. When you have to putt everything out, you start to feel the pressure. It took me 4-5 events to get used to playing in tournaments again, but once I settled in, I was fairly pleased with how I played. I posted two, one-under par tournament rounds of 71. My current USGA Handicap is a .8, and I see several more under-par tournament rounds in my future.
Skills Development – Mondays
This semester, I really worked hard on my short game. First, I got fitted for a new putter. I consistently average between 30 and 32 putts per round. The PGA Tour average is a little over 30. Then I went to work on my chipping, pitching, and my scoring wedges. I’m really trying to dial in my distances from 100 yards and in. This next semester will be spent more on varying my shot shape as well as my trajectory. I want to learn to work the ball both ways and at varying heights under pressure. That’s next level stuff.
Attitude & Motivation – Tuesdays
Marcus Buckingham’s Trombone Player Wanted reminded me why I’m at the Golf Academy. John Wooden’s Pyramid of Success gave me a blueprint for how to lead when I get where I want to be. Buckingham says there are three certainties in life – that we have wonderful and powerful strengths, that no one else has the identical configuration of strengths that we do, and that we’ll make our biggest contributions to our organziations and ourselves when we play to our stregths most of the time. If you think about it, the things your are most passionate about in life and the things that energize and strengthen you. The things you aren’t passionate or don’t care about actually weaken you. They make you physically weaker. That’s been the case with me. I know that what I’m doing now strengthens me because there are many days when I wake up well before my alarm goes off simply because I’m excited about what I’m learning.
The cornerstones of Wooden’s Pyramid of Success are Industriousness (hard work) and Enthusiasm (passion), the heart of the pyramid is Condition (mental, moral, and physical), Skill (ability), and Team Spirit (putting team success ahead of individual), and the top of the pyramid is Competitive Greatness (doing your best when it’s needed the most). Wooden says, “Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to become the best of which you are capable.” If you know you’ve done your best, that’s all you can ask.
Golf Fundamentals – Tuesdays
There are five ball flight laws, nine ball flights, and 14 swing principles. Here’s something I didn’t know – the initial direction of the ball is mainly influenced by the clubface and not the club path. The five ball flight laws are: position of the clubface (direction), clubhead path (direction), clubhead speed (distance), centeredness of contact (distance), and angle of approach (distance).
The nine ball flights are: pull, straight, push, pull hook, hook, push hook, pull slice, slice, and push slice.
Microcomputer Applications – Tuesdays & Thursdays
In this class, we learned the elements of Microsoft PowerPoint, Word, and Excel by putting on a fake charity golf tournament. Great idea! My biggest takeway will be in the area of Excel. What I used to find intimidating I now see as a great resource that can be used for a variety of applications.
Fundamentals of Business Management – Wednesdays
On most days, we watched a short biography about a famous person in the world of business. Each one of them has/had major issues. Here is a rundown of the freaks (as I like to call them):
Bill Gates (Microsoft) – socially awkward nerd; not a surprise that he and his wife want to give all of their money away
Tony Robbins (Motivational Speaker) – crazy mom; first wife met him at one of his seminars and told him she loved him so he married her
Colonel Harland Sanders (Kentucky Fried Chicken) – sold KFC for just $2 million and missed out on millions more by declining stock options
Donald Trump (Real Estate Mogul) – married three times; formed world’s 1st real power couple with first wife Ivana
Ray Croc (McDonald’s) – married three times; convinced third wife to divorce her husband so they could marry
Warren Buffet (Berkshire Hathaway) – married to one woman while openly seeing another
Richard Branson (Virgin Atlantic) – nearly killed in multiple attempts to circle the globe via hot air balloon.
History of Golf – Wednesdays
The most important day in the history of golf in America, in my opinion, was February 22, 1888. A group of men met in an apple orchard in Yonkers, New York, to play the first official round of golf in the United States.
The most important year in the history of American golf was 1912. That’s the year Byron Nelson, Ben Hogan, and Sam Snead were born.
Rules of Golf – Thursdays
I’m not going to list all 34 Rules again here. But I will tell you about the worst Rule: No. 28. Ball Unplayable. If a player decides his ball is unplayable, he can take a drop within two club-lengths of the spot where the ball lay, but not nearer the hole (Rule 28c). Great. Here’s why I have a problem – say you drop your ball and it rolls back down the hill into the unplayable condition from which you took your drop in the first place. Aw shucks! Play the ball as it lies. If you wish to remove it from the unplayable lie again, that’s another one-stroke penalty. Real fair.
I still want to find a way to simplify the Rules for everyone to understand, but until that day, I’m proud to say that I memorized all 34.
Mechanics of the Short Game – Thursdays
While I would have preferred more skills development sessions outside, our class size (27) made that virtually impossible. This is the area of my game where I made the greatest initial improvement and will continue to do so over the next three semesters. I finally have the putter that’s right for me, and my fundamentals are on solid footing. I even made index cards to take out to the practice area with me when I’m working on this aspect of my game.
Most Fun Activity – Sedona
I am incredibly appreciative of Golf Academy Campus Director Tim Eberlein for signing us up for the National Collegiate Club Golf Association (NCCGA) Desert Regional Tournament at Oakcreek Country Club in Sedona, Arizona. While our Club Team lost to the Arizona State University Club Team by 22 strokes, it was a great bonding and learning experience for someone like me who didn’t play high school or college golf. This was the first time the Phoenix campus ever participated in an NCCGA event, and I hope there are plans to participate again in the furture.
The website is off to a great start! I plan on continuing to post 1-2 entries per day in the summer months. I also have a whole new batch of courses to review and video tips to shoot involving pitching, greenside bunker play, and scoring wedges.