Saturday, December 13, 2014

Shop's OPEN!!! Woooo!

Well, I've been absent for a number of weeks now. I've just been finalizing all the trim for the workshop. Officially OPEN!!   Yea that's right, The Club Nut is open for business -- until the men in the white coats take me away.

With that, guess what wandered into the shop?

For starters,   this  and  this.   But then there's also THIS BABY:

Oh yea, that's right. Krank golf in the house at TCN.  If you're interested in getting your hands on a custom Krank Driver, hit me up at The Club Nut and we'll design you up a Formula 5 head on whatever shaft and grip combo you want, build it to your length, and swing weight specs and whatever tweaks you may need. Get your hands on THE hottest driver coming. There's a reason the long drivers use these things. The technology is out of this world. Fully Forged head, a wicked paint job, and super power.

That's it for now, back to paperwork and getting things rolling and getting some more orders in. See you at the Nut! I'll be back here with my normal cigar and golf reviews soon. It's the off-season so more cigars and booze than golf in the northeast, unfortunately.  It is what it is.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Cigar Review: Insidious by asylum

I opened my locker at D&S this past wednesday and found this little gem waiting for me. It's good to have a locker there since they give you a monthly new arrival as a courtesy. As it so happened this month's stick is the Insidious by Asylum - a handmade cigar with a slightly sweet tip. I gave a good sniff and a light squeeze and was met with a very mild tobacco aroma. Just a good whiff of humidified Ecuador Connecticut wrapper and Honduran binder and filler.  Though it's a sweet tip, you'll be pleased to know that there was no "sweet smell" that comes with things like mocha and mint and other sweet tobacco products. I don't like that sugary smell, I like to enjoy my cigar for it's aroma so it's a very important part of my pre-light routine.

This day's meal is a 5x50 so I chose to go with a punch, even though it's a lighter cigar. The size didn't really matter to me, but I just didn't feel like a cut today.  Carefully wielding my 3 flame RP lighter, I lit outside to in and took a deep puff. 

The smoke is light, but full. I don't get much out of it as far as flavors, but nobody's perfect.  Other reviews and resellers have "nuts, earth, and hints of pepper". I guess I'll buy that but there's not an excess of any one over the others.  I definitely didn't get ANY pepper. Moreover, the tip was highly enjoyable, though. It's not super sweet like a lot of sweet ends and it didn't ruin my scotch either so that's a definite plus. 

Overall, it was a very even and clean burn with no flare up. She retained a smooth draw and steady flavor all the way through to the end. No changes, no surprises, just pure relaxation. Normally I can get a good two inches out of long filler before I have to ash, but the Insidious couldn't handle that. Somewhere a little over an inch I shifted my hand after taking the photo on the right and the ash fell off. Hey at least it wasn't on my pants. 

Normally a 5x50 takes me a while to smoke. Compared to my average, the Insidious was right on time. At one our and 30 minutes I started to heat up my fingers so I had to bail out. I didn't want to part with my friend because it WAS so enjoyable, so I do believe I'm going to pick up a few for my private stock in a larger ring. From this average joe's perspective, the Insidious by Asylum is an absolutely delicious and just plain enjoyable experience.  In my opinion, it's a great cigar for beginners and seasoned smokers alike.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Cigar Review: Gurkha Centurion - Double Perfecto 6x60

It's been a while since I've had a new cigar. I stay to my old standbys for the course and the celebration after lately - what with my new business venture starting up. This weekend, my Uncle Todd treated me to a new cigar that I haven't had before. The Gurkha Centurion. Double Perfecto roll. Dark natural connecticut wrapper. Cameroon Binder and Cuban-seed Dominican Ligero filler. Gurkha is touted as the peak of cigars lately. I respectfully disagree though they do have a number of blends that I absolutely love and will drive an hour to get. This particular blend is reported to be so exclusive that previously the only customer was the Sultan of Brunei. Yea whatever....le grand cigar, right bender?

Todd keeps his cigars well. Better than me, in fact. The first thing I noticed about this smoke is that it was a very loose roll. While it was very well made and perfectly rolled, it just was soft under my fingers and with a heavy taper, that makes it a little difficult for me to smoke. I've had some great cigars that were packed tight and still had a smooth draw and also had some loose smokes that couldn't give a vacuum cleaner a puff, so you could guess my apprehension. Still a free cigar is a free cigar!

A good sniff brought a nice aroma of tobacco, leather, and just a hint of spice. Bold aroma and a nice color to the cigar itself. It was really such a nice smell that I didn't want to light it - but hey, if I must. My 3 flame RP torch did the job perfectly. Smooth draw, thick smoke. True to the previous aroma, full flavors of leather and a touch of spice. Surprisingly most shops have this labeled as a medium cigar. I would lean that toward full/ bold but it's still in the middle of the two. The taste was really nice, if not with a soft mouthfeel, and then - what can only be described as the most awful smell I've ever experienced.  Sorry Gurkha, but seriously something just wasn't right here. Generally I love the smell of cigars, even the ones that I don't like to smoke, but this was something altogether different and just plain out of this world. Perhaps it was the strength of the leaves or something in the filler - I couldn't really say, but "pungent" is not even close to the word I would use to describe it. If you could imagine lighting a leather couch on fire and putting it out with dirt and hair, that was about the smell of this cigar. It was pleasing for the first fraction of a second but became so full and filled the nostrils so fast that it made it unenjoyable. Even Todd looked at me and said "well that's not the best smell is it? Damn it tastes good though".

I concur whole-heartedly.  At a price point of about $13 per cigar, it's worth it for the flavor, but smoke these things outside, in a breeze, and stay upwind. Overall it was about an hour and a half smoke. Really enjoyable smoke and the tip had a nice zing and tang of flavor that complemented well with our drinks. I would do it again in a heartbeat, but definitely not indoors or before I was headed out anywhere. Overall, I give it a solid 8/10.  It's really enjoyable in the flavor department and if you like a tasty smoke without the kick in the face boldness and queasy feeling then it's really a good choice. That smell is really knocking me down though and as someone who has to go home to a wife and likes to get a head-start or finish up a smoke on the drive to and from, it's just not something I care to put up with.... though if you have any laying around that you'd like to send my way, feel free.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Golfers, growing the game, and the whining.....

I've been playing golf for over twenty years and something has increased every single year. Not the length of the tee shots, not the courses.  Nope all that pales in comparison to the whining that is taking place all over the golfing world. The ball goes too far, the hole is too small, we're losing people, why can't I wear a t-shirt, why are there so many rules?  It's enough to make a sane person's head explode.

The beauty of this great game is two-fold:   First, it allows you to be your own referee. You are the person who assesses your own penalties for wrongdoing. There are a set of rules and you are expected to follow them as a gentleman (or lady) and in not doing so, you're doing  a great disservice to yourself. Of course, should you be found to have broken the rules, the consequences imposed by a committee could be dire, depending on the infraction  - but even that is dealt with as gentlemen (or ladies) should. With class.   Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, the game demands an unattainable perfection. That in itself can bring about great joy or incredible anger depending on what has happened. There is nothing about golf that should be easy. It's a game that molds and brings out the best in a person, and sometimes the worst. That being said, all of your shortcomings come to the forefront and the game allows you to address them. Afterall, if someone takes liberties and breaks the rules in an inconsequential little game (in their eyes) what's to keep them from following the rules in your business dealings (or the rules of dating your teenage daughter?!).

The more recent knee-jerk reaction to "losing players and interest in the game"  - which they're calling footgolf - is really nothing short of a pathetic attempt to be "in" and "cool" with the kids. Why in the name of all that's reasonable would anyone think there would be any increase in activity if it is fundamentally changed and merged with a completely different activity?

Why footgolf won't work in making more revenue and interest in golf:

1. requires another completely separate area of play from regular golf.
2. requires more to maintain the area and causes more irreparable damage to the area of play (ever try to put back a divot from cleats?)
3. no one will pay to play something that they can do at any public park in the USA. Get a wash basin, use sandals for tee markers.  Lowest score wins.
4. the few young people that do take interest will then go towards Soccer (or football if you're not in the USA) because it's not boring as piss, uses the same equipment, and they can actually make something of themselves in the sport.
5. it just...fucking.....won't.

Interestingly enough, there's other talk of how to "grow the sport". Two of these are: changing the rules and making the hole bigger.  Let's address the rules issue first, shall we?

Once again,  part of the beauty of the game of golf is in the rules. It's in being your own person and referee. If you remove or change those rules "because they're too hard" then you're taking away part of the core of the game. Memorizing and understanding the rules of golf is an exercise in mental capacity as well as common sense. The vast majority of the "major" rules in golf end up being common sense once you read and understand a few of them. Differences include the color of stakes in the ground - woooooooo don't let your head explode -- and the number of strokes taken as a penalty --- *POP*!!  You can do X and Y if the stakes are this color, and X, Y, and Z if they're this color.  HOLY SHIT!!! I'm confused adding one more option!! Give me some common core to learn this stuff!!  When you're playing for fun, anyone can tell you the rules are liberal as fuck. Go out on any golf course and you'll see people who have been playing for years kicking balls out of sand traps or away from trees, or rolling it over.  They're not going to be on tour any time soon but I'll bet you they're having fun and know the rules. They just don't give a rats ass to follow them. If you made the rules easier, they wouldn't follow those either.... but they're still having fun and they're not bothering or making things confusing for those of us who take the game seriously.

Now onto making the hole bigger..... Do I really need to explain this? OK... so go ahead and make the hole bigger. I'm instantly a +3 handicap from my -3. Now I can apply for the US Open and try to make my way onto tour--- wait -- you mean they're not going to make the hole bigger for everyone? Just the recreational golfers? Really? Oh... so how do I keep a handicap? What if the course I want to play doesn't use regulation holes? Do you see where I'm going with this? No? Let me hit you with a frying pan and then ask again...

Growing the game should not entail changing the game. If you look at all the other sports and the popularity thereof you'll notice some things - sex, the peak of physical performance, and advertising. Advertising in everything... from beer commercials to toys, to playing cards, to trick shots and special games.  Not saying that golf should have caddies in bikinis, but they're starting to get it. There's some good looking ladies on tour and man do they have the game to go with it!!  But seriously, what did golf do? From the beginning it has put all it's eggs in one basket. On one set of shoulders except once - when there were the big 3.  Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, and Gary Player grew the game like no one before them or since. They were good people and they were normal people. Whatever they did, good or bad, it was out there and people at it up. Tiger Woods is not a role model. He's an athlete. When he does something bad, the tour covers it up.  He's the golden boy. He's exempt from disqualification because he's Tiger Woods. He's exempt from penalty. Same now with Rory... Would the tour have forced Phil and Ricky to let anyone else hit up? Maybe Tiger, or Maybe Phil himself. Someone with star power.  How does a guy who has saved his whole life to get one shot at greatness compete with that? Now they've changed Q school and made it even harder to get on tour. There's no dream, now it's about a career. Golf has dug it's own grave. It's given in to, and continued to show that they care about the upper crust, not the underdog.   If you're nobody, then you'll never be somebody until you show you can be - we don't even want to hear it. You don't get a shot. Unless you're this good, you can't even attempt competition. Unless you've got this amount of money, you can't even get on a golf course.  It's an expensive, and elitest game in the eyes of many. Tiger Woods changed that when he came on the scene. People saw him as blue-collar just as they saw Arnie.  He got successful and pompous and aloof and people started to drop off the bandwagon and there was nothing to catch them. No redeeming quality. Sure the game has kept some people but he made fair weather fans, not life long nuts who will teach their children and friends and fathers and spouses the game.

Stop whining about how hard the game is. There's nothing wrong with this game, there's something wrong with the people who manage it. There's something wrong with the portrayal of the game and the type of people that should play. Put more emphasis on the type of person it MAKES YOU when you play the game, not the type of person you need to be before you start playing. Don't lower the bar to gain the masses, raise the masses to that level. Learn something, teach something, and maybe you'll get the numbers back and not just for a short time... for life.  Just maybe you'll get more people that embody the kind of love of the game that was shown in, arguably, the best golf movie of our time:

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Serious Equipment: Part 2

Recently I blogged a touch about my ball fitting.  With the help of a Tracman and a fitting professional I take all the numbers and info from my golf swing and see which ball is going to squeeze the most performance out of my swing. Now, I know some of you are saying "it's not the arrow it's the indian", so I'll reply GET OFF MY BLOG YOU RACIST FUCK! No seriously though... if you think equipment has no bearing on your game, you need to stop thinking that way because you're really not doing your game any favors. Sure, having the latest neutron stick for a driver isn't going to let you hit it as far as Tiger Woods, but it's sure as hell going to be easier to hit than that old persimmon driver  with the 1/2 inch deep face that's been in your closet for 20 years. Or that old Maxfli that's been at the bottom of the lake for 3 weeks in the mud. In fact, the ball is the one piece of equipment you use on every shot and it's so powerful even Jack Nicklaus himself said the USGA should have limits on ball technology. Playing "found balls" might be good for a beginner's wallet, but if you're breaking 100 you need to get a good hold on your balls. You're throwing strokes and enjoyment out the window.

With that, I've been sampling about 10 balls from the fitting and it was narrowed down to two contenders: Bridgestone's B330 Tour and Callaway's SR3.

My swing speed is upwards of 108mph - even after my back injury - so these balls are built perfectly for me and my game. Yours may not be as power driven as mine but rest assured these manufacturers build a ball to suit your game that is very similar to these. 

Talking numbers:

Swing Speed

The first thing looked at was obviously swing speed.  In order to get the most from your ball, you HAVE TO compress it. There is no room for error on this. Compressing the ball is what transfers energy, it's what creates grip on the club for backspin, and it's what gives you that wonderful solid feeling when you hit it.  My speed, as I said, averages out around 108mph. Not tour quality, but faster than your average hacker. Still that puts me in "premium tour ball" range. Once that is done, it's time for the hard truth: is the ball helping?

Ball Speed

Ball speed is the next thing to look at after getting the right compression.  Obviously the higher the ball speed, the farther the ball goes. In a perfect world, this number will be 1.5 times the swing speed. This indicates that there was an efficient transfer of energy to the ball, it compressed, and most likely said "ouch" .  Both balls scored right on the mark.

Spin Rate

Spin rate is what will generate the height and distance in your ball (on long clubs) and stopping power (on shorter clubs). Ideally you want to be under 3000 RPM for the driver. The lower you get the better, some say, but I was happy settling into about 2700 with both of these balls. That means there's enough spin to get a sufficiently high tee shot, but not so much that it loses roll when it hits the ground. With both of these balls, I gained 15 yards of distance with the driver over my previous ball (ProV1) due to lower spin, but I lost about 72RPM in the wedges. This is not a big deal becaus eit' a match on a fire, and because I spun the PV1 too much anyway. For you, the loss of stopping power may be a deal breaker so don't just go for the most distance.  Overall average was 9100RPM with the callaway slightly edging out the Bridgestone.


In my opinion, the last but definitely not the least important number.  Deviation is how far left or right the ball curved. Now, obviously this will be affected by the quality of swing as well. This number should coincide with he spin rate off the long clubs. The lower the spin rate, the lower the deviation - obviously since its' not spinning as much it's not going to slice or hook as badly. The B330 halved the Callaway in this stat - making it a tough choice when it came right down to it.

So now that I've bored you to death with technicalities, let's get to the meat and potatoes and something that you can do without any fancy equipment: FEEL

Feel is something that can't be taught, measured, or bottled. You're the only one who can say what is good and bad.  Feel is the reason I play Taylormade and my buddy plays Nike.  Feel is what builds confidence and keeps you coming back for more. Feel is also why I chose the Callaway ball. While both balls produced similar distance and Bridgestone was quite a bit more accurate, I couldn't get over how "clicky" the Bridgestone ball felt to me. I would hit the ball flush and it just seemed harder than the Callaway. It was a little unnerving, and I don't like that. Part of the reason I played the ProV1 is because when I hit it on the screws it felt like a marshmallow.  I don't like the feeling of the ball pressing back against my club. To me, a solidly struck shot should feel like this photo:

Winner:  Callaway SR3.  

What's your ball? Have you thought about what you really want in a ball?  With many varieties, pricepoints, and manufacturers there's sure to be a ball that fits you to a tee.  OH yes... I went there. 

Without fail, I'm going to buy the SR3 for this season and use it exclusively.  I'm getting the stopping power I need with increased distance and I'm no longer the short knocker when I play with my scratch buddies.  I haven't noticed a problem with the ball going left or right so until that happens exclusively it's going to be my go-to rock.

Friday, July 18, 2014

A whole new game

So my wife had me on this "Paleo Living" diet.  Basically meat and vegetables.  The major rules were:

No dairy
No beans (green beans are OK, No peanuts)
No/Low Carbs (No white/red potatoes, No pasta, No bread etc)
No nitrates or nastiness (Basically, if the ingredients aren't spices and whatever you're buying, you can't have it.


I could, however, keep my cigars - which I did.... but more on that in another post. 30 days. 'Nough said. I made it through and found that the crap I buy most of the time is really junk food in a healthy disguise.  So much crap did I NOT eat, that I lost 13 lbs and 3 inches on the waist.  I also GAINED about 3mph on my clubhead speed thanks to some increased flexibility.  I would recommend this to anyone. Seriously, it's just a lifestyle change, not a "diet" in any sense of the word. I was eating steak and eggs for breakfast whenever I wanted. Pork chops and sweet potatoes, brussels sprouts. I did not go hungry. Just as an aside, check out some of these photos of the food we made and ask me if there was ever a time I was hungry or had to "choke down" nasty flavorless diet food:
fish, kale chips and sweet potato fries
Spaghetti squash, homemade marinara, pork meatballs
home made baked chicken fingers, mashed
carrots and turnips, roasted brussels sprouts

I digress -  just a little bit of a tangent. Still, this recent rejuvenation of health and reduction in waistline has not just helped me to fit back into my Royal & Awesome golf shorts, but it's also given my game a complete overhaul even after my back issues. I'm able to swing faster, walk farther, and generally just play better (minus putting) thanks to this little change and I think i'm going to stick with it.  Drink on the weekends but be mindful of my eating habits and see where it gets me. I haven't been under 180lbs in quite some time. Feels good and at least I don't have to buy any more clothes!

Up Next:  Review of Callaway SR3 Golf ball.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Serious equipment: Part 1

I think one thing everyone can agree on is that your equipment is going to have an impact on your game. It doesn't matter your skill level, swing type, strengths or weaknesses - if you are using equipment it's going to impact your game.  Pros can play with a lot.  They can play WELL with a lot, but you'll never see a pro tee off at the masters with an old club or a stock club.  Let's not delude ourselves.. the ball the pros play is not the ball that you buy down the street at Golf n' Stuff. It's just not.  Realistically speaking, no two balls are even the same between players. They get paid for a name. Back in the late 90s, it was rumored that Tiger woods was playing an unmarked set of Mizuno irons even though he was signed with Nike. Not uncommon, as players will play what it takes to win. Winning is what they do and they will hit thousands of balls in front of a Trackman system to find the perfect compression, shaft, grip, and swing to do so.

With all this being said, there's still those people out there who say "it's the player, not the equipment".  OK, Socrates, there's a target 1000 yards away and you have to shoot it or you can never play golf again.  Your choice is a revolutionary war muzzle loader or this Barret .50cal with a scope. Unless they REALLY hate golf, they're going to go with the Barret. Even if they've never shot a gun before.
So easy a child could do it!!

Why do you think that is?  Even someone who has no idea what is in store for them with the Barret, it just looks cool and damn, it has a scope and a bipod, it's gotta be more accurate right?  Confidence inspires success --- and a little shoulder pain. It's the same with golf. When you have equipment that is fit for the purpose, engineered to do what it's supposed to do with little effort, and it inspires confidence in you that's a triple threat of goodness in your favor.  This is where club fitting and club technology come in. If you guy a set of clubs new - the fitting should come with it.  If it doesn't, shop somewhere else. There are two types of club fittings in my opinion:

Measurement Fitting  
 The pro or assistant will take your wrist to floor measurement. Measure your hands (or give you different grip sizes to try) and have you hit a few to see what your tendencies are with different length clubs depending on your body composition (Ratio of legs to torso, etc).  This fitting is very basic and is most suitable for a beginner who hasn't grooved any swing tendencies yet. Reason being that without swing tendencies, a club that is the proper length and standard lie will prevent any compensation from creeping in and allow the player to groove a good, repeatable swing. 

Custom Fitting
This is the fitting to end all fittings. Measurements taken same as above. This time, you hit balls and hit balls and hit balls in front of a launch monitor.  Spin rates are taken, lie boards are used, ball and swing speeds are taken and matched up to the right head and shaft combination to create optimal feel and performance from each club. When this fitting is over, the wand in your hand is tailored just for you and your swing. 

The pros do fittings on a weekly basis. I'm sure we all wish we had that kind of money, but if you're serious about playing golf, I recommend a club evaluation once every 2 years. Around these parts they're $50. A small price to pay to know you've still got the right sticks for your swing.  Of course... should things change there's the cost of making the changes, but we'll get into that in another page. 
Oddly enough, i'm not here to talk about club fitting. I'm here to talk about BALL fitting. If you're a serious golfer and want to play competitively then club fitting is a must. If you're a recreational golfer who just likes to buy clubs off the rack and play golf, you can get the most out of your game by doing a ball fitting. You owe it to yourself to not just play with any old ball. It's remarkable how much more fun the game is and how many strokes you can take off just by having a ball that works for you. It's very simple and a very cheap way to get more distance and accuracy out of your old equipment. I recently went for my yearly ball fitting as I've noticed my driver distances starting to come down. I was still scoring at the green but hitting 6 iron into a par 4 when i used to hit an 8 was becoming the norm. Here are the sheets:

Warm-Up - Page 1 (driver)
page 2 (driver)

head-to-head matchup
front runners VS my current(ProV1)  (Pitching Wedge)
My normal ball has been the Titleist ProV1 for the last 2 years. My swing produced low spinning shots from the long clubs and i was getting plenty of distance so the scoring area was where I looked the most.  This year, not so much.  With all the new technology out there the ball is one of the most re-designed items in the golf world. Materials, dimple patterns, and aerodynamic changes are always being discovered and the ball is doing things that the Gutta-percha never could. What i found out is that by using the ProV1 - a highly touted and used ball by tour professionals and amateurs alike - I'm actually losing distance AND accuracy. Considering I wasted about 7 strokes in the trees last round and still shot 76, I believe it's time to at least give something new a try and I did. Love the ball. Love having my distance back and for the price of 80 RPMs around the green I now have the 8 iron instead of the 6 iron as my second shot. I brought the long iron spin down and increased accuracy while maintaining the soft feel that I got with my old ball.  

Try it, you might find yourself playing the round of your life because of a little white ball. Of course, if you just like to drink beer and drive the cart around you're free to play whatever equipment you want. It's a free country - just remember to yell "fore", please. 

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Oh squiggly line behind my eye

OK +10 points for a Family Guy reference.

I've been known to talk about the weird and exotic both in cigars and in life.  I'm here before the keyboard now to talk to you about invisible, visual lines - like that weird squiggly line you see sometimes in the corner of your eye floating around.  Oh yes. I went there.  These lines will help your game tremendously... if you can see them and properly use them.  To understand what i'm talking about, you have to first understand a few things about your eyes and your vision. The lingo of the era is High frequency and Low Frequency. See the image below.

Do you see Marilyn or Einstein?  Squint. No who?

The chain link fence mystery

Have you ever looked at a chain link fence from a distance? Perhaps through a camera, or just driving in a car you see one on an overpass?  Did you take notice that from a certain distance, you don't see a chain link fence, but what could be described as striping across the fence?  This is called Moire (moray - like the eel).  It's something that happens because there isn't enough detail captured by your eye for your brain to process each tiny little wire in that fence so it bunches them up into patterns turning normally High frequency information into Low frequency info. It happens a lot of times when people on TV wear thin stripes (When you wear a plaid suit to a video shoot, that's a moire!)  Think of it as trying to paint a detailed masterpiece with only a 2 inch brush. As you get closer to the fence there is more space between the wires and you will start to see the actual shape, making the weird stripes disappear.  In essence, this effect of your vision is a great tool to utilize for "visualizing the target".    Let me explain. 

Just sit and look off at a target.  Tree, flag, sand trap, building, whatever.  If you trace an imaginary line from the target to your feet and sort of "fuzz" your eyes, the texture of the grass links up into low frequency areas and you can actually visually trace a  line almost like it' there in real life. If you concentrate too hard, the line will go away and you'll just see blades of grass again. If you did it right, you're probably like "hey that's pretty cool".  If you didn't you've probably stopped reading already.  Try again, or give up, either way once you see them, you can't unsee them. It'll become second nature. Why is this important? When you do this, your brain will actually continue the line and "save it" for about 3 to 5 seconds the same way if you pass your hand in front of your face at a decent clip you can see and tell what path it took because your optic nerves have a little bit of memory to them. this equates to perfect timing for lining up a golf shot.  While you're over the ball, you can trace the line all the way back through the club and use it to align your feet, clubface, shoulders, hips and anything you want! When i found this out, I nearly dropped deuce.  I looked for these invisible lines in everything I did on the course and found out that the putting green is definitely a candidate as well!!! it's easy to find the lanes in putts if you're looking for them. Look for your break and trace the line with your eyes.

Give it a shot. You might really be surprised and it will take a lot of the guesswork out of your shots. 

Monday, June 30, 2014

Golf after work...

Eh I've been gone a while. Wife has me on this "lifestyle change" diet. Paleo something-or-other. Food is good, but damn it's a lot of work. Between that and working 15 and 16 hour days all week it's getting that there's no time for the fun stuff anymore! That makes me sad!
Golf is a tough sport. It's not just mentally and physically tough but it's just tough to find enough time to play the darn game!   Most courses say 4 hours and 20 minutes is the pace of play.  That would be killer if it were true.  We all know that it's closer to 5 or 6 hours on a busy day when the place is packed with groups of Tiger Woods wannabes and weekenders that are lucky they manufacture enough balls for them to play golf.   It eats up my weekends and my wife doesn't like it. Not one bit, no she doesn't.  So what did I do? I started looking around and found a bunch of little known leagues in the area. After work, 5pm tee off 9 hole leagues.  Most with monetary prizes (wringing hands), oh yea! I'm working late most of the week anyway, and with my schedule there's really no heads-up to be had about when this is going to happen so we almost never  plan anything for weekday nights. Just eat dinner whenever is convenient and catch some netflix, so that left me perfectly open for a league night.  It allows me to play golf, competitively, for 9 holes against a group of others.  It really is the perfect scenario.  It's cheap too, usually $10 to $15 including the prizes.  My league of choice is right down from the office at Four Seasons Golf Course.  It's Tuesdays at 5pm and called "Our League".  Works just fine for me. 9 holes of Callaway scoring and it really helps improve my game both on the mental side and the physical.

To be short and sweet about it, if you find yourself with little to no time during the weekend to play a full round, I suggest trying this little trick.  Call up your favorite courses or check their websites for small leagues. There's often no charge to join up and you can play as much or as little as you care to. There's always time for 9, and sometimes that's just enough to put you in your place with this stupid game. You might actually find yourself having more fun and meeting some cool people in the process!

From the film "Caddyshack"  (1980)

Monday, June 2, 2014

1502 Ruby Lancero and Manada Gof Club

I love scrambles. My BOTL Joe M. has been nice enough to keep me posted on some really nice outings and allowed me to be on the team. This week we're out at Manada Golf Club in Grantville, PA.
Getting here isn't a chore. If you know where Hollywood Casino is, you can find Manada in 2 turns. For me it was right up 283 and a left turn. I wound through the back roads and just when I started to wonder if there was anything but trees out here-- BOOM! Manada golf club. At first look, its a really unassuming little course. You enter the lot and it looks more like a bar than a golf course. A large pavilion over on the right with ample picnic table space for outings. Two separate entrances: one for snack shop and one for pro shop. Once you get around to the back of the buildings, however, its all golf course. 

I think what struck me first was the bag drop. Room for 50 bags. I love it. Nothing worse than getting to a bag drop and theres a full rack and nowhere to put the cart bag. Just a sea of bags hanging out, wondering who is next.  Just beyond that theres a beautiful putting and chipping green. With real holes! (Yessssss! *fist pump*) In this golfer's opinion, too many public courses are going to just a stake in the green. When I practice, I want to hear the sound  of the cup and see the ball go in, not say "well that should've dropped I guess" as it bounces off a metal stake. The grass and turf thickness were so nice. Receptive and smoother than a lot of private clubs I've been to, let alone public tracks played for less than $30.  I guess thats one of the reasons Jenn in the snack bar said people refer to this place as "central pa's best kept secret gem". Damn right. I've played a lot of "cheap" courses, but nothing about this place screams cheap except the price. 

I sat down and decided theres time enough for a cigar since I was absurdly early for the shotgun start so I decided its a great time to try the 1502 Ruby Lancero.  I've had the ruby before in robusto, toro, torpedo, and conquistador but was recently introduced to the lancero size by my good friend Shaun at D&S Cigar Lounge - the 2nd 1052 lounge in all of the USA, FYI and the only one in Lancaster,PA or the surrounding area.  For those of you who have not seen this size before, I'll save you the trouble of a google search and refer you to this article by Cigar Aficionado magazine.

On to my relaxation partner....What a great little stick. Well little in some ways. At 7x38 it's long and thin (like a lance, get it?) I thoroughly enjoy the lancero because, in my opinion, it's a completely different smoking experience not just in the size and mouth-feel, but also because of the sheer volume of smoke. I find it also provides a smooth draw without a lot of the problems of thicker cigars,  like canoeing or even going out (for golfers that's a big plus!). It takes about 45 minutes to an hour, depending on your smoking habits.  Your choice in tip preparation is just that - choice. Anything goes, regardless of the tiny diameter. It's difficult, but I went again with my trusted punch, rather than a cut.  I've done straight cut as well as V on these, and one really doesn't work "better" than the other. That's kind of the beauty of this size.

Awww.. so cute, little guy.
This particular 1502R was very nice. No cracks, and just a little give between the fingers. It was wrapped and bound surprisingly well for as long and thin as it was.  I expected some sort of  inconsistency wether it was a soft spot or a super tight area but got neither. A good, thick cap and slightly turned in edges.  I examined it and looked for any cracks or knicks, because it looked like it had been dropped on the end, but upon further research this is something 1502 does purposely. I quickly found out why. She lit fast and evenly, thanks to that same weird foot and low ring size and the draw was everything I imagined it would be from the long chamber. You certainly get the wrapper flavor right away and it's thick and smooth, with just a little woody aftertaste.

I settled in to watch a putting and chipping clinic, given by Ron Jones, PGA pro.  The wind was gusting 20-30 mph at times, so I didn't get a good look at the smoke or a good gauge on the ash. So if you want those, sorry. If you care about those... well.. you've stumbled onto the wrong blog, snob. Oh the perils of outdoor reviewing. Damn you, fresh air!  What I could tell from my greenside perch is that the lancero is every bit as light and creamy as it's brothers. Not super light, mind you, but the notes through the first third of the cigar are more sweet than savory. We know my pallet is not sought after by Cigar Snob, but us average guys will love this stick. If you're into a relaxing cigar full of the "sweet" notes of vanilla, a little chocolate, and oak then go out and get a box. I'm into the tip flavor of my cigars and this one was really mild. No leather twinge or "dirty tobacco" flavor. I think best of all there was no "cigar lip" residue despite the darker wrapper. Huge pet peeve of mine.

(more after the jump)

Monday, May 19, 2014

Cigar Review: 5 Vegas Gold

Recently, I took a pleasure/work trip back to my home town of Easton, Pennsylvania to give a helping hand to my mother. She's moving to a new apartment/house unit and needs a strapping young lad to help out with the bigger boxes. My brother is about useless in this endeavor regardless of him living three minutes away (very literally in fact), so I came up and had a good old time of it. On the way 'round trip my wife and I stopped in at her parents' home and I sat out back with my Father-in-law and Brother-in-Law to have a smoke.  I opened pop's humidor and he gives me a 5 Vegas Gold, Toro. I mentioned it was a nice looking cigar but I'd never had one. He wouldn't let me NOT try it, so off came the cello and out we went to the back porch.

The 5 Vegas website has this to say:

"5 Vegas Gold

Enter the new era in mild-bodied cigars. 5 Vegas Gold Series breaks all barriers, proving a mild-bodied cigar can indeed teem with flavor. A luxurious blend of superior, 5-year-old tobaccos are skillfully combined inside seamless,hand-selected wrappers. Discover 5 Vegas Gold and be instantly charmed by its smooth, creamy, and eventful bouquet."

We all know how much that all means to me, but I thought you might fancy a link. I started my ritual the way I always do - with a little squeeze to see how full and how humid the cigar is and figure out my best plan of attack.  After a moment, I realized that my trusty punch was the way to go and gently bored out the cap. It was here that I noticed the capping was quite extensive. A very thick top of about 3 layers, more than normal, which lent itself to a great punch rather than a cut. In fact, my opinion is to stay away from the cutter on this particular size.
I took a cold draw and a good sniff and did take notice of the nutty, "eventful" bouquet from the listing above.  Not at all like "dirt tobacco" smell, but rather light and airy- almost that heavy aroma with a freshly baked muffin or bread. Not at all harsh, with just a hint of sweetness. If you're a fan of nuts (stop fucking giggling right now..)...As satisfying as it is to eat a handful of good cashews - this cigar lends that same gratification in its aroma.  I almost didn't want to light it - but I did- 'cause fuck it.. it's a cigar.  Using my Rocky Patel 3 torch lighter, I toasted the end and took a good puff.  Much to my surprise, the flavor and draw is exactly what is stated on the manufacturer's website.  A smooth draw, with a light-bodied and creamy smoke though there was not much "eventful" occurrence through the cigar. The long filler held up well and I only dropped ash once- at about 2 inches- but that may have been attributed to the breeze. The flavor stayed just as it initially portrayed itself, all the way up to the last 1.5 - 2 inches. Pepper? Mild, but still a bittery sort of pepper nonsense that hadn't been present at all anywhere else in the cigar. It was a little surprising. In these last couple draws, I can only assume the buildup of oils through the cigar produced a mild pepper aftertaste that - while not unpleasant - didn't really sit will with me since I don't really care for surprise pepper. Especially after the dream that

I had just smoked through! Still, it was not too much of a punch in the face and I was able to effectively quell the issue with some Lexington and power through it handily.  Just be ready for it.  If you don't get it- consider it a bonus and enjoy it thoroughly! Overall I did enjoy the cigar and would definitely make a purchase, if not just for the awesome gold band.

Overall, we're talking about another sub $5 cigar here going toe to toe with your favorite stick. I'm going to pick some up for the foreseeable future and hit the course with a couple to use the band to shoot some light into my competitors' eyes while they're over a putt. I'm seriously digging the box, which looks like a gold bar with trapezoidal sides.

Bottom Line:  A good cigar for a good price. If you're wishy-washy on what you'd like today this is a smart choice. Smooth character, and not the wildest gal at the party but thoroughly enjoyable with good conversation. Keep an eye out for the pepper switch and either put it out before it gets to be too much, or make sure you have a back-up plan to wash down the finish.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Forgiving the Un-forgiving

I want to start by saying "I'm sorry" to blade irons.  I'm sorry I blamed you for hurting my hands. I'm sorry I blamed you when I fell short on that shot and I'm sorry I said you don't feel soft enough.  I realize now, it's not you, it's me. If you can forgive me like I forgive you then we can be together forever.  Reading this, as you may or may not have surmised, I'm a little off. Also, I'm into the minutiae of feel and technology. I love tech stuff. I have the "tinkering affliction" where I constantly change and try new equipment in the hopes of dialing in that perfect set. With my most recent purchase, I have found the set of clubs that will take me well into the next 10 years, and along the way I tried some great technology.  All of these have led me to one conclusion: Forgiving is only forgiving if you need it. Club manufacturers have come up with more gimmicks than I care to say I've fallen for. From absurdly large heads to club face inserts and even interchangeable weights.  All in the name of customizing and making a club more "forgiving".  Let's first talk about what that means:

Webster holds one definition for FORGIVING as "allowing room for error or weakness".  I think that's dead on the money of what club manufacturers are going for. I don't think that's what they got. I think what they came up with were more compensatory irons than forgiving ones. We all want to hit the ball as far as we possibly can and as often as we can.  Of course, to do that we need to hit the ball in the center of the club. It's as simple as that.  

  THE sweet spot is the point of contact  
where the mass of the club is the 
most resistant to twisting thereby
transferring the most energy
 to the ball (WHeWW!)
The sweet spot is still a sweet spot, it does not get any larger with technology - there is only that one spot that is perfect. The tech just makes the mis-hits a little better. In woods, it's called "Gear Effect" and it's relatively simple (click the link for details). Basically, the curve of the club face helps to offset the issues of toe and heel hits. Irons are flat and cannot help with this, so the tech is a little more involved and thusly, the ball is treated differently on off-center hits. 

The FORGIVING sweet spot
"But Chris, why do pros play these clubs and have such good control over things?".  Answer: Because they're pros. By definition they hit 90+% of their shots on the sweet spot - therefore no gear effect, and no overcorrection. When they do hit it a little off-center they end up in the trees, or pond or wherever. Not all of us are good enough to hit it like the pros all the time so we need more forgiving clubs. Clubs that take those off center hits and make corrections to stop energy loss and misdirection.  (GolfWRX blog has a great writeup on this)

Still....The issue that I believe and have personally noticed is that this forgiving nature is a burden to true shot making.  During the course of my testing between the Maltby irons and my AP2's, I noticed that when I tried to work the ball left or right with the AP2 irons I was able to do so with nearly perfect control only on a dead center impact. If I hit it on the toe or heel I would actually get an over correction leading to some funky directional issues and bad thoughts about what I had just hit. I repeated this test with my Cobra Carbon CB irons, which had less forgiveness technology than the AP2 but still were not a blade. I noticed the same issue, but not as pronounced. I felt much better about those irons and I was able to have more control over the very minute movements of the ball but there was still some minor over correction when I hit off-center. Now, I'm no Iron Byron machine, but after a couple of buckets and a roll of impact tape, I found that even the dead center impact shots from both irons were dispersing from where I was hitting them by a few yards.  I found with the blades, there was no such correction.  When it went straight it was like it  was on a rope and even swings that were less than accurate were within tolerances. The distance off those blade miscues died an awful death, but they stayed online. You could put a small blanket over the shots where they landed whereas with the correction irons, it was more like a king size bed sheet.  This got me thinking about what I really, REALLY want in a club - irons particularly - and how much of the hype I should be listening to. 

As a solid 3.5 index, my irons are my game. I NEED accurate shots into pins. I NEED control of my shots and to know that when I hit the ball in that direction, it's going to go that way 100% of the time when I hit it well. I want to knock down pins and scare the hole from just about anywhere. I'm also not bad at ball-striking so I opted for the blades in my high lofted irons. This test has me seriously considering my 5 through 7 irons as well whereas I was looking at replacing them with cavity-back irons before.  

After all this, I've come to the opinion that if a player plays to a 6 handicap or below, they should probably be playing blades. They will make you better faster than any other "forgiving club", and the good news is that every manufacturer has a version so your brand loyalty is intact. So I pose this to my bored readers test out a set against your own sometime and see what shakes loose. Are you playing the irons you WANT or the irons you NEED? 

Monday, May 5, 2014

Your best golf on the cheap: Part 2

On Friday in Part 1, I wrote about my first impressions with the Maltby brand of clubs. More specifically the KE4 Tour Hybrid iron and the MMB-17 blade that I ordered to place up against my Titleist AP2 irons. Since then, I've taken them back to the range, and played two total rounds of golf with both clubs. Here are my findings:

KE4-Tour  4 hybrid-iron Results:

The KE4 will be permanently in my bag. While Saturday's round at Overlook Golf Course found it being used mostly for punching out from under trees and more "utility work" (which it performed smartly), my round on Sunday at Crossgates Golf Course focused on full shots from both the tee and the fairway. Don't get me wrong, this stick was a great utility club but I was more interested in the full-swing capabilities. That being said, the consistency of the club saved my butt more than once on Sunday. First, my second shot on number 9, a mid-length par 5 that presented a good layup occasion for the KE4. 180 yards to the end of the fairway, up hill (about a club) and into the teeth of a 20mph wind, the ball held it's line and trajectory better than anything I've got in the bag. It was a pure strike with absolutely no ballooning and no movement.  I had 58 yards into the green with my wedge afterward and was able to sink the putt for birdie. Money well spent already 

The second pressure use came with the tee shot on number 12.  Downhill Par 4 with tree trouble right and a ditch, trees, and water trouble left. If the tee ball is too far right, you'll be additionally blocked out by this big bastard of a tree right in front of the green. The ideal tee ball is about 215 yards off the tee box to the left of the fairway. From the elevated tee it seemed like the perfect distance for the new stick so I used it and once again it performed exactly as planned, even on a mis-hit. I came up and out of it a little bit and ended up hitting it a couple grooves low, feathering the ball to the right of my intended line. Still, It was long enough to get me to the tip of the fairway where I had a good look at the pin.

Yes, I put my 18th tee ball right in front of
the ladies tees on #10. Not Proud.
I think the biggest test between nerves and needs came on the par 5 18th hole. I stood on the tee needing a birdie for even par. Don't think that wasn't in my head just because of my back issues and club tests. I'm still out here to post a score, damnit. The 18th for me is a notoriously terrible driving hole with about 35% of my tee shots going OB left and 40% going into either the water or traps on the right. I'm 11% for fairways on this hole in the last 3 years! (stats tracked on, thanks guys!) So yea, just a few nerves on this tee box. I did what any self respecting bail out artist would do, I took a club I could swing away with without reaching trouble and bunt-sliced it into the next county. After bailing out right with my tee ball (a miss I struggled with all day long), I found myself with a distance of 177 yards, into the now two club wind, through a tree, to a safe landing area where I could have a clear and reasonable third shot into the green. The lie was average in the rough, neither buried nor was it sitting up for me. I took the 4 and decided that the play was a fade starting to the left of the tree and let the wind kill the distance, hopefully allowing the ball to land in the fairway with about 170 into the pin. In theory.  That's the shot I set up with and that's the shot I got from the club.  I was pleasantly surprised that there was ZERO drag through the rough. I expected maybe a hitch where the face got caught or turned a little with the wider sole, but the head went cleanly through the grass and I had a mostly solid strike on the ball.  There's really something to be said for the confidence felt when looking down on this club.  For you completionists... I hit a choke 7 iron from 149 (the green  is about 25 feet above the fairway) to 7 feet, leaving myself a downhill right-to-left slider.  The greens were smooth and fast at Crossgates - quite different than the punched greens at Overlook or Four Seasons previously and I'd been struggling all day with getting the speed just right. I just barely lipped it out with a little too much pace. It rolled right around the cup and I made the 7 inch comeback to post 73. The two gentleman I had been playing with had no idea what it was for and still said it was a painful lip-out, haha! 

Overall, high marks in the looks department. It's tough to make a forgiving but playable hybrid club for better players without appearing like a marshmallow, but this hits it on the money. I think even high handicappers would like this club as well.  I gave a decent score in the feel department only because the graphite shaft deadened more off-center shots. While I could feel it, it was difficult to judge how far off center I hit it.  A steel shaft would provide better feel. Distance on par with the much higher end club.  Solid marks in workability. Straight goes straight. Not a lot of over-correction on off center hits. Budget conscious at 39.99 for the head. Excellent replacement for a hybrid or a long iron, in my player's opinion.

MMB-17  #8 iron Results:

Mentioned above, the 4 iron didn't really have much of a starring role in my round at Overlook on Saturday morning. It was helpful, but when all you can do is pitch out of trees sideways, it's not really what I would call a "stroke saver" or "Pin seeker".  The 8 iron did have a more prominent role in making a good shot, however. I still didn't use it much in this round, but for what I did get out of it, I say it's a damn good purchase. Of only note was the 2nd shot into #9 from rough right of the fairway. I had 160 into the pin, which is my average 8 iron distance. The lie was semi-buried, with some grass between the face and the ball for sure. I clipped it pretty well but  fell about 10 feet short, below the hole. Yes, I missed the putt. Still, it was a good shot to a blind target from a less-than-perfect lie in the rough.  Coupled with previous range evaluation as well as the 2 small buckets I had hit on the range on Friday (1 with my AP2 and the other with MMB), that one shot was enough to satisfy my curiosity surrounding this particular combination of shaft and head. Nothing tells it like it is as well as the actual course does.  It was a demanding shot under pressure to attack the pin and it didn't let me down despite my human imperfections. It is a consistent club. I will say one thing about it and stick to my guns: Even on the range, I didn't ever feel like I hit a good shot and been "robbed" or thought I had mis-clubbed. When the ball fell short of my intended target, I could feel exactly how many grooves low or high I had hit the ball, whereas with the more "forgiving" AP2 that I've been playing I felt like I hit a solid shot more often than not and would have inconsistent feedback on distance of mis-hits and inconsistent direction on solid hits without much feedback on high/low impact.  The MMB is going into my bag and I'm going to order a 9 and PW as well with the same specs by the end of this week. 

Again, high marks for looks. If you're a player who likes a minimal top-line and offset then this is the head for you. The satin chrome, rather than full polish is a welcome change on sunny days. Solid marks for feel. Higher than the 4 iron because of the increased feedback on mis-hits.     Distance is on-par with the higher end clubs, but nothing special that will catapult you to hitting tour-distance irons. 
Excellent workability and flight capability.Some clubs are "over workable" but to get a 9 the devil is in the details and small movements. Very consistent movements and no correction to get in the way of your shot.

 Value... well, I'm still looking for the cops outside because this kind of performance is a steal at $29.99 US for the head. 

Bottom line: 

8iron:   $29.99 head + $3.99 shaft + $10.99 grip + $0.35 ferrule + a little elbow grease =  $45.00 club on par with $125.00 premium club.

4iron:  $39.99 head + $11.00 shaft + $10.99 grip + $0.25 ferrule + a little more elbow grease + $55.00 club beats $125.00 premium club.

Maltby certifies that they are 2010 groove rule compliant and playable in high-level tournaments (or honestly, I wouldn't even be trying them).  For the price of a premium head with a run-of-the-mill shaft, you can build a custom beast with these heads. I chose the rout of least investment because I like a bargain. I could only imagine what would happen if you put a $75 shaft in some of these. Still if you told me they would out-perform my AP2 710 irons even with a premium shaft, I'd never have believed it if you beat it into my head every morning.  Happy swinging!

Friday, May 2, 2014

Your best golf... on the cheap: Part1

 Last month I blogged about a great cigar for not much money. They're around $2.50 each, depending on the size. I love cheap. Cheap is good. Cheaper is GREAT! The problem with cheap is that it's not very dependable. Quite often, it's inconsistent and in the end it's not really worth what I paid anyway. Thankfully those Casa de Garcias have broken that stereotype. Of course, thinking in these terms, in walks "Custom".  Custom tends to be the opposite of Cheap.  Custom is so nice and perfectly fit to whatever I need.  I paid big money (to me) for a set of custom golf clubs. Length, lie, shaft, grip, weighting and probably most of all -- NAME.

If you've ever bought a golf product, you're paying a lot for the name. A hand towel at Wal-mart is maybe 4 bucks(?) but if you put (insert mainstream golf company here)'s name on that it goes to $20 and sometimes $30.  So i thought "what if I took my specs and built my own clubs for cheap to mimic these big box brand name clubs".  Out comes my personal "Maltby" irons. When you hear the name you may think of Rodger the Golf Channel/ NBC on-course correspondent and, for you older chaps, multiple tournament winner on the PGA tour in the 70s and 80s.  When you READ the name Maltby, it may or may not bring to mind Ralph Maltby the club designer from Sounds the same, but it's spelled different. (10 points to guess the movie).
Roger Maltbie (no relation)

Ralph Maltby

Ralph used to design clubs for Tommy Armour and is an all around fitting guru.  He developed the MPF or Maltby Playability Factor to rank clubs on how they will perform for different levels of players. With iron head price points at around $30 and shafts at about $10, I can build a set of custom golf clubs to my exact specifications for $300 or less, compared to the $1000 for the brand name clubs. I went ahead and ordered a Malby KE-4 hybrid iron and a Maltby MMB-17 8 iron to see if there was any confirmation to my thought process. Today I got them and decided to do a test against my current Titleist AP2 4 and 8 iron on the range for feel, playability, and general distance.

MMB-17 - 8 iron - 39* - 36.5"
True Temper Command Stiff

Maltby MMB-17

The 8-iron has a really nice look about it. Very "players club" with a chrome nickel plating and satin face area. Thin topline, thin sole. Turf interaction was stellar and it didn't dig as much as I originally thought it would. at 3 degrees of bounce, it actually scooped through the grass nicely! The ball came off cleanly with a much more crisp "click" sound and feel than my AP2 which is more of a muffled "thwack" with a solid but soft feel. I think I like the MMB feedback a little better because I can really tell when I hit it cleanly and when i hit it nearer the toe or heel which for me translates into MORE confidence if I miss a shot. At least I know why I missed it.

The shaft, a True Temper Command R/S flex (trimmed for Stiff), did leave a little bit to be desired. The shaft is designed for control and lower trajectory - and control it did. My shot dispersion was much tighter than my AP2, even on solid hits. I could also work the ball much more easily in both directions as well as up and down. The feel was somewhat looser than the S300 on my current 8 iron.  The Dynamic gold series have the shock absorbing "sensicore" inside. Basically it's a wire with foam wound up it in a spiral pattern. It's placed in the shaft and deadens any vibration coming from the head. I noticed it was missing when I hit one thin, but it wasn't as jarring as some would have me believe. I hit about 2 dozen balls with each and came to the conclusion that the only thing that MAY be missing is the distance factor. I hit my AP2 8 iron about 160.  I don't think I was hitting that all the time with the MMB. Still, I attribute that to the muscle back design. Traditionally, the forgiving zone on the face is only about the size of a dime or nickel whereas the AP2 irons are more like a quarter or half dollar because of the technology. I wanted a muscle back though because of the accuracy and I definitely got that.  When I get it on the course for part 2 and I'm really able to see the distance for myself instead of guestimating based on landmarks, then I'll be able to make a good decision.

Maltby KE4-Tour

KE4-Tour 4 Iron/Hybrid - 23*- 38.5"
Graffaloy ProCustom Stiff flex
The 4 hybrid iron is a very nice club in itself. This configuration beat out my current 4 in terms of feel and playability again. The graphite shaft absorbed the shock much better than the steel shaft even with sensicore (no surprise there really), but what really impressed me is the way the ball catapaulted off the face! Holy cow were my first words after one strike.  The ball flew higher and landed more softly than my current 4 iron for sure yet both have the same characteristics as far as length and swingweight. Judging by the flight, I will go out on a limb and say that the spin rate on the KE4 is much higher than the AP2 - which is exactly what I was looking to get for my long approach shots.  The KE4 has a wider top line and sole but the head is about that of a standard blade with very little offset. It's made to be a cross between iron and hybrid. I'm normally not a fan of "fat irons" but it really worked for my eye in this case and I think the shallow face helped that a lot. Turf interaction from the wider sole was really nice, regardless of the width and I didn't feel it digging in like my 4 iron usually does. I felt like it was much easier to hit than even my current 3-hybrid - which just seems too big to use in the rough or sometimes even from the fairway - so why bother having it? As for the Graffaloy shaft - it performed exactly as spec'd. Very light, stiff flex and high launch. I couldn't ask for much more --- but I did.  I demanded the ball do things that I normally have
trouble doing with my current players clubs. In control, the KE4 with Graffaloy Pro Custom out-performed my AP2 w/ DG S300 smartly.  I was able to work the ball in both directions at will and had an easier time feathering the ball with the KE4 than the AP2. Normally my 4 iron is draw, un-willing fade and big slice as far as shot choices. The Maltby 4 iron actually flew straight and accurate and when I wanted to move the ball, I was able to do so in small increments. 5 yards, 15 yards, feather it just a couple... the shots were there when I wanted them and I didn't feel like it was a "lucky strike" when I pulled them off.  Once again, when I get it on the course for part 2 then I can really say if it's all over better.  One thing I think I definitely dislike about this club is the anodized black finish. I have the same finish on my Taylormade R11, but that's a driver. I don't hit sandy balls that much with it.  With this being a utility iron, it's going to have a lot of turf interaction and that's going to take a toll on the finish, wearing out a hit groove.  After hitting only a few damp range balls it picked up a few marks on the face already. Love that sweetspot though!

Click here to check out Part 2!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Cigar Review: Casa de Garcia Churchill

And So it Begins.....

The first round of the season is always a crapshoot. It's early... what's the weather going to be like... what condition is the course in... and most importantly what does my swing look like after a winter of bourbon and cigars.

My answer is "not too bad" all the way around.  Golf season proper starts April 1st according to the USGA handicap revision schedule.  We had a pretty mild winter up until January and since then all hell has broken loose. The last snowfall came just last week, small as it was, but the lingering effects can still be felt in some areas. There's still a mound of snow about 10 feet tall in the parking lot of our local mall. That being said, the golf courses fared quite well in my opinion.

Four Seasons Golf Course is right down the road from my office, so it offers the most opportune chance at getting the most holes in after work before dark. I'm pretty light on funds these days with some house renovations going on, so I decided to cash in on a free weekday pass that I had won in a scramble last year. I don't really get to play much during the week anyway and when I finally would have time to use it there is a special for $7 (all you can play before dark). I mosey'd over to the course, got my spikes on and took the ever-so-useful two practice swings then went full bore at the ball. Dead pull, not much has changed since last year I reckon.

The course was wet from the rain in the afternoon, but not sopping. There were some drainage issues, but overall there wasn't much issue with club and turf interaction. On the second hole I decided to light up my first cigar - a Casa de Garcia 6.5 x 50. This particular CG is a Dominican blend with a Connecticut Wrapper. I keep my humidor around 68 and this cigar was still in the cello. It had a nice firm feel with a little give under my fingers. Normally I'm a punch man, but for this one I chose a straight cut to maximize the draw being that I was outdoors and there is more chance the cigar will go out on me with the slight breeze and moist conditions so I wanted every puff to be nice and full. In general, I like a slightly more humidified cigar when I'm out golfing since there's a lot of breeze and a good chance I'll be re-lighting once or twice - it keeps the wrapper from getting dry too fast and cracking or unravelling.

 I used my trusty single flame needle lighter and the cigar lit perfectly, no charring.  Oddly enough, some reviewers put this in the 'medium' flavor category and for the first inch or so, I couldn't understand why. First draws were very light in flavor and strength and the draw was a little bit harder than I imagined it would be. I tee'd off and went down the fairway puffing away. A half-inch or so into the smoke is where the light and smoky flavor stopped and the real heart of the stick started to hit me. It was still very light but had earthy notes that were not bitter but still left a lasting flavor for a light cigar.  I set it down on my pull cart a number of times. I averaged 2 or 3 draws between shots on the walk to my ball and found little need to stoke it after hitting a shot despite the conditions.  No, I'm not the kind of guy who keeps smoking when he hits... I take my game as seriously as my cigars. I also take in a lot of the scenery. With the early season comes the post-winter cleanup.  There were piles of tree trimmings everywhere. Don't forget fellow golf-nuts, you get free relief from ground under repair and that includes "material piled for removal".  Two club lengths, no nearer the hole, relief from the nearest point of relief. In this case it would be the nearest edge of the pile.
Material piled for removal off #6 tee box.

Dollar for dollar I thoroughly enjoy this smoke.  Around the 4th hole it really started to get into the "medium" area of flavor country.  That earthy flavor that had been light in the beginning was not really making itself known. I could only describe it as a smooth inhale of fresh sod. Just a nice, heady, thick sort of flavor. When I smoke, I generally keep the tip intact and wouldn't label myself a "chewer" by any means, but after hitting a few bad shots I had worked my way around the tip and got some of that sort of semi-bitter tobacco flavor with each draw and it only enhanced the smoke. I found myself liking it a bit more than I should have and started to chew it a little over putts rather than put it down - it cost me my birdie on #3.

Murray the Penguin approves.
The band had to come off around hole #6 before the tee shot. It was warm, but for whatever reason it didn't want to just flake open like other cigars. Still, I was able to remove it without losing my cool and there was no damage to the wrapper. I was really sad when I hit the Tee box on #8 and had to get rid of the last inch. I just couldn't hold it anymore and it started to get a little too warm on the draw, so off it went. I regret that I didn't bring another to start and for the ride home.

For the first time out this season, I put up a respectable 39 for the 9 holes. No gimmes, no mulligans, just lift clean and place due to every shot getting plugged and muddy. Hey-- it's the first round of the season, I'm not going to kill myself with mud balls just yet. 3-putts abound as normal and I'm shorter than I was last year, but hey "it's early" right?