Workin on Workin It

By Adam BarrAugust 22, 2008, 4:00 pm

Workin it for a living isnt what it used to be.
 
Whether the living youre working for is really your daily bread or just the life of your game, the importance of working the ball ' hitting shots that purposely curve right-to-left or left-to-right ' has declined even at golfs top levels over the last two decades. Time was, in the persimmon and small-iron era, when every good player moved the ball in huge cuts and dramatic hooks, navigating around obstacles and controlling landings near flags placed close to hazards. No less a ball striker than Ben Hogan said of Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth that a straight ball on that course would kill you. Workin it was the mark of a master.
 
But as golf ball manufacturers got good at making low-spinning distance balls that also worked well around the green, players at all levels couldnt afford to miss out on the extra yards. Recreational players especially benefited from models that reduced overall spin, including sidespin. And one sure way to increase distance is to keep spin down to a reasonable level, so the ball stays in the air but doesnt balloon into a yardage-robbing trajectory.
 
However, a ball that spins less also cant be worked as easily. So there was a tradeoff on the table, and when that happens, more yardage off the tee is always going to win. Elite players started curving the ball less, and less often.
 
Even so, the skill of working the ball is not extinct. Indeed, theres no way to remain at the elite level of the game if you dont know how to do it. And many recreational players dream of being able to hit controlled fades and draws on demand.
 
The good news is, it can still be done, and its not as hard as you think. Of course, the basic technique of bringing the club face along a path that will promote the proper controlled sidespin takes practice ' lots of practice. And if youre going to do it, you need to first see your PGA professional to learn how. You also need to make sure youre using the right tools. To coin a phrase, Whats Workin In Your Bag?
 
Generally, from the club point of view, workability is tied to the mass properties of the clubhead, says Jeff Colton, senior vice president of research and development at Callaway Golf. So you need a neutral center of gravity, not significantly toward the heel or toe.
 
Thats because a CG closer to the heel effectively enlarges the toe of the club, promoting draw spin ' the so-called gear effect. Its a common feature of game improvement clubs (drivers especially) whose users tend to miss right. Conversely, a CG closer to the toe effectively stretches out the heel, promoting cut spin, a feature helpful to those whose death move is hooky.
 

I know what youre saying ' so game improvement clubs are anti-workability? Well, the top-line answer is yes. Workability depends on spin, notably sidespin. And game improvement models tend to push down sidespin to prevent wild shots. But dont despair. Its a matter of degree.
 
Yes, as an iron becomes more forgiving, it becomes less workable, says Scott Rice, director of research and development for Cobra Golf. It is possible to draw or fade a game improvement iron, but it is more difficult. Many game improvement irons have a lot of offset which will promote a draw, but make it harder to hit a fade.
 
But there is a middle ground for skilled players who want more forgiveness than a traditional forged blade, but still want to be able to work the ball. Cobras Carbon CB iron is one example of this middle ground. The head is slightly larger than a traditional blade and more mass is moved out to the perimeter of the head for more forgiveness, but it is still a very workable iron. Cobras FP iron is another example of an iron design targeted at the better player; it has a larger head and a wider sole than the Carbon CB for even more forgiveness, but the sole design features a chamfer on the back edge which allows the club to have workability characteristics of a narrower sole.
 
Aha. So you can move some weight outward in a head and have some of the best of both worlds: a little forgiveness on off-center hits combined with some sideways mobility. Lets check on some other important design characteristics of workable woods and irons and see what matters and what doesnt (and how much):
 
Moment of inertia: MOI plays strongly into workability, says Colton, because high MOI drivers are supposed to reduce twisting on off-center hits. Theres game improvement again. Colton tells the story of Ernie Els experiments with Callaways square-headed FT-i driver ' since it works the ball less, Ernie had to relearn his aiming points to account for the clubs ultra-straight performance.
 
Bigger is betterfor some things:That brings up the issue of head size, especially now that consumer drivers of any shape generally push the 460-cc size limit. Bigger heads usually have mass properties that hit the ball straighter. The same physics apply in irons.
 

The closer the center of gravity of the head is to the shaft axis, the easier it will be for the golfer to manipulate the club into the required position to hit the particular shot he or she wants, says Cobras Rice. In general, the smaller the head size, the more workable the iron.
 
Down to your sole: Drivers, of course, dont contact the ground. But irons do, and how they strike and get through the turf naturally influences the balls ultimate direction.
 
While a wide sole prevents digging for the mid- to higher-handicap player, a narrow sole makes it easier for the expert player to open or close the club face, Rice says. A cambered sole from heel to toe is more versatile from a variety of lies, and reduces the amount of sole that contacts the turf, especially with larger game improvement heads.
 
The ball: Of course, urethane covered tour-level balls will spin more than 2-piece, large core models with ionomer and Surlyn-type covers. Thats how many pros can keep some workability in their games. Tiger Woods, a habitual shot carver, plays a Nike ball that has a ton of spin ' he estimates he uses the spiniest ball on tour.
 
What doesnt matter: The shaft. Torque [the degree to which the shaft twists at impact] is a feel feature, says Callaways Colton. Impact is so short ' about 500 microseconds ' that there cant be much influence. Also, face thinness or thickness and the degree of bulge and roll in the face shape dont have much to do with workability, Colton says.
 
How about forged versus cast? The materials may be different densities, and designs have to account for that. These design variations may have an affect on workability, says Rice. But, a forged and cast club of identical design will have the same level of workability.
 
Whatever the technical requirements and pitfalls, working the ball remains one of the games eternal fascinations. Its a kind of danger zone: when it works, youre a hero. When it doesnt, youre in the field munching cans with the other goats.
 
Its a long and straight game these days because its so hard to work the modern golf ball compared to the old days, says Colton. So in a sense it is dangerous, because you have to risk a larger swing variation.
 
And his advice for a modern ball-worker afraid of a straight drive at Colonial?
 
Hit 3-wood.
 
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    Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys

    By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2017, 7:00 pm

    After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.

     There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.



    It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.

    It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.

    “The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.

    In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.



    Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”

    Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.

    “You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”

    Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.



    Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.

    If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.

    For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.

    Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.



    Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.

    While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.

    When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?

    Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.



    After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.

    The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.

    That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.

    The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.

    While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.



    Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.

    Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.

    “We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”

    The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?

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    Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 5:28 pm

    John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.

    That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.

    Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.

    Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid

    By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

    Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

    Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.


    Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters


    Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

    World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

    Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.

    Nathaniel Crosby at the 1983 Bing Crosby Pro-Am at Pebble Beach. Getty Images

    Crosby selected as 2019 U.S. Walker Cup captain

    By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 3:19 pm

    The USGA announced that former U.S. Amateur champ Nathaniel Crosby will serve as the American captain for the 2019 Walker Cup, which will be played at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, England.

    Crosby, 56, is the son of entertainment icon and golf enthusiast Bing Crosby. He won the 1981 U.S. Amateur at The Olympic Club as a teenager and earned low amateur honors at the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. He also played in the 1983 Walker Cup, coincidentally held at Royal Liverpool, before embarking on a brief career in professional golf, with his amateur status reinstated in 1994.

    "I am thrilled and overwhelmed to be chosen captain of the next USA Walker Cup team," Crosby said in a statement. "Many of my closest friends are former captains who will hopefully take the time to share their approaches in an effort to help me with my new responsibilities."

    Crosby takes over the captaincy from John "Spider" Miller, who led the U.S. squad both in 2015 and earlier this year, when the Americans cruised to a 19-7 victory at Los Angeles Country Club.

    Crosby is a Florida resident and member at Seminole Golf Club, which will host the 2021 matches. While it remains to be seen if he'll be asked back as captain in 2021, each of the last six American captains have led a team on both home and foreign soil.

    Started in 1922, the Walker Cup is a 10-man, amateur match play competition pitting the U.S. against Great Britain and Ireland. The U.S. team holds a 37-9 all-time lead in the biennial matches but has not won in Europe since 2007.