Monday, August 17, 2009

It's been a little while

It's interesting how golf manages to be the first thing to go when life gets busy. And it should. One of the hardest hit commercial real estate sectors in this recession are golf courses because golf is expendable. It is a true leisure sport. When either of the two great commodities become scarce (time and money), so does time on the course.

June in the Kjelstrom household got pretty busy with the arrival of my third son, Trenton, on June 6. My time was needed at home. July brought unexpected work obligations which had me at the office 60 hours a week. August however, is a little more open. I had the opportunity to play a few times, some good, some bad. I also played a new course a few weeks ago in Colorado that will shake up the top 10 (more on that in another post). I am also looking forward to two big golf outings in the next month, one at Arrowhead (#3 on my list) and the other at Perry Park (currently #9 on my list).

A few things have become clear to me in my last few outings. Firstly, I am more consistent. My irons are MUCH more consistent since changing my grip and improving my stance earilier in the year. Secondly, the next step for me is to fix the "flying elbow." No, not the WWF wrestling move, but the common mistake in hackers like myself to over compensate at the top of the swing resulting in the right elbow pointing toward the sky rather than the ground where it is supposed to be. This Golf Digest article hopefully will provide some guidance. I will keep you posted. Arrowhead on Thursday!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

A few weeks at the range and two rounds later

After the realization that my golf swing was pathetically ugly, I made the determination to get comfortable with the "correct" grip, posture and back swing. The first week I spent 3 days at the range (two days during lunch and one after work). It took the whole week to get comfortable with my new grip. the first two days were terrible and I was glad no one I knew was watching. The third day seemed to show a little improvement.

The next week, I spent 2 days at the range and ended the week with an early 9 holes. I really worked on my posture and although it is difficult to really tell if my posture was improving without a camera, I did start to see some improvement and began to get excited for the 9 holes on Friday. My instructor at Golftec told me my handicap would slip while I became comfortable with my new swing, but I thought a few trips to the range would cure that. Well, after an embarrassing and ugly 55 on Friday morning, I believe him.

It was back to the range this last week, only once this time on Thursday and I probably had 8 errant shots out of the entire bucket of 80 balls! I was feeling good... comfortable with my grip, posture and had a routine down. I hadn't planned on playing 9 holes this week, but couldn't pass up the opportunity to apply my new founded confidence. After being rejected by my regular playing pals, I made a rare trip alone, excited for what would no doubt be my best 9 hole round ever. I was paired up with 3 old men, and I mean OLD! One guy could hardly walk. Each teed off in front of me on the first hole and each one poked it out into the fairway 200 to 250 yards out! Even the guy who took 5 minutes to get from the cart to the tee box! My first shot.... dribbled it about 20 yards. Bummer. It took 2 holes (and 14 strokes) to regain my composure before putting together four par puts (all misses) sandwiched by another snowman. All in all? A 52. The gentlemen I played with? Well, the guy who can't walk shot a "measly 43". Back to the range.

Sunday, May 10, 2009


I finally took the opportunity to cash in on my birthday present and take my Golftec evaluation lesson. I've heard nothing but good things from those that have taken lessons from Golftec. So I made my appointment and took my six iron to the nearest Golfsmith store. Now, this wasn't my first lesson. A few years ago, Stephanie gave me a private golf lesson for my birthday with a pro at an Irvine, CA golf course. I could write a whole blog entry about that expereince, but the long and short of it was that it was not a good expereince and soured me to the idea of lessons at all.

Golftec was different. I was sceptical simply by how much they charge per 1 hour lesson ($98). The first thing they did was hook my up to some monitors and asked me to hit a few balls. Based on the computer feedback, they gave me 6 different numbers, each critical to a technically perfect swing and then went over each one, starting with what I needed to improve on first. My tutor was a PGA certified golf instructor and gave me practical advice for improvement. The best part of all though, everything was recorded and posted to the web for my immediate access. Now that is a quality lesson. I found my lesson on the web and saved the videos, pictures and audio to my computer to play back as often as I please. In fact, they gave me so much to chew on, I don't think I will be going back until I am ready to have my number reevaluated. All in all, Golftec was a good experience and worth the money.

After my lesson, the oder of needed improvement shows like this:

1. Grip
2. Posture
3. Left arm mechanics
4. Top of swing
5. Down swing
6. Follow through

Check out the difference in my posture from just the one lesson and a few pointers. (Why hasn't anyone told me how ugly my setup was?) For the audio, click on the link below the pictures.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Don't mark me lucky

After a long March and early April full of spring snow storms, the grass finally became green enough to get in 9 holes. Now, in December I had purchased a box of used Callaway Warbird golf balls and as you can read in one of my previous posts have been very good to me. In fact, I had managed to play with two of these warbird golf balls for 36 strait holes (3 separate golf outings) without losing a ball. The beginning of this uncharacteristic streak coincided with the purchase of my new 7-wood. Needless to say, I was feeling pretty good on this beautiful Colorado afternoon. So, in my fit of confidence, I felt the need to brag to Chris, my coworker and frequent playing partner, about this feat and even have the audacity to mark them "Warbird I" and "Warbird II" thinking perhaps they would continue their streak and retire as golf ball heroes.

Tee #1 - A simple par 4 with a row of homes just beyond a thin area of rough on the left and wide open on the right, including another fairway. Out comes the 7-wood and Warbird II gets teed up. A few warm-up swings just to make sure, and there it goes..... a stinger to the left at a 45 degree angle and forever lost in someone's backyard. Rats. I should have just turned around and gone home. I call a first hole mulligan and tee up Warbird I, sure that it wouldn't happen twice, not after the consistent success I had experienced with this club/ball combination since December. There is goes, not quite a steep left degree as the first and luckily lands just short of a homes backyard fence and playable. But, two holes later, Warbird I would also be donated to the course. Not coincidentally, that is where I stopped keeping score and chalked this one up as a "spring warmup." Today I signed up for Golftec lessons. Stay tuned, I think I have one or two warbirds left in my bag.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Year of the Ox (2009)

I have already seen fortune smile upon my new golf year. With the addition of a 7-wood in my bag, I seem to have a little more confidence off the tee. I have changed the look of the blog slightly for the new year, including the addition of 2009 goals as a list item to the left. Among my golf goals for the new year is to bring my handicap to below 20.0. Although my handicap was an estimate (35.0) at the beginning of last year, I still feel like I improved and now have a well supported handicap of around 25.0. To bring my handicap down 5 strokes, I will continue to focus on my short game, primarily chipping to a chip/putt average of 2.8 or below and to work on my swing mechanics by using a birthday present at Golftec. For those unfamiliar with Golftec, follow the link. So here's to a new golf season and here's hoping the year of the ox brings good fortune.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

A 7-wood for all seasons

Stephanie and I are currently in Scottsdale, AZ on a mini-vacation. No kids, no work, no snow. This was part of a Christmas present from me to her, so she has the charge of choosing all activities. In fact, my even being here with her was only at her invitation. But, true to her character, she is always thinking of someone else and has insisted that I be allowed to golf 9 holes while in Arizona. At first I resisted telling her it was her vacation, but she wouldn't have any of it. So, reluctantly, I played.

Before I played however, I had to use the remaining budget money from 2008. I enjoyed using a borrowed 7-wood so much over the Christmas holidays, I had to at least take a look for one of my own. After finding a used Callaway Big Bertha at a Scottsdale Golfsmith for almost exactly what I had left over from last year in my budget, I couldn't resist. And with Stephanie's approval, I asked the salesman to recommend a decent place to play 9 holes. For a cool $39 I was able play 9 holes at a nearby course called Scottsdale Silverado that had wide open fairways and the greenest grass I have seen since October. A perfect testing ground for my new 7-wood. The first tee provided a HUGE fairway with acres of room to the right. No pressure. Out comes the 7-wood to deliver a picture perfect drive right down the middle. 220 yards. Second tee, not such a big fairway, but again a flawless drive. 220 yards. After the round was over I had hit 5 of 6 fairways with my newest favorite club, consistently around 220-230 yards! To be sure my game was not just uncharacteristically on, my irons were terrible and I hit a 49 for the day. Maybe I should look into a 9-wood.

Monday, January 5, 2009

The Warbird

Christmas brought one more round of golf in 2008. Stephanie and I took the boys to Arizona to spend Christmas with Stephanie's family. Fortunately for me all three of Stephanie's brothers play golf. Because it would cost at least $30 to check my clubs and because we were already taking two suitcases a few backpacks and two car seats, I elected not to bring my clubs. Brent kindly obliged to borrow a set of clubs from his father in law in Benson, AZ. Although it was a little chilly, 55 degrees sure beat the 17 degrees I left in Denver. Playing with different clubs took a little while to get used to, especially since I had no irons higher than 7 in my bag (although, I did quickly become fond of the 7-wood). A few pars and half-way decent putting put me in at a 103 for the day. If it hadn't been for several multiple chip holes, I would have broken 100. But not to get too excited, because the course is relatively easy, and my handicap actually went up to one-tenth of a point. The highlight of the day, really was a Callaway Warbird golf ball which made it an entire 18 holes without getting lost. Not a bad way to end the year.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

A Program for the Ungifted

I am not athletically gifted. Anyone who has known me and spent time with me athletically knows that although I do have an aptitude for activity, I was not born with natural athletic ability. That is probably why I excelled the most in my high school years at cross country and track, sports where perseverance can generally (but not completely) make up for lack of natural ability.

I believe golf is in the same category, some hard work and the right training can make up for lack of talent. There could probably be a bibliography for this post, including Tiger Woods' How I play Golf, Golf For Dummies - 2nd Edition (still on loan from Aaron), and a variety of websites including, all of which contributed to my next thoughts.

From what I can gather, there are four areas that can be addressed in the off season to help anyones golf game:
  1. Balance
  2. Flexibility
  3. Posture
  4. Strength
The majority of the exercises I found are structured such that all golfers can be participants. In other words, my grandmother could probably do most of them. Therefore, keeping in mind I am also training for a triathlon in the spring and my recent fascination with core strength and flexibility, I have weeded through dozens of exercises and stretches to come up with an off season improvement program. I will not clutter this post with the details but it is available at this link along with some instructions for those that are interested.

What I have found that may be of immediate interest is that although my balance, flexibility and strength seem to be OK, my posture is terrible. Oddly, I am excited at this revelation and have included a number of stretches and exercises geared toward fixing it. Tiger Woods swears by physical fitness in improving a golf game. Let's hope he's right. It can't hurt right?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Just Kidding

I had the opportunity to take the last two days off from work. Today was exceptionally nice, so for the first time, I played golf alone. It was a mix of boring and tranquil. Either way, although I didn't post the best score of the year, I am much more satisfied with a 9-hole score of 53 than my 18 hole score at Perry Park (see below). Ironically, my handicap went up. Bring on next year!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Not Exactly the Finish I Envisioned

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to once again play my #9 all time course, Perry Park. The pictures I have posted don't do justice to how beautiful the course is. It would probably be ranked higher on my list if it wasn't so disagreeable to my attempts at unembarrassing golf. I was excited, really excited to play. I had been thwarted more than once in the preceding weeks to play a full round at a nice course. Our tee time was at 12:15. We arrived at 12:20. No time for warmups. No time for testing the greens. The only reason we were able to tee off at all was due to our friend who was a member of the club and frequented the course. We arrived at the tee box only seconds before the group scheduled to tee off behind us. Amazingly and despite our best efforts this group of two senior gentleman and two senior ladies who couldn't get the ball more than 5 feet off the ground were on our heels all day. We were even chastened once by the course attendant. Hardly ideal playing conditions on a fantastic autumn afternoon on a spectacular course.

It's probably already apparent that I didn't play well. I was feeling good with the last 9 holes I played, I scored a 49. I was fully prepared to finally break 100 and have a fairy tale ending to my first season........ Not even close. In fact, I played so poorly I contemplated chalking it up as a freak of nature, never to be spoken of again. Not entirely intentional, I left the scorecard on my desk at home until Stephanie finally threw it away as the trash it was. "Unfortunately" this happened before I could record the stats. : ) But to improve, failures need to be recognized. So my current handicap reflects my 118 score that frustrating day. The nice thing however is that a handicap only uses the 10 best scores of the last 20 rounds in the calculation. And so ended my first season with a 25.8 handicap. Not bad considering my estimated handicap at the beginning of the season was 35.

Although my clubs are packed away in the garage for the winter, I have several posts in mind for the coming weeks and months including a review of a great new golf tips book I found, how I was nearly gored by a buck at Perry Park and a few things I learned about chipping, not to mention my goals and strategies for next year...

Sunday, October 12, 2008

A new Top 10

Perhaps it was the Autumn air or maybe the nostalgia of being on the course rather than in the office for the first time in months. Probably it was a combination of the two together with one of the most satisfying 9 holes this year. I finally played a real 18 last week at an unfamiliar course. The Meadows in Littleton, CO is a municipal course. But located just short of the foothills of the mighty Rocky Mountains, the course offers pretty good views. What makes it even better is the course doesn't feel like a municipal course. Rarely are fairways adjacent to one another providing the great contrast of a well manicured course with a rough terrain. Another plus were the huge fairways and few trees. But don't be fooled, the course isn't a pushover. Several dramatic elevation changes and severe doglegs make you think about every shot. The greens were a little sandy and fast, but could hardly detract from the rest of the course.

I made sure to get there a little early, eager to shake off the rust. I hit a small bucket and practiced some newly discovered chipping tips at the practice green. But alas, it just wasn't meant to be on the front 9. Although I hit 3 fairways, I had no greens in regulation and four 3-putts. Hardly the way I wanted to start things off, a 55 at the turn.

But with a renewed determination, the course was much friendlier on the back. On the 10th, I was in the rough the entire length of the hole but still managed to be putting for par. A bogey put me in good spirits. The 11th and 12th holes were both made in regulation with a bogey and par. But after a disappointing 7 on the 13th, I came to the 357, par 4 14th. A perfect drive left me 110 yards out and in perfect position. A nine iron approach put me within 10 feet of the cup and I was feeling good. Although I missed the birdie putt, the par left me feeling like I was actually improving. The rest of the back wasn't quite as spectacular but I did finish with a satisfying 49.

So the Meadows Golf Club gets added as my #10 course. I couldn't in good faith bump Perry Park off the list, so #9 Oak Creek in Irvine, an overpriced course that borders an active railroad, gets bumped. Here's to Autumn golf!

Sunday, September 28, 2008


I seemed to have broken the golden rule of keeping a good blog, that is making regular posts. So to anyone who actually finds this post even if it is 6 months from now, thank you for your loyalty. I really haven't played golf since the end of August, or nearly a month. September is prime golfing weather in Colorado and taking a full month off at the end of the summer is hardly a way to improve at golf. My excuse has led me to once again ponder the relevance of my quest and to add a little caveat to the timing of my goal to become a 5 handicap golfer. My job responsibilities changed about a month ago which necessitated long hours at the office. I certainly could have played and practiced golf during this time, but it would have been at the great expense of time with my family. My original philosophy remains that after all is said and done, golf is nothing more than a hobby and when circumstances involving my family or employment conflict, golf will always take a back seat. So, I have fallen back just a little, but am very close the end of the tunnel with long days at the office. I plan on playing a few more rounds before the snow falls and one more at Christmas in Arizona, hopefully all full 18 hole rounds. My focus is still chipping and pitching with the goal to get closer to a 2.0 average chip/putt per hole.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Out again

Meaning, I have finally gotten out to play again. It has been a most unexpectedly hectic summer, and doesn't show real signs of letting up until the middle of September. But I was able to squeeze in 9 holes this morning. My focus (little as it may be) has been on chipping. I found a great book that I will likely refer to again in the future called "When Bad Things Happen to Bad Golfers" It has great advise for hackers everywhere. One tidbit of information I found helpful was for chipping. Apparently, I have gotten into the bad habit of swaying my body when I chip, a big no-no. By making sure that I have a good amount of weight on my left foot, I have improved my chipping game significantly. There is still work to be done to get my chip/putt average down to 2.0, but a help nonetheless. My plan for the rest of the year is probably one or two more 9 holes rounds, two 18 hole rounds and a final 18 holes at Christmas when we visit Stephanie's folks. I REALLY want to get rid of the ugly (albeit only) 18 hole score for 2008. Any left over funds I will likely spend on a new pitching wedge. Look for another post mid September (assuming everyone hasn't given up on me already). Cheers

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Work and Ribs

It has been a while since my last post. I haven't given up on my blog or quest. In fact, I have taken on a new position at work that has demanded more of my time and have had a slightly embarrassing mountain biking accident which cracked a few ribs. I should be healed enough and settled enough at work to start playing again next week. Of course nothing could stop me from climbing a mountain with my brother, Spencer last weekend. (Pictures are on top of Mt. Grays 14,279')

Friday, June 13, 2008

The Keys of Putting

I believe I've reached my first milestone. In the last several rounds I have very few 3 putts and for every 3-putt it seems I have at least one 1-putt. So here it is, my keys of putting. Next on my list is chipping (which is far worse than putting). Enjoy

Keys of Putting

1. The first key is to get to the course early enough to spend a few minutes (3-5 minutes is plenty) on the putting green. Greens vary so much, it is immensely helpful to determine BEFORE the first hole whether the greens are playing slow, fast, wet, hard, etc. This also helps to "remember" how to putt strait.

2. I have found that there are two main tenants of quality putting.... seeing and then hitting. For improving at putting I recommend being sure you are hitting correctly. The best way to test this is to hit the putting green at a driving range, find a flat putt and practice putting, starting at 3 feet and progressively moving back to 10 feet. Nine times out of ten, you should sink the putt, if not, the putter is not hitting the ball squarely creating a mishit. I found this was easily corrected by practicing my putting stroke against a wall, being sure my putter was the same distance from the wall from back swing to follow through.

3. Once I was confident I was hitting the ball squarely, I could focus on hitting the correct distance. I did find that a correct putting stroke needs the same distance from back swing to follow through, meaning it should be a true pendulum swing. Many of my missed putts were a result of either accelerating or decelerating through the swing creating a greater or shorter distance in the follow through in comparison to my back swing. This can also be practiced and corrected on the putting green.

4. The fourth key is reading the greens correctly. The best way I have found to do this is to get different perspectives. Depending on time and pace of play, I will try to get three perspectives on my putt, from behind my ball, from the middle and from the other side of the cup. I confirm in my mind which way the green is sloping and how much break there is.

5. Once I have read the green I will pick a target, which usually isn't the cup. For instance if I have read the green to be sloping uphill and breaking to the right, I will pick a target on the green above the cup and to the left and line up to hit that spot.

6. Now its time to hit the ball. I will take two practice swings, the first while looking at my target, judging how hard I need to hit the ball. The second is looking at my swing making sure I am swinging the same distance from back swing to follow through. Then I step up and hit the ball, trying to make it as smooth a hit as possible.

I know this sounds like a lot. And nobody likes a golfer who takes way to much time on the course. But it really isn't. While you are waiting for others to hit their putts, take a look at the 3 perspectives. I can't promise these keys will work for everyone, but it has certainly worked for me. And notice, I have taken about 10 strokes off my handicap as a result. Bring on the wedges!