By Robert Bicknell

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January 14, 2007

Pride Goeth Before The Fall...

Well, I have to retract part of last week’s column, specifically the part where I attributed my rotten golf score to nicotine withdrawal...it wasn’t the butts as I played again this week at Chi Linh Star, smoked my ass off and still shot in the 90’s. This does not bode well.

As a very experienced teacher, I often have to deal with similar complaints and worries from students. The rule of thumb is that if you post one bad score, don’t panic and definitely don’t rush to change things. However, if you post TWO really bad scores, something has probably gone slightly out of whack and you should consider having a professional take a look at it.

Nothing seemed smooth and I was losing about one club distance on each shot. The driver was a dead giveaway...no "voooom!"

Lars Holden, head honcho at Chi Linh Star noticed that I was taking the club inside too quickly and not getting enough extension on my backswing. This has been a constant problem for me for over 25 years, ever since some joker convinced me to change my normal shape shot from a fade to a draw.

So, to apply one of my favourite phrases of all time to a different genre, "that ball wouldn’t "voooom" if I put 50,000 volts through it."

Oh yeah, before I forget...Chi Linh didn’t "core" their greens...they "aerated" them with solid tines. As a matter of reference, "coring" involves removing material, whereas aerating is simply punching holes in the turf to loosen things up a bit and help get some air down to the roots. However, in both cases the greens are usually top-dressed with sand.

This is technical stuff and the only really important thing that the average player should be concerned about is that the greens will be fast. Personally, I would’ve liked the greens to have been "cored" as it softens them up so shots stay on the green surface a little better.

Sad to say, the way I played the last two rounds, it wouldn’t have mattered if Lars cored the greens with a post-hole digger and coated the greens with glue. My shots still wouldn’t have stayed on the green. You know you’re in trouble when you don’t need to repair a pitch-mark on the green during the entire round, but I did discover parts of the golf course which I have never seen before.

Now, as for smoking again. I fell off the wagon, but will be quitting again once I find a steady supply of nicotine replacement patches. I’ve heard there might be a place in Hanoi which sells them, if not, it might be a good potential business for me to start.

During the round, Lars mentioned his personal dislike of my clubs, which are Titleist blades as he prefers a cavity-back club. He is very correct is believing that Titleist blades ARE notoriously hard to hit properly. In fact, most players would be better off using cavity backs, but I stick with my blades because, when I am swinging well, they give me excellent feedback and a degree of feel that I do not get with investment cast clubs.

Another reason is that I like the look of a thinner blade. Most of the cavity-backs have a thick top line and it really turns me off. As the saying goes, "if you like the way a club looks, that’s half the battle."

The problem is that I am not swinging the same way that I did when I was 20 or even 30 years old. I did switch to Titleist 990’s when I was working at Vietnam Golf & CC (Thu Duc), but I wasn’t comfortable with the lack of touch. An "investment cast" club is a harder steel and the ball comes off the face of the club much hotter, which drove me nuts. When you’ve played with blades most of your life, its difficult to make the switch.

I still keep my Titleist 990’s in the closet just in case my swing takes a permanent dive into the toilet and I am even pondering graphite shafts, but that’s another step entirely because my pride won’t let me go that far just yet.

And we all know, "pride goeth before the fall."

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