Monday, July 20, 2015

CNW First Annual Invitational Foam Golf Ball Rules

I just got back from Critical Northwest, an event produced by Ignition Northwest.
I hosted five impromptu pasture golf rounds at the event!  Everyone who attended was surprised at how much more fun they had!  Also, using foam golf balls made it much more accessible! We didn't have to worry if we hit anyone.

Example flags for the course.

The course had six holes, each about 30-45 yards apart.  With foam golf balls and the longest club being a 9-iron, it made a decent challenge for par 3s.

These are the modified rules that we came up with for the event:

  • Each person is responsible for any damage to person or property by errant shots, improper club wielding, unmatched argyle, and/or poor life choices.

  • Yell "INCOMING!" if you hit a stray shot
  • Replace Divots (aka Trump Toupees)
  • Do not throw or break clubs
  • Wait until ball stops before you hit is again
  • Lift pinky when drinking Scotch on course
  • If you hit a bad tee shot and can retrieve the ball while holding your breath, it does not count as a stroke (once per tee box)
  • If you swing the club and it doesn't connect with the ball, it does not count as a stroke.
  • If you hit any person with your ball it does NOT count as a stroke (foam balls FTW!)
    •  If you hit any Ranger or DPW, take TWO strokes off the current hole
Ball Placement
  • You can move your resting ball up to one foot in any direction to improve your lie.
Holing out
  • If the ball lands one club length + 1 foot of the hole, it is considered holed. 
    • Longest club used by you or your opponents is used for measuring
Scorecard:  I am a glutton for pun-ishment

Those interested in getting started in golfing in the Seattle area may also like this blog post:
Seattle Golf Progression Chart

Disclaimer: the rounds and rules I created are not an 'official' sponsored event by Ignition NW.  I made this up out of whole cloth.  Some relate *directly* to the event (Rangers & DPW as targets)

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Open Letter to the USGA on the 2015 US OPEN at Chambers Bay

In case the USGA doesn't get these notes that I submitted to them on their website, I thought I'd also post them here for posterity (embellished a bit)

I attended the US Open on Sunday, with Trophy Club tickets.  For those of you who don't know what that means, I went ahead and paid extra to have access to a large air conditioned clubhouse.  (They also sold tickets to *another* clubhouse  called the 1895 club for even MORE money) I thought I'd need it because I was hoping to take my uncle, but as luck would have it, he couldn't make it, and I had a nasty cold/nasal infection/bronchitis/crud.  So, it paid off for me. 

I used your surveys system at the even early on, but wanted to give you my end of day thoughts.  This is the first time I ever went to ANY golf tournament, and I was not sure what to expect.  Others said that it was hard to see the players, but I wasn't that upset by it.  We found some spots that gave us decent views.  My sister, nephew, daughter and I had a great time!  We are considering going to another US Open when it is in our region (California is close enough for us!)

Things done well: 
  • The Course!
    • Love that you chose a course with fescue grass that requires less water!
    • Love that the course was challenging!
    • I'm laughing at the players who complained about it.  I play at municipal courses where they have uneven surfaces (not always because of aeration).  Man up and learn to deal with lines that are not perfect curves.
  • Ticket package mailed to me in advance
    • Well thought out package that answered most of my questions
  • Lot O special instructions on back, so we could read it as we drove. 
    • The walk from parking to the actual busses was a bit long, but otherwise it was a good solution.
  • Shuttle bus wait was zero, and admission was only a few minutes (we came in around 11AM)
  • American Express sponsored earbud radio was really cool, and came in handy when the Merchandise tent ran out of lanyards. 
  • Jumbotron on the 13th & 14th green that gave ball distance to hole, player stats and amateur standings was very appreciated
  • Lemonade stand as a general concession was nice.  Very popular with a long line.
  • Trophy Club porta potties were very nice!  They were trailers, with porcelain seats.  
    • They wobbled too much, but were otherwise comfortable
  • Grandstand line for the 14th hole was MUCH faster than I expected.  We got there about 2 hours before the final pairings.  The volunteers made the process go incredibly smoothly.
Again,  we had a great experience.  I am seriously picking nits here.  Magnifying the problems to talk about them at all.

TVs in the Trophy Club
There were plenty, but all had on the same broadcast.  This is the same thing I could have watched if I stayed home.  And, the audio echoed so much, I couldn't understand any of it.  Subtitles would have helped.  I was expecting more than one view, guessing that there would be 18 different feeds, one for each hole.  At the very least, the three streams you pushed on the internet could have been on the screens in the Trophy Club. 

Food in the Trophy Club
With the potential exception of Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream (yay!), it was the exact same offering as what was available at the rest of the concessions.  I'm not expecting caviar (I actually hate that stuff), but I would have paid more money for higher quality food options.  Ruth's Chris Steakhouse was only serving steak sandwiches, while I wanted to be able to buy an actual steak.  The reviews in the room were that they were dry and chewy.

Drinks in the Trophy Club
Full disclosure, I run a whisk(e)y blog Washington Whiskey Watch (also on Facebook with event listings here). 

The drink options on Sunday were abysmal.  I saw less than 10 unique bottles in total at each bar.  The best blended Scotch was Johnnie Red.  I primarily drink Scotch, bourbon, rye, and other American whiskies.  I don't remember if you had any bourbon (maybe Maker's Mark?).  For the price of the tickets, I was expecting to have at least five Scotch, five bourbon, and two rye options.  I was hoping for some more exclusive stuff, like Glenmorangie Signet, The Balvenie 21, or Pappy Van Winkle.  Did the 1895 Club offer anything that wasn't in the Trophy Club?

The British Open has an official whisky sponsor (Glenmorangie).  Why doesn't the US Open have an American whiskey sponsor? There are plenty of incredible American Whiskies (including bourbon, of course).  If you wanted to stick to larger national brands, you still could get Buffalo Trace, Elijah Craig, Knob Creek, Eagle Rare.

On the local front, here's a small list of Pacific Northwest distilleries that locals and travelers would have loved to tried:

General Concessions
For concessions themselves, maybe some local options, such as Dixie's, Ezell's, Ivars, or one of several local burger companies (Red Mill, Kidd Valley, Burgermaster, Dick's) would have been something that out of town guests would have enjoyed and locals would have rejoiced in.  Heck, Seattle and Portland have some serious Food Truck culture.  Those would have been great on the course.

The Course
We visited the 13th green, the 3rd green and the 14th green.  Arriving at 11:30, we didn't have enough time, and due to my sickness I didn't have enough energy to check out other places. 

Directions were a bit hard to follow.  I was looking for the 3rd green's bandstand.  Fortunately, a volunteer let me know that that was none, and where the best place would be to stand.  Caught Jordan there!

The course didn't have a lot of shade, and more shade structures throughout the venue would have made it easier on the spectators.

The gallery porta potties were nice.  I didn't see the one option that speed up lines though:  the walk in long men's urinal.  These are huge boons to local festivals that I've been to.

No Photos
This was a hard one to understand.  I understand not wanting to disturb players with flashes or camera sounds, and totally respect that.  But, why were we not allowed to take silent photos from our phones? Or candids of ourselves with friends with the course in the background?

No Outside Food
This seemed just like gouging.  I paid $200 a ticket, and wanted to have some options in case the food at the venue didn't match my dietary needs.

Again, this was all nit picking, and my family is looking forward to attending another golf tournament in the future.  Hope these notes help a bit.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

(Not So) Effective Altruism

A month or so ago, I got to see Australian moral philosopher, Peter Singer give a speech on effective altruism.

I've finally put my thoughts about his speech down.  Here goes:

The speech the Peter gave was interesting. He was very logical, and so I will talk about him in same terms. His logic was flawed.

His equation was essentially this:
If all human life is equal, and if it is easier to measure reduction of suffering than it is to measure happiness, then everyone should give as much money as possible to reduce suffering in others where one's money goes farthest.
By his calculations this would mean giving your donations exclusively to third world country charities, as our buying power there is much greater and simple solutions there would go a longer way than more complex solutions in the US.  Example product  (not mentioned in his talk): Money Maker Pumps

He then went on to say that there are some high wage earning people (CEOs, stock traders, etc), who donate most of their money to charities.  C
ompared to someone else in that position who would hold onto their money for themselves, that this is an incredibly effective way to do good. Take the high wage job, and give most of it away rather than work at a volunteer organization.

He then went on to say that donating to the arts and domestic programs was a essentially bad thing to do, as that money could be used more powerfully elsewhere.

And this is the main flaw in his logic:

There are people who in the past donated nothing to charity at all, but after a family member contracted cancer, they begin to donate to cancer research. 
When you factor in the variable of time and compare what we've done in the past to what we can do in the present, domestic donations are a totally valid way to give to charity.
Finally, he cannot factor in all variables, such as how domestic donations to cancer research may have an larger effect than just helping out people in first world countries. 

What he says may work really well for a lot of people, but he is so adamant that his way is the *only* right way to help people, that I take serious issue with his philosophy.There are many people, myself included, who want to do good in the world, but also do so from a stance of altruistic self interest. I want to help the whole world, but I especially want to help the areas that also effect my life and the lives of those around me. This may be somewhat selfish, but I do so without apology.

I currently donate artwork to Make a Wish's annual auction, and my Lodge serves breakfast bi weekly at a homeless shelter.

My Talented Friends!

I always knew I had creative and artistic friends.  But when I put the call out to see how many of them had their creations for sale, I was amazed at the response.

I'll start with my projects.

I make art and sell it for charity!  You can see the work on this blog:
Gravity Painting

Also, I'm working on a card game, and will let everyone know when the Kickstarter page is up!

Without further adieu, here is a list of friends with links to their creative projects.


Alyssa McFarland:

My lovely wife published a novel, Pieces of Home.
And she has paintings for sale, which you can see at GORDITOS on 85th
RedBubble Products!: 

Ramez Naam: 


Calandra Usher


Todd Gardiner:

Film producer currently shooting the short film, Last Caller.


Neal Skorpen:

Kyle Miller (comics & games):


Stephanie Barnette:

Miriam Keith:


Jennifer Lankenau:



Courtnee Fallen Rex:

Many talents.  Support her here

Her work:

Elizabeth Smith:


Alison Park Douglas:

Handmade steampunk jewelry from Velvet Mechanism
Also, photography!


Jeremiah Jacobs:

Brian Kirkness

Crsi Tiggerlathotep Roswel:


Sunday, May 24, 2015

Are Costco Exclusive Callaway Balls Identical to Chrome Soft?

There is a fair amount of speculation  about the Hex Control ball. There's been a rumor going around that the Callaway golf balls available exclusively at Costco is either identical to their premium Chrome Soft ball or the older Hex Hot.   Here's the chatter on GolfWRX

And, for $30 for two dozen (or $60 for four dozen online) compared to MSRP of $37.99 ONE dozen for Chrome Soft balls, who can blame anyone for wanting to save a few dollars.

Callaway's Chrome Soft golf ball was the highest rated ball in Golf Digest's June 2015 issue, in all categories but demand.  But after that review, we'll see if demand goes up! According to them, it has better feel than the Pro V1.  That's right, better feel than the so-called best ball on the market.

I called up Callaway to find out from the source.  It was a brief conversation (spent most of the time talking about the Callaway X-Hot clubs set, which are a smoking deal for someone who needs a new set.  Note that they sell lefty and stiff models too!)  I was told that the closest thing on the market in 2015 to the Hex Control was in fact the Chrome Soft.  I asked if the only difference was the logo.  They implied the cover was the only difference, without exact words to that effect.

Let's take a closer look.

Specs on the Chrome Soft:
Cover: Thermoplastic Urethane
Dimple pattern: HEX Aerodynamics

Specs on the Hex Control:
Cover: Trionomer Blend
Cover Hardness: 56D
Dimple pattern: HEX Aerodynamics

So, right there we know that the cover material is different.  Being that urethane is a much more expensive material, I'm neither surprised nor disappointed by this.  The Hex pattern on all modern Callaway golf balls seems identical to me.

But, what about the inside?  There was only one way to find out, so here are the results of a little vice and jig saw work:

Here's the inside of the Callaway Hex Control.  I found this watercolor palate to be the perfect holder!  (How many golfers out there would have one?  Seriously, if you do paint and golf, please comment!)

OK, what about The Chrome Soft?
Nope!  This matches the photos in the Golf Digest article, minus the blue circle in the very center.  As my cut was off center a bit and the saw blade left discoloration patterns on the ball, I'm not surprised it is not noticeable.

Here's the big differences:

The Chrome Soft has a thinner outer layer.  When I cut it, it was a lot stickier and softer.  It was also noticeably harder to cut, due to the sticky softness.  It closer to rubber than plastic and was surprisingly tough!

If I was to guess, I'd say the thin middle layer material is identical to both.  And obviously, the inner layer is different.  The green material smelled different when cut, and stuck to itself more, like you can see in the top photo. 

So, Chrome soft was been ruled out.  Others have said it was a rebranded Hex Hot, or perhaps the Chrome Supersoft with an extra layer.

Here's all four balls side by side:
Chrome Soft, Hex Control, Supersoft, Hex Hot (Yellow)

All are different!

Detail shots:  Note that the Supersoft material does not match the 2015 Golf Digest article.  This particular Supersoft ball was found on a golf course with a corporate logo.  I'm not sure if the performance is a little different, or if the dye lot is the only thing different with the material.

Older Big Bertha & Big Bertha Diablo shots in case you were wondering:

The Callaway's Costco exclusive Hex Control ball is not a relabeled Chrome soft or Hex ball, It is it's own unique ball.  The cover is thicker, and fairly durable.  The performance is great for me (a mid to high handicapper)  The reviews on GolfWRX are outstanding.  It is still a high performance ball, and is perhaps the best value per dollar that you can find on the market for well known balls (Snell, you want to send me a sleeve or two to review?  I'd be happy give you my honest opinion!)

The Chrome Soft ball is made of more expensive materials.  The cover on the Chrome Soft will likely give you more greenside control, because it's literally stickier when attacked with a metal object.

Suggestion:  If you are a mid to high handicapper and lose a ball or two per round, the Hex Control may be the best ball for you because due to the price/performance factor.  And, it's a great backup/practice/early season ball for better players.

But in terms of quality, if you can afford it (and won't lose it), go for the Chrome Soft.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Seattle Golf Progression Chart

How do we make golf better and more accessible to people?  In other words, how can we keep the sport alive, when younger generations become less interested in it.

One of the things I saw as a block to getting involved in the sport, was the lack of an easy progression 'chart' tailored to my area. I recently made such a chart for a friend who is considering taking up golf in the Seattle area.  He lives right next to Willows Run, so I made sure to put those in there.  There are a LOT more courses that would fit level 3 & 4, but I have not listed them here.  Please let me know which ones are your favorites that I missed!

Here is that chart for Seattle.  If you have one for your area, please post it in the comments!

1) Read a book on golf etiquette
    See if there is a Get Golf Ready session in your area
    Visit "Golf for Her" and check out the New to Golf section (great resources for either gender!)
2) Local instructor, group lessons:  Do this ASAP, so you don't build bad habits.  Get a 3-5 lesson package, meet/interview instructors ahead of time & with their help get basic club fitting/purchase.
Locations.  Putting & chipping at all these (and most other) locations is free :)
Willows Run (and most other golf courses)
Bellevue Golf Course
Interbay Golf
Puetz Golf
University of Washington Driving Range
Jefferson Golf Course
Jackson Golf Course
3) Gear up (in this order)
Clubs, Balls and Bag
   You do not need a full set or new clubs to start.
   But avoid crappy ones at Goodwill.  List of decent brands at bottom of post.
towel and/or toothbrush to clean your clubs
Shoes (or not! Just use an older pair that you don't care if they get muddy)
Everything else (and there is tons to buy)

Pitch & Putt, and 9 hole courses
Willows Run: Heron Links
Greenlake Pitch & Putt
Jackson Park 9 hole course
Jefferson 9 hole course
Interbay 9 hole course
LEVEL 3: FULL COURSES (difficulty/slope number)
Lynnwood (100)
The Nile (104)
Bellevue Golf Course (105)
Willow's Run Coyote Creek (109)
West Seattle Golf (115)

Willow's Run Eagle's Talon (119)
Newcastle Coal Creek (127)
Newcastle China Creek (129)

My suggestion is based off of creating a starter set that can grow with your skills.
It may take you a little while to get good enough to make good use of a driver, so don't worry about it at first.  You can add it later when you are ready for it.  Remember, even pros forgo their driver for many shots.  Michelson won tournaments without pulling it out of his bag once.

If you can, it is incredibly helpful to get fit for clubs.  This process gets you custom clubs to match your body. Everyone is a different height.  Everyone leans down a little different when addressing the ball.  The club length & how the club face lies on the ground are important to making a good shot.  Getting fir for proper clubs for your body early on will help you not pick up bad swing habits.

Then, if your budget does not allow for new clubs, consider getting last year's model of the same club.  They are often available to demo as well.  Otherwise, expect them to be a little different than this year's model in how they handle, but may be worth the savings.  Case in point:  I really love how Ping's G30s hit, but for the life of me, the G25 under-performs for my specific swing.

When starting, you may want to consider 'game improvement' or 'super game improvement' irons.  These help the ball go straighter, even when you are not swinging perfectly.

4 wood  (or a 3 or 5 wood.. I just split the difference)
5 iron or hybrid
7 iron
9 iron
Sand Wedge
Pitching Wedge

If these are too many clubs for your budget, remove Sand Wedge & 9 iron

This setup is essentially removing every other club from the bag, so the spacing on the club distance is most versatile. 

Order in which to add clubs:
3 hybrid
Pitching Wedge
the rest of the irons
4 hybrid

List of Decent Club Brands
As a beginner, just consider getting a complete Top-Flite set at Dick's Sporting Goods when they are on sale. As of 2022, they cost about $250 for a great starter set.

This is not exhaustive.  There are many off brand clubs that are great (I like some clubs by Pine Meadows)  But, there are tons of crappy ones at Goodwill that you shouldn't bother with.  They'll make hitting the ball decently that much harder.  Brands that make well known game improvement irons are in bold.

Other great clubs:

Odyssey (putters)
Taylor Made
Wilson Staff