Australia, good golf, great club fitting and fighting viruses

I spent six days in Sydney and over the last two I was able to spend one golfing with a former Rugby League player Steve Menzies and the next checking out a club fitting facility he is involved with.  It’s a Pure Performance Lab that fits for most every club manufacturer and I was interested in seeing what the guys thought about my current setup.  I’m happy with my Titleist sticks, but am always inclined to learn about shafts, heads and brands. It’s just interesting to see what options are out there.

I decided to take a bus to the fitting to better see Sydney and it was pretty funny walking through Bondi Junction looking for my connection while carrying golf clubs.  I looked like a golfer who had lost his course and it was so obvious that I was out of place that a handful of people came to give me advice.  That’s the hospitality I received in Australia, the people here are very kind.  I eventually found my way and was excited to get the process started.

I warmed up for a bit and then we had a chat about my project and why I was there.  The fitter was a super good guy and since I didn’t have a specific need fitting-wise we decided to just hit on the TrackMan and see what the numbers were looking like.  After a few different irons, my 3-wood and driver there was a consistent issue that he spotted:  Dynamic Loft.  I had a TrackMan for more than a year and even went to the TrackMan University class, but I didn’t realize the importance of this once specific stat.  We talked about it and decided it was best that he described it.  That said, I’m sitting in the lobby of a Woolworth’s grocery store which is the only place that I have found wifi up here on the Gold Coast and YouTube says it will take 317 minutes to upload a 2 minute clip, so I will have to forego the images and videos now then post them all during an Aussie recap after the trip.  For now, look it up, Dynamic Loft, if you are interested.

That was something that I had been told and “knew” but never realized exactly how it could affect ball flight.  I was always wondering why I had so much spin with some of my clubs and thought maybe it was the shafts for the driver and 3-wood, but in reality it was how I was contacting the ball.  It’s funny, but I had to travel all the way around the world to understand something that I should have known.  That’s the beauty of a place like that, the people are extremely knowledgeable and can spot the good, bad and ugly of a golf swing.

I left excited.  I get energized any time I find something concrete that I can work on and this was as concrete as it gets.  I knew I could start to work a bit while here, but the majority of the change needed to happen when I was back in Portland.

A major reason for this is how the Aussie courses are structured.  Most of the courses I played both in Sydney and in the Gold Coast were private clubs, but at all of them you had to purchase range balls if you wanted to warm up or practice.  The balls weren’t cheap either.  With the strength of the Australian dollar at the moment a basket of about 40-50 balls cost roughly $10US.  It makes it a bit difficult to want to go out and hit a few hundred balls while working on a new swing feel, especially with a limited traveling budget.  But, on the flip side, a lot of these amazing private courses only cost $2,000 to $3,000US per year, or about $175-$250 a month which for the quality of the track is easily half what it would cost in the US.  There are ups and downs to both systems.

To get sidetracked for a second, another interesting aspect of Australian golf is that the only rounds you post for your handicap are “comp” (competition) rounds.  They separate comps and social rounds by making specific days and tee times for comps.  They have 3-4 comp days a week so it’s easy to get in your rounds for the handicap, but you have to pay to enter them, even at a private club.  You can play a social round for free at your home course, but a comp is $10-$15 for the scorecard.  I played along with a couple people playing in comp rounds and in all honesty it’s no different than a typical men’s club day or even social round in the states.  They are even allowed to pick up after a double as the comps are typically stableford in structure and a double or more gives you zero points so it doesn’t matter after that.  Also, another slight difference I noticed is how the handicaps are calculated.  In Oz they take the best 8 of your last 20 rounds then multiply that by .93.  In the states it is the best 10 of the last 20 multiplied by .97.  Interesting that it is different and there must be a reason for this.  They also round their course handicap to a full number.  The course will be rated “handicap 72” whereas in the states it’s often 72.1 or 71.9.   At the end of the day it’s golf and the same rules apply across the world.

Back to the story.

I wasn’t able to run out to a course and practice straight away.  Previously arranged travel plans had me flying out of Sydney at 7am the next day for a week up at the Gold Coast with Andrew McCombe, who I met online and who hosts a golf TV show here in Australia called Golf Getaway.  He extended an offer to come along with him to play some of the great courses up here and be a co-host for a few episodes of his show.  Sounded like a win-win for me so I met him at 6am in the Sydney airport.  The flight went smoothly and just an hour and some change later we landed in the Gold Coast where even in the middle of winter it felt, looked and smelled tropical.  We hopped in a rental car and drove straight to Burleigh Golf Club for a round.

We warmed up and then were off.  It was a fun course and despite having a few hours sleep and flying 500 miles I hit it pretty well on the front.  I struggled with putting on their Bermuda greens, but turned in a decent number and was enjoying both the company and the course.  Somewhere on the back 9, though, I started feeling strange and began to lose focus and strength.  I wasn’t sure at the time what hit me, but later that eve I began to feel progressively more ill as if I had gotten food poisoning.  That night sleep was fitful at best and the next day I woke chilled, achy and downright miserable.  I decided to go with Andrew to the next course, Arundel Hills, but it took everything I had to not lose it on the car ride over. When we got there I knew I couldn’t play golf as I could barely stand and told him that I needed to try and sleep in the car.  Everyone was super nice about it and I appreciated that and just wanted to close my eyes as I felt as seasick as one can get.  All day I think I ate two bites of a banana and managed to get in a few sips of water.  It was an awful little virus that had affected my guts and I was disappointed to miss out on such an awesome course.  But, we were scheduled to film in a few days so my main goal was to get better and start swinging those sticks again.

The next day was much easier.  I wasn’t 100 percent, but could hold down food and had the energy to play 18. I didn’t break any course records, but it felt good to get back out after a day of barely having the energy to keep the eyes open.  I don’t know if all of that above is too detailed or personal, but that’s part of traveling and we’ve all been through something similar at some point.

We played Hope Island that day and have a few more courses to look forward to.  I’m excited about the remaining days in Oz and am grateful for the experience thus far.

Please remember to tune in to SBS Insight next week, July 22, to see the program that I was a part of!  It should be a great episode and I’m excited to see it and hopefully will live tweet along during the airing.  For those not in Australia it should be up on their website in the coming weeks and I will definitely post about it when that day occurs.

Off to play Brookwater today.  Only five more days to enjoy this amazing country.  I have to come back one day soon, the golf is just too amazing here and I didn’t even have a chance to check out the sand belt area near Melbourne.  Perhaps when it’s summer here…

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