My wife Jennifer Giroux's birthday is on August 30th and our wedding anniversary is on September 1st. So, to celebrate, we decided to do the 1 Hour Metro Detroit Tour using Max Flight Helicopter Services.
I had previously been on a couple helicopter rides before in St. Louis and Tennessee (if I recall correctly). However, this was Jen's first ride.
We took off from Gross Ile around 11:30am, rode up the Detroit River, saw the Ford Dearborn Truck Factory, Rouge Steel plant, and River Rouge industrial areas.
We circled around our neighborhood of Hubbard Richard next to the Ambassador Bridge (Bridge to Canada), Michigan Central Station, and St. Anne's Church.
We did a lap around Downtown Detroit seeing Ford Field, Comerica Park, Motor City Casino, Little Caesar's Arena, and the Renaissance Center.
We flew over Belle Isle State Park, headed out to Grosse Pointe and Lake St. Clair, and then came back down inland a bit through Mid-Town and saw things like the old Packard Plant, Henry Ford Hospital, Fisher and Chrysler Buildings, etc...before landing again back down in Gross Ile.
We ended up in the air about 56 minutes, which we could've extended to an hour with a few more minutes of flying at the end around Gross Ile. However, I was nursing a little hangover and we decided to cut our ride off a little bit early.
Our pilot was very cool, made us feel comfortable, and was very knowledgeable about the area.
In our particular helicopter, a Robinson R-44 helicopter that costs around $600,000 to buy, there was room for 3 passengers plus the pilot.
Had a lovely road trip from July 22nd to August 1st.
I started out driving from Detroit to Ames, Iowa on July 22nd, which was great in part because I had never previously driven that particular stretch of interstate highways. So, I got to see a new corridor of the country from Michigan, to Indiana, to Illinois, to Iowa.
I also ran the 100m in the USATF Masters Outdoor Championships and finished 12th in my 45-49 age division.
On July 24th, I headed down to the Kansas City area to visit my brother and his family, who I had not seen since prior to the pandemic. We had a nice visit catching up and we took my nephews out for their first round of golf ever and I also went to a couple of my brother's hockey games.
On July 27th, I drove across Missouri to see my parents just south of St. Louis in Barnhart, who I had also not seen since before COVID-19.
On the 29th, I drove from Missouri, through Illinois, through Indiana, and on in to Ohio to pick up my wife from the bus stop to go to an extended family reunion at the Dayton KOA.
Finally, on August 1st, we drove back home up to Detroit!
Today I felt an intuitive impulse to post a video to YouTube that was previously a paid product…my "The Mike Austin Swing with Jaacob Bowden" that was created in 2012.
For those that don't know, I began my golf career at age 27 as a 14-handicapper. I quit my computer engineering job in Kansas and moved out to California on December 20th, 2002 to go for a career in golf. A month after I arrived, I met Dan Shauger, who gave me free coaching nearly every day for a month and then gradually less afterwards. Dan also introduced me to his friend Mike Austin, the man who at age 64 hit a 515-yard Guinness World Record drive of 515-yards in the 1974 US National Senior Open.
With Dan and Mike's help, I quickly lowered my handicap. First, I beat my best of 78 with a 74, then a 73, then my first time under par with a 69 on March 26th, 2003.
Also before the end of March (less than 3 months!) I added tons of distance (increasing my longest drive from 330 yards to 358 yards to 377 yards to 393 yards).
Granted I'm am a natural athlete, but some of this improvement came from additional practice. After all, I had just quit my engineering job and my new "job" was working on my game all day. Anyone is bound to improve when they add that much practice time to their schedule.
I'm also naturally strong, but still some came from golf fitness and working out in the gym. This later became the basis for my swing speed training programs at Swing Man Golf.
Some came from my almost daily technique work through Dan and our occasional visits to Mike Austin's house, which was nearby.
I learned how to leverage power from my legs out to the golf club, relying less on rotational power and more on lateral and vertical power. This also had the side benefit of relieving a lot of stress off my knees, hips, and spine.
I learned how to strike the ball more consistently in the "sweet spot" (better contact means more distance and also more accuracy/precision) through the concept of the swing circle center using the C7 vertebrae.
I got permission to trust my instinct to minimize face rotation through the hitting area and consequently started hitting much more powerfully and accurately/precisely due to better ball striking. Basically, my shot dispersion window got much smaller.
Obviously a lot of people wondered how I improved so quickly.
On April 21, 2012, I finished creating my Mike Austin video that shared what I learned from Mike and Dan…integrated with other videos from Mike Austin and spiced up with my own interpretations.
At the time, I was still struggling to get myself out of the debt I took on from switching over to a career in golf. So, I wrote, filmed, and edited everything myself with some very basic filming equipment that I had (wireless microphone, tripod, iPad as a teleprompter (hanging on the tripod using a coat hanger - haha), and iMovie on my MacBook Pro laptop.
I'm not a professional film maker, but I think it turned out okay…all things considered.
I should add that I no longer purely use the Mike Austin swing. Rather, I've refined what I do to make things work better for me personally. However, I do honor that this was a valuable part of my learning and growth as a golfer, and that others are interested in learning what I learned. That's why I keep the video out in the public realm.
Anyway, give it a watch below:
On a side note, the shirt I was wearing in the above cover photo with Mike was the very first logo for Swing Man Golf, which was drawn by my friend/roommate in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California in 2004. We lived on Carpenter in the 2nd house up from 1st.
Recently, I've been going through a lot of my old laptop and backup files and reorganizing things. In doing so, I came across some old footage from 2003-2006 that I thought would be fun to share.
My college friend Jasper Jan and I had been documenting a lot of my journey in going from average length hitting 14-handicap golfer to professional golfer and long drive champion ever since I started that golf journey at age 27 in 2003.
Back then, we had tentatively called the film "Chasing the Dream".
Here is a teaser that Jasper had cut. The timestamp on the video file said March 22, 2006, although it may have been created earlier.
The sunset shot was recorded in 2003 when I first started. I believe it was on the driving range at Tierra Rejada Golf Club or another similar club nearby.
The voices you hear are Jasper interviewing the late Dan Shauger (died 2014), who was helping me with my game and who had introduced me to the late Mike Austin (died 2005).
Unfortunately, somehow nearly all of our old film footage got lost or misplaced and we subsequently couldn't finish the project.
In going through my files, I also found some old promotional footage that Jasper had put together. Of course, Chasing the Dream was supposed to be about me…but it was also supposed to be about baseball player RA Dickey too. Keep in mind that when we were filming this, RA had not yet made it back to the majors and little did we know that he would later go on to become a Cy Young Award winner.
The film concept was pretty cool. Obviously, it was about chasing dreams…not only for myself and RA, but Jasper too, as he was fairly new to the film industry and had the dream of being a Hollywood producer. However, Jasper also wanted to contrast the journey of an individual golfer dealing with poor circumstances, being broke and in debt, sleeping in cars and tents, practicing for hours rain or shine, etc…to a team sport like baseball where a lot of money was behind the team and it's players.
The promotional footage was intended for private promotional viewing purposes only. It was originally cut with "Foo Fighter - Best of You". However, in order to post it publicly on YouTube, I had to cut out the audio.
There's a lot about Golf Digest that I'm not a fan of - click bait, non-golf related content, exaggerated word choice, ads framed as articles and the related lack of transparency to readers/viewers about advertiser relationships, etc. These are the types of things we need to evolve past as a society and they are in part why I don't subscribe to the magazine anymore nor click on certain types of content.
However, I did really enjoy this video from today that showcases Pebble Beach's recently renovated par-3 Peter Hay Course, now called The Hay.
First of all, I really love well thought out meaningful creations, I very much enjoy quality work/products (I'd rather have 1 awesome thing rather than 10 crappy things), and as someone who is excellent with efficiency, spatial arrangement, intuitive design, and improving things, in the video I really appreciate:
The apparent smart flow of traffic from the new range area, through the short course, down to Pebble Beach's clubhouse
The arrangement of holes to maximize the view of the bay (this wasn't done in the original design)
The fun variety of shot options (ex. being able to putt from the tee box on 8 of the 9 holes, incorporating different hole directions, etc)
Mimicking the famous 7th hole from the main Pebble Beach Golf Links courses
The selection of yardages to tell a story about Pebble Beach's history
This new renovation looks spectacular and I'm very excited to play it one day.
The video further tugged at my heart strings for two very important personal reasons.
I first moved to Carmel-by-the-Sea in early 2004 towards the start of my golf career. At the time, there was this deal where you could hit unlimited range balls and play Peter Hay as many times as you want for around $400/year.
It was a fantastic deal for locals…and particularly for a guy like me who was dealing with circumstances of student loan debt, credit card debt from having switched to my golf career, and an income near the poverty line.
I don't want to come across as name dropping or putting people on pedestals, but because it was Pebble Beach, there would always be well-known people playing there. I remember seeing Kenny G and Clint Eastwood. I walked 18 holes chatting with Charles Howell III at Del Monte. Nick Watney was kind enough to give me golf advice about going from the then Nationwide Tour to the PGA TOUR. I hit balls and chipped with Rocco Mediate, who I found to be so lovely, friendly, and engaging.
I'd hit tons of balls and play Peter Hay over and over. I shot the unofficial course record of -6 for 9 holes and it's where I've had my 3 hole-in-ones.
1st Hole-In-One - November 6th, 2004 - 9th Hole - 9-Iron from 74 yards
2nd Hole-In-One - October 9th, 2005 - 8th Hole
3rd Hole-In-One - October 10th, 2006 - 3rd Hole
Off and on from 2004 to 2006, I lived all around the peninsula in a number of places that included:
Carmel-by-the-Sea (rented a bedroom in a cottage for $200/month)
Seaside (rented half of an old construction trailer in a back yard)
Carmel (rented a basement studio for $500/month)
I played Bayonet, which hosts PGA TOUR Q-School and US Open qualifiers. I played Poppy Hills Golf Course (formerly hosted a PGA TOUR event) and the Preserve Golf Club. I drove past Cypress Point Club often. I passed my PAT (Playing Ability Test) for the PGA of America at Laguna Seca with a 78-72.
At one point, I also worked for the Pebble Beach Company at Spanish Bay and was fortunate to play the company's four courses (Pebble Beach Golf Links, Spyglass Hill Golf Course, The Links at Spanish Bay, and Del Monty Golf Course) many times for free as an employee.
If you haven't ever made a trip out to this part of the country, I'd highly recommend it. You can fly in direct to the small Monterey airport. However, San Jose is only about an hour drive towards the north…and San Francisco and Oakland (and Napa Valley for wine drinkers) are similarly close within about two hours.
It started off with Starbucks, a little work, and a meeting with a woodworker to discuss building a custom putting green.
Worked a bit more and then went for a walk around the neighborhood with Jennifer Giroux...followed by a delicious spaghetti and meatball dinner, a highly recommended bottle of Illahe Pinot Noir Williamette Valley Oregon 2019, and strawberry sheet cake.
Finished it off watching a few shows, including old Game of Thrones episodes.