2017 Season Wrap-Lessons Learned, Truths Revealed.

2017 was an awesome year of resurrection for my golf game.  Going into the season, my index had crept up over 6.0, my ball striking was in the crapper, and I had turned 56.  I was beginning to ask questions like, “Will I ever play good again?”  It hadn’t escaped me that on the senior tour, guys traditionally hit the wall at 56 and fail to seriously compete because of their advancing age.  Was this happening to me?

To find out, I bit the bullet and signed up for a series of golf lessons with an instructor who had given me some hope with a single lesson in the summer of 2016.  I liked his teaching style, he got results, and I had tried to DIY for the last few years without success.  The one metric I focused on was improving greens in regulation from eight to 10 per round.  I found that a single goal helped improve my focus and dedication.  After all, I was trying to break 40 years of bad habits, build some good habits, and enjoy myself during the process.  Trying to focus on too many things would confuse my pea brain.

I started lessons in April and found the first couple difficult.  Breaking the bad habits was very hard.  Playing right after lessons is even more difficult but I had committed to playing more “golf swing” than “golf” for the entire season, which helped me be patient.  In mid-series, I took my annual golf trip to Myrtle Beach.  We typically play long difficult courses and you’d better strike it well to have a chance.  With my mind still in mechanical mode, I managed to average 8.3 GIR on the trip and only had four rough rounds out of 10.  I noticed I was enjoying a significant distance add with my driver, but was still experiencing too many big misses (pull hook) with mid and long irons.  My last round was an 88 at TPC of Myrtle Beach.  TPC is a course where big misses punish you.  The course was also in my head and I never have played well there.  A funny thing happened though.  After the round, we had a quick bite and went out for a replay.  We got in nine holes before lightning terminated the round, but I started to play better and left the course filled with hope.

After the trip, the lessons started to take hold and I experienced a great stretch from July 9 through mid-October where I averaged 10.75 GIR and played better than I have in years.  On November 3, after a great 1-over round on a tough golf course (Hog Neck), my index dropped to 3.9 which was all the validation I needed that my approach had been correct.  I finished the season with a 4.0 index and while not having hit my goal of 10 GIR (actual was 9.03), couldn’t have been more satisfied.

The big takeaway:  I am not finished because of age 🙂  The guys on the senior tour slip at 56 because they’ve been playing close to the top of their ability when age hits.  In my case, I had (and still have) loads of room for improvement, and even as I age, should be able to better my technique.

We never put our clubs away here for winter in the DMV and last year we had no snow and played right through to spring, but I’m considering this season a wrap.  The year was mentally exhausting and I need a break.  In 2018, I’m signing up for another series of lessons and hope to continue the journey wherever it takes me.

Hope you had a good season too.  Play well.

Troubling Epiphany – Need Help!

This game is often made easier when we simplify.  Purge mechanical swing thoughts.  Just “think target”.  Use only one swing key if you must think about something.  Stop worrying about your score.  Just follow your pre-shot routine and let the shot happen.  Don’t confuse results with effort.

My brain is in a mental pretzel after putter shopping yesterday.

I was in my golf retailer trying different models.  Blades, mallets, Ping, Scotty Cameron, Taylor Made, Odyssey, Ray Cook, you name it.  Everything was rolling to the right with cut spin.  The problem I’m solving for is an aiming one and this was getting discouraging.  I have no markings on my 30-year old Ping Answer and it’s awfully hard to putt consistently if you can’t line up your target.  After an hour of futility, I grabbed a Ping Sigma G Doon and lined up a 30-foot putt but decided to try my on-course pre-shot routine.  This involves lining the putt up from behind and identifying a spot 6-12″ in front of the ball to roll the putt over.  I recently started spot putting to help with my aiming problems.  So I started banging 30-footers into the cup but noticed the aiming mark on the top of the putter was lined up 8″ left.  Here was a moment of clarity.  Like Paul Newman in The Color of Money, I learned that my vision sucked.  With the putter aimed 8″ left, I tried a few more just swinging at the hole and they continued to roll straight at the target.  The cost of the putter was a little above my price point so I left the store empty handed and confused.

At home, I grabbed some masking tape and penned an alignment aid on the back of my Ping Answer and did some rug putting.  The sweet spot on my Answer is a little towards the heel but I like to hit my putts on the center of the club face.  I started to line putts up with just my dominant eye.  Needless to say, my experimentation didn’t go well.  I was NOT simplifying anything, and was adding twists to the pretzel.

What should I do before I come unglued?  I have half a mind to hit the reset button and just go buy the Doon.  Thoughts?

The Fix Becomes The Fault

From swingstation.com

Have you ever tried to change something in your golf swing and experienced profound rapid success?  And then you tried the exact same move the next day only to have nothing work?

The following story is true. . .

On Thursday of last week, I reviewed five years of down the line swing videos of myself.  Of course, I was looking for a swing key that would carry me the next three days on my golf trip to the eastern shore.  What’s amazing is that over the five years, I worked on many parts of my swing and implemented many changes, but my move looked strikingly similar in each video.  With the slight exception of my most recent video, I tended to lift my head up about three inches on the backswing and then move about three inches backward during the downswing.  My “reverse L” was clearly causing me to lose my spine angle.  How could anyone hit the ball correctly with this much head movement?  So, to remedy, instead of one swing key, I picked two.  I would point my left shoulder at the ball on the backswing (to keep my head from rising) and sit into my left glute on the downswing (to start the swing from the ground up and maintain my posture).

During my pre-round warm up on Friday at Hog Neck, I was hitting big push cuts with this move, so I did what any reasonable fellow would do and discarded my range session swings as aberrations.  On the first tee, I blew a big push cut into the woods and was fortunate to make bogey.  I scraped a 2-over front side together on the sheer luck of great putting, all the while struggling with these two moves.  On the back side, I jettisoned the sit down move and just focused on “left shoulder down” and began pounding my driver and nutting irons dead at flags.  THE MAGIC MOVE HAD ARRIVED!!!  After finishing the inward half at 1-under, I was extremely pumped to play on day two.

Ever fill up a balloon and let it fly around the room making funny noises until empty?  Armed with “left shoulder down” on Saturday at Eagles Landing, I pumped up and nailed my first three drives, but quickly evolved into a fluttering mess of pull cuts, pop-ups, and chunked irons.  What happened?  After 18 holes, I looked and felt like that spent balloon.

At Heritage Shores on Sunday, I started with nothing but weak pull cuts off the tee and fat irons.  After one particular chunk with a gap wedge from 98 yards that threw a divot almost 45 degrees to the left, I heel spanked a driver on the next tee, and decided something was fundamentally wrong with my swing, but I couldn’t identify.  The only thing I felt was unathletic.  So, the change I made was to get in a more athletic position at address and forget left shoulder down.  I simply flexed my knees a bit more and for the last seven holes was rifling my driver and hitting the irons spot on.  What happened here?

In retrospect, when I bent my knees, I re-engaged my spine angle.  Just try this and see if you don’t feel some tension return to your lower back.  Left shoulder down had become left hip in and a reverse pivot.  GAWD this game will drive you nuts!!!

So now I am filled with hope that this latest correction is the one.  I should probably go back to my instructor for some serious correction but it’s getting late in the season.  We’ll see what happens after tomorrow evening’s range session.

Has your fix ever become the fault?

Play well.