Tag Archives: driving

Leading Indicators Of Good Play

Can you correctly anticipate when you will play well or poorly?  What are the leading indicators?  My poor rounds are easier to predict and are usually preceded by a poor ball striking warm up.  Also, if I’ve practiced poorly the day before, it’s usually a bad omen.  If I find myself tired or disinterested, the hacks are usually coming.  Finally, if I’ve over-prepared, sometimes I’ll crash and burn.  Accordingly, it’s much harder to predict a good round.  I’ve been in awful slumps before and played great the following day with no rhyme or reason.  But this is the exception.  The one consistent leading indicator for a good round is that it’s preceded by good practice.

This was the case over the last couple of weeks.  Two Saturdays ago, I took a full swing lesson, which was excellent, and the following day  I tee’d it up and played poorly because I was thinking mechanically.  Last Thursday, I went to the range to try and fix things.  I laid my alignment sticks down and proceeded to strike it very poorly while trying to ingrain my lesson feedback.  What was wrong?  I couldn’t hit the ground if I fell from a tree.

I went out to the course on Saturday to try something new, which I will share because it worked.  My goal was to remove all vestiges of mechanics from my game and zero in on playing golf, not golf swing.  I’d use drills exclusively to improve my focus.  I had a round scheduled for The Links at Gettysburg the following day and I didn’t want to chop it up, but all leading indicators were pointing in that direction.

First, I went to the practice green and played nine holes of up and down.  The rules are simple; you throw a ball into a green-side lie and don’t improve your lie.  You chip or pitch to a cup, then putt until the ball is holed.  Even par is two strokes per hole.  The game is great for building focus because you are forced to use your vision.  An average day of playing this game yields a score of four or five over par, but previously I’ve played after chipping or pitching for an hour.  Here, I went right into it – from car trunk to game.  No warm up shots.  Final score; one-over par.

Next, I played nine holes on the putting green with one ball.  I varied the length of initial putts anywhere from 15 to 50 feet.  Again, par was two strokes per hole.  In this game, you mark your ball and go through your full on course pre-shot routine, really getting into game mode.  Again, there were no practice putts, just the game.  Final score; two under par.

Finally, I went to the driving range with a basket of about 50 balls.  I took six or seven warm-up shots with some wedges, a five-iron and driver.  Then played a full simulated 18 holes on a course of my choice.  During simulated rounds, you play a tee shot, any lay-ups, and all approaches.  Obviously there is no chipping or putting, and if you’re honest with yourself, your score usually approximates what you shoot during real rounds.  The drill is awesome for building focus especially when you start hitting recovery shots after wayward drives.  My course of choice was a local muni and previous simulated rounds usually yield about 75 to 80 strokes, which is close to what I usually shoot there.  On this day, I fashioned a 1-under 69.  I finished with about six balls remaining and just left them there.

The entire session lasted a bit under two hours and I drove home fully satisfied and thinking I had not practiced that well in two or three years.  Sure enough, the following day at Gettysburg, I played great and noticed I was focused like a laser, especially on my tee shots.

You get very excited in this game when you think you’re on to something.  Am I?  I know the key was that every drill and every shot was geared to help me play golf, not golf swing.   Tomorrow, the challenge will be if I can repeat the practice success using the exact same approach, but after a long day of work.  I hope it doesn’t rain 🙂

Do you have any leading indicators for good play?  Good luck if you do and please share. Play well!

 

 

Playing After A Lesson – Smart?

Have you ever played a round where you were bombing your driver and leaving yourself with some awesome looks at approach shots, but you subsequently bungled every one of them?  Last weekend I had my best driving day of the year but the 80 I shot at Poolesville was the absolute worst score I could have recorded for that very reason. The carnage included seven unforced errors from the “A-position”.   So yesterday I took my final lesson of the 2018 seasonal package in hopes that I could correct my awful iron play.  As usual, my instructor corrected something small just as we started (I was standing too far from the ball) and then we got to work on my major issues.  Of course, they were the same issues I’ve been dealing with my entire career, which is why they’re still issues.  We made great progress on the lesson tee and I booked a time at my club to play today.

What is your experience playing after a lesson?  Smart, not smart?  I think it depends on the lesson and where you are playing.  Last time I tried it the day after my putting lesson.  There was no adjustment period and was if someone else had possessed my body with the putter.  I made everything I looked at and the game was very easy.

Today was different.  Perhaps my club is not the best venue if you are working on swing mechanics because the first four holes at Blue Mash are very demanding and often require long iron approaches.  Last time out I hit four 3-irons on the first four holes.  It’s one of those stretches that if you start 3-over after four holes, you are playing fine.  Today it was 3-iron, 7-iron (downwind) from heavy rough, 3-iron, and another 3-iron.  Before my round I warmed up poorly with my 3-iron, but my approach on number one was pure and settled eight feet from the flag.  The second on #3 was good but went into a green-side bunker and I saved par.  The third was an awful pull hook (my big miss) and I made a lucky par out of some gnarly green-side rough.  On holes 5 and 6, I hit two stunning short iron shots that yielded a par and a birdie.  I was thrilled and it seemed I had it solved, but the problem was that I was playing golf swing and not golf.  The roof finally caved in on #8 after I laid the sod over a pitching wedge from the middle of the fairway.

This has happened before after taking a lesson; it’s always been a full swing lesson, and I’m always thinking too much.  I guess I was encouraged after the easy success of the putting lesson.

My favorite thing in golf is to play.  Next favorite is to take lessons, and least favorite is to practice.  But I know I need practice on this one and will get out to the range a couple times before next weekend’s round.  What has been your experience playing after a lesson?

Stay tuned: course review is coming from next weekend’s venue:  The Links at Gettysburg!

Play well!

Driving The Golf Ball – Length Vs Accuracy

Long DriveWhat’s more important, length or accuracy?  Been having a couple interesting dialogs with Jim at The Grateful Golfer and Jimmy at Tiger Golf Traveler on the challenges of driving and figured it was time to take a closer look at the dichotomy.  Let’s approach from the two perspectives of the tour professional and amateur player, which are very different, and often get munged together to create great confusion.  First the pro.  The current PGA Tour driving distance average is 290.8 yards.  This has steadily increased from slightly over 260 yards in 1993 to 287 yards in 2003 and leveled off since.  The reason was three-fold:  first was the introduction of the trampoline effect on the driver face (new technology), second was the introduction of the three-piece golf ball, and finally was the muscling up and year round conditioning of today’s tour players pioneered by Tiger Woods.  As a result, the PGA Tour has steadily lengthened its venues to maintain the competitive integrity of the game.  No doubt, length has won out over accuracy on tour as the world’s best are more deadly accurate with their approaches using wedges out of the rough than short to middle irons from the fairway.

What’s fascinating is that the playing public has access to the same equipment that the best in the world have, but for some reason they expect to boom drives in the same fashion that their heroes on TV do.  How often have you seen the guy at the driving range banging bucket after bucket over the 300 yard sign with sweat dripping from his brow and a great look of satisfaction on his face?  Or maybe that person is you???  Here’s where perception and reality are out of whack because the tour pro’s misses are far less off-line than the amateur’s and what the pro can do with his game at the other end of the drive differs considerably from the amateur.   To put it differently, given a 36oz. wooden bat and a softly tossed baseball, would you be able to stand at the plate and swat home runs like Chris Davis or Jose Bautista?  Of course not.Crush

As a young amateur, I had a laminated Top Flite driver that would almost never miss the fairway.  I couldn’t drive it over 220 yards but was incredibly straight.  In my 20s I took a couple lessons with a pro who firmed up my left side during the downswing.  Part of that instruction included strengthening my left hand grip which allowed me to generate more power through better leverage.  Well that worked and the ball started flying farther but far more crooked and I have never regained the accuracy with the big stick.  Oddly enough, in last two years, I have started driving it better just focusing on making a good shoulder turn going back.  But the bottom line for this amateur: the game is far more enjoyable if you stay out of trouble off the tee, even if that means sacrificing some distance.

So my final recommendation:  Let the equipment companies continue to try and sell you a new $400 driver every year with the promise of a few more magical yards but don’t buy it.  Invest half that much and get a professional driver fitting with a reputable club maker.  He’ll make sure the driver you are playing has the correct shaft flexibility, is not too long, and lets you keep it in the short grass.

Where do you fall in the length vs accuracy spectrum?  Play well!

CAUTION!! The Domino Effect of Golf Drills

CautionHave you ever worked a golf drill, fixed a fault, and then watched the drill negatively impact a previously solid part of your game?  Like a time bomb, one of these exploded in my face over the last two days of an otherwise excellent golf trip to the Delaware – Maryland beaches.  On my excursion, I experienced the most god awful episode of skulled, thinned, chunked and totally stone-handed chipping and pitching in the last 20 years.  Oddly enough, I drove the ball superbly, putted well, but if I missed a green, couldn’t hit squat.  It was literally 30-handicap caliber chopping and the bemused looks of my playing partners spoke volumes.  (Apologies to any 30-handicap readers; the problem is not you; it’s me.)  Technically I knew I was flipping my hands at the ball and letting the clubface pass my hands, but I couldn’t stop it.  This was not the chip yips because I didn’t feel any pressure even though the previous failures had gotten in my head; I simply could not execute shots I knew were in my arsenal.

On the drive back today, we were still bemusing over the root cause until I remembered back in August, I read Tour Tempo by John Novosel and took it for a test drive.   Little did I know but this drill to help with ball striking rhythm was sowing the seeds of the catastrophe.  If you’ll recall, Novosel’s theory is to introduce a 3:1 backswing to downswing timing ratio.  Most students, myself included, needed to speed up their downswing to comply with the the ratio.  After a few rounds, I noticed I started to hit my full swing gap wedge shots a little fat but disregarded it as an anomaly or something that occasionally creeps into my game which is handled with a correction.  After further analyzing the wreckage, I correctly identified the cause as an early release created in an attempt to speed up my downswing for Tour Tempo.  To be fair, there’s another Tour Tempo book for short game, that I did not read, and which purportedly has a different timing mechanism for short shots.  Oops!

Everyone who’s instructed or been instructed in golf is familiar with the concept of over-correction.  You over emphasize a fix to clearly turn a negative habit to positive, then tweak as the over-correction becomes a fault of its own.  Now I’ve got a bit of an early release with my full swing and a full blown mess with my short game.  I’m kinda glad winter is almost here, but anyone have a good drill to promote hands ahead of the clubhead with the greenside shots?  Please send along.  Thanks!

More themepark golf

Don’t know what has come over my golf game as of late but I played another roller coaster round today which is very much out of character.  My score of 6-over 78 at Northwest was rather pedestrian, but the way it went down was not.  The round was littered with huge swings in momentum with two doubles, a triple, and five birdies on the card.  What’s concerning is that I have no idea when a good or horrible hole is imminent and it’s impossible to maintain any positive momentum.  Granted, I have been out of action for a considerable period of time, with only three rounds and one practice session since July 29, but the violent ups and downs were never a problem after protracted time off.  The great holes are great, and the only constant has been excellent putting.  The bad holes seem to start with bad driving.  More like idiot driving as I seem to be taking chances on cutting doglegs too closely and putting myself in precarious positions.  Another concern is recovery ability especially with short game.  I have bladed several bunker shots and fully airmailed putting surfaces which have led to lost balls and huge numbers.  The bunker play is clearly a technical flaw and the driving decisions mental.  The problem is that enough good holes are sprinkled in to provide hope; only to see that hope dashed.

I’m starting to play more frequently again after being distracted for six weeks by a major home remodeling project and would like some ideas on how to stabilize.  Any ideas out there?