Tag Archives: science

More Art, Less Science, More Feel

Have you ever wondered how great golfers acquire feel?  I’ve always tried to increase my feel but yesterday after reading an article in the June 2018 Golf Digest called “The battle of dumb versus smart,” I think I figured out how.   As you know, golf is an inherently mental game.  Most players are either artists or scientists in their approach.   The gist of the article was that unless you are extremely bright and have an analytical mind, like Phil Mickelson or Bryson DeChambeau, you shouldn’t try to play with analytics.

A few years back, I made a decision to go with more art and not think about my score as I played.  I wanted to get more process oriented and stay in the moment.  This worked for a brief period but I still couldn’t get the extra feel.  I realized that I was playing with too many statistics even if I was just counting greens in regulation and total putts.  Sometimes I’d start to worry about my stats during the round.  I was beating myself up instead of thinking about getting the ball in the hole.  Not good!

In yesterday’s round, I decided to play without stats, and noticed I was very relaxed.  I simply thought to get the ball in the hole in the fewest strokes possible.  Method didn’t matter.  I recalled my shots after the round and noted that I had hit eight of nine greens on the front, which had not gone unnoticed by one of my playing partners.   After I chipped in on #10, for the next two holes, this fellow had the questions coming hard and fast.  He wanted to know about club selection, handicap, equipment choices, set makeup, and fitting recommendations.  Finally on #13, he whipped out his phone and asked me if I tracked my ball speed like he did, as he had been introduced to TrackMan recently.  He wanted to show me this program but I wouldn’t have any of it.  I think he was a little disappointed when I told him I was playing old school and writing my scores down on a card with no analytics, and that my phone would remain in my golf bag for the round.

Photo from golf.com

Seve Ballesteros was the greatest feel player I ever saw.  His imagination and touch on and around the greens was incredible.  In 1990 he four putted #16 at the Masters and when asked to describe what happened he replied, “I miss, I miss, I miss, I make.”   No stats, no analysis, no paralysis.  Love the mindset.

Play well.

Playing Old School

Works For Ricky!
Works For Ricky!

Charles Mingus once said, “Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity.”  Last weekend that was the theory of the case I set out to prove on my 54-hole eastern shore jaunt.  The plan was to play the first 18 holes with the assist from a GPS and a laser range finder, but to dispense with both devices in round two.  Round three would be played with the preferred method taken from the prior two days.

First, it was awesome to finally golf on consecutive days for the first time since early June.  The experiment was admittedly a small sample size, so much of the feedback was based on gut feel rather than hard metrics.  My day-to-day performance showed continual improvement, which was encouraging (84-78-76) and the reps were invaluable and served as a quasi practice for the following day’s game.

Round one at Heritage Shores (Bridgeville, DE) was characterized by a hot start, a mid-round ball striking implosion, and a strong finish.  Using both devices didn’t feel any different even though I was conscious of trying to match exact yardage to swing.  I putted poorly all day but stumbled into a swing key that allowed me to play the last five holes in even par, and to hit four of the five greens.  Despite the poor score, I left the course encouraged about the swing band-aid I had found, and for the experiment I was going to try the next day.

Saturday, we played Eagles Landing (Ocean City, MD).  The carts were equipped with GPS and I basically ignored it unless I couldn’t find ground yardage.  There is no driving range at Eagles Landing and we were limited to some light chipping and putting before we went off.  I promptly pull hooked my drive on #1 and made double, and followed that with a big push on #2 for a bogey.  Yardage was playing no part in this mess.  So I decided to keep the driver in the bag until my body loosened up and I managed to stabilize using 3WD.  On number 8, I found another swing key and managed to strike it solid and played the rest of the way around in 2-over.  Here I noticed some gains by pacing off yardages on the short wedge shots from the fairway.  Without precise yardage, I relied on my stock practice range shots to carry distances I was comfortable with, and this was key!  I am not a professional and cannot dedicate tons of range time perfecting partial wedge shots to specific distances.  Just give me 50-75-100 yard shots and I proved that hitting to those yardages was more effective than snapping an exact number on the laser and trying to modify my swing to match.

Sunday at Baywood Greens (Long Neck, DE) was a completely different story.  We got to the course 1.5 hours ahead of our tee time and got ample range time in plus putting green and short game warm ups.  In addition, I had a game plan from the previous two days and felt very prepared and it showed.  The good work with the short irons continued despite not having exact yardages and I felt completely in control.  I also noticed the impact of imprecise yardages diminished the farther you were from the flag stick.

At the end of our short experiment, I’d have to conclude that the back to back to back rounds were probably more beneficial to my game than how I measured my yardages.  I liked not having as much to do and think about between shots, but honestly felt that I could do a better job planning my shots even with exact yardage.  In short, it really didn’t matter how it was calculated, but I’m going to try without the range finder for my next few rounds.

Do you have a preference for course navigation?  Please share if you do.

Thanks and play well!

Do You Golf Like An Artist or Scientist?

artvsscienceHuman beings are predisposed to favor either creativity or analysis in their thought processes.  Take cooking for example.  We prepare a successful meal by either following a recipe or inventing one on the fly.  I am definitely in the latter camp, and believe that when we identify with a trend, it’s probably best to play golf in a similar fashion.  I had an epiphany recently.  I have always thought I trended scientific, but now believe the opposite is true, and realize my current technical approach may be hurting my game.

Do you play with a laser range finder?  I do and my regular golf partner has a GPS device.  These are wonderful instruments of precision and we normally share information on most shots, so I have the distance to the flag, the distance to the front, middle, and back of the green, as well as distance to any hazards or hidden course features at my disposal.  When I factor in wind direction and speed, condition of the putting surface, and my current swing key(s), it feels like I’m trying to land a 747 on a small runway in a 20 knot cross wind.  I’ve been consuming all this information for a long time and have been struggling to hit shots when thinking so precisely.  I think there’s a connection because I had more success when I simplified by calculating yardages old school (using sprinkler head distances to the middle of the green and adding or subtracting estimated yardages for front or back pin placements).   Lately I’ve also noticed I’ve had good results executing difficult recovery or partial shots where my approach has been very simple.

Here’s two recent shots side-by-side to illustrate.  Shot 1:  Yesterday I had a short approach into a par-5.  I measured 54 yards uphill to a back flag.  It was downwind, and the greens were running fast.  I had 60 yards to the back.  I thought, “lob wedge to 51 yards” but tried to be too precise and shut the face a little and the ball trickled over the green into the fringe about 25 feet long leaving a treacherous downhill putt, which I promptly three-jacked.  I’d have been better off playing for the middle of the green.  Shot 2:  Last week, I drove a ball under a tree with low hanging branches.  I had 160 yards left but could not elevate a shot.  I thought, “hit a low 130 yard 3-iron then let it run up”.  Now who practices that shot on the range?  Not me, but I just rehearsed a simple little half flip with the club and hit the shot as planned.  My target was much less precise, but I felt more relaxed during my pre-shot routine than for Shot 1.  Why?  I believe Shot 1 had too many technical inputs and Shot 2 didn’t.  It allowed me to take a creative approach that my brain was comfortable with.

So what to do now?  It’s quite possible that I’m not using the information at my disposal correctly or maybe it’s just too much information.  I’m going to experiment on my upcoming eastern shore golf trip Friday to Sunday.  Friday’s round is at Heritage Shores which I have played twice and am less familiar.  I’m going to use the laser and GPS.  Saturday we play Eagles Landing which I have played over a dozen times and know where to hit it.  So I will go old school and pace off yardages and simplify.  Sunday at Baywood Greens will be the more comfortable of the two approaches.  I will let you know how it goes next week.

Do you over-complicate your approach on the course?  Hope not.

Play well!