I am 1,100 swings into my Hank Haney experiment. To review, Haney recommends for the time challenged golfer, to take 100 practice swings per day in your back yard (merely a 15 minute time commitment). In week one I took the first 500 with a 5-iron. In week two, I split the balance between a 5-iron and driver. The last couple of sessions I have felt particularly strong and enjoyed some excellent rhythm and a confidence boost.
Yesterday, I changed things up and went to the range in the afternoon to see actual ball flight with the 5-iron and driver. Smother hooking 40 balls will humbly reminded you why golf is such a damn hard game. Just when I thought I was on to something good the pendulum of bad habits swung in my direction. I left the practice tee discouraged but knew that I had a round to play the next day, and figured I’d better work some short game. I finished up with a pretty good session on the practice putting green.
Now I am one of those players who generally plays like he practices, and the prospect of teeing it up a day after facing down a bucket full of Big Misses felt like crossing the U-boat infested Atlantic Ocean in an unarmed merchant ship. I was dreading the surfacing of the Big Miss and can’t remember being less unenthusiastic about the prospects of playing a weekend round of golf.
I arrived at the course early this morning and headed immediately to the range, and figured it’s best to face your fears head on. The warm-up was pretty good and I maybe saw five Big Misses out of 40 swings; a much smaller percentage, but just enough to keep the threat lurking. Incidentally, I was hit by this same swing malfunction about a month ago in another pre-round warm-up, but a playing partner spotted my physical error and helped me with a band-aid fix before play, so I was armed with this little bit of knowledge.
I piped my tee shot on #1 but The Big Miss surfaced on the #2 tee shot. Somehow I managed to save bogey and then it mysteriously disappeared and I played the rest of the front nine and the first two holes on the back striking it solid and straight. Then BAM! Four Big Misses in a row led to two straight double bogeys (the second of which was nearly a triple), and I though I was done for the day. I stabilized with the band-aid and managed to birdie #16 and #17 with some solid swings and limped in without killing anyone, and carded a six-over 77. Despite the strong finish, I am questioning the wisdom of the daily practice swings. Should I continue if there’s a chance that I’m practicing a mechanical fault with no ball flight feedback? I did hit 11 GIR last weekend and 12 in today’s round, which is over my season average of eight. Maybe it’s working and I can’t see the forest of incremental progress from the trees?
Any thoughts or recommendations to stay the course or abandon for something else?
Just finished The Big Miss by Hank Haney (Crown Archetype Publishing – 2012) and readers who are looking for an inside look at the world of Tiger Woods need to get this book. Haney has been criticized for writing a kiss and tell book but I found the insights into the inner workings of Tiger Woods profoundly interesting. After the well reported sex scandal broke in 2009, Tiger has been so reclusive and withdrawn it’s almost maddening to watch an interview with him and try to learn anything of substance. His guard is always up and the book digs into some very good detail behind the scenes. Strangely enough, even Haney admitted that while Tiger often referred to him as his close friend, he often felt shut out as Tiger rarely opened up to him. But for the casual golf fan, the insights go way beyond what we are fed by the mainstream media.
I had always thought the title of the book referred to the concept of what went wrong (Big Miss) with Tiger’s career after the scandal broke, but the term “Big Miss” is used by both Haney and Tiger to describe a golfer’s worst shot. That Haney used the term for the book is interesting because it may be prophetic in the higher sense when Tiger’s career is eventually summed up. Haney doesn’t actually focus much on the scandal and thankfully keeps golf as the subject.
Some of the content I found most interesting: The work Haney and Tiger did to avoid the ‘Big Miss’ off the tee and how Tiger actually feared using his driver in clutch situations. It was great to get inside the brain of one of the world’s best golf coaches. I also found Tiger’s fascination with Navy Seal training interesting and how detrimental it may have been to his career and health at the time. The section on how his team prepped him for play while on a broken leg at the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines in 2008 was fascinating. A lot went on behind the scenes to make that victory possible that the general public is completely unaware of. I also found it interesting that Tiger, and many other tour players work on their swing mechanics right up to tournament time, and then between tournament rounds as well. This is diametrically opposed to the theories of Dr. Bob Rotella, where he espouses removal of as many mechanical thoughts the closer one gets to competition. I’ve never found it beneficial to work on my swing, or think mechanics that close to playing on the course, but heck, I’m not a touring pro. Still, you would think that as human beings, we’d be more effective without mechanical approaches at game time.
The only part I didn’t enjoy was the book’s ending where Haney compares his record to that of Butch Harmon as Tiger’s swing coach. It seems he’s trying to justify the approach he took and the decision to quit when he did. His analysis of Tiger’s “Big Miss” with his driving is way off too. At the time the book was written, Tiger had just started working with Sean Foley in 2011 and Haney points to Tiger’s ranking of 186th in Total Driving in 2011 as proof that Foley’s swing changes will not work. Now I’m no Sean Foley fan because I think his approach is too mechanical, but Tiger’s Total Driving stats were 5th in 2012 and 17th in 2013 which speaks for themselves.
Most of all, we learn in the Big Miss that Tiger has made many significant sacrifices in his life to achieve his level of greatness. What will be interesting to see when his career is over is if those sacrifices are judged to be worth the ultimate record of accomplishment. Get the book; it’s a good one.