April 19, 2013

With thanks to Billy Joel for an awesome song by which to subject the post.

Scorecards don’t lie. There’s no question my golf game is improving with every outing, but the numbers are just not reflecting it yet. A 52 on the front and a 54 on the back has, and always will, equal 106 in the book of ages, but, as hard to believe as that number indicates, there was a lot of good to take away from today’s round at Lone Tree Golf Club in Chandler, AZ. After all, when you’re playing from the 6,500-yard blue tees with a slope rating of 120 you know you’re not teeing it up at some local muni or executive track. Lone Tree was a stern test, featuring the toughest layout and fastest greens I’ve played all year, with a par 3 island green I had completely forgotten about (I scored a nine with two lost balls). It played fast and hard all day, rewarding fairways hits but penalizing strongly any tee ball that strayed even slightly off the mark.

It was a beautiful day to play golf – probably the last I’ll play while the temps are still in the ’80s. On the driving range before teeing off I had my best session of year – I was striking the ball so great that I was convinced I was in store for the round of my life. Heck, I could almost see that sugarplum fairy of a scorecard 44 + 46 = 90 dancing before my eyes. So what happened? Well, before I get back to Billy Joel’s lament, let’s take a look at today’s pros and cons, which I dutifully listed out over a frosty Sam Summer at the clubhouse grille:

Pros:

* My Dynacraft putter continues to heat up. Even on very tough and very fast greens, “Mr. 3-Wiggle” was smooth and sweet all day, making only 30 putts, including seven one-putt greens. Frightening to think what my score might have been if I hadn’t putted so well. But that was all because of….

* …my chipping game, which also continues to improve with every outing. Still need to learn to relax a little more and improve my aim point, but those are just tweaks that can be worked out at the Superstition Springs chipping green.

* That $#@&! island green aside (why, BTW, do courses feel a need to create island greens? Those weren’t an invention of the Scots, that’s for sure), I’m playing with a lot of confidence with my irons. On several occasions – with five, six, and seven irons in my hand – the strikes were so pure it was almost breathtaking to behold.

* The 5-wood I’ve had so much trouble hitting on par 5 second shots finally showed up at the party today. And in Joe Boxers, no less. Didn’t hit it bad once.

* My mental discipline on the course continues to improve. No matter what happened on the previous hole I was very resilient today and kept coming out firing. I’m especially proud of the fact that after posting that nine on the island green hole I stepped up to the 12th tee (a long, tight par 4) and split the fairway dead-balls center with a three wood before walking away with a working-man’s bogey. My de facto sports psychologist Dr. Bob Winters would have been proud I stayed “in the moment” virtually all day long.

* From first tee to last shot I kept the same swing and form crafted at Superstition Springs the past two driving range sessions. The results may not have always been what I wanted, but I never deviated from the plan no matter what I was presented with. Alex Black would have been proud of that, I think.

Cons:

* Only had seven holes at bogey or better today. Need to do a lot better than that.

* Since my Alex Black lesson I’ve hit balls OB or close to OB left on every first and tenth tee. It’s the weirdest thing, not sure why that is. Be nice to get that out of my system the next time I play.

* Hitting eight out of fourteen fairways isn’t going to cut it come Goodboys weekend. While it’s true I was barely off target on at least three or four holes, the way Lone Tree is designed I really paid the price. If I want to play bogey-.5 golf I’m simply going to have to hit more fairways. Not to mention greens in regulation – something I ought to be doing more frequently whenever the opportunity presents itself.

* I know I need a better, more consistent pre-shot routine. Cultivating one I’m comfortable with is next on the to-do list. Which brings me to the #1 song with a bullet on my own Billboard charts…

* …my aiming point was off all day, and it really cost me. And that’s where Billy Joel comes in.

Simply put, if I’m going to continue to improve, I have to learn to trust my swing. On every shot. After so many years of poor play, abysmal course management, and crappy technique I’ve cultivated a bad habit of always aiming right of target since most of my shots would drift (or not so drift) left – remember, I wasn’t called The Great White Shank for nothing! Since my lesson with Alex Black, however, I’m hitting the ball much straighter, yet still continue to aim right. And when I aim right and hit the ball straight, guess what? It goes right, sometimes mucho right.

Take the 9th hole, a long par five, dogleg left around a pond. While my drive wasn’t great (got a member bounce off a pile of rocks after aiming too far right), I did find the fairway and then eased a 5-wood to within 138 yards of the pin. So I’m in the go-zone. Aware of the pond and a sucker pin placement on the left side of the green, I want to play smart and plan to leave an 8-iron just short of the green right to chip up and two-putt for my par. But what do I do? I don’t trust my swing and, without even checking the fact I’m aimed so right as to nearly bring the pro shop and cart shed into play, I just wail away and over-cook the eight, which slams into the fringe and one hops the cart path before settling into the gravel lot right of the cart shed. I take my drop and make an amazing recovery chip to within six feet which I then two-putt for a double-bogey seven. Just like that, I’ve thrown a minimum of two shots away. You do that often enough – which I did all day – those strokes start adding up. Hence, a 106 which could (and should) have been a 98 or better.

Now let’s compare that to 18, another par 5 with water on the right to a green protected by water on the left. I’m fortunate my drive (again, aimed too far right but hit dead straight) stops within two feet of the pond. I then crush a 4 hybrid to 165 yards from the green. Egged on by my playing partner Chester (a dead-ringer for Barack Obama, BTW, and one of the nicest guys I’ve ever played golf with) who tells me I’m hitting the ball too good to be playing golf so defensively, I plan another 4 hybrid, but this time I’m aiming slightly right with an open stance to play a baby cut I hope will ride the right-to-left breeze and cozy it’s way up to the green. I pull the shot off magnificently, leaving myself twenty feet for birdie. Applause from all around. I smash my birdie putt twelve feet past the hole, but then calmly drain a downhill slider for par. That, my friends, is what The Great White Shank is now capable of doing.

Since I started playing with my new Callaways two and a half months ago, I’ve completely overhauled my golf swing and my overall game to a point where that initial round at Superstition Springs in early February seems like a decade ago, played by a completely different human being. The new swing and the improved mentality are all in place: I’m improving every time I go out and can now honestly say there are multiple holes where I’m playing (at least for me as far as my goals are concerned) not just decent, good enough golf that gets the job done, but well played golf. Golf that’s something to be proud of. Now it’s just a matter of doing it more often.

And that’s all just a matter of trust.

Filed in: Golf Quest by The Great White Shank at 22:08 | Comments (2)
2 Comments »
  1. Keep it going!

    Comment by ExecComm — April 20, 2013 @ 11:57 pm


  2. Remember, play as if every shot is going to be a good shot.

    No more lining up in expectation of a slice or shank, and you’ll slay your next round.

    Comment by Dave Richard — April 22, 2013 @ 2:37 am


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