Memorial Day weekend is upon us, and it seems fitting that on the very same day my wife and her twin sister are in Florida for Tam’s daughter’s high school graduation that I spent the better part of a hot, breezy afternoon at the Kokopelli Golf Club driving range graduating from my own kind of “Tour School” – that self-appointed day I had marked on my internal calendar the better part of two months ago when I would complete the transition to my new swing (courtesy of Alex Black) and new approach to golf (courtesy of Dr. Bob Winters, via Tom Coyne’s Paper Tiger.
I’m not afraid to boast that over the past eight weeks I’ve worked harder than any other Goodboy on my game, spending anywhere from one to three full afternoons a week at the range hitting buckets and working on my short game – and that doesn’t include the times I’ve actually played a round of golf during that time. As someone who once both hated and feared the driving range I’m now a fully-certified (if not certifiable) range rat on first-name basis with the pro shop guys at Superstition Springs and Kokopelli. I mean, who would have ever thunk it? And while I plan on keeping up the same schedule right up until Goodboys Invitational weekend in July, from here on out I’m no longer in “school”, no longer using the golf course as a laboratory for my latest tweaks and visualization practice. From here on, as the saying goes, the games count.
I hadn’t actually planned on hitting the Kokopelli range today, but while I hit the ball OK at Superstition Springs yesterday I felt I was over-swinging and thus negating the advantage the lag in Alex Black’s “power move” provides in terms of contact and consistency that I know I need to emphasize if I’m going to achieve my goal of minimum bogey-and-a-half (i.e., 96 or less) golf. As Dr. Jim Suttie, one of the great golf instructors of our time, tells Tom Coyne in Paper Tiger:
Lag is power. Lag builds contact and consistency. That’s what you’ve got to get.
Whereas before all this started had I hit the ball like I did yesterday at Superstition Springs I would have been thrilled to death, but I’m at the point where I can recognize what I am doing wrong and know exactly what I need to do to correct. Roy McAvoy might have once said about the golf swing that “perfection is unattainable”, but I know I don’t have to be perfect, just more consistent and not fall into bad habits.
So there I was today at the Kokopelli range with a bucket and my driver, 3-wood and 5-wood, taking easy but aggressive swings and splitting my make-believe fairway one ball after another. Almost like being on auto-pilot, but with a four-step process always in mind: pick out a target, set up slightly open with the clubface slightly open as well, one final square of the shoulders and swing away, taking the wrists completely out and finishing up at one o’clock (remember, I’m a lefty).
Oh sure, there was the occasional power draw or soft fade, but every time I was able to correct immediately and rain my shots down around the 200-yard marker. I’m not greedy when it comes to distance – I know if I can hit the fairway I can get home (or at least close to) with the way I’m hitting my irons.
I celebrated my graduation with some veal cutlets and a chilled bottle of Pino Grigio before retiring out back for a swim, an Arturo Fuente and a Sam Summer under happy pineapple lights and the sounds of Cachao and other classic Cuban artists played in the background. As I marveled at how it couldn’t possibly get better than this, I thought about all the hard work I’ve put in these past two months, totally transforming myself from someone who just played golf into a golfer. Perhaps not a great golfer, but a golfer nevertheless.
From here on out I’ll be focusing on new ways of measuring my progress – ways that, if I continue to improve will undoubtedly show up in lower scores:
1. Fairways hit – would like to see them somewhere around 8-10 a round.
2. Greens in regulation – this is how you know you’re really playing golf; I’d like to see that somewhere around 3-4 a round. I can scramble the rest.
3. Holes at bogey or less – need to get that in the low double-digits.
4. Putts – would like to see that somewhere in the 30-33 range.
5. Balls lost – would like that to be a great big goose egg, but 1 or 2 a round would be OK – after all, I am The Great White Shank.
Let the games begin!