June 5, 2013

“Golf is hard.” — Dr. Jim Suttie

“Golf is expensive.” — Doug “The Great White Shank” Richard

Most of the time when Ben “The Funny Guy” Andrusaitis, fellow Goodboy and fellow Founding Father of Goodboys Nation is talking, he’s being his delightful mix of cynical and sarcastic, but today his words were spot on:

“I hope all the money you’re spending makes a difference come Goodboys weekend”, he tells me.

“I guess we’ll see…”, is all I can weakly reply.

It was during my last lesson with Alex Black that, in parting, he made two recommendations I had resisted until posting that disheartening 112 at The Crossings at Carlsbad last week: 1) get rid of my putter and replace it with something that actually sits square on the ground, and 2) get a fitting for my clubs, especially my 1, 3, and 5 graphite woods. Considering that since that lesson I’d put up a 108, a 107, and two 112s due to a frustratingly-inconsistent tee game and horrific putting, I knew something had to be done, so last Saturday I put my original Grant Carrow Dynacraft putter with all its hacks and pock-marks in the garage closet and upgraded to a brand-spankin’ new Ping Scottsdale series putter nearly 6″ shorter in length, and changed my wide putting stance for a feet-together crouch that I hope gives me a better feel for speed and break. And if that doesn’t work, maybe I’ll try that radical Michelle Wie stance next!

Next, I was thinking about another lesson with Alex so he could take a look at me hitting my woods when it occurred to me I ought to at least first follow his advice and have my graphites checked out at the local PGA Superstore. What a mind-blowing experience it was! All I can say is, if you’re a golfer who wants to make sure you’re getting the absolute most out of your clubs, don’t do anything until you go get yourself fitted properly.

When I mention Alex’s name to Chad working the desk at the store’s Fitting Center, he says, “Dude, you’ve come to the right place.” He sets me up in the Ping club-fitting stall featuring a wall-sized TV screen with the 18th hole at TPC Sawgrass staring me straight in the face. There’s a golf ball with weird markings all over it, and a “magic” orange tee in the ground whereby everything – and I do mean everything about your swing gets recorded: club speed, ball speed, flight trajectory, distance, and carry. At one time I’d be scared to death to have someone assessing my swing in such a golf Disneyland, but I’ve become fearless about this kind of thing and begin taking my whacks.

It doesn’t take more than three swings for Chad to take notice something’s wrong.

“Whoa, that’s a very slow swing speed you’ve got there”, he tells me. “What kind of shaft have you got?” I tell him it’s regular flex. “No, no, no!” he says excitedly. “Look at your swing speed – 79 MPH – and your ball speed – 108 MPH. You’ve got a complete mismatch going there. You’re throwing away distance – and probably strokes – as if they meant nothing. Now I know why Alex recommended you come here – you’re not getting any benefit from your lag and power move whatsoever.”

Chad is studying the computer screen like a surgeon contemplating where he makes the first cut. Yellow arcs show just how and how far my balls have traveled and where they landed. “I’m guessing you either do two things – you hit a big pull left or then to over-compensate and try and hit the ball easier, flare it out to the left. Am I right?”

Left. Right. I didn’t know this was Golf Intervention 101. All that’s missing here is Oprah suggesting books to read. I start thinking about checking all my orifices for a hidden camera – after all, how could he have known my tee game over these past few weeks? All I can spit out is a weak “Uh huh. I’m sorry…”, as if I just spilled red wine all over his new carpet.

“Nothing to feel sorry about”, Chad says cheerfully. “You’ve got a shaft that’s too stiff. It’s affecting your swing, swing speed, and trajectory.”

I resisted the obvious joke about stiff shafts and guys in their late fifties and instead tell him I don’t believe in magic fixes.

“This isn’t a fix”, he replies sternly. “This is about matching up your swing with the right equipment. You wouldn’t use a power drill to pound in a nail, would you? You’ve got a good lag working there and actually a pretty good looking swing. You’d like to swing more aggressively but every time you do you’re pull-hooking the ball right. So you over-compensate and lose distance or another ball by trying to swing a little easier and in doing so give up power and distance. What I’m recommending is that we take a half-inch off your club length and drop you down to a senior flex shaft that has more whip in it. Here, try this…”.

Chad pulls from the rack a big Ping driver with a shaft I can already feel has more flex in it. I take a few regular swings and already see my ball speed jump up a few MPH and my distance increase several yards. Better yet, the ball is going dead freakin’ straight, center-cutting the 18th at TPC Sawgrass with very little ball movement one way or the other. I’m totally jacked.

“I. Like. This.”, I say.

“Don’t be shy”, says Chad, urging me on. “Go ahead, stay within yourself but give it a good rip”, which I then proceed to do, gradually working my swing speed up to a whopping 89 MPH. I feel like I’m swinging out of my shoes, but I’m really not. And I can feel the club lagging behind me as I drive through the ball and turn my wrists over in a power move Alex would be proud of. Minutes later, not only has my ball speed crept up to around 115 MPH, I’ve added 20 more yards of distance in the process. And not one pulled or hooked left.

Chad leads me over to the computer and we replay my last dozen or so hits. “Now you’re swinging the club with power, confidence and authority”, he says, “that’s a real nice move and trajectory you’ve got there. And it’s not magic, it’s all about matching your clubs to your swing.”

Now it’s time for reality to set in. Replacing my shafts is no trifling matter – $200 of work. But when I committed myself this year – this one year – to truly immerse myself in the game and commit myself to seeing how good I could become I knew the bank card was going to take a beating. It’s pointless to spend good money on new equipment and lessons and then bleed strokes all over the course because you’re not able to get the most out of either. Once on the course – and this is especially true come Goodboys weekend – you can’t play in fear of hitting the ball where you don’t want it to go. You pick your target, pick the club you think will get you there, and then leave nothing in the bag. You commit, take a full aggressive swing, and either go for it or take up badminton.

We pick out new shafts in a similar red and black motif and I hand over my Chase card. “Best decision you’ll ever make”, smiles Chad. “Now you can tell Alex that you actually listened to him.”

We’re six weeks out from Goodboys Invitational weekend and I’ll have plenty of time to play a couple of courses around here and beat buckets of balls once my new shafts arrive next week. If after that I’m still putting up big numbers it won’t be for a lack of trying and committing myself to the best equipment and advice. It gives me confidence to know I haven’t really give myself enough of a chance to succeed up to this point. Starting next week, there will be no more excuses. As my old Goodboys golf partner Bob “Bobcat” Kelley used to say, “Go big or stay home.” And that’s exactly the mindset I will have come Goodboys weekend.

Filed in: Golf Quest by The Great White Shank at 02:36 | Comment (1)
1 Comment
  1. […] Goodboys. I’m also practicing swinging my clubs harder than I have been: that day last week at the PGA Superstore fitting center really opened my eyes. As both Chad the fitting specialist and my swing coach Alex Black told me, […]

    Pingback by GoodBoys Nation - Archives » Six Weeks Out — July 27, 2013 @ 6:31 pm

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