June 28, 2013

In just four days my clubs will be making their way east to join me for a week of preparation before this year’s Goodboys Invitational weekend. Today I made good use of a window during my workday morning to squeeze in one final two-hour practice session at the Superstition Springs driving range before the heat started to build towards its 110 high.

Arriving at the range it was obvious a bunch of other people had the same thought – seeing many of the same familiar faces I’ve shared hellos and conversations with over the past several months it felt like a homecoming after the last two visits when there was no one around. The big-hitting Asian guy blasting one monster drive after another smiled and gave a thumbs up when he saw me trudging towards the blocks. A guy named Joe who spends most of his time chipping and putting around the practice green said hello. The guy with the white mullet was wearing the same Metallica shirt he always does, and, as usual, was spending as much time talking into his Bluetooth as he was hitting balls. Another guy named Danny was working his way down the line, offering extra balls to anyone willing to take them.

Seeing all the familiar faces put me at ease as I found an empty spot between two other lefty golfers. I set up my clubs as usual, white towel (wet on one end as usual) draped over my clubs and limbered up with a few sand wedges and pitching wedges before working my way down through the rest of my irons. Each club got five balls each, their ball flight taking a similar slight right-to-left fade trajectory – the result of weakening my grip and changing my bottom hand thumb location like Alex Black showed me two days prior.

I stopped and downed half of my red Gatorade to see the lefty to my right hit a ball that bounced off the Alex Black Instruction sign ten feet in front and to the left of him. “Shank!” he yells, and we all have a laugh. Wouldn’t have been so funny five months ago when such a shot was something I would have done and feared doing. Nowadays, it’s just something to have an easy laugh over.

I move on to my hybrids and am pleased to see the same results today as I was getting with Alex the other day: big, high hits aimed at the right side of my imaginary fairway fading towards the middle or middle left side. I take a look at my 5-wood and say, “what the hell”, and remove it from its sock. First swing, skull. Second swing, blistered high and long with a slight fade to the middle of my imaginary fairway. Third swing, skull. Fourth swing, a low stinger that splits the fairway. Fifth swing, a thin hit that would do on the course just barely. Oh well, not ready for prime time.

For giggles I grab the 3-wood expecting much the same, but here my session takes on an entirely different feel. From the very first hit it’s clear the 3-wood wants to come out and play. Half a dozen nice hits, four high and long with a soft fade interspersed with two absolutely pure hits, “on the screws” as they say, pulverized dead center and with that unique sound that tells you it’s good without you even having to watch. I’m suddenly re-evaluating my tee game strategy and think there’s plenty of room for the 3-hybrid, 3-wood, and driver depending on the challenge each hole presents.

By now I’ve got a dozen balls left in my bucket and finish off with my driver – plenty of solid hits, not one ball even thinking about going right. It’s near 10:15, and time for some chipping and putting before calling it a day. Same drills as I’ve done countless times regardless of the conditions: four balls, pick out a pin, then putt them in from wherever they land. My tempo isn’t bad today, and neither is my putting. I never thought I’d get to the point where I could feel the difference between golf balls, but chipping and putting these Callaway Hex Diablos has an entirely different feel than my old Wilson 50 compressions. After a dozen or so sets, I’m finishing up and chip to a pin about fifty feet away, leaving putts for fourteen, twelve, four, and two feet away. I’m walking towards my balls when Joe stops me.

“When’s that tournament your playing?”, he asks.

“Three weeks from tomorrow.”

“I’ve seen you out here a lot and if you don’t mind me saying, you’ve improved a lot. Glad to see you got rid of ‘dem orange balls. You’re too good for that. But now I’m gonna put some pressure on you. I’m gonna stand right here and watch you putt those balls.”

“That’s OK”, I say smiling, “I eat pressure for lunch.” (Dr. Bob Winters would have been proud of that attitude being expressed!) Upon which, I drain the fourteen and twelve footers, miss the four-footer (OK, I babied that one), then tap in the two-footer.

“Looks like you’re ready.”, says Joe.

“I dunno. You don’t know the Goodboys, lots of personal history there. It’s not until Sunday afternoon rolls around that you know whether you were ready or not.”

We shake hands and I head back to where my bag and clubs are. Looks like Danny left me six balls. Pitching wedge duffed. Second pitching wedge drops like a parachute next to the 100-yard marker. A 3-hybrid take the same familiar track the earlier ones did, soft fade to left-center. A 3-wood is mashed, long and straight. (Talk about which club gets the game ball today!) The final two balls, in true Goodboys fashion, are left for the driver where you pretend you’re on the first tee at whatever course you’re about to play. In my imagination I’m standing on the first tee at Portsmouth Country Club, a dogleg-right par 4 that’s wide open straight ahead and left.

My first drive is solid, a high arc with that same soft fade I absolutely love. I tee up my final ball, the last one I will hit at Superstition Springs before my trip back east. I take a moment to drink in the atmosphere: the Asian guy is now on his third bucket, hitting high beautiful lob shots from his hitting area to the now-empty putting green. Danny and Joe are gone, as is the guy with the mullet in the Metallica shirt. There’s a stick hitting a few areas down – I know he’s stick not just because the shots he’s hitting both look and sound pure one after another, but because his Taylor Made bag has his name on it. Nice.

I pick out my target, place my club behind the ball, get my hands where they need to be, square up my shoulders, and let it rip. It’s my best driver of the day, a dead-straight blast that lands in the center of the fairway somewhere out there. It’s a great way to finish what has been a great learning experience and a lot of fun.

The heat’s really coming on now and I down a bottled water before making the walk back to my car. There’s no looking back – not just because there will be plenty of time for that over a cold Sam Summer later, but because I know all the work I need to do from here on out will take place on one more Arizona track next Monday morning – early! – and then back east.

Three weeks to go to Goodboys Invitational weekend. We still don’t know exactly where we’re playing (don’t get me started on that), but at least I know I’m where I need to be.

Filed in: Golf Quest by The Great White Shank at 02:24 | Comment (1)
1 Comment
  1. […] a difference four and a half months can make. The last time I left the Superstition Springs driving range, I was (to quote the Ramones) “all hopped up […]

    Pingback by GoodBoys Nation - Archives » (At) Home On The Range — November 18, 2013 @ 2:43 am

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