August 7, 2013

(Last in a very long series.)

It’s a rainy monsoon day here in the Valley of the Sun, a perfect day to close the book on my “Golf Quest 2012”. The 2013 Goodboys Invitational weekend is far in the rear-view mirror, my clubs are a couple thousand miles a way in Georgia awaiting one final round this year with my brother, and there’s work around the house and the backyard just waiting for Labor Day to swing on by. I’m not sure everyone has found all of these blog posts entertaining, but they have been fun to write and will be interesting to revisit some day when it comes time to pick the sticks up again and begin preparations for next year’s Goodboys weekend. When that happens, it sure won’t look or feel the same as this year’s once-in-a-golf-lifetime experience: while it’s been great fun and a learning experience, I’m glad it’s over. And my elbow sure doesn’t mind!

As I said throughout the 4 1/2 months while immersed into everything golf and improving my game, the scorecard doesn’t lie.

So let’s take one last look at the numbers and see what the evidence shows. At my first lesson with Alex Black, I told him my goal was to shoot bogey-and-a-half golf (99) or better regularly and to play well at Goodboys Invitational weekend. Looking at my scores this year, it’s hard not to notice a real line of demarcation between the months of April and May, when I was post-lesson and fully comfortable with my new swing, and after the first week in June when, upon Alex’s recommendation, I had my swing diagnosed at the PGA Superstore and exchanged my Callaway RAZR X driver, 3-wood, and 5-wood with A-flex shaft replacements. That same week I also replaced my old Dynacraft putter with a new Ping Scottsdale model.

So what happened? Here are the results of the six rounds I played during April and May:

Lone Tree – 106
Trilogy at Power Ranch – 110
Superstition Springs – 108
Trilogy at Power Ranch – 107
The Crossings at Carlsbad – 112
Western Skies – 112

Six rounds played, an average score of just over 109. Not only was I missing fairways and losing balls, I was averaging nearly 40 putts a round. Now let’s look at the ten rounds played since making those equipment changes. The results are pretty striking:

Superstition Springs – 103
Superstition Springs – 99

— the lesson where Alex changed my grip and hand position

Lone Tree – 90
Trull Brook – 98
Portsmouth – 100
Maynard (nine-hole) – 50
The Ledges – 102
Wentworth By The Sea – 108
Black Swan – 102
Cape Ann (nine-hole) – 48

That’s an average right at 100, a nine-stroke improvement over the final 1 1/2 months alone. See what happens when your big clubs complement your swing type? You start swinging more aggressively, driving the ball further, and hitting more fairways. When you add to that a putter that gives you confidence to start making putts, all of a sudden life is a beautiful thing.

Not that there isn’t ample room for improvement still. While those June and July rounds show I accomplished what I set out to do, I see in each of those rounds – and remember quite clearly – mental mistakes that cost me anyhere from a small handful to more than a dozen strokes per round. Anyone can make a poor shot from time to time, but there’s no excuse for some of the mistakes made, like not checking what club I had in my hand, not taking my medicine after a bad shot and getting out of trouble as quickly as I could have, or not committing 100% to every shot. Like Dr. Bob Winters, my de facto sports psychologist says:

“You can control the effort you put into every shot you make, results you cannot control.”

There’s also room for improvement with my short game around the greens. The one frustrating thing is that I never made the adjustment to thicker New England grass and slower New England greens; I kept coming up way short with my pitching wedge and leaving myself too many long putts when an 8-iron might have been a better choice to get the ball closer to the hole. While my putting unquestionably improved, I was still making 34-36 putts a round, and three or four one-putts instead of two-putting would have surely helped my scoring.

But that’s just the golf, and while this might be both interesting and a revelation to me it’s not the whole picture – if it were, this would have been a very empty and unfulfilling quest indeed. Golf can be one of the emptiest of pursuits because it’s such an individual sport. Banging balls on a nondescript driving range or away from your playing partners on the opposite side of the fairway, you’re the only witness whenever some previously-unseen exhibition of golf greatness reveals itself. There’s no ESPN Sportscenter highlight reel to savor time and again, just the self-satisfaction of knowing you just hit a great shot and a memory that will live forever. An when you pile up enough good holes and good shots to the point where even your fellow Goodboys acknowledge you’ve become a different golfer, a player, that alone is worth the whole damned effort.

What Alex Black, and through Tom Coyne’s book Paper Tiger, Dr. Jim Suttie and Dr. Bob Winters, gave me over those 4 1/2 months was the ability to enjoy golf for the game it is for the first time in my life. As a result of their combined wisdom, golf became a simple game. Since I only had to focus on repeating what they’d taught me when it came my time to hit, I was able to enjoy everything a round of golf with friends (or strangers) should be about – comraderie, the beautiful surroundings, and the challenge of playing a course and not have it play you. I don’t care who you are and how good a golfer you think you are – it’s no fun when you’re out there struggling, putting up big numbers, and piling up one bad shot after another with the course playing you for a chump. I know, because I’ve been there hundreds of times.

Last Saturday I drove over to Superstition Springs Golf Course one last time to report back to Alex my Goodboys weekend and thank him personally for everything. He asked me when I was planning on picking up a club again, and I jokingly told him next March when it will be time for my next lesson. We agreed that the next step is to tidy up my short game and spend more time working on shots less than 50 yards in. He’s confident I can improve to shooting bogey golf (90 or thereabouts) regularly, saying about my Lone Tree 90, you do it once, there’s no reason why you can’t do it regularly. He’s right, and I’m looking forward to giving it a try.

Within reasonable means.

Filed in: Golf Quest by The Great White Shank at 02:12 | Comments Off on Mission Accomplished – II
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