November 18, 2013

It’s a late Saturday afternoon at a nearly-empty Superstition Springs driving range. My golf guru Alex Black has just finished a putting clinic for a dozen folks and he’s closing up shop for the day. Asks me my how my golf game is, I tell him he’ll be hearing from me soon. “Can’t wait!”, he says with a big grin on his face. There’s an elderly couple whacking balls at one of the stalls, but other than that I’ve got the place and its huge putting green and chipping area all to myself. I’ve dragged a bunch of bright orange balls out for practice, and I’m chipping and putting after hitting a leisurely bucket. The warm afternoon begins to cool as the long shadows grow; the sun is slowly dipping towards the mountains to the west.

My old home away from home feels like a comfortable old pair of shoes. I am at peace and at home on the range.

What 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 and ready to go” for my upcoming Goodboys Invitational weekend. That last day was blazing hot, the demon sun directly above, the range filled with familiar faces. Today, as I paid for my bucket at the shop and made my way to the range I saw no familiar (or friendly) faces other than Alex’s. The guy at the desk tells me there’s a new guy in charge and there’s been a big turnover in staff. I believe him. Nevertheless, the range and putting green are in great shape and the grass around the green is New England-style thick.

Overall, I’m pleased with my work during my bucket, as a few small tweaks made following the two disappointing rounds that closed out my New England golf summer had their desired effect. In thinking about those rounds I realized I had fallen into a bad habit of my backswing becoming a little too quick and steep, whereupon I would jump at the ball and allow all kinds of inconsistencies to result. By correcting that, I found almost from the start a nice tempo and a return to the way I had been swinging during most of Goodboys weekend.

Not that there isn’t work to do this winter as I try and achieve my new goal of playing bogey golf regularly by next year’s Goodboys weekend. My goals are pretty simplistic and not necessarily that difficult to achieve, but they will require discipline and attention to detail:

1. Improve consistency off the tee. Simply put, I have to be able to find a go-to club when there are narrow fairways I have to hit. My irons have gotten to a point where I have a lot of confidence in my second shots; I now have to find a way to get there more often. Whether it’s via 5-wood or a 3-hybrid – or even a 5-iron if necessary – I simply have to find more fairways off the tee when the going gets narrow.

2. Get more creative with my chipping game around the greens. If there is one thing my golf rounds this year showed, it’s that relying on my pitching wedge all the time for chipping, no matter the lie and distance, didn’t get the job done. Too much inconsistency and throwing shots away. My goal this winter is to incorporate a sand wedge and 8-iron into the mix and see if I can make better decisions around the green that ultimately lead to fewer putts taken.

3. Improve my putting. Simply put, if I want to play bogey golf I have to eliminate the three and occasional four putt. That’s just needlessly throwing stokes away. Without question, an improved chipping game would help, but I need to find a putting technique I can stick with. I already took the first step yesterday by having Maurice down at the local PGA Superstore adjust my putter angle by four degrees so I don’t have to have my hands forward in order to keep the blade flat on the ground; now I can anchor my elbows against my side and stroke it in a way I’m more comfortable and accustomed to. Next, I’m returning to the putting stroke I used a few years ago and committing to that going forward, come rain or come shine. Taking a few putts at the store following the adjustment I already began feeling more comfortable over the ball, so let’s see how that goes.

4. Recognize my golf ADD. I’m not sure what it is, but when I’m out on the golf course I just don’t pay close enough attention to anything. I take too many shots without even considering where I am and what I want to do with every shot. I’m in too much in a rush to take the shot and move on. You can call it ADD, poor course management, or not being “in the moment”, but the fact is, I throw dozens of shots away out there without even considering the consequences. If I want to play bogey golf that simply has to stop. Alex suggested jotting a brief phrase or two about what I’m trying to achieve that particular day (“low and slow”, “be aggressive”, enjoy yourself”, etc.) on a sticky and putting that on my golf card, and then taking it out to see what the hole looks like before every shot. It’s worth a try, for sure.

None of these are nearly as difficult to achieve as all the other changes I made during my Golf Quest 2012. Going from 108 to around 100 took a lot of work; I’m hoping that shaving off the necessary 10-12 strokes to consistently shoot bogey golf can be done with just a few tweaks and some attention to detail. We’ll soon see.

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 02:40 | Comments Off on (At) Home On The Range
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