December 13, 2013

…wasn’t that a familiar quote from the late Art Linkletter?

It’s a Tuesday afternoon a couple of weeks ago at the Superstition Springs driving range and it’s unusually crowded. My swing guru Alex Black has a putting clinic going on and most of the stalls are filled with folks of all ages whacking balls, the air filled with the sound of balls being hit one after another, countless white orbs taking all kinds of crazy trajectories. A large flock of geese is really taking their chances with their own circular moves as they try and figure out the best landing approach to the lake that hugs the ninth fairway just beyond the mounds and clubhouse to our right.

Fortunately, my favorite stall (the farthest on the left, just adjacent to Alex’s teaching area) is vacant, so I set up shop there. That day, I was trying to solve a mystery and work out the kinks of my tee game – kinks that had slowly started creeping in during Saturday of Goodboys weekend and progressively got worse during the rounds I played with my bro down in Georgia in August and my Goodboys mates to close out their own golf season back in October. Sure, every now and then I could really catch it, but increasingly I was spraying the tee shots all over the place and worse, losing balls (and strokes) left and right – literally! Just as Jesus did his best work teaching and problem-solving in the temple; I was there to do the same thing that day at Superstition Springs.

It isn’t working. I’m all over the place and getting quietly frustrated at just how big all my misses are. Were I back in New England I’m losing balls in the woods; if I’m playing at Superstition Springs or Trilogy at Power Ranch, I’m bouncing balls off of people’s houses. So I take a break to just take in the beautiful afternoon and watch others down the line hit.

The kid next to me is a dead ringer for a young Rickie Fowler. He’s got the look down – the flat-billed Puma cap kind of askew, the little bit of facial hair, and the handsome looks with a swing to match. Were I a sophmore or junior coed, he’s the dude I’m going to put my best flirt forward on. Like most kids out here his age, he’s got a big athletic swing, and he hits it a mile effortlessly. But what really gets my attention is that he’s got that club twirl all the pro golfers use down jake whenever he knows he’s hit it flush. (Ed. note: I don’t think any of the Goodboys do the club twirl, not even the good players like Killer or The Funny Guy.) I find it fascinating, not only because I’ll never hit the ball good enough to warrant doing the twirl move, but even if I were to try it, I wouldn’t know how to do it like this young Rickie impersonator does, with a cocky mot du jour on it.

He takes a pause to clean his driver and I compliment him on his swing. “Great club twirl”, I add, “you don’t see that too much out here. And I really like that high fade you hit, it’s something I’m trying to work in consistently with my woods.”

“It’s easy”, he says, as if I had just asked him for directions to the local Taco Bell. “I just try and take the club back very straight and bring the club through by clearing my hips out early and finishing up high. Anyone can do it. Here, go ahead and I’ll watch you.”

I take a couple of awkward practice swings and realize right off the bat that I had fallen into the habit of taking the club back too much inside, then bringing it through using the same trajectory and finishing up too low, a little beneath my right shoulder. The other thing I realized was, by taking the club back straighter and clearing my hips earlier in the downswing, I could create more lag and power as I released my wrists and finished higher, now above my right shoulder. Rickie gives me an approving look and I step up to the ball with my 3-wood.

“No driver?”, he asks, as if the idea of using anything else off a tee was akin to kissing your sister.

“Let’s not get stupid”, I reply. I set up a little right and take the swing just as I had practiced.

“Crack!” The ball takes a big, high flight, with a little fade at the end, the ball dropping out of the sky as if it had been dropped from the bomb bay of a B-52 bomber.

“See, anyone can do it”, says Rickie with a shy grin. “You can play that all day. You aim a little to right of center and just fade it in.”

Like they say, light dawns over Marblehead. Or is it, “Kids say the darndest things”. Whatever. All I know is I’ve just fallen in love with this little tiny swing change that has made such a big difference. Talk about your immediate gratification! Over the remaining balls in my bucket it takes a little time to get used to this move – I top a few, even hit a few hooks and banana slices as my body fights the new change. Another phrase comes to mind: “familiarity breeds contempt”. Now I have to train my mind and body to eschew what I had been doing for the past few months and embrace and commit completely to this new move.

A few days later, I take this new move out to Kokopelli Golf Club and make a mess out of the first four holes. Perhaps in earlier times, I’d panic and ditch the new swing for the more unpredictable, yet familiar swing to simply get around the course with my manhood intact. My playing partner, a seven handicap, even asks me if I’d like some advice – something I firmly but politely decline. Starting on five, however, the swing finally kicks in, and not only only does this lovely high fade start becoming more consistent, I’m using my driver – of all clubs – on even the narrowest of holes and still get the job done. I end up hitting six of the last ten fairways and just miss hitting two others – something I haven’t done, like, almost ever.

This little swing change has done wonders for my confidence. Since that round, I’ve hit the range twice more just to see if it’s all still there, as if it were some kind of a dream. While I suppose I could tee the ball lower to squeeze out a few extra yards there’s something beautiful about this new way the ball jumps off my woods and settles so softly with that right-to-left fade that I just love-love-love. And seeing broken and bent wooden tees littered around the hitting area tells me I’m now generating some serious power through the ball. Best of all, unlike most other swing changes I’ve implemented – whether through Goodboys friends or even Alex – this one has (at least for now) stayed with me and held up the longest.

It’s not like I’ll be joining the PGA Tour any time soon, but if I can gain confidence and consistency off the tee it will allow me to turn my attention to other parts of my game that have been holding me back: most especially, my course management and my short game around and on the greens. For a while there I had started losing a little of the ground I had made up with all the lessons and the rounds played up to and including Goodboys; now I’m back to making progress, and it will be interesting to see how – and if – it translates into lower scores when I play my last two rounds of 2013 in the next few weeks.

Filed in: Golf Quest by The Great White Shank at 18:23 | Comment (1)
1 Comment
  1. […] Paper Tiger, before all the hard work, and, most especially, before the new move courtesy of that Rickie Fowler look-alike, I never actually knew what game or swing I would find whenever I hit the driving range. It was […]

    Pingback by GoodBoys Nation - Archives » A Day At The Range — January 18, 2014 @ 1:49 pm

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