December 23, 2013

So today I’m playing at Superstition Springs, hoping to get a couple of rounds in before the end of the year while most of the company is on holidays. When you’re playing as a single, as I normally do out here, you can get hooked up with just about anyone. The vast majority of the time it’s good company so I don’t mind at all – in fact, I typically find it easier to play with strangers than with the Goodboys because there’s nothing on the line and no expectations you have to meet. Most of the time you’re playing with folks of average skills; sometimes – as I was today – you’re hooked up with sticks (players with plus handicaps, slightly better than your usual scratch golfer).

It was my second time playing with sticks. Like the sticks I played with the first time, Both Cabe and Eric were your normal young and athletically-built dudes who not only could hit the ball a ton, but had short games you would die to have. Just the sound of the ball coming off their club faces was a beautiful thing to behold. Better yet, unlike the sticks I played with at Trilogy back in May, these guys just seemed like all-around good guys. So when they suggested we all play from the championship tees – marking off at 6,770 yards – it was hard to say no. I just told them I’d give it a try.

After we all hit our balls at one – all of us in the fairway, Cabe and Eric sixty yards past my drive – I was trying to think of the longest course I’ve ever played, and I’m thinking it was one time when we played the gold tees at Portsmouth Country Club at 6,600 yards. But Portsmouth doesn’t have small greens and water like Superstition Springs does, so I knew from the start I was in uncharted territory. Still, I couldn’t think of a better way to try out the changes I’ve made in my swing to improve accuracy off the tee and my chipping and putting strokes to see how well they’d hold up under the pressure of playing with a couple of really good golfers.

There’s no point in sugarcoating the 54 + 58 = 112 score I put up; I headed off the course with Christmas-related stuff left to do with my tail between my legs. Chalk it up to the six balls lost to the various ponds and lakes, the 40 putts made on greens I never was able to adjust to, and a whopping +10 on the par 3s (!). Chalk it up to some very poor shot decisions and sloppy greens play that really cost me. Regardless, what’s most disheartening is that, even with all the hard work I’ve been doing lately, I’ve shot 110 or greater in three of the last four rounds I’ve played, so I’m obviously moving in a different direction than I was going into Goodboys weekend.

I was at my car and putting my stuff in the trunk when Cabe came walking up to me. “I know you’re not pleased with your score, Doug, but you’ve got a good swing there. If you don’t mind me offering a suggestion – I know what you’re going to say – but I think it would really help you out. I didn’t want to say anything while we were out on the course, but technically I think you’re doing a lot of good things out there, making a lot of good swings. Right now you’re not seeing it, but keep it up and I think you’re going to be OK. Sometimes you have to take a step backward to go forward, if you know what I mean.”

Normally in these cases, I’d offer up a polite “thanks but no thanks” – after all, you can’t bullshit a bullshitter, right? – but in this case, neither Cabe nor Eric were jerks and we all really did enjoy playing our round together. Besides, Cabe’s a really solid player – I mean, dude shot 70 and had four lip-outs that would have put him well into the 60s – so who was I to brush him off as if he were some insect on my shirt?

“You really need to work on your focus out there. Too many times you’re just moving the ball out there without any purpose. The one thing I’ve learned over time is that you need to find your box and stay in it the entire round. Doesn’t mean you have to be some a$$hole robot, but you have your box and whenever it’s your turn to hit you enter that box and stay there until you’ve hit the shot you planned. I know you know it, but you’re throwing away strokes, and it’s not because of anything to do with your swing. What’s your lowest round you’ve ever shot?”

I tell him about the 90 I shot at Lone Tree back in June.

“You should be shooting 92s and 93s, and I’ll bet you could even shoot 87, 88 if you really caught the torch. I’m not bullshitting you – I saw some of the shots you were making out there on a really tough course for someone of your abilities. And I don’t mean that in a demeaning way.”

“None taken”, I reply. “It was a pleasure just to play with good players like you and Eric. I actually learned a lot.”

“Find the good players and play with them as often as you can. Talk to the pro and ask him who the players are. See if you can arrange your rounds around theirs. More than anything else, try and work on your focus. I know you feel as if you didn’t play well today, but I think you’re really close to putting up some numbers.”

We shook hands and went our separate ways. The traffic was awful with all the last-minute Christmas shoppers, but I didn’t mind – Cabe gave me a lot to think about. Perhaps today wasn’t as much a waste as I thought it was.

Filed in: Golf Quest by The Great White Shank at 23:21 | Comments Off on A Step Backward (Again)
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