May 4, 2014

I’m fourteen months removed from my first golf lesson with Alex Black and before I go any further, let me just say that he has played a huge part in transforming my game. Unfortunately, Alex isn’t the one swinging the clubs, and I now find myself stuck in an awkward somewhere between the swing and game I used to have, and the one we’ve been cultivating together. For sure, the ability to hit real shots – the kind that create a sense of exhilaration and accomplishment – with greater regularity has been gratifying, especially considering the amount of work I’ve put in over the past year. But then I run into stretches where all the work I’ve been putting on seems to go for naught when I’m putting up the big number.

By big number, I’m talking triple bogey or higher. And while a big number on the occasional hole once or twice in a round isn’t going to hurt you too bad, a couple of additional quadruple bogies and quintuple bogeys will tear your round to shreds, destroying all the otherwise good work you have put in. And the problem I’m dealing with right now is the gradual influx and alarming return of the big number in a big way. No matter how many pars and bogeys you put up, a few (or more than a few) big numbers will wreck your round, and pronto.

For me, the big number never presents itself exactly the same way twice, but it usually involves not being able to get out of trouble once I’m in it, or getting into trouble courtesy of my 5-wood or the 3- and 4-hybrids – three clubs I just can’t seem to hit consistently. And the trouble doesn’t have to be like deep woods or water, it can lurk just a few paces off the fairway, like yesterday when, after a solid drive that ended up on dirt no more than a couple of yards off the fairway, I shanked a 5-wood into someone’s yard, then, taking a drop, pulled a 5-iron across the fairway where I had to take another drop after an unplayable lie. A mangled chip and two putts later, I’m staring at a quintuple bogey ten. On Friday, I had put my drive dead center of the fairway on a tight par-4, then shanked my 7-iron approach shot. Two chunky chips and four putts from twenty feet later, I turned a fairway hit into a quadruple bogey eight. And that was just two holes after I had posted a quintuple-bogey ten on the par-5 opening hole (don’t ask what happened there).

The problem with these big numbers – other than, of course, your ballooning score – is that they create tension and subconsciously force you to play defensive golf and take defensive swings to avoid making another big number, which in turn only increases the chances for more big numbers. Not to mention the fact that ultimately you’ll wear yourself down trying to avoid hitting bad shots when you should be trusting your swing and just letting it all happen naturally.

And yet, even with the big numbers, I know I’ve improved since working with Alex. The two 103s I put up on Friday and Saturday would have been 112s or better in pre-Alex times. Consider: on Friday my 103 featured nine holes where I played bogey or better against six holes with triple-bogey or worse; on Saturday (where my swing pretty much fell apart during my warm-up and I never really got it back), I had ten holes at bogey or better against four holes at triple or worse.

Clearly there is work left to do, but I’m not exactly sure where the problem lies. Certainly, I need to hit my longer clubs better, and I still have work to do on the course management front. What really bothers me is how I lost my swing: during my Friday warm-up at Papago Golf Course I had been hitting the ball great, then I shanked a 7-iron, then a pitching wedge. I have no clue where that came from (then again, who knows where the shanks come from, they’re just like a virus), but all of a sudden I found myself not trusting my swing any longer and trying to avoid shanking shots. I found my swing on the back nine, but then lost it again during Saturday morning’s warm-up at Trilogy Golf Club and never found it again during the whole round.

I was so frustrated that after Saturday’s round that I headed right back to the range and hit a large bucket just to free myself from all the negative thoughts. I made a couple of minor adjustments with my ball position and set-up, and got my swing working with all my clubs (including 5-wood and hybrids). Not sure how these changes will translate going forward, but there was no way I was going back home with my tail between my legs and me moaning, “I’ve lost my swing!”.

But that’s golf – once you think you have it all figured out you’re back at square one trying to put all the pieces back together. And with just a little over two months to go before the 2014 Goodboys Invitational, that’s not exactly the place I want to find myself in.

Filed in: Golf Quest by The Great White Shank at 02:09 | Comments (3)
  1. “but I’m not exactly sure where the problem lies”

    Between the ears, Doug.

    You’re trying too hard. Golf is a GAME. It’s recreation.

    NOT work.

    For 4-5 hours, you’re supposed to check yourself out of the asylum known as “life”, and enjoy the fresh air and sunshine along with (hopefully) the company of a few nice fellow inmates who have also checked themselves out of their asylum.

    You know what I take away from the rounds I play? Not the shots I screwed up, but the ones I striped. I marvel at that drive down the center of the fairway that went 200 yards; that 20 foot putt that JUST lipped out; the 9-iron that went almost as high as it did long and stuck on the green like it was Velcroed.

    Do I remember them more because they’re rarer than the bad ones and the average ones? Sure. But I always know there are more of them out there the next time I play, and it gives me a perspective that my NEXT shot might possibly be just like one of them. I’m in awe of what I can occasionally produce on a golf course, and do not dread the mess I can leave behind.

    Chill, bro. It’s just a game. Enjoy the blessings of a life that allows you to be able to play it at all.

    Comment by Dave Richard — May 4, 2014 @ 7:37 am

  2. I’m not much of a golfer but it sounds like there’s not a lot of love being returned for the amount of work being put in. Have you thought about tennis?

    Comment by Jim — May 4, 2014 @ 11:23 am

  3. […] of Doug “The Great White Shank” Richard, who, given all the controversy surrounding this past Sunday’s post, invited me down for a one-on-one interview. Rather than being on the defensive and combative in […]

    Pingback by GoodBoys Nation - Archives » Answering The Critics — May 6, 2014 @ 12:24 am

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