October 24, 2015

Back in Arizona the 2015-16 golf season is just beginning to heat up. The trickle of snowbirds is about to become a steady stream, the golf courses are lush and green, and the greens fees are as high as the courses can reasonably make them. Here in New England it’s quite the opposite: the days are getting shorter and colder, the sun low in the sky, and soon the clocks will be turned back, making it nearly impossible to hit a bucket of balls after work.

Still, last Friday afternoon was more than nice enough to get in a few hours work on my game, and it needed it. I hadn’t played since Goodboys Invitational weekend back in July, and I knew hitting a couple of buckets of balls back in Arizona in preparation for my trip back to New England wasn’t the same thing as playing. Still, I had shot a solid 48 on the back nine at Pease Golf Course on Tuesday but could tell my short game was in as bad shape as it had been all year. And it showed the following day with a ghastly 113 at Hickory Hill in Methuen, where not only could I not hit an iron straight all day, but chipped and putted abysmally. Work was fairly quiet on Friday morning, so I took the afternoon off and headed to World Cup Driving Range in Hudson, New Hampshire to try and work out some kinks ahead of a planned round with fellow Goodboys “Killer” Kowalski on Sunday at my #1 favorite gold course in the world, Portsmouth Country Club.

And it was there you could really feel what the end of the golf season looks like here in New England. Normally on a Friday afternoon the place is packed: the large field dotted with golfers of all ages and skills in the hitting areas set about in a large half-circle around the property. The same with the putting green and chipping area – always packed. So it felt weird to walk into the shop, plunk my $10 bill down and see only machines there to cough up the tokens. As I walked out, clubs clinking over my shoulder, it was weird to see the place so empty – just a handful of golfers silhouetted against the low October sun:

And on the putting green, just a lone individual chipping balls as yellow as some of the autumn colors behind him:

Still, even with the cool breeze, it didn’t take long before I was warm enough to abandon my pull-over. I hit a few balls and tried to think as my golf instructor Alex Black would have me do. I soon found the cause of my errant iron play: I was set up with my grip way too strong and my club face slightly closed at address. No wonder my shots were starting right and going even further right! Putting my grip to neutral and opening the club face a bit I was back to hitting a slight fade (not the power draw that Alex has been encouraging, but good enough for now), and working on not jumping at the ball. I got a second bucket and to work solely on my 100-yard in play, which has been poor all year. I never really got to where I wanted to be, but the work I got in left me in a much better place.

By the time I headed to the putting chipping area, the gentleman I had photographed had left and I had the green all to myself. I didn’t even bother to try and chip balls as I had been doing – playing the ball back in my stance and using some wrist action. Instead, I put the ball in the middle of my stance and started hitting balls without any wrist at all, a la Steve Stricker, and started seeing a higher ball flight and better distance control. I probably chipped a hundred balls, and at no time did anyone else ever join me there. Around 4:30 you could feel a chill coming on, so I put my pull-over back on and chipped a few more before calling it a day.

I have two more rounds of golf here in New England before going back, and as far as my 2015 New England golf season goes, that will be the end of it. And I’m guessing for a lot of folks around here the same holds true.

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 01:52 | Comments (0)
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