May 13, 2017

It was during my last test drive of irons at the PGA Tour Superstore that Cain, the sales associate and golf instructor wannabe referenced in this post, offered up a couple of suggestions after watching me hit some balls. I’ll repeat the pertinent aspects here for the purposes of this post:

…[Cain] also didn’t like the position of my club at address, it was tilted too far forward. He wanted to see the shaft pointing out of my belly button.

…Cain explained to me that having the club leaning forward in my stance and my grip taken together promote mis-hits because the club face was never square at contact.

He: “I’ll bet you pull a lot of shots to your right.”

Me: “When I’m not shanking them to the left.”

He: “No wonder you fight the shanks. You seem to have to work really hard to keep that club face square when you come through the impact zone. You need to think about the changes I suggested. Otherwise, every swing you take is a shank waiting to happen.”

Ever since that conversation I’ll admit to being haunted by it, because I knew deep down everything he had said was true. Because for the past few years, outside of a couple of nice (albeit short) good streaks I had prior to the last two Goodboys, I’ve really struggled with my irons – most especially my short irons. Hitting a green in regulation has become a distant memory. Lots of pulls and outright yanks combined with increasingly-regular visitations from the shanks. And I surely didn’t tell him that it had gotten worse – much worse – over the past six months, to the point where I’d lost all my confidence in my irons.

The first time I tried out my new irons at the Kokopelli Golf Club driving range, I wasn’t surprised that they didn’t make a damned bit of difference in how I hit them or how well they performed. It doesn’t matter if you’re Tiger Woods or a 24-handicap: put a set of clubs in your hand – any set of clubs, from any manufacturer – and you’ll end up shooting around the same score. It’s not the clubs, stupid, it’s the person hitting them.

It didn’t take my new irons long to realize they weren’t in Kansas anymore. I shanked the first four balls hit with my brand spanking new pitching wedge. After which I yanked a couple way right.

“I can’t live like this”, I said to no one in particular after apologizing to my new clubs – after all, they certainly didn’t deserve this. And it was then I decided that Cain might be right: it was time to throw out my whole set-up at address with my irons and start over. From scratch.

It was a big change I’d be making, almost like learning how to hit a golf ball all over again. Who knows how long I had taken to holding my irons like that at address? Maybe it had been years. Maybe it was just a bad habit I had fallen into recently – after all, I’ve never had the shanks as bad as I’ve had them since last fall. And I certainly don’t remember my swing coach Alex Black mentioning anything about it during any of lessons together. But when you’re hitting your irons as bad as I have been there’s clearly nothing wrong with throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Two trips to the driving range and four buckets later, I can officially say I’m in no man’s land, struggling with the new set-up, but confident that if I could ever get comfortable with the club position at address Cain suggested I’m going to hit the ball a lot straighter and more consistently, which is what it’s all about. I remember reading somewhere that noted golf instructor Dr. Jim Suttie has said it takes a thousand golf swings to implement a swing change, and I’m feeling it right now. Holding my irons at set-up without any kind of forward angle feels foreign and awkward. Instinctively, I want to use my upper body to come through the ball because I’m so afraid to shank the ball. Which is stupid, because I was having so much trouble with the shanks prior to this change. I guess that’s why Dr. Suttie also has that great saying, “Golf is hard.”

Right now I’m so in between that the ball is going everywhere: shanks, pulls, slices, chunks, skulls. But every once in a while – and today I was able to keep it together for a dozen swings for the first time before losing it again – when I’m able to stay quiet, not jump at the ball, staying quiet with my upper body and just focus on making solid contact with the ball it travels high and, most importantly, straight. I’m not worried right now about distance: I figure that will come later as I learn to make more solid contact and gain some confidence. For now I just want to hit my short irons straight.

Which is something else I’m doing different that I’ve never done before: outside of a couple of balls with every club the first time out just to see how they felt, the only clubs I’m currently hitting are the pitching wedge, 9-iron, and 8-iron, nothing else. There’s a method to the madness: these are the scoring clubs. If I want to play bogey golf (that’s still my goal; right now 2027 looks like a good target year!) I have to chop six strokes off my handicap. And the only way I’m going to do that is to get better results whenever I’m inside 120 yards. I’ve looked at my performance over the past few years and have carefully watched the games of my Goodboys I play with most regularly, and know my sloppiness and inconsistency inside that range is what has been holding me back the most. So those three clubs are the only clubs I’m hitting right now, and that’s how it will stay until I’ve learned to hit them consistently. And the same holds true as far as playing actual golf is concerned: there will be no practice rounds, either. If it takes me up to Goodboys Invitational weekend (or even beyond that), so be it – I’m committed to making this change and will do it come hell or high water.

Filed in: Golf Quest by The Great White Shank at 01:42 | Comments (2)
2 Comments »
  1. To the Great White Shank:
    Great post!! I think the golf instructor was right on when he said it is your address at the ball and not the club?

    Remeber, Cubby’s old game is to hit the pitching wedge, 8 & 9 iron as hard as he can because he gets the most consistancy(forgiveness) with those clubs. I’ts the wrong approach, however I hit my 4 iron as long as my driver at the range. I could toss my woods out of my bag & probably cut 5 strokes off my game. I’m not the one to take advise from but it sounds like this guy knows what he is talking about.

    I respect your game because you work very hard at it
    and you will get to the point you want. I will miss “Goodboys” weekend, i’m doing much better.

    Have fun & hit them straight!

    Cubby.

    Comment by Ronald Myerow — May 17, 2017 @ 4:09 pm


  2. Thanks for the comment and the kind words, Cub. Goodboys 2017 won’t be the same without you. As much as I respect what Cain was trying to tell me I had to abandon that change – I just couldn’t get comfortable with it and shanked the hell out of ever ball I hit. I think it’s more important to simply try and live with the swing I have, recognize the tendencies that cause me to pull and yank the ball, and dance with the girl I’ve brought to this dance called life.

    I mean, hell, look at Jim Furyk. Look at Arnold Palmer. Look at Ryan Moore. My God, Bryson deChambeau for gawdsakes. They’ve got their own swings, their own moves, and they’ve learned how to make it work for them. Why can’t The Great White Shank do the same?

    The good thing about this whole process is that it has allowed me to really try to understand my swing – what works, what doesn’t. I think I’ve found a few keys I need to follow, will be working on that the next time at the range. If, that is, I ever get over being sick!

    Comment by The Great White Shank — May 17, 2017 @ 7:03 pm


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