July 14, 2017

Days until the 2017 Goodboys Invitational: 7
Location: Superstition Springs Golf Club
Score: 48 / 48 = 96
Handicap: 23.4 / Change: -0.6

The par 5 #8 hole at Superstition Springs is long – over 550 yards, starts out straight and wide (although you really can’t go left because of all the moguls and crap they have over there, and you can’t go right because of the bunkers strategically placed down the right side, so maybe it’s not as wide as it looks) then doglegs slightly right, shrinking to a narrow but long green. It has always been trouble for me, especially because of the narrow approach shot it demands. Today, I had split the fairway with my drive, and for the second-straight par 5 pulverized a 5-wood that left me only 123 yards to the pin.

I was in a great spot and brimming with confidence: not only had I birdied the previous par 5, but I had hit the previous green in regulation (the tight par 3 seventh) with a crushed 175-yard 5-iron before three-putting from 30 feet for a bogey. I felt like all the hard work and driving range visits I’d put in over the past month were finally – finally kicking in. And for once I had a healthy mindset as well: I wasn’t thinking “Don’t f**k this up, you moron!”, it was more like, “OK, you’re in the go-zone, let’s try and birdie this thing!” I pulled 8-iron out of the bag, visualized my target, took a couple of practice swings..

Oops, forgot to take a deep breath. Yanked it ten yards off target into the bunker right of the green, took two to get out, then three-putted again for an 8.

I’m dispensing with the negatives early, because my last round in the stifling heat and humidity (at least for these parts) is finally over. In the past 2+ weeks I’d played golf twice and hit the driving range five times, coming home each time as a walking talking human dish rag, peeling my clothes off as soon as I walked in the door and jumping into the relative refreshment of our 94-degree pool. Today would be no exception, except for one thing: it would be the last time I would have to do this. As I told my clubs as I changed out of my shoes in the blistering Superstition Springs parking lot, their next destination would be a nice bath in a bucket of water, then the driving range at the Golf & Ski in Hudson, New Hampshire where the air would be cooler, the grass thicker, and the breezes refreshing to the skin. It’s been a long, hot, and hard past three months, and I have never (and will probably never again) work as hard on my golf game ever again. But there were fundamentals I needed to get down and a swing change to introduce, and you don’t make that happen going out just once a week and hit a few dozen balls. Simply put, I’ve paid my dues.

While the 96 I shot today was my best round ever at “the Springs”, it wasn’t anywhere near the best I’ve ever played, not even for the couple of stretches where I made bogey or par on three out of four holes (holes 4-7 and 12-15). But what stood out today was the way I kept my mental focus virtually throughout the round. With the exception of a ten-minute stretch between that 8-iron on #8 and a nifty out from the sand on #9 to six inches that even I couldn’t miss for a nifty bogey 5, I kept my wits about me, didn’t over-swing, and struck my irons more consistently than I have all year.

Two examples of my mental toughness: on the par 3 #15 I tried a 3-hybrid from 195 yards and pushed it far left. Downhill lie to an uphill green thirty yards away, overhanging tree in front. Choked down on a 5-iron and smacked it into the bank, where it eased to ten feet away. A gutsy play that earned kudos from my playing partners. Then, on the par 5 #16, the second-highest handicapped hole, big pond and water down the right and water both left and right of the hole, I hit exactly the drive I planned (left side of fairway), hit a perfectly controlled 7-iron to 110 yards, then dropped a 9-iron twenty feet from the hole. Smart plays, good focus, great course management.

Because I was keeping track, I had six opportunities from 120 yards or less to hit the green in regulation and made only two. But that’s OK – these are the kinds of things I still need to work on. But the trend is definitely in my favor: I made a birdie for the second straight round, and, after tracking my scores and handicap on MyScorecard.com for the past five years, this is the first time I’ve broken 100 in three of my last four outings. I can’t – and won’t – say that I’m peaking in time for Goodboys Invitational week, but I now believe all the work in the sun and the heat over thee past three months is starting to pay dividends. Whether it’s swing thoughts or swings, I feel as if I’m getting more consistent with what I’m trying to do. That doesn’t mean it will always translate into good scores and consistent play, but I’m trying to change habits out there on the golf course, and those are the kinds of things that always take more time.

So, while I’m going into Goodboys Invitational week with a bit of confidence there are still things I know I need to work on: those short irons and getting more consistent with my driver. I’ve given up trying to hit my hybrids for now and would only drag them out if I were in the wide-open spaces. And then there’s the damned 5-wood: I had two really great hits today, then on the first par 5 on the back what did I do? Scull it into a fairway bunker. For right now I’ll just have to accept it’s going to be hit-or-miss. But if that’s all I have to worry about that would be a good thing! For Goodboys Invitational week the only swing thoughts I will have in mind is “keeping my Vs” and “compress the ball”. Then whatever happens, happens.

Filed in: Golf Quest by The Great White Shank at 21:02 | Comments (0)
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