July 28, 2017

It was all the way back on May 25th that my formal prep for this year’s Goodboys Invitational began. My new bag, flush with new clubs still smarting from a month’s worth of range sessions designed to familiarize myself with my new gear and retool my swing from the bottom up (literally – I began with working on my footwork and weight shift without balls and worked my way up!), was strapped to the back of a golf cart at Superstition Springs Golf Club, and from that point all the work I had put in at the range started being applied in real golf settings. As I’ve mentioned before in this forum, there’s a vast difference between hitting balls at a driving range and playing golf. While you’re still hitting balls, it’s an entirely different thing altogether. One is about grooving a swing, the other is about scoring and putting that little white ball (in my case, orange) in that little round hole in as few swings as possible.

From the very start, my focus was on ball-striking: my irons first and my driver second. Everything else came after that, and I went into this year’s Goodboys weekend under no misconceptions that every facet of my game would be in place. As they say about the baseball season, what I’m attempting to do golf-wise is a marathon, not a sprint, and there was simply not enough time to work on everything. Which was OK – my goal really didn’t have anything to do with winning, or even competing, at the Goodboys Invitational. It was all about building a swing I could rely on that would enable me to enjoy my later years hitting balls and playing golf without worrying about shanking the ball and fighting my swing from day to day.

After the debacle in Vegas last March, where for two days straight all I did was hit shanks with my irons OB left and yank my driver OB right, I knew I had reached a defining moment. Golf had ceased to be fun, and I was more than willing to give the sport up if I couldn’t prevent that kind of thing from happening, not just on a regular basis, but ever. Having my clubs stolen shortly thereafter gave me a new reason to start from nothing and build a new swing from scratch. Not from my swing coach Alex Black, not from that February 2015 GOLF Magazine article by Hunter Mahan I had used, then tossed aside, then used again last year – this was going to be my swing built from scratch by me. Sure, I borrowed liberally from both of these sources (the ideas were too good!), but my main goal was to create a swing that I myself owned, not borrowed from someone or someplace else.

The whole issue as I saw it came down to ball-striking, and the need to hit down on my irons crisply and compress the ball. Reduce the fat hits, reduce the thin hits, and make the kind of contact that caused the ball to jump off the center of the club face. Of course, in order to do that I had to improve my footwork and weight shift, then work on eliminating bad habits I had accumulated over the years, like jumping at the ball and over-swinging. It took a lot of buckets of balls and a lot of trial and error, but two weeks before Goodboys Invitational week it all started to come together in the nick of time.

And the same was true with my driver off the tee. I played with all kinds of alignments and strategies for hitting the ball the way I wanted to, and it was only during the Wednesday of Goodboys week during a twilight nine-hole outing on the back side of Trull Brook that I felt it fall into place. And while I had my share of mis-hits during Goodboys invitational weekend (what 24-handicap wouldn’t?) I felt I drove the ball fairly consistently throughout the weekend, to the point where on numerous occasions where my short game would fail me and I’d three-putt for double or triple bogey I could forget about it and pound a decent drive off the next tee. So in both of those primary areas of concern, all the balls in all the buckets in all that sun and dust and heat and dripping sweat made all the difference, giving me a great foundation to build upon when I pick it all up again.

And it was that foundation that enabled me to persevere even when things seemed to go awry. I went into this year’s Goodboys Invitational weekend a 24-handicap and came out of it the same. But unlike other years, where I didn’t have a clue as to what I was doing right when I played well and likewise when I didn’t, this year I went in with a plan and executed it from the first ball I hit at the range on Friday until the last putt dropped on Sunday. It didn’t always work (that’s obvious!) but I never deviated from my swing nor my strategy – even when things got shaky like on holes 5-8 and 14-15 at Segregansett on Saturday and the first three holes at Triggs Memorial on Sunday. That’s the thing I’m most proud of.

So where do I go from here? Well, I’ll be taking a nice month off from the driving range and the course. The clubs will get a nice bath this coming weekend, and then they’ll have the month of August off (at the very least) before I head back out again in preparation for (hopefully) some fall golf in San Diego at The Crossings and again back home in New England (can someone say, Portsmouth Country Club?) that I have planned.

There’s still work to do, that’s for sure. It was embarrassing how badly I hit my 5-wood and my hybrids, and I’m not exactly sure how I’m going to go about trying to figure them out. If worse comes to worse I could schedule a session with Alex, or I could try to figure it out all out by myself, but either way I’ve got to learn how to hit those clubs consistently. Not that I needed much evidence to the contrary, but this past weekend’s play hammered home the fact that it’s difficult, if near impossible, to shoot the kind of scores I want to shoot (90-95) if I can’t hit those clubs. It’s also painfully obvious I need to work on my putting and chipping more – something I’ll be doing whenever I kick things back into gear. Whether you’re talking about golf in Arizona, or California, or New England, I need to do a better job on and around the greens, and that all starts with continuing to improve my iron play. Hitting more greens in regulation would take the pressure off of my short game and putter, so henceforth GIR will be added to the stats I keep whenever I play alongside fairways hit and putts attempted. It’ll be a challenge, but a fun one at that!

Being a 18-handicap sounds kinda nice, and it’s something I think is achievable, even at my age and with my abilities. We all need that carrot hanging from that stick, so that will be my goal for next year’s Goodboys Invitational weekend: going in as a 18-handicap. Whether I make it or not is not the point – everyone’s got to have a goal to shoot for, and that’s mine. Whether I achieve that goal or not isn’t the point, however – I’ve already achieved what I set out to do when I started this whole thing three months ago. It’s all about putting in the work, and it’s something I’ve enjoyed doing and look forward to doing more of.

Now back to your regular Goodboys Nation weblog programming.

Filed in: Golf Quest by The Great White Shank at 09:19 | Comments Off on Parting Shots
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