November 10, 2018

Target Handicap: 20.0 Handicap: 26.9 / Change: (-0.6)
Location: Trilogy Golf at Power Ranch
Score: 48 + 50 = 98

So there we were, my Goodboys pal “Killer” Kowalski and I, toodling around at the Golf & Ski driving range in Hudson, New Hampshire on a late Saturday afternoon in September. It was cool and cloudy, the range was chewed up all to hell, and you really had the sense that the season was getting ready to close in on itself. Killer was doing some chipping (something he has always excelled at), and as I had been struggling with my short game all year, I asked him for some help. He told me to make sure there was no lean in my shaft at impact, and to play the ball in the middle of my stance (as opposed to back in my stance as I had been doing). Voila! all of a sudden I was getting some loft in my chips, which made me very happy.

I didn’t play very well the next day when we played a round at The Overlook in nearby Hollis, and I played OK enough a couple of weeks later at TPC Scottsdale (but much better around the greens thanks to Killer’s advice). Still, I was still struggling with my hybrids and 5-wood as I had been all year long. One night, while enjoying a soak in the tub, it suddenly hit me that the same advice Killer had given me for chipping around the green should also apply to all my clubs, no matter what kind of shot I was hitting. And so, last weekend I hit a large bucket of balls at the range with only one thought in mind: make sure the club was perpendicular to the ground at impact. What I found out seemed pretty cool: 1) in doing so I was allowing my arms to have a wider swing arc, 2) it made me stay on top of the ball longer instead of falling back as I was prone to do, and 3) it helped keep my shoulders quieter and thereby reduce my tendency to yank my irons. It seemed to work pretty well at the range, so I was eager to try it out under game conditions.

It was Chamber of Commerce weather at Trilogy Power Ranch – light winds, plenty of sun, temperatures in the mid-70s and I was bringing with me a plan of attack that I can’t remember ever bringing to a golf course before: I was going to hit all my clubs, and do so without fear. Playing from the blue tees at 6,350 yards and on a course with plenty of wide fairways and bail-out areas around the greens, it was a perfect venue to try out my approach.

The results speak for themselves: while I got credit for only four fairways hit I was pretty much on or just off them all day. I converted three of five greens-in-regulation opportunities. One par, twelve bogeys, three doubles, a triple, and a quad. But the quad was the only hole I let get away from me following one of only two real poor drives all day. I made bogey on all five par 3s, and played the four par 5s four-over. Most importantly, whenever I had the opportunity to hit my 3 & 4 hybrids (and there were a half-dozen) I hit them beautifully – the best I can ever remember. Same with the 5-wood.

Cases in point: # 7 is a dog-leg left with a pond at the elbow on the right. While the shot demands a 5-wood or hybrid as a second shot, I was always fearful of yanking either of those clubs into the pond, so I would always play it as a par 6, basically. Today I grabbed the 5 and smoked it as far as I could hit it. Got it on the green in three but three-putted from sixteen feet for bogey. Oh well. The 175-yard par 3 #8 has sand bunkers and that same pond from #7 pond on the right. Previously, I would never attempt a hybrid here out of fear of pulling it right. But I pulled the 4-hybrid and hit it purely straight, leaving me just off the left side of the green. Chip on, two putts, walked away happily with my bogey four. And then on #18: another pond on the right. Because even a good drive would leave you a fair distance out I would always lay it up and try and get within pitching wedge distance. Today, my drive left me in the fairway a good 185 yards out. Pulled my 3-hybrid and hit it dead straight just off the green left. Another chip, another two-putt, another satisfying bogey.

And there were no yanks with the short irons from 125 yards in, either – in fact, I think I got back those 5-10 yards I mysteriously had lost right around the time of Goodboys weekend in July. On #2, just off the fairway left with 135 yards to the hole I picked 8-iron since I didn’t want to leave myself above a left-front pin. Previously I’d be concerned about a yank right where a sand bunker protects that side of the kidney bean-shaped green. Not only did I hit it straight, it went all the 135, leaving me just off the green in back. On the #13 par 5, I had only 112 to an uphill pin in two after a solid drive and another big 5-wood, then flew my 9-iron 125 yards to another zip code at the far back of the green. But I still got my two putts for my only par of the day.

So it was a good day, with much progress made. I played from beginning to end with a confidence in all my clubs – something I don’t recall having too many times, if ever. While I wasn’t totally happy with the 34 putts, there was no sloppiness around the greens that had been my forte all year. But unlike even rounds where I shot a better score than today, I didn’t shy away from any shot I wanted to attempt. And it gives me quite the sense of accomplishment and the confidence to give the same approach a try on a course that offers a sterner challenge. We shall see what becomes available in two weeks’ time.

Thanks, Killer – you “da man”!

Filed in: Golf Quest by The Great White Shank at 19:48 | Comments Off on Thank You, Killer
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