June 23, 2019

9:30 AM on a Sunday morning at the Kokopelli G.C. driving range. It’s a sleepy time of day – the first foursomes of the day are winding their way through the back nine, and a handful of hackers are out there working on their swings. I should be working on a presentation for senior management illustrating the initiatives I’ve recently put in place to foster collaboration between our India-based and North America-based teams to improve the quality of product delivered to our clients, but, dammike me it, I had a crappy day out on a golf course yesterday, and The Great White Shank is not one to let sleeping dogs lie.

The first thing I did after purchasing my medium bucket is to find a place on the far right side of the Kokopelli driving range to make for myself the tightest friggin’ fairway possible: a twenty-yard strip of dirt between the net shielding hackers like me from those finishing up on #18 and the more grassy area preferred by the majority of those who were whacking balls to my left. What I wanted to do is test what, if any, residual there was leftover from yesterday’s meltdown at Stonecreek G.C. That would tell me if I could truly chalk it up as just a bad day or if additional troubleshooting and intervention might be needed.

It didn’t take more than a few balls to tell me there was a fundamental problem here. Sure, the ground I was hitting off of was a bony as an 85-year old Katherine Hepburn, but the first six balls – three 3-hybrids and three 6-irons – between them couldn’t have achieved more than two feet of height. Understand, I hate skulling balls – it goes back to ancient days when I was first learning to play the game. Not being able to hit a hybrid or an iron in the air technically means your swing has bottomed out behind the ball and is just starting its ascent at contact (something I learned from this month’s edition of Golf Digest), but in practical terms it means you suck at golf and ought to be considering gardening, porn, or taking a theater company on a musical version of The Silence of the Lambs nationwide as an alternate form of recreation.

It was starting to get a little warm out there, so I slurped a grape-flavored Gatorade G2 and took stock of what was going on, and I mentally noted four main deficiencies in my swing:

1. I’m not squared up at stance at address (I’m too open).
2. Rather than staying on top of the ball and coiling, I’m swaying backwards. Meaning that…
3. …I’m not posting up on my right side, thereby hindering the down-strike to square the clubface and compress the ball.
4. My feet are too wide at address, also limiting my ability to square the clubface through impact.

The Gatorade was refreshing. I looked up and the four people who were hitting balls with me had disappeared. It was just me and the guy driving the ball machine. The idiot ran over the rope that marked the hitting area and all of a sudden it was like a serpent unleashed in Loch Ness – I actually had to leap to avoid being slapped by its recoil.

The first remediation – and this was hard – was deciding to abandon the flatter take-away and bigger coil I had been using since that Easter Sunday session at the Superstition Springs driving range. While it was a great idea at the time (and, truth be told, it got me at least ten yards more on my irons when I caught it flush), I just couldn’t square the club face consistently, and, more often than not, resulted in either a push or (gasp!) the dreaded shank. So I decided to go back to my former, more upright,take-away where I kept the clubface square instead of opening at take-away and closing at impact. Immediately, I started seeing: a) better contact with the ball, and b) a higher trajectory in my ball flight.

The second remediation was to reduce my (somewhat) wider stance at address and bring my feel into alignment with the width of my shoulders. Just taking a few practice swings I could feel a bit more flexibility coming in and – because of my more upright take-away – an easier means for posting up on my right side.

Finally (and this applies to both the driver and any irons I might be hitting off a tee) I went back to my swing instructor Alex Black’s suggestion that I use the alignment arrows on my golf ball to point where I want to hit the ball and then align my stance at address accordingly. Maybe others can just drop a ball on the ground or place it on a tee and just hit away, but I have a fundamental problem with my stance at address being too open all the time. It could be because of my eyes and the fact that, because of the Lasik I had done twenty years ago, I really only play golf with one eye (my right). I found using the ball to help me align my stance almost immediately got rid of that big fluffy push to the left that was killing my distance and causing me to miss fairways.

By the time I had finished my bucket, I felt like I was in a much better place than when I started (which, come to think of it, is what the driving range is all about). I still have a few adjustments to consider – most especially with my irons. As in, do I hold the club leaning somewhat forward at address or try to keep my club perpendicular with the ground? And, recognizing why I went to the flatter swing plane to begin with, how do I handle the tendency to pull my irons right of the green when there are GIR (green in egulation) opportunities. What I’ve decided in my own way is, given the choice between an open clubface pushing the ball short and right or pulling it long and left, I’ll go with the latter and drop down a club if need be.

I’m not sure who it was who said that everyone is born with a swing that you feel most comfortable with, but I’ve decided that I’ll work with the swing that feels most natural to me – which is a more upright take-away with the clubface kept square for a longer period of time (i.e., “outside the plane”) with my irons and try and accommodate the pull tendencies with less club and focusing on keeping my upper body as quiet as possible. As for my driver and hybrids, I’m not going to screw around with them so much: rather, I’ll focus on squaring up at address and shortening my stance to accommodate a better coil and post-up on my right side and let ‘er rip for better or worse.

Sure, it would have been nice to have self-corrected what was happening during yesterday’s round at Stonecreek, but that’s just something I’m not capable of doing. I admit that. I’ve always been more of a “feel” golfer than a technical golfer, and as long as it feels good I’m jes’ gonna keep on doing it, even if it leads to a 117 on the scorecard. But what I’m most proud of is that, even if it took a good sixteen hours, I have deliberately and technically worked my way out of the abyss and once again am feeling good about the changes I’ve made to my golf swing. Will it last? Time will tell.

Filed in: Golf Quest by The Great White Shank at 20:43 | Comments (2)
  1. Sounds good partner!
    Go with whatever works

    Comment by Ronald Myerow — June 24, 2019 @ 3:06 pm

  2. Stop overthinking things! Just go out and enjoy the experience!

    Comment by Dave Richard — June 24, 2019 @ 4:52 pm

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