July 19, 2017

Days until the 2017 Goodboys Invitational: 3
Location: Green Meadow Golf Club (Jungle Course)
Score: 58 / 56 = 114
Handicap: 24.0 / Change: +0.6

There’s a running joke my Goodboys pals have whenever I struggle playing golf back here in New England (which is, frankly, most of the time. Using their best Quint impression from that classic scene from “Jaws”, they’ll say something like:

“…not like playing some Scottsdale muni, is it Chief?”

And the fact is, they’re right. Playing golf in New England isn’t like playing golf in the Valley of the Sun – it’s not even close. Oh, you have the same clubs, you play by the same rules, and keep score the same way, but that’s where the similarities end. The courses are laid out differently, there are few elevation changes, the grasses used are different and employed in different fashion. The biggest difference is in the rough and where it is deployed. On the courses I cycle through there may be rough – even around the greens – but it’s not nearly as thick. And while there are trees, they’re not big trees with lots of them gathered together and lining the fairways like freakin’ sentinels guarding the Queen’s jewels. The biggest difference is the kind of trouble you can get into. I mean, you can smash balls OB into someone’s back yard or swimming pool, or into a desert area where you wouldn’t want to go into because of snakes and cactus and brush, but in either case you take your penalty, drop a ball, and move on.

And that’s the hardest thing I find getting re-accustomed to whenever I play golf in New England. The idea that the first rule of thumb is that when you get into trouble, get out of it. Swallow your pride, don’t cute, and get out of your predicament as quickly and efficiently as possible. Take your medicine, and along with it the likelihood of a big number.

I didn’t do that yesterday at Green Meadow playing alongside my Goodboys pals The Funny Guy and Doggy Duval, and as you can tell from my score, I paid dearly for it. Trying to advance the ball back on the fairway through narrow openings that would have gotten me closer to the hole than had I gone out sideways (or even backwards) I hit four – count ‘em, four big trees hard and square so that I lost six strokes in just four swings – four shots I had to play over and one that I had to take an unplayable on after I whiffed trying to get it back in play. And that doesn’t count an ill-advised 5-iron on #1 that ended up on gorse worthy of this week’s Open Championship that I should have just taken an unplayable on but tried to hack it out (it went six inches) and whiffed on the next one before giving up. I’m no math genius, but that’s nine strokes just thrown away as if they didn’t mean anything. All of a sudden that’s a respectable (at least for me) 105 that I could have been satisfied with, especially with the other issues I faced during the round.

Let’s go back to the rough for a moment. Maybe some folks think of Green Meadow as a wide-open course for hackers but I found the rough particularly thick if you weren’t playing fairways and greens as The Funny Guy does so well (he shot his usual 88) – especially around the greens. As a result I really struggled around the greens. My putting was typically lousy but not atrociously so (34), but I was pissing strokes away trying to judge how hard I should hit my pitching wedge and under what conditions I should have dropped down to something like an 8-iron. Found myself with a lot of putts short of the hole, and not by any small measure, either. Towards the very end I think I found something – chipping with a flatter takeaway than I would normally be accustomed to – but we’ll see tonight during my final (and traditional) nine-hole tune-up at Trull Brook.

Of course, a lot of the above wouldn’t have happened so much had I been getting off the tee OK, but I had brought to the course with me that ugly push/slice that not just looks awful, but drains loses yardage with every sick yard of trajectory. I kinda sorta figured out on #8 that I had been swaying backward in my take-away and, outside of a couple of holes, drove the ball better on the back nine. But whenever I didn’t, I added to my troubles with poor course management. How does one shoot a ghastly 114 at Green Meadow? By driving the ball poorly (I hit only three fairways), managed the course poorly (no pars, only seven bogeys), and brought with me an abysmal short game (the worst of the year). Sure, I feel like I struck the ball well with my irons all day, but that’s like the old joke, “So, other than that, how did you like the play, Mrs. Lincoln?”

Fortunately, I can take the above as a learning experience ahead of Goodboys Invitational weekend. While time might be short there is still time. I truly feel as if I’m “almost there”. We’ll see…

Filed in: Golf Quest by The Great White Shank at 07:00 | Comment (1)
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)
July 7, 2017

Days until the 2017 Goodboys Invitational: 35
Location: Lone Tree Golf Club
Score: 49 / 48 = 97
Handicap: 23.9 / Trend: 24.0 (no change)

It’s two weeks out from the 2017 Goodboys Invitational weekend and I’m about to tee it up at Lone Tree Golf Club. It’s already damned hot at 9 AM – the temperature on the pro shop thermometer read 102 – heading for a record high of 117. We’re under another Excessive Heat Warning, and the place looked like a ghost town when I walked into the cool, dark pro shop. Oh, there were golfers out there (I saw them as I drove through the main entrance) but they were on the back nine, working their way feverishly to get out of the sun and into a cold pitcher of suds before the real heat started to rise. Alone at the driving range, taking my practice swings with a small bag of balls at my feet, I could feel the heat already rising through the damp ground as if I was playing in Texas or Louisiana. Six balls in, I said screw it and headed straight to the first tee. If I were lucky, I’d motor my way around the course in three hours and get outta Dodge no later than 12:30.

I beat that time by twenty minutes. And a damned good thing, too, because it was really starting to broil out there. As lubed up and hydrated as I was, it was getting hard to stay focused out there. Sure, I wanted to play well, but it was all about survival, and the kind of heat we’re having is nothing to take lightly. Just the day before, while hitting a large bucket at the Kokopelli Golf Club driving range, I heard a fire truck and paramedics drive up to attend to a gentleman who appeared to have been overcome by the heat at the other end of the range. Smacking my opening drive down the left side of the fairway, I looked at my phone, noted the time, drank some water, and kicked into my round into gear.

Lone Tree is a pretty wide open track, but I went into the round in full Goodboys preparation mode. Sure, you can miss the fairways and play the ball off the wide waste areas that line both sides of the course as it winds its way through the walled-in golf community, but I committed myself to considering any drive that ended up in those areas as OB, as if it were New England woods. My Goodboys pal “The Funny Guy” likes to chide me whenever I would hit a ball into the woods back home, saying, “Not like playing a Scottsdale muni, is it chief?”, so for this round and my final Arizona round at Superstition Springs next Friday that’s the way I would play it.

One other thing I did differently today was to try and imagine myself in Goodboys competition. Before I teed off on each hole, I would look at it and imagine a hole I’d played from Goodboys Invitational past. It was both challenging and fun. I might have been out at Lone Tree, but in my mind I was playing at The Ledges, or Breakfast Hill, or The Captains, or Waverly Oaks. It was an interesting exercise, and it made me feel in some ways connected to my buds who are going about their own Goodboys weekend preparations in their own ways.

The 49 on the front nine wasn’t bad, but I threw away a lot of strokes. I had a few opportunities thanks to some decent enough driving, but I couldn’t get the ball on the green in regulation when I had the chance, and to compound the problem my chipping and putting were lousy. Still, I was striking the ball solidly enough, I just couldn’t make anything happen. Taking five shots to get in from 60 yards on the par 4 fifth was embarrassingly sloppy, and the eight I made on the par 5 ninth resulted from taking the same number of shots to get in from 122 yards. Two opportunities to make good scores frittered away as if strokes don’t mean a thing.

The back nine could – could have been magical. I somehow lost my ability to hit my driver straight at the turn and didn’t get it back until the seventeenth, but I was scrambling like crazy. The elderly gentleman who joined me at the turn took to calling me “Seve” for the way I kept escaping out of trouble with my sand wedge and pitching wedge, neither of which I could hit on the front nine. I birdied the par 3 twelfth – an island green, no less! – by flaring a 6-iron from 153 yards to seven feet. I bogeyed the par 4 #13 after hitting my drive into a fairway bunker, then hitting my approach shot into a sand trap and a nearly-impossible downhill lie. On the par 4 #14, I had a sharply-downhill chip to an elevated green and left myself only twelve feet for par.

The reason I say the back nine could have been magical is that it all started to go to shit from there. I four-putted from twelve feet for a triple-bogey seven. On the par 4 #15 I drove the ball into a fairway bunker, then hit a 5-iron to 40 yards left of the green into a gnarly mess of junk. I got applause from my playing partner when I hacked it out to eight inches from the cup. Bill gave it to me, but because at Goodboys you have to putt it all the way in I told him I still had to putt it. I missed. On the long par 5 #18 I wasted a perfect drive with two sculled attempts at a 5-wood, then tried to get cute by going for the pin with a 5-iron from 162 yards protected by a pond. Lying three as I was, the smart play would have been to hit an easy 6-iron right of the pond and try and fade it in, but I was frying both mentally and physically and went for it. I missed carrying the pond by a yard. Instead of playing for double-bogey I made snowman.

I can take a lot from today’s round. Clearly, the work I’ve been putting in at the range is starting to pay off. If I make that 8-inch putt, two-putt instead of that four-putt, and play #18 a little smarter I’d be penciling in a 44 for a 93 – exactly the kind of golf I want to be playing. I’ve still got some work to do at the range: my iron-play from 120 yards in, tightening up my driver a little bit more, learn to hit that damned 5-wood, but I really feel as if I’m close. Superstition Springs – my usual pre-Goodboys week send-off – will be it’s usual challenge and gauge as to where my game really is before I head back to Massachusetts. After today, I’m really looking forward to getting out of this heat and playing golf with my friends.

Filed in: Golf Quest by The Great White Shank at 20:34 | Comment (1)
July 1, 2017

Days until the 2017 Goodboys Invitational: 20
Location: Stonecreek Golf Club
Score: 53 / 55 = 108
Handicap: 23.9 / Trend: 24.2 (+.03)

Going into today’s round I really felt good about my game and the direction it was heading. Standing on the first tee at Stonecreek Golf Club, not only had I’d had three solid range sessions since last Saturday’s round at Trilogy Power Ranch, but I’d had absolutely the best warm-up I can remember having. Stonecreek has always been a tough course for me, but I felt like I was prepared for a good round, and everything was clicking.

Everything, that is, until I yanked my first drive of the day so far right I didn’t even bother looking for it.

And yanked my second drive of the day into a pond.

And yanked a 5-iron far right off the tee on the par 3 third.

Mind you, I hadn’t hit yanks like that since my two rounds in Vegas back in January when I was sick. Starting off bogey / triple / double was clearly not what I had in mind. I’d worked so damned hard on my driver this week, and this is what I get for all that hard work? Still, the situation hadn’t gone totally condition red: I’d made some nice swings to minimize the damage on those holes, and I’d actually settle into a nice groove by the time I found myself smack-dab in the middle of the ninth fairway, 132 yards from the pin. Over the past four holes I’d righted the ship, bogeying two of the last four holes, (including the #1 handicap hole), and would have at least bogeyed the eighth if a crushed 5-wood destined for the center of the green hadn’t hit a bunker rake (of all things) and careened waaay far right. My short game was, of course, MIA, and my putting back to its typical atrocious state (clearly, that hadn’t carried over from last week), but still, I was sitting at 46 with a good chance at a 50 or, at worst, a 51. I could still shoot a low number on the back and turn it into a decent round.

I still don’t know what happened. My playing partner Greg gave me the distance – 132 yards. There was sand both left and right of the green, but the pin was set in front. I mentioned to Greg that I was between clubs – I was thinking about jumping on an 8, but we finally agreed that an easy 7 was the smarter choice. I thought my set-up was good, even took a good practice swing. I visualized the shot, was ready for the kill.

Shank alert! A shank far left beyond the waste area that lined the length of the fairway. I then shanked a pitching wedge even further left. I chunked another sand wedge into the green-side bunker, took two to get out, then two-putted for an 8.

The tenth was a re-run of the ninth: solid drive, but this time it was the 5-iron that was shanked. Then a chunked 6-iron into the junk, then another chunk and another two putt for another quad bogey.

Rinse and repeat on #11: solid drive, a chunked 3-hybrid that went all of four yards, then a yanked 5-iron OB. I chunked my penalty, then bladed a pitching wedge completely off the green, then a putt for my third 8 in a row.

And just to show I didn’t discriminate on par 4s alone, I shanked my 5-iron off the tee. An incredible recovery shot out of the crap (my best in four holes) left me sixteen feet for a par but I four-putted for a triple-bogey six.

All that hard work over the past week gone to crapola. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. The round was gone.

And then, suddenly, from seemingly out of nowhere, I righted the ship. A yanked 9-iron nearly OB was my only poor swing on the par 5 #13 but I continued to drive the ball well and even blasted another good 5-wood along the way. Then I really settled in, going par / bogey / par (a long par 5 and another big 5-wood) / bogey before once again yanking an iron OB on #18 leading to a triple. But in that stretch I had really overcome adversity and played well. It didn’t matter, of course – the round was long gone, but I had my pride to play for and I impressed my playing partners with some great strikes on those holes.

So here I am, less than three weeks out from Goodboys, and I’m not feeling a whole lotta love in return for all the work I’ve put in. Sure, I could argue – and rightly – that after those initial yanks I stuck to my plan of aiming slightly right of center and ended up driving the ball better than I have all year (eight fairways hit). I can also say that after that stretch of three quads I did figure out a way to right the ship. Still, those shanks and yanks – all due to over-swinging or a poor set-up, or probably both – is just mind-numbing, especially after all that hard work. Where’s the fix for that?

The other area of concern is that my short game is terrible. Another round with more than forty putts, and it would take more than one hand to count the number of bladed chips I hit today. I suppose I could hit the range tomorrow and work on my short game, but my inability to take what I’m doing at the range and apply it on the course is what’s killing me right now. And it doesn’t make me feel better to think that I’ve gotten to the point where I can have forty-one putts, lose six balls, chip like crap, and make three quad bogeys in a row, and still shoot double-bogey golf. I’d rather clean the house and do chores.

I’ve got two more rounds to figure it all out before I head back to Massachusetts. I know it doesn’t sound it, but I feel as if I’m this close to putting it all together. Tomorrow I’ll be back out at the Papago Park range, working on everything – including my short game. Everything that transpired today is correctable, just tweaks. I have the basics down, I just have to figure out how to take it to the course and keep it there.

Filed in: Golf Quest by The Great White Shank at 19:39 | Comments (0)
June 28, 2017

I’ve finally gotten to the point in my range work where I can start working on achieving a Vulcan mind meld with my King Cobra F6 driver. It’s been two months since I got my new clubs and I’ve worked harder than I ever have on understanding my swing and focusing on the things I needed to in order to be a better ball-striker. I’m now at a point I’ve never been, like, ever in my golfing life: being able to go to the range and see the same results from one session to another. It’s not only made my range work more enjoyable, it’s allowed me to be able to work on the kinds of little things I’ve never been able to work on before – little things like playing around with opening up the club face a little more, or trying to hit cuts or draws just for the hell of it. Knowing that if I follow the same axioms like set-up, keeping my Vs, and not jumping at the ball and over-swinging I’ll get the same results.

It doesn’t mean I won’t hit the occasional shank or get out of sorts for a few balls, but unlike in the past when doing so would freak me out and send me into a downward spiral of more shanks and greater over-swings, now it’s an adjustment I can make. Just go back to focusing on what I’d been doing right before and it’s almost like it never happened.

I’m not going to lie to you: Matthew’s Five-Minute Fix from ten days ago might sound moronic – it certainly did to the guy I was playing with last Saturday when I told him about it – but maybe it takes a moron like myself to find a swing key in something moronic. It has made a difference in the results I’ve been getting at the range ever since. And that front-nine 44 at Trilogy Power Ranch was no fluke: I followed the same axioms during that nine that I’d been doing at the range the four – count ‘em, four! – days I hit balls last week in 110+ degree temperatures. Sure, the back nine wasn’t great, but looking back on that round I could see where and how it started to get away from me, and I took something away from it.

Which brings me to today’s post: hitting my driver. Because I’ve spent so much time working on my irons, my driver and my putter have gotten the short end of the stick, but at least as far as the driver goes that ended this week. So on Sunday, yesterday, and this coming Friday I’ll get a large bucket of balls, hit six sand wedges, six pitching wedges, six 5- or 6-irons, a few hybrids and six 5-woods, then settle down with the driver for the rest of the bucket.

It’s something I’ve never done before, but looking at Saturday’s round I’ve come to view my driver as the canary in The Great White Shank’s coal mine, at least as far as over-swinging goes. It usually manifests itself around the third or fourth hole where drives that had started out pretty controlled and straight start to get pushed left, and increasingly so as the round goes on until it reaches a point where I feel I have to start steering the club to just find a fairway. You can kinda-sorta get away with that kind of thing out here in Arizona where one can hit bank-shots off the subdivision walls and fences, but in New England those balls are in the woods and long gone.

Right now I’m just trying to figure out much I can get away with as far as shoulder turn and length of swing go. I know if I jump at the ball and over-swing there’s gonna be a big push to the right. Not a slice, a push. Less frequently do I seem to come over the top and yank or pull the ball to the right (the dreaded two-way miss), and if I do that’s a clear indication I’m over-swinging. So I’ve decided on a strategy that takes the left side out of play: square up aimed slightly right of center and allow the Cobra F6′s natural fade to bring the ball left into (hopefully) the middle of the fairway. At worst, the left side of the fairway or the left rough. I’m also deliberately hitting a lot of balls so that I do start to over-swing and have to force myself to cut down on my swing so that I learn how to adjust when (not if) I start doing it on the course. Not baby the swing, not try to steer the ball, just cut down the length of my swing and swing normally.

It’s been a fun challenge to work on something so esoteric as my trajectory and ball flight, but I see it as an indication as to how far I’ve come in the past two months. Having the basic fundamentals down I feel as if I have the time and luxury of truly learning how to hit my driver. Whether this works or not, well, ask me after Goodboys Invitational weekend: like I say, playing golf in the Valley of the Sun is different from playing in New England. But, agreeing with Greg “The Great White Shark” Norman, who says the ball off the tee is the most important shot you hit on any hole, I feel I’m at a point now where if I can keep my drives in the fairway I stand a damned good chance of making bogey or better.

Filed in: Golf Quest by The Great White Shank at 01:40 | Comments (2)
June 25, 2017

Days until the 2017 Goodboys Invitational: 27
Location: Trilogy Golf at Power Ranch
Score: 44 / 52 = 96
Handicap: 23.7 / Trend: 23.9 (+.02)

Would have been a great day for some David Lee Roth out at Trilogy Golf Club at Power Ranch, because crazy from the heat did we get. It was already 105 at 9:30 AM when we teed off, by the time we finished in a tidy 3:15, it was 115. And not a whiff of a breeze out there to move the air around. Definitely the hottest conditions I’ve ever played in out here, tho’ still not as brutal as that day on Goodboys Friday at The Ledges in York, Maine where it hit 105 degrees with humidity. Comparing today like that day in 2013 is like comparing the steam room and the sauna at the Wynn Las Vegas Spa – different kinds of heat, neither suitable for playing golf.

But with just 27 days remaining until Goodboys Invitational weekend I gotta play, so me and my playing partner for the day, Ryan (a 13-handicap, he) kept pushing the fluids to stay hydrated and got the round in and done without getting hurt or getting heat stroke. But it was hot: so hot, in fact, that beside the par 5 7th, in the shade of a large Palo Verde, a family of thirteen – count ‘em, thirteen – rabbits, everything from adults to young ‘uns, just lay there in the open trying to stay cool, not even moving a muscle when we sauntered up to the tee just yards away from them. Wish I had a pic, but that would have meant walking back to the cart to grab my camera. Believe me, there was no extra walking if we didn’t have to.

On to the golf. Obviously if you make the turn – any turn – in 44 you’ve doing something right, but I was scrambling out there because of my driver. One of my take-aways from today’s round is that I have to do a better job of hitting my driver once I get a few holes in. I can feel it starting to slip away from me: my swing gets a little longer, I start pushing the ball out to the left, and by the tenth hole I’m missing fairways entirely. But for that opening nine, my ball-striking was the best it has been all year (thanks Matthew!), and while I missed two putts less than two feet in length, I also made a magnificent (and lucky!) birdie on the par 3 8th out of the sand – on a downhill lie, no less, that came out silky, hit the stick, and dropped into the cup. The short game giveth, the short game taketh away.

It was on the back nine that I started to get sloppy. Maybe it was the heat, but I didn’t help things with some questionable course management decisions. I gave up the prospect of a certain bogey on #10 by pulling my 3-hybrid from 190 yards away (given the hole and the angle a 3/4 5-iron would have been more than enough), but I wanted to hit my hybrids as much as possible today and it was an opportunity. I caught it good and the last time we saw my orange ball it was rocketing its way over the restrooms well left and beyond. Triple-bogey seven. On #12, knowing I was pushing my driver I should have aimed left of the fairway, but there’s a road on the other side of the fence I didn’t want to take a chance with, so my big push left disappeared into the dirt and brush by an adjoining subdivision. Could we have found it? Probably, but in New England that ball was OB in the woods. A couple of sloppy recovery shots and a two-putt, and that was another triple-bogey seven. Fortunately, the par 3s (bogey, par) and the par 5s (par, bogey) kept my back nine from going completely off the rails. Another big push on the par 4 #16 (#1 handicap hole) and more sloppy play (including a shanked 9-iron) led to a third triple-bogey, and a quad bogey on #18 after finding the fairway (including a whiffed 5-iron) led to a 52 that could have been even worse were it not for my short game.

There’s a lot of good I can take away from today’s round – 12 holes bogey or better, 33 putts, much better ball-striking with my irons. I even hit two really solid 5-woods that helped me par and bogey two of the par 5s (needed to see that, fer shure). But looking ahead to Goodboys weekend I’ve got to tighten my game up once I start getting deeper into the round. By the back nine I was falling back into bad habits: over-swinging, playing the ball too far forward, etc., so my work this coming week and my next planned round at Stonecreek Golf Club will be focused on staying within myself. I need to learn to slow down and take more practice swings until I feel exactly the swing I want to make, then replicate it – especially when I’m on the tee. Stonecreek will pose a sterner test than Trilogy, so reigning my excesses in will definitely be needed.

Filed in: Golf Quest by The Great White Shank at 02:43 | Comments (0)
June 24, 2017

Not quite what the Tradewinds sang about, but you get the idea. Yep, that’s the view of the Kokopelli Golf Club driving range, looking from the far right-hand side of the range to the first fairway. It was 11:30 AM on a Friday, the sun was shining bright, the temperature was hovering around 106, and I felt like I was a member of a very exclusive golf club where I was the only member as I walked out onto the range. It doesn’t get a whole lot better than that, does it?

It’s my fourth time out in a week to try and nail down the incorporation of Matthew’s “Five-Minute Fix” into all the work I’ve put in since I got my new clubs six weeks ago. Am I 100% there yet? No. Do I feel as if I’m striking the ball better and more consistently than I ever have? Yes. Will it all translate to the course? I’ll tell y’all after my round at Trilogy Power Ranch tomorrow. The high is supposed to be around 115, and I’m going off at 9:30 AM, so hopefully I’ll be off the course by the time the witching hours of 2 PM and beyond come in. I will say I feel very confident about the changes that I’ve made with a lot of hard work, self-assessment, and, of course, Matthew’s tip. I’m still going to scull or shank the occasional ball, but the key is that when I do so, I know what I did wrong and can fix it pretty damned quickly.

My work on the 5-wood and the 3- and 4- hybrids continues to come along. Just trying not to over-swing and shift my weight with these clubs is so important, and still a work in progress, but I’m not going to play defensively: they either get the job done when they’re called upon or they don’t. But I guarantee you they will get their chance, fer shure.

Hard to believe that one month from today the 2017 Goodboys Invitational weekend will be history, the twelve Goodboys who have spent the last three months or so e-mailing and yukking it up in gleeful anticipation all scattered to the four winds like late autumn leaves. My clubs will find their normal place in the back corner of the garage until the fall, and I’ll go back to my normal routine – there’s lots to do around the house and the backyard.

Until that time, however, I’ll just focus on continuing to get my swing in order. There’s lots of golf to be played in the next month, and I’ll be playing at least once a week until I head back to Massachusetts for the third week in July. This weekend it’s Trilogy at Power Ranch, next weekend it will be Stonecreek Golf Club in Phoenix, with its ponds and gazillion sand traps. The Friday after that it will be back to Lone Tree Golf Club, and finally, two days before I head east, the traditional send-off at the quirky and always-tough Superstition Springs Golf Club. I have a feeling that by that time I’ll have a pretty damned good idea of where my game stands, and I think I’ll be ready. If not, well, let’s not talk like that, keep focusing on the progress I’ve been making. Sooner or later it will translate in scoring – you watch.

Filed in: Golf Quest by The Great White Shank at 02:47 | Comments (0)
June 19, 2017

I’m at the driving range at Kokopelli Golf Club, ten minutes from my house. It’s a bright, sunny late Saturday morning, the temperature already hovering around 100 degrees, and there’s just me and another guy four spots down hitting balls.

The goal of my session was to try and figure something out with my hybrids and my 5-wood. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’d hit them miserably during my round at Lone Tree, and I was determined to at least get to the bottom of the problem if not fix it altogether.

I wasn’t making a whole lot of progress. The 4-hybrid, in particular, was abysmal. I tried playing the ball forward in my stance, back in my stance, in the middle of my stance. Didn’t make any difference. I tried choking down on the 5-wood, playing that in the middle of my stance, then forward in my stance. Didn’t matter – just when I thought I’d found something, it seemed I’d scull the next two balls. Thin hits. Deep-trench fat hits. It was all weight shift, I knew – or at least I thought I knew – but I couldn’t figure out how to fix it. After one particularly ugly swing, I slammed the club on the ground then cursed myself.

The guy who was out there with me didn’t believe in taking his time between balls. I was probably halfway through my bucket when I saw him heading back into the pro shop to have his bucket refilled again. I’d already seen him hitting balls out there by himself as I walked from the parking lot into the pro shop, then I passed him as I walked out with my bucket, he walking inside to get his bucket refilled.

It was getting hot, so I set my club down, grabbed my towel, wiped my face, drank out of my bottle of water.

“You’re not keeping your ‘V’s, mate!”

I look up and see the guy who was hitting balls walking towards me.

“Your ‘V’s are breaking down, mate. I can see it from where I’m hitting.”

Now (at least in my mind) there’s an etiquette out on the driving range that I would never, ever consider breaking. As far as I’m concerned, you keep to your own shit no matter what else is happening around you. I’m not a great golfer by any stretch of the imagination, but I’ve seen beginners hitting balls next or near to me, flailing away hopelessly, and even though I know I could help them with a simple recommendation, I would never consider invading their space. To me that would not just be improper, but rude. I mean, who do I think I am, David Leadbetter?

But here he is, David Leadbetter, or someone who looks like a dead ringer for him, walking towards me. He certainly looked the part: tall, sunglasses, wide-brimmed straw hat (it wasn’t Callaway), that Aussie accent and him calling me mate. Were there other people there I think I would have handled it differently. But since we were the only ones out there, I resisted the urge to say, “Thanks for your concern, podna, but you’re not exactly lighting it up out there yourself from what I can see. If you had, I doubt you’d be on your third large bucket, correctamundo?” Instead, I decided to allow him some of my space.

“I can see why you’re struggling, mate. It’s your ‘V’s. They’re breaking down. Here, let me show you.”

He demonstrates his swing to me, tries to show what it is I’m doing wrong.

“Y’see, if you’re not keeping your ‘V’s, then that makes it tougher to stay on top of the ball. If you’re not staying on top of the ball, then it’s much harder to transfer your weight from back to front. And it’s damned near impossible to make consistent contact with the ball. Let me demonstrate…”

He took one of my balls – I started to raise my hand in protest – but he was on a roll now. “See, this is what you’re doing…”

He takes a swing with his hybrid and stripes it down the middle, 190 yards.

“…well, in this case I guess I made up for it. But what you want to do…” He takes another of my balls, then takes a couple of practice swings “is this…”

He drubs one down the middle about thirty yards.

“OK, well that wasn’t so good.” He then takes another ball of mine and hooks one into the far left side of the range, just next to the first fairway. He then goes into a long spiel about his swing from the ground up, then from the top down. Tells me he used to be a boxer in Melbourne, and that he learned his weight transfer from learning how to throw punches.

“But you have to always be careful not to over-swing. Even if you’re keeping your ‘V’s it won’t make any difference if you over-swing. I’m tellin’ ya mate, you keep your ‘V’s and don’t over-swing you’ll be fine.”

While he’s talking I’m only half-listening, drinking from my water bottle. He’s tall and sun-burnt. When he smiles he has what looks like a gold or wooden tooth in the front. I reach out my hand, ask him his name.

“It’s Matthew, mate.”

I ask him why he’s hitting his third large bucket on such a hot day, and he tells me he’s working on a move where, at the top of his swing, he then turns the shaft slightly to closed before starting his downswing.

“I’m already getting ten more yards with that move.”

I thank him for his time, tell him I’ll definitely take a look at my ‘V’s.

Matthew goes back, yanks his next shot way left into the first fairway. I pick up my towel, wipe my face, take another sip of water. I grab my 5-wood, put the ball slightly forward in my stance, then focus only on keeping my ‘V’s and shortening my swing. Clean contact. The ball takes off like a rocket, 180 yards or so down the middle of the my make-believe fairway. I drop another ball, same thing. Drop a third ball down, same thing.

I look at Matthew, give him a thumbs up. He smiles, drops another ball and hits a big push into the netting separating the driving range from the putting green and chipping area.

It would make for a great story if I said that every ball I hit thereafter was striped down the middle. They weren’t. But I’m guessing the ratio was 70/30 good hits and sculls. And even with the sculls I could immediately feel that I had strayed from the program. I went back in, got a small bucket and started working my hybrids into the same program. Again, 70/30 decent shots to crap sandwich.

Halfway through my bucket, Matthew grabbed his now-empty large bucket and headed for the pro shop.

I went out on Sunday with just my hybrids and 5-wood, this time at the Papago Golf Club range. Different day, different range, different conditions, little bit hotter. I followed Matthew’s advice to the ‘T’ and found myself hitting the same ratio of solid hits to poor hits – something like 70/30. More importantly, I committed myself to two very simple, easy to understand swing thoughts: keep my ‘V’s and don’t over-swing. The idea being, if I do that everything else will fall into place all by itself. Thanks to Matthew, I’m starting to gain confidence in clubs that, just a little more than a day earlier, I had zero confidence in.

Sitting in the cool, dark Mexican restaurant over a margarita afterwards, I thought back to Saturday. I had finished my small bucket, and the heat was really starting to come on. Walking back to my car, I stopped and turned around to look in time to see Matthew, the only soul in sight, stripe a hybrid down the middle, then yank the next one into the first fairway.

Matthew may not be David Leadbetter, may not even be a good golfer, but as a golf instructor he’s good enough for me.

Filed in: Golf Quest by The Great White Shank at 01:50 | Comments (0)
June 17, 2017

Days until the 2017 Goodboys Invitational: 35
Location: Lone Tree Golf Club
Score: 50 / 53 = 103
Handicap: 23.7 / Trend: 23.7 (no change)

It’s a good thing I’ve got more than a month to go before Goodboys Invitational weekend because it’s clear that, while I’ve been working harder on my game and my swing than I ever have, I’m not seeing the kind of progress I would have expected to see at this point.

When I last played Lone Tree Golf Club a year ago, I shot 87, my lowest round ever. Now I wasn’t expecting to shoot another 87 this time out (there are too many things I’m working on), but a 103 is still pretty disappointing. Right now I just can’t seem to put good shots and good holes together. I’m having to do way too much scrambling out there, my hybrids and my 5-wood are absolutely killing me, and I just can’t get comfortable with the yardages and my new Steelhead XR irons.

A look at the raw numbers tells the story: I hit ten fairways today, yet played those holes fifteen over par and hit only one green in regulation. That’s just not getting the job done. The course played almost 6,500 yards, so there were some long par 4s, but that doesn’t excuse one quad and two triple bogeys. Granted, had I been trying to shoot as low a score as possible I would have left the 5-wood and the hybrids in the bag, but I’ve got to learn to hit them sooner or later. I thought I’d been baking progress at the range with them, but they killed me today. My putting improved a little bit (35 putts, six less than the last time out), and those ten fairways hit showed my recent work with my weight transfer is starting to pay off with the driver. I also did a better job out of the sand today than I have been doing, so that bucket of balls I hit solely out of the sand last weekend helped out.

My biggest issue continues to involve my iron play: the way I’m hitting them at the range still hasn’t translated to playing real golf. Today it seemed I was always “in between” and questioning my club choice, and then I started jumping at the ball and yanking them on the last four holes. I realize that between trying to change years of bad habits out there and breaking in new irons I’m not going to see results overnight – especially when I’m playing one time a week at the most, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t frustrating.

There’s a big difference between hitting balls and scoring, and right now the scoring part is eluding me in a big way. I’m not giving myself any chances at making par right now, and as long as that’s happening one can’t expect to shoot a good score. All I can do is keep working at it and have faith that sooner or later all the work is gonna pay off. The improvement I’m seeing right now may be only incremental, but improvement it is – I’m not lost out there like I was at times last year: when I make a bad shot I know what I did wrong, and when I make a good shot I know what I did right. The 5-wood and the hybrids remain a mystery but I will figure them out sooner or later – hopefully sooner.

With the big heat coming on there won’t be much of a chance for hitting balls next week. I’ve still got four rounds of golf planned before I head back to Massachusetts for Goodboys Invitational week, and then I plan on playing at least twice before Goodboys, so there is still time, but for right now all I seem to be doing is treading water.

Filed in: Golf Quest by The Great White Shank at 01:07 | Comments (0)
June 4, 2017

Days until the 2017 Goodboys Invitational: 40
Location: Trilogy Golf Club at Power Ranch
Score: 50 / 52 = 102
Handicap: 23.7 / Trend: 23.7 (no change)

Let’s start with the gory details about a round played under cloudless skies on a Saturday where the temp was 90 when we started, a blazing 106 by the time our foursome finished in a tidy 4 hours 15 minutes. The last two times I played at Trilogy Power Ranch I shot 94s, today it was eight strokes higher. I wouldn’t say TPR is a difficult course, but you have to work your way around it and bring your short game with you and today I didn’t. My chipping was sloppy and my putting on the fastest greens I’ve played in a long time was as bad as I can remember it being (41 putts). Pretty easy to see where those eight extra strokes came from, isn’t it?

That being said, I’m feeling pretty frustrated at my inability to replicate all the hard work I’ve been putting in at the driving range not just hitting balls but attempting to learn my swing – what works, what doesn’t. I started off hot today: bogeys on the first five holes without anything less than a two-putt. So I was hitting the ball pretty well. Then it all came apart: I lost my tempo, lost the feel for my driver, started jumping at the ball and over-swinging, playing the ball too far forward in my stance – all the old familiar swing demons – and I couldn’t make the necessary adjustments. And even at that, I discovered I can take one less club on all my yardages with the new Callaway Steelheads then I did with my old RAZR-Xs. So that, I guess, is a plus.

I’m still having a murder of a time trying to hit my new Cobra 5-wood and my hybrids, and today it really cost me. As much as I would have liked to simply keep pulling one 5-iron after another, if you’re not getting long off the tee (which I wasn’t) you gotta try and get some distance somehow. Not to mention the fact that on those occasions when your driver is making change on the dollar it would be nice to have another club you can fall back on, which is something I don’t have right now. Hitting ground balls to the second baseman is not a desired outcome!

The good news is that, unlike in past years, I know the way out of this mess. So it will be back to the driving range again, back to working on ball position and tempo with my irons, weight shift and tempo with my driver, and trying figuring out what I’m doing so wrong with the 5-wood and the hybrids. It’s not like I can’t hit them: I wouldn’t have bought them at the PGA Tour Superstore if I hadn’t hit them solid in the bays there – it’s a puzzle that simply has to be solved. And as far as my putting goes? I have to chip better and get the ball closer so that I don’t have to work so hard on the greens.

I’ve still got plenty of time before Goodboys Invitational weekend to nail this stuff down but clearly there is more work to do.

Filed in: Golf Quest by The Great White Shank at 01:05 | Comments (0)

goodboys.jpg


Search The Site



Recent Items

Categories

Archives
July 2017
June 2017
May 2017
April 2017
March 2017
February 2017
January 2017
December 2016
November 2016
October 2016
September 2016
August 2016
July 2016
June 2016
May 2016
April 2016
March 2016
February 2016
January 2016
December 2015
November 2015
October 2015
September 2015
August 2015
July 2015
June 2015
May 2015
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
January 2015
December 2014
November 2014
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014
April 2014
March 2014
February 2014
January 2014
December 2013
November 2013
October 2013
September 2013
August 2013
July 2013
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
February 2013
January 2013
December 2012
November 2012
October 2012
September 2012
August 2012
July 2012
June 2012
May 2012
April 2012
March 2012
February 2012
January 2012
December 2011
November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
August 2011
July 2011
June 2011
May 2011
April 2011
March 2011
February 2011
January 2011
December 2010
November 2010
October 2010
September 2010
August 2010
July 2010
June 2010
May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010
January 2010
December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
August 2009
July 2009
June 2009
May 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
January 2009
December 2008
November 2008
October 2008
September 2008
August 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
February 2008
January 2008
December 2007
November 2007
October 2007
September 2007
August 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007
January 2007
December 2006
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006
April 2006
March 2006
February 2006
January 2006


Blogroll

Syndication

4 Goodboys Only

Site Info