September 1, 2016

Target Handicap: 18.1
Location: Superstition Springs Golf Club
Score: 50 + 48 = 98
Handicap: 24.1 / Trend: 23.6 (-.5)

Hard to believe it was only six weeks ago that I last teed it in competition on Goodboys Invitational Sunday – it felt like a year ago. But nevertheless, it was time to kick off The Great White Shank’s “Six Strokes Across America” tour. The goal being to reduce my handicap (the handicap we Goodboys use as our bible) from 24.1 to 18.1 by March 1.

Seven months, six strokes. Doesn’t sound like much, but while the difference between, say, a 18-handicapper and a 24-handicapper may not be as noticeable in terms of who the person is swinging the clubs, it most certainly is when it comes to scoring with them. Simply put, the only way I’m going to knock six strokes off my handicap is to improve those areas of my game to where they can compare favorably against fellow Goodboys who have handicaps in the mid-to-high teens. And for today’s exercise let’s talk about the game of “The Funny Guy” Andrusaitis ( handicap: 14.1), and how it compares to mine.

TFG can get it off the tee, for sure, but I’m not certain he can get it that much better than I can. Where the difference lies is what happens after his tee shot. Not only does TFG give himself more opportunities at par by hitting greens in regulation far more than I presently do (his short-to-mid iron play is, in my view, to die for), but he also doesn’t make mental mistakes (a.k.a. “unforced errors”) like I do. And while he might three-putt on occasion, he rarely throws away strokes carelessly as if they don’t mean anything like I do. And just as importantly, he also has an incredibly short memory when it comes to bad swings or bad outcomes – a quality every good golfer needs to have.

It’s, then, what happens after the tee shot where the six strokes I need to knock off my handicap lies. As TFG says, we’re all crappy golfers and are going to make bad shots from time to time; the trick is to not make them worse by amplifying their importance by compounding them and allowing them to influence the rest of your round. As Dr. Jim Suttie, renowned golf teacher says, “Golf is hard”; no need, then to make it harder on yourself through mental mistakes and careless play and decision-making.

There were no press, local or national, present when I stepped up to the first tee at Superstition Springs Golf Club when I pulled driver to formally kick off my “Six Strokes Tour”. Actually, there was no one around at all – the course was virtually empty. A slightly yanked drive to the right left me a really bad lie below my feet just in front of a big mama sand trap, but I was able to pick it clean. A chip on the green and a missed two-footer for par (there would be several of these today) started me off with bogey.

And so the front came and went without much fanfare. Even though I only hit three fairways in total, my only truly bad drive came on nine, resulting in my first lost ball of the tour. My return to my old chipping stroke resulted in a chip-in for par on the par 3 third, but some sloppy play around the green on the par 5 eighth resulted in a bogey when I was only twenty feet away for par. My putting was rusty – three missed putts from four feet or less, but more importantly, I let three golden opportunities to hit the green in regulation get away from me (see above!).

I started hot on the back nine, bogeying ten and eleven, but on the par 3 twelfth I pushed a 5-iron left of the green, then took two swings to get it on the green, then 3-putt from twelve feet for a triple bogey. The kind of play that simply can’t be allowed to happen on the “Six Strokes” tour! (It wouldn’t be the only par 3 on the back I triple bogeyed, BTW: the tee shot on fifteen that I though was pulled right into a bunker must have bounced into the pond even further right since I never found it. A drop, a crappy chip, and another three-putt made it two triples.) Fortunately, I fairly made up for those two holes with a par on the brutal #14 (pulverized drive, smart lay-up, chip to one foot) and a bogey on the #1 handicap hole, the par 5 seventeenth, with water everywhere and a semi-island green. I pushed my drive left but hit two 5-iron punches along the canal that lines the left-hand side, staying away from the water to ~ 130 yards, then dropping an exquisite 7-iron to six feet (applause from the group behind me – it was a beauty) but missed the damned par putt which would have been really something.

I threw away a couple more shots on 18 with some sloppy play all around to come in at 48 for a 98, but …whoa, all of a sudden it just got very dark here, looks like we have a dust storm blowing in… but by that time the humidity had come up, it was around 104, and I was ready for a cold, dark, 19th hole. And I’m satisfied with that 98 for my first time out in a while, on a very tough course, especially given the fact I played from the green tees at 6,700 – count ‘em, 6,700! – yards, the longest course I’ll ever play, and that I had to shake off some rust while breaking in a revamped short game.

All in all I felt like I started my “Six Strokes” tour off in the right direction. My driver was fairly solid all day, as were my iron play. Need to tighten things up around the greens (as usual), but I’m confident it will come around in time. I’ll take a .5 decrease every time out, for sure! I’m glad I chose Superstition Springs for my kick-off event, but frankly, I’m hoping this is the last I see of it for a while. It’s a tough course with a very quirky finish. I’m ready for some new challenges. And just think, you’ll all be coming along with me for the duration!

Filed in: Golf Quest by The Great White Shank at 17:42 | Comments (0)
August 29, 2016

GILBERT, AZ (UPI): Following several days of mounting speculation and rumor run amok, The Great White Shank, one of the “founding fathers” of Goodboys Nation, and the founder of Gooboys Nation weblog, officially announced the kick-off of his 2016-17 “Six Strokes Across America” tour. Standing before a crowd of, well, no one, on The Great White Shank’s “Margaritaville patio” on a sun-drenched Sunday afternoon in the Valley of the Sun, Executive Director Gaylord Pellrine described the upcoming tour as, “a chance for The Great White Shank to greet his many fans and share his goal of taking six strokes of his handicap with the general public. Because, after all, he’s one of them, and they’re, er, uh, one with him. I think.”

Asked how many events The Great White Shank has planned for this tour, Pellrine responded, “The Great White Shank wants to play as much as possible, and in as many states as reasonably possible, between now and April 1, when he traditionally begins his preparation for Goodboys Invitational weekend. So, without knowing for sure, let’s just say it will be somewhere between the number of concerts Prince has scheduled for this year and the number of years Hillary Clinton will end up in prison once the Trump administration’s Department of Justice gets through with her.”

Pellrine announced the tour’s kick-off event will be held at Superstition Springs Golf Club in Mesa, AZ this coming Thursday, September 1st, with the next outing planned for Stonecreek Golf Club in Phoenix approximately two weeks hence. In addition, Pellrine announced plans to play Las Vegas National Golf Club on Thursday, October 6, and a New England leg of the tour planned for sometime mid-to-late October. Pellrine wouldn’t speculate on the New England courses that might be played during that leg, saying only that, “There are a number of courses who have reached out to us, and The Great White Shank looks forward to playing courses he has come to know full well.”

Superstition Springs Golf Club in Mesa, AZ was quick to respond to The Great White Shank’s announcement:

“Superstition Springs Golf Club is honored to be chosen as the kick-off venue for The Great White Shank’s 2016-17 “Six Strokes Across America” tour. We guarantee the course will be ready and waiting for him, and we humbly suggest he not forget to bring every facet of his game with him.”

Las Vegas National Golf Club also issued a statement in response to The Great White Shank’s announcement:

“Las Vegas National Golf Club, home of the legendary ‘Rat Pack’, welcomes its inclusion on The Great White Shank’s “Six Strokes Across America” tour. We’re sure that if Dean, Joey, Sammy, Peter, and Frank were still alive they’d be kicking themselves at the thought of TGWS teeing it up with them at our wonderful golf club. We wish TGWS the best of luck in his endeavor and look very much forward to his presence this coming October!”

While Pellrine declined to announce additional future venues for the Tour, it is widely speculated that courses in the San Diego and Myrtle Beach areas, as well as the state of Texas are also being discussed as possible venues.

Filed in: Golf Quest by The Great White Shank at 02:21 | Comments (0)
August 25, 2016

So last Sunday I finally decided to unpack the clubs from my travel bag and head out to hit a bucket of balls for the first time since Goodboys Invitational weekend. It felt good, and I’m pleased to say the swing is still there. My handicap presently sits at a 24.1; my goal for the coming year is to be at around a 18 by the time the 2017 Goodboys Invitational comes around. That’s six strokes to knock off, and I really think as a goal it is more than doable. The scores I posted during Goodboys weekend were OK enough, but my game inside 100 yards was abysmal.

It was at the turn on Goodboys Sunday that I decided to ditch the ridiculous Steve Stricker / no wrist technique I’d been playing around with starting around the turn of the year. While it’s true there were a couple of rounds where it seemed to work really well, it just killed me the first 54 holes of Goodboys weekend. So I went back to my old chipping technique simply to survive on Sunday, and it felt pretty comfortable.

After hitting a bucket on Sunday I spent the better part of an hour just chipping around the practice green at Papago Park, making a tweak here and there on my old technique to get it to a point where I felt it needed to be. I also hit half a bucket of pitching wedges and sand wedge to 60 yards and less, working on keeping my feet planted instead of coming up out of it: a bad habit I realized I had fallen into who knows when. Bottom line: I’m committed to working really hard on my short and not-so-short game in the coming weeks, as that’s where those six strokes will come from. A better short game means less putts, and less putts bring lower scores.

Everything else is there.

My swing coach Alex Black thinks I have the ability to get down to more than a 18: he thinks I can get to down to a 14, perhaps even a 13. We’ll see. But for now, a goal of six strokes seems like a great place to start. I’ll tee it up for the first time since Goodboys weekend a week from now, and I’m eager to see how the changes to my short game play out.

Filed in: Golf Quest by The Great White Shank at 20:30 | Comments (0)
July 14, 2016

Days until Goodboys Invitational weekend: 2
Location: Trull Brook Golf Club
Score: 49
Handicap: 23.8

A few of us Goodboys have made playing the back nine at Trull Brook a tradition over the years, and it’s a good test: A couple of tight holes and a couple of wide-open ones, all situation amongst rolling hills. It’s a nice way to gauge where your game is before you start teeing it up for real. There have been years where we got off early enough to get in as many as thirteen holes before darkness sets in, but this year we had just enough daylight to get nine in. The other guys were yukking it up (as usual) on seventeen, but as I stood on the hill in the growing dusk breathing in the fresh, clean air my thoughts were on Arizona and all the hard work I’d put in over the past four months to get me to this point.

Not to be lying four on the sharp, dogleg-right then uphill par 5: I’d crushed a 5-wood that split the fairway, then (for the second time – see below) mistakenly pulled my 3-hybrid instead of the four – I was using a pull-cart and my clubs were all sitting upside down from how they’re usually sitting standing up in a golf cart – and pushed it way, way right, then getting back into position with a 7-iron before leaving my 64-yard pitch just off the green right. No, I was thinking of the last six weeks and everything that had happened in my life since my last lesson with Alex Black. Golf has been more than just hitting balls with my Mom’s passing, it has been a much-needed diversion from real life. This past Saturday, I’d finally chosen to abandon completely the upright take-back I’d been employing since seeing that Hunter Mahan article in the February 2015 GOLF Magazine and going with a lower (flatter) takeaway – not just with my irons, but with my woods and hybrids as well. And the difference has been pretty marked: I’m now driving the ball straighter and longer than I ever had. The Goodboys are a tough bunch, so when you’re getting complimented on how well you’re driving the ball you know you’re doing something right.

On #10, my 240-yard drive left me on the uphill – something I’d never done before in the countless times I played there. A crushed, 250-yard drive on the uphill, dogleg left par 5 #12 left me only 210 to the middle of the green. On #14, a slight, uphill par 4 with a creek running ~ 190 yards from the tee that traditionally I’ve never tried to drive, I hit probably the best drive of my life: a dead-straight 230+ yard blast that left me only 110 to the pin. Doesn’t sound momentous, but you gotta understand: I’ve played these holes probably forty times over the years and have never found myself in territory like this. It made me feel as if all the process of discovery and tweaking this and that in between all the sadness and stress going on around it had been worth it.

Of course, it wasn’t all peaches and cream: a slightly-pulled pitching wedge left me off the green right and three putts gave me a double-bogey six; on twelve I meant to choke down on a 4-hybrid but mistakenly pulled the three instead and yanked it OB right, leading to a double-bogey seven. Throughout the nine I continued to struggle with my short irons and my short game (16 putts), but I did end up parring #14 as well as the par 3 #11 and par 4 #18, so the 49 I ended up posted sounded about right. But, boy, looking back, it could have been so much lower.

So that as they say is that: tomorrow the Goodboys Invitational starts and I’m as ready as I’m going to be. I know I’ve been trying to be too fine with my chipping and need to be more aggressive, forgetting about those lightning-fast Arizona greens. Of course, if the Plymouth courses feature faster greens than what I’ve been playing the last two days at Green Meadow and Trull, all the better, but I simply have to bear down and get the job done. It won’t be for lack of trying, however – my game is in the best state it has ever been, ball-striking wise. Now it’s just a matter of finding confidence and executing as I know I can.

Filed in: Golf Quest,Goodboys by The Great White Shank at 06:51 | Comments (0)
July 13, 2016

Days until Goodboys Invitational weekend: 3
Location: Green Meadow Golf Club
Score: 52 + 49 = 101
Handicap: 24.2 / Trend: 23.8 (no change)

Great to be back in New England and playing golf on the same kind of courses I can expect to play this weekend at the Goodboys Invitational. While golf in Arizona is the same game and useful in crafting one’s swing, it is primarily around the greens where the difference lies: in the Valley of the Sun the greens are typically flatter and rocket-fast, and there’s not the kind of swales and rough around the greens that you see around these parts. As a result, and I guess it is to be expected, that my first prep round this week would feature a few struggles around the green. While I knew I’d probably make a few more putts than the 32 I’d been averaging to date, 41 putts is still completely unacceptable. Seven holes with three putts and one hole with – gasp! – four putts.

To be truthful, it wasn’t just the putter to blame here: my game from 110 yards in was pretty abysmal. I can think of three 9-irons that either never hit the green or left me putts from a gazillion feet away. I can think of several chips from just off the green that went completely awry. Taken together, when you can’t put it relatively close to the pin you’re putting way too much pressure on your putting game.

The good thing is that these are relatively easy fixes, and I could feel myself starting to get more comfortable around the greens as the round went on. So all is OK: had I made, say, six fewer putts, that’s a mid-90s score. One or two shots that didn’t get away from me and I’m looking at, say, a 92 or 93 that would be perfectly acceptable. And even though I only marked three ‘X’s indicating fairways hits all day, there were more than a few holes where I was just off the fairway, so I drove the ball pretty well. As a final tune-up, I’m still in a good spot heading into Goodboys Invitational weekend.

The next time I tee it up for a full round, the scores will really count.

Filed in: Golf Quest,Goodboys by The Great White Shank at 06:58 | Comments (0)
July 5, 2016

Days until Goodboys Invitational weekend: 11
Location: Superstition Springs Golf Club
Score: 49 + 50 = 99
Handicap: 24.2 / Trend: 23.8 (-0.4)

Funny how golf is. Most of the time we high-handicappers post a score we trudge to the 19th hole, plop ourselves down in front of a brewskie and our playing partners and bemoan those six or seven shots that got away from us, truly feeling (whether rightly or not) that we left shots out there that kept us from posting a real low score.

Today was not one of those days.

I chose the title of this post for two reasons: 1) I feel damned fortunate to have escaped from the clutches of Superstition Springs Golf Club with a 99, and 2) I’m ecstatic at the prospect of not having to tee it up there again for a very long time. In both ways, I have escaped the torture of the Springs and the special form of punishment it seems to reserve for The Great White Shank, no matter what game he brings to it.

I was actually feeling pretty damned good about my game going into today’s round. Per a suggestion from Alex Black during my last lesson I bit the bullet and tweaked the take-back on my driver in order to gain a more repeatable swing, and had had one of my best range sessions of the year yesterday. As a result, I think I had the best day ever driving the ball at the Springs. But the problem with the Springs is that it doesn’t care one way or the other: you can struggle off the tee and make good approach shots. You can hit the ball well off the tee and be just a hair off on your approach shots (as I was today). Or, you can hit the ball well off the tee and hit good approach shots and struggle with your short game, as I did on several holes today. It doesn’t matter: the Springs will find a way to penalize you to the umpteenth degree. In short (as you’re probably guessing by now), you have to have all cylinders firing on your game in order to post a low number at the Springs, and you can never relax, not for one shot, or you’ll be looking at double-bogey so fast it will make your head spin.

Today it seemed no matter what I did the Springs did everything it could to make breaking 100 excruciatingly hard. Every bounce – and I do mean every – seemed to go against me. A slightly pushed 5-iron off the tee at the par 3 #3 hit something and bounded far left, leaving an incredibly tricky pitch under a tree that I was lucky to just get back near the green. My approach with a pitching wedge on the next hole was a foot from being perfect; instead it bounced uphill into a pot bunker. Rather than having at worst a two-putt for bogey I ended up with a quad eight. Balls that typically bounced left would go right, and vice-versa. And not for anything good.

What held my game together today was my driver and my putter. The scorecard would show only six fairways hit, but by and large I was on target nearly all day. And between holes six and eleven I one-putted five of those holes. I’d like to have that pushed tee shot left on #14 that ended up in the pond, but it was the crappy 5-iron I had no business trying to get to the green that went OB that pretty much sealed my fate for the quad-bogey eight that resulted. As the back nine went on and the heat began to really cook both me and everything around me, I was grinding on every shot – even the two-footers I had left for bogeys and double-bogeys coming in. The Springs wasn’t giving anything away for free, and when I tapped in a two-footer for my double-bogey and a 99 their was no sense of joy or angst or anything: I was just numb, physically and emotionally drained, just glad to get the hell out of there.

With only eleven days to go before Goodboys Invitational weekend I’m not in a bad place. The Springs is just a damned tough course with no holes whatsoever that even begin to fit my eye. Had I played any other course, say, Trilogy at Power Ranch or Lone Tree or Stonecreek I really think my game today was good enough to hang something in the low 90s up there – my tee game was that good. But I know there’s still some work out there to do: I have to get more confident with my irons – Alex would be on me about not trusting my swing and fighting my weight shift. And I’ve got to figure out where the hell my 5-wood and my 3- and 4-hybrids went: I’d been hitting them so well recently and today they really hurt me on some holes. But these are minor things: as I say, Superstition Springs demands precision and accuracy on virtually every hole, and speaking only for me (others may feel differently) I can never relax when I play there. Disaster always seems to be around the corner, and the pressure to consistently make good shots doesn’t translate well to my swing.

It will be interesting to see how my game translates to New England golf and the pressure of a Goodboys Invitational weekend. My game seems quite different from the last time I teed anything up there, and I’m looking forward to the challenge. As for Arizona golf, I’m pretty much done for the year, but I’ve made great progress: I started the year as a 26-handicap and have take more than two strokes off it since. So I’m trending well heading back to New England and looking forward not just getting away from the heat, but Superstition Springs as well.

Filed in: Golf Quest,Goodboys by The Great White Shank at 01:24 | Comments (0)
June 11, 2016

Days until Goodboys Invitational weekend: 35
Location: Lone Tree Golf Club
Score: 44 + 43 = 87
Handicap: 25.6 / Trend: 24.2 (-1.4)

I wish I could tell you there was a point in time during today’s round at Lone Tree Golf Club where I felt everything came together and that I felt “in the zone”, but that never happened: playing alone on a warm, humid day in the Valley of the Sun, I simply stayed in the moment, playing the shot in front of me, not worrying about the last shot, not thinking about the next shot, not concerned about the numbers I dutifully scribbled on the scorecard. My only swing thought throughout the day was to not over-swing and to focus on my weight shift practice swing, as my swing coach Alex Black had shown me at our last lesson, then let it fly.

I won’t lie to you: my performance last week at Superstition Springs hurt, really stung, and so I spent a lot of time this week – four trips to the range – working on ridding myself of the bad habits that had crept into my game over the past six weeks like, to quote Stevie Nick’s wonderful lyric in Fleetwood Mac’s “Angel”, a ghost through a fog. I’d always been prone to over-swinging – my “death move” being finishing off on my back foot with my front foot on what I call twinkletoes, but in the past few weeks it had gotten so bad that I had lost control of my driver and was shanking my pitching wedge. So the trips to the range this past week, even with all the heat and in the sun, focused on only two things: weight shift, and not trying to kill the ball.

I’d played Lone Tree well in the past, shooting 90 once, but I remember that particular round more for taking advantage of the subdivision the course winds its way through by way of a number of fortuitous bounces off the walls that line so many of the holes than anything else. Oh, and the meltdown on the par 5 #18 when I realized I only had to triple-bogey the hole to break 90 but made nine instead.

I know it sounds the height of arrogance – especially after shooting an incredible forty-one (count ‘em, 41) fewer strokes than my round at Superstition Springs just a week ago, but the fact is this was pretty much a rocking-chair 87. Being consistent off the tee all day I was never in any real trouble except for the island green #12 where, having to take a drop after going just short with a 5-iron from 155 yards out, I really put pressure on myself to put a pitching wedge on the deck from the 70-yard drop zone. Which I did, knees shaking, but then three-putted (my only one of the day) from thirty-five feet.

Usually, I can look at a round and say that I left x number of strokes out there through bad shot-making or bad decisions, but the 87 was pretty much right on target. If I got lucky with a sand wedge chip-in for birdie on the par 3 #8, I had to take a drop with penalty on the par 4 #17 because a foursome all of a sudden appeared out of nowhere behind me, and I had no time to look for my tee shot which at last look was headed dead straight down the center of the fairway. But those are the breaks.

…Come to think of it, there was a sequence of shots that, if anything else, defined today’s round. On #7, a 433-yard par 4 with a pond lining the right side, I push my drive left through a fence and into a neighbor’s swimming pool. Rather than take a drop, I hit my third off the tee and pulverize it dead center of the fairway, leaving me 187 to the pin. I grab my 4-hybrid – a club I’ve struggled with all year – and hit it flush. A click, a couple of bounces, and I’m left with a putt of sixteen feet, which I then proceed to leisurely two-putt for a very nice double-bogey six. That one felt pretty good, I’ll tell ya.

The numbers don’t lie: eight one-putts or less, eight fairways hit (six on the back), two birdies (my first of the year), five pars (two of the three par 5s, including that pesky #18), and six bogeys. And while Lone Tree is no Superstition Springs, it’s no slouch either: nearly 6,500 yards from the blues with a rating of 70.3 and a slope of 120. I don’t care what course you’re playing, you shoot 87 and you, mi amigo, are playing golf.

What I’m most proud of, of course, is the fact that I spent most of the day smack-dab in the middle of the fairway following my tee shot. Which is why there are really no heroics to boast of from today’s round. Golf is so much easier a game to play if you’ve got a nice lie and a good yardage to the green: you just pick the right iron and try and shook it down the whammy. And while there were a couple of sculls out there, there were more than a few pulverized 4-hybrids and enough close-enough-to-precision irons that allowed my short game (the best I’ve had all year) to take over from there: hence the one-putts.

Still, just as I said after shrugging off last week’s debacle at Superstition Springs, today’s round, while as gratifying as last week’s wasn’t, is just one round and tomorrow is another day. The ice-cold Sam Adams Boston Lager went down pretty smooth at the grille afterwards, and I felt really good about seeing all that hard work at the range this week pay off, but I’m content to simply enjoy this round of a lifetime for what it was and to just keep trying to improve on what I’m trying to do.

Filed in: Golf Quest,Goodboys by The Great White Shank at 01:02 | Comments (0)
June 2, 2016

Days until Goodboys Invitational weekend: 44
Location: Superstition Springs Golf Club
Score: 55 + 73 = 128 (Adjusted: 55 + 62 = 117)
Handicap: 25.6 / Trend: 25.6 (no change)

Hi, this is Rich Lerner. Let’s go out to Superstition Springs and a truly ugly round of golf put together by The Great White Shank, his worst of the year. I’m here with our Golf Channel analysts Brandel Chamblee and David Duval, both of which have seen their own share of ups and downs on the golf course over the years, but I’m guessing nothing like this. Brandel, what went wrong for The Great White Shank out there today?

Most folks think the approach shot is the key to scoring at Superstition Springs, but like the great Greg Norman has always said, the most important shot on any hole is off the tee. You can talk putting, short game or irons, but if you can’t get off the tee, to use a baseball analogy, you’re already sitting at 0-2. Eighteen holes, zero – and I mean zero – fairways hit by TGWS today. It doesn’t matter if you’re playing a challenging course like Superstition Springs or the local muni down the street: if you’re hitting your second shot out of position at best, or lying three or more at worse – and we all saw plenty of that today – you’re gonna get crucified out there.

David, what did you see from The Great White Shank out there today?

Confusion. Poor swings. Playing the ball way too far forward. You just can’t play that way. He lost fourteen balls out there today. That’s a lot of penalty strokes. And not just that, it makes for an expensive round of golf!

And Brandel, that was the story for today, wasn’t it? The Great White Shank not being able to get off the tee.

Very unusual for him, for sure, because if there has been one aspect of his game that’s been as steady as anything else this year it has been his tee game. I don’t recall ever seeing TGWS hit a banana slice like he did on the par 5 sixth: it not only went over the subdivision wall, but clear over the house adjacent to the wall. And then to top his second ball into the pond right, well, it’s tough to play bogey golf on a par 5 when you’re sitting in the fairway and lying five after three tee shots.

David, what on earth happened on the par 3 seventh?

Your guess is as good as mine. Sure, the tees were set up crazy back, at a whopping 223 yards, but I’m surprised he didn’t just pull 5-iron and play the hole as a short par 4. In my mind – and this is just my opinion – trying to go for the green with a 5-wood when you’ve got water in front and to the right, knowing that you’re already struggling with your woods, is just inviting disaster. Which he did by topping his first ball into the water, banana slicing his second into the car lot beyond the wall left, and yanking his third into the water right.

He settles down a bit on numbers eight and nine to shoot 55, but the roof really caved in on the back nine. What did you see, Brandel?

Just a lot of mistakes. He struggled to make double bogeys on ten, twelve and thirteen – and that par on the par 5 eleventh resulting from a beautifully struck 5-iron was very nice, but #14 has always been the Shank’s nemesis. A wide fairway, for sure, but with water in front and curling down the right with that pond on the left, you have to hit it straight. Unfortunately, he topped the ball into the pond on his first then yanked the next two into the water right before finally finding the fairway. Lying seven, he tops an attempted 5-iron lay-up into the pond, then a couple of chips and a three-putt later, well, I call that a 14.

And it didn’t get any better after that with a triple-bogey six, a double-par ten on the always-tough 17th, and yet another ten on #18 that featured two more lost balls. His Goodboys handicap only allowed him to post a 62 for the back, but that was a whopping 73 – almost unheard of. David, how does one recover from that?

Pull putter off the tee, I guess. [Laughter] But seriously, continuing with Brandel’s baseball analogy, it’s no different than one of those fluky games during every season where the team is down 17-2 in the third inning and they’re dragging the mascot out to throw knuckle balls the rest of the way. I mean, it’s one round of golf – and an ugly one, for sure – but you just have to shake it off, figure out what you did wrong, and get back to fundamentals.

Brandel, you have to be wondering what’s going through that young man’s mind – after all, we’re only 6 1/2 weeks away from Goodboys Invitational weekend.

That’s right. Our Golf Channel insider Tim Rosaforte reports he had a lesson with his swing coach Alex Black only yesterday, and they always say never go out and play a round after a lesson. I do think he’ll be OK. He has to look at today as an anomaly – and it probably is, given the way he has hit the ball off the tee most of this year. If he looks at the bright side, he’ll see that his score was so high that his handicap didn’t move an inch. And, while it didn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things, he did hit several decent irons out there – something he hasn’t really done that much of lately.

Well, if there’s one small consolation, at least he was playing by himself and not having to worry about playing with, say, a stick and slowing him down. Now that would have been a bit uncomfortable.

Thank you Brandel and David – astute analysis as always. Now back to Orlando and our Golf Central studios.

Filed in: Golf Quest,Goodboys by The Great White Shank at 22:31 | Comments (0)
June 1, 2016

Wednesday, 3:50 PM. Sculling, chunking, and shanking a bunch of pitching wedges, 7-irons, and 5-irons.

Wednesday: 4:15 PM. My swing coach Alex Black is complimenting the return of my power fade as I launch one 5-iron after another into the azure ozone of a warm June afternoon. Almost as if the iron woes of the past several weeks had never happened.

The difference? A single move Alex has been working with one of his students, a member of the UCLA golf team, on. The move itself is pretty simple, and one you can actually take to the golf course with you. Take your normal backswing, whatever it is, and on your downswing step into it, not unlike David Ortiz stepping into a fastball. And be sure to take your divot as you do it.

I had reached out to my swing coach Alex Black on a whim. I’ve been hitting my irons so poorly lately, and worse than that, I’ve felt completely off-kilter and unable to bring the club head square to target. The shanks that have returned with increasing frequency are bad enough, but it’s my confidence being shaken that has bothered me more than anything else. All I’ve been doing these past few weeks – even when my scoring was good – was playing defensively and not trying to screw up. It’s a bad place to be in.

Alex only needed me to take three swings before he stopped me right there. “You have no transition”, says he. “And even if you look like you have one it’s a faux transition, like long after the fact. All the shanks, sculls, and fat hits are simply the result of not getting your weight off of your back foot and onto your front.”

“And the yanks?”, I ask.

Alex smiles. “The yanks are from doing whatever you’re doing without extending your arms.”

Alex takes me over to his cart and shows me a video of his student practicing the “one step move” at some range in sunny SoCal. His swing looks picture perfect, like he ought to be at least on the Tour.

“He’s got a great swing”, I say admiringly.

“He’s got work to do just like everyone else does”, replies Alex. “Just like you do.”

And that’s how the remaining 40 minutes of our 50-minute lesson goes. Me hitting golf balls with the one step move. They’re not all perfect at the start: my body is so used to falling back everything feels foreign. But I warm up to it and soon I get the hang of it: I’m pulverizing 5-irons, then 7-irons, then the dreaded pitching wedge I’ve somehow forgotten how to hit.

The first few wedges are butt-ugly. But the last five are picture perfect: little clicks that dot a piece of driving range 100 yards out the size of a beach towel.

“Perfect”, says Alex. “Now, like it says in the Bible, go forth and multiply.”

I head back to the range and hit a small bucket of balls. I love the power draw, love the way it looks, love the way it feels. I feel indestructible and the fact that this is a drill I can take with me, not just as a take-away from this lesson, but to the golf course itself for my practice swings. It’s the drill that gets me away from my “death move”.

It’s one of the best $80 I ever spent. Now all I have to do is put it into practice when the strokes count.

Filed in: Golf Quest by The Great White Shank at 01:40 | Comments (0)
May 30, 2016

…in this case the ER was the Superstition Springs driving range. Sure, there were a bunch of things on my plate this day: a trip to Lowe’s for more playground sand (to fill in under the Tiki bar deck), Hi’s Silk Flowers for my annual Memorial Day planting of hydrangea in the front pots, and a deck and Tiki bar to paint and stain, but my iron play on Friday at Superstition Springs has haunted me since.

Maybe it’s because I have a visceral response to the shanks – akin to Quint’s feelings about sharks – reminding me of my earliest days picking up the game. Or maybe it’s because of that little “fix” I implemented back in April to try and resolve the issue of pulling my irons to the right. If I have the choice between pulling my irons to the right and shanking my irons, I’ll take the pull any day.

At any rate, I was getting ready to head out to Lowe’s when my clubs, sitting there all anxious and questioning in the corner of the garage, caught the corner of my eye. At that point there was no question where my first stop was going to be.

The range at the Springs was pretty empty – no surprise on a Memorial Day weekend. My only goal today was to get back to the place I was six weeks ago. Oh, I’m going to make a couple of adjustments to try and resolve the issues that made me implement the changes in the first place: playing the ball a little further back in my stance, and after setting up square I’m going to pull my back foot back a little bit to encourage a draw, but the rolling of the wrists is out, and I don’t care where the club face is pointing at the top of the backswing.

The results are immediate. I’m back to that lovely trajectory I’ve been missing the past six weeks: no more fades. I really don’t like playing a fade, anyway – anything that moves the ball right to left I just really don’t like. I hit a bunch of shots that go very straight. I hit a few that scull straight from over-swinging and picking up my head, But there are no more balls traveling right to left, and, more importantly, the shanks appear to be gone.

I go through a bucket and the range guy comes over and offers me another large bucket. I’m not sure if he’s just being magnanimous or thinks I need more work, but I accept it. And I go through the bucket hitting all my irons, again without a shank. I think I’m still going to have to work out the “big miss” to the right, but it appears – at least for now – that playing the ball a little less forward and not over-swinging will take care of that.

The important thing is that I’m back to hitting my irons in a familiar way, and in a way that keeps it simple and eliminates the moving parts that have caused me so much trouble over the past six weeks. When it comes to The Great White Shank and golf, simple is better. Now I want to take it to the course and see what happens.

Filed in: Golf Quest by The Great White Shank at 05:06 | Comments (0)


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