This year I began to notice an alarming trend in my golf game. It was going from mediocre to terrible!
Here is a table to illustrate my point.
I thoughtfully considered the data available (I probably collect way too much data…) and summarized:
|Dec 15 2015||11.9
|Mar 15 2016||12.5
|Apr 1 2016||12.6
|Apr 15 2016||13.7
|May 1 2016||14.5
|May 15 2016||14.6
|Jun 1 2016||14.9
|Jun 15 2016||15.0
|Jul 1 2016||16.7
- My putting sucks
- I’m unreliable off the tee
- I don’t know how to hit long irons
- Or short irons
- Chipping isn’t that great either
At this point, I felt a huge sense of relief. No matter what I did, I was bound to improve! Here’s what
Yes, putting is hard. But if ever there’s a line-of-sight between what you do with the club and what
happens to the ball, it’s putting, right? I mean, with a full swing, there’s a lot going on. You’ve got your
foot work, your weight shift, the hinge points in your hips, shoulders, elbows, and wrists, the rotation
in your forearms, it just goes on and on. But a putt… I mean, you can actually see with your own eyes
how what you do affects the ball. Even if you never get to putt like Phil Mickelson, you should be able
to get to only a couple three-putts in a round, right? So I've recommitted myself to putting. First,
I always try to warm up putting before the round to get a feel for the speed of the greens. I especially try to get
a good sense of how hard to hit a twenty foot putt. Second, I always pace off the distance between the hole and the
ball. Third, I always read the putt from both sides. Fourth, I mark the ball, and align the label on the ball with the line
I want to hit it. Fifth, I take practice swings until I'm confident in how hard to hit it. Finally, I hit the putt
in the center of the clubface (for some reason, this is non-trivial...).
Unreliable off the tee – for those of you who play with me, you’ll have noticed that I have a distinct
fade, bordering on a slice. I have watched the Golf Channel long enough to know all the “fixes” for a
slice, and if I pay attention to what I’m doing, I can keep the slice held to a gentle fade. If you take the
“fixes” too far, there’s a fine line between a gentle fade and a duck hook, so I haven’t progressed to
actually hitting a slight draw yet – the gentle fade works just fine, usually. But there are certain holes
where that shot shape just doesn’t work. So I decided that on those holes, I’m not going to hit a driver
off the tee. If I can’t reach the green on my second shot, so be it, at least my third shot will be from in
front of the green, rather than from under a bush or behind a tree.
Which brings me to hitting long irons. A long time ago, I spent the winter teaching myself to hit long
irons, and eventually got pretty good at it. However, I need to remember what it was I learned all
those years ago, and frankly, I’ve gotten pretty careless with my “just hit it” style of play. So now, I’ve
resolved to focus: on my grip, my posture, my backswing, my downswing, my weight shift and my
follow-through. Because if I’m not hitting a driver off the tee, that means I’m hitting a three wood or a
long iron. Mostly, this strategy has been effective (but not always…).
What’s up with short irons? Why is it hard to hit a hundred yard shot??? Well, you can blade it, or
chunk it, or yank it, or push it, but YOU DON’T NEED TO!!! All you really need to do with a short shot is
hit it straight. I’ve discovered that, as satisfying as it is to take a full swing with a lob wedge and land it
soft next to the pin from 70 yards out, my odds of success (not blading it, not yanking it, not pushing it)
are significantly better if I take a half swing with my gap wedge. Now maybe you don’t want to be
making a half swing from 150 yards, but the general idea is: You don’t need to kill the ball with 110% of
your effort going into it. A short iron swing should be a comfortable one, one that goes down the line
consistently. If there’s water or sand in front of the green, take an extra club, don’t try and swing
Chipping: Ah yes, chipping… This, like putting, is another one of those slow motion exercises where
you can actually see what you’re doing and how it affects the ball. Chipping failures tend to fall into
- Hitting it the wrong speed: No cure for this but practice. Sorry.
- Hitting it fat (or chunky) and leaving it in the rough: Put the ball back in your stance, lean toward your target, and
accelerate through the ball.
- Hitting it thin and blading it across the green. Dammit! Keep your head down and watch
the ball!!! Once again now: Put the ball back in your stance, lean toward the target, and accelerate through the ball.
In all cases, commit to the shot. (Commitment is where you actually believe that what you’re trying to
do will work. That’s what makes it even possible to accelerate through the ball.)
Wow! That’s a lot of stuff to work on, all at the same time! How’s it going?
It’s going pretty well. In the past two weeks, my handicap came down by three points, and I tied for
second place in the last flight of the club Stroke Play tournament. Keeping my fingers crossed…
P.S. Yesterday I shot a 92
P.P.S. But today I shot an 82!