Project 2 Handicap

Online log of a quest to drop my golf handicap from a nine to a two within sixty months. Sink or swim, I'll give it my best shot. Advice is not only appreciated, it's encouraged!

Wednesday, May 31, 2006


What a difference a day makes.

Last night at the range, I worked my way through a bucket of balls with my 6 iron. I was working on my weight shift - trying desperately to keep my weight on the inside of my back foot on my backswing. Sometimes I was able to, but even when it felt right I still wasn't able to hit a quality golf shot. I tried a number of adjustments and nothing worked. I left the range frustrated and wondering what I could be doing wrong to have devolved into the poor excuse for a golfer that I have become.

As I lay in bed last night I visualized my golf swing. I have been able to memorize the professional impact position - that position where all the pros seem to be at impact, no matter the different ways that they get there. How could I get to that position with my godawful golf swing?

Then I thought that I "saw" something. The position of my club at the apex of my back swing was too vertical. I was breaking Hogan's "pane of glass". My problem was that I wasn't able to get from there to the impact position with any authority without making adjustments - and I wasn't making those adjustments in my swing.

I got up and went to the garage and took some practice swings. At the top of my swing I turned my left wrist slightly towards the ground - so that the club was in a more horizontal position. I found that if I made that adjustment - and it wasn't a huge one - maybe only 10 degrees or so - I was able to move into impact with great authority. I visualized my left wrist as a sledgehammer, with the bottom of my fist the impact point of the hammer. As my hands reached the impact position though, just at the last moment I flipped my wrist so the the back of the wrist was in the impact postion. It felt right.

So tonight it was back to the range, this time with a full complement of clubs. I started with the short irons. Concentrating on the weight shift and the flatter swing plane I hit a few shots, and like magic, the stars were suddenly aligned. I was suddenly striking the ball as well as I ever have. I worked my way down through the bag with no loss in quality of shot. Amazing.

For me, there aren't too many highs better than puring an iron, but when you can pure iron after iron after iron... well that's nirvana!

Monday, May 29, 2006


I played two rounds this weekend and during both my iron play was terrible. I'm having difficulty committing to my shots. I'm sure that problem is not something mechanical. It's caused by a lack of confidence.

The problem is strickly with irons from the turf. When I'm able to put the ball on a tee my ball striking is solid whether it be an iron or a wood.

But with iron shots from the grass, while I'm able to visualize the shot, I don't "feel" it like I should before the swing. So during the swing I tighten up. The result is usually a topped or a thinned shot. On those reare occasions when I am able to stay loose, I swing easy - too easy - and come up short.

This is in sharp contrast to my experience on the practice range. At the range I'm able to strike the irons with confidence.

I'm been here before though so I know how to resolve this. It's mental, but the mental hurdle can only be jumped by developing enough confidence in my shot that I don't tighten up on the course. That will take more practice followed by success on the course to solidify my confidence.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

A Great Golf Hole

The ninth hole at my home course, Signature at West Neck, is a great golf hole.

A short par 5, it's reachable in 2 shots for even a guy like me who's only average long. But it takes two great golf shots.

After a solid 250 yard drive I'll usually be about 240 from the front of the green. If the lie is right I can pull out my 3 wood and go for it, but if the shot isn't nearly perfect there's plenty of trouble ahead.

What makes the second shot so fun is the placement of several fairway bunkers about 90 to 120 yards out from the green. The bunkers aren't pot bunkers, but they are penal. I know that any shot that I land in the front third of these traps is probably going to keep me from reaching the green with my third shot.

So from 240 out I know that I have to hit a pretty solid 3 wood to carry the 160 yards or so that I need to clear these bunkers. For a well struck shot, there's plenty of "run up" room in front of the green, but there's a huge trap left of the green that will catch any sort of pull, and the grassy moguls to the right of the green, while not as dangerous as the trap, will usually take birdie out of reach.

But a well struck 3 wood is likely to reach the green, and give me that rare chance for eagle.

If the lie on the 2nd shot isn't perfect though, or if the drive wasn't quite solid, there are three options other than the 3 wood.

The most conservative play is to lay up short of the fairway bunkers with a short iron which will leave an 8 or 9 iron into the green.

A more daring play is to pull a 5 or 6 iron and play to the right of the fairway bunkers. The trouble with that option is that the fairway is narrow - only about 15 yards wide - and any shot hit through the fairway finds the grassy moguls.

The third option is to pull a 3 or 4 iron, or a 7 wood, and play to carry the bunkers, leaving a half wedge or pitch to the green.

The green itself, like many at this course, is enormous - 34 yards deep and 20 yards wide - and the placement of the pin factors into the 2nd shot decision too. If the pin is tucked close to the left side trap, I will make sure that I'm approaching the green from the right. If I'm left and have to pitch over the trap to a tight pin, bogey is in play as the green slopes left to right - away from the trap.

Nine is a wide open hole too - and affected by the wind perhaps more than any other hole on the course. A headwind can make the hole tough to reach in 3, while a strong tail wind can give me nothing more than a mid iron into the green.

It's just a great golf hole - one that I enjoy every time that I play the course.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Check Your Grip!

Rumination: Why is it that you always figure out what you've been doing wrong with only 5 balls left in the bucket?

Swinging away at the range tonight, working on fairway woods. While I'm hitting decent shots, something's not quite right and I can't put my finger on it. The shots just aren't solid.

I check my stance, swingpath, my shoulder turn. More shots, still something's wrong.

With only a few balls left in the bucket I sit down on the bench to rest and turn to watch a young guy several stalls down who is swinging well. My eyes settle on his hands. He's holding the club firmly in the fingers of his left hand.

Lightbulb moment!

I check my grip. Sure enough, I've been letting the top of the grip slide up into my palm.

With my fixed grip, the last few shots are sweet and solid feeling.

Rumination: How is it that I've experienced - and fixed - everything that I can do wrong in a golf swing, multiple times?

Sunday, May 21, 2006


Metals to be precise.

I've concluded that I'll never reach my goal until I learn to hit 3-wood off the deck. Either that or I need to learn how to bomb the driver so that I can reach par 5's with my long irons or 7 wood.

Played a fairly good round today, a 9 over 81. The 3-wood cost me at least three of those strokes.

On 4, a par 5, I went for the green in two after a solid drive. I flared the 3-wood into a horrid lie in the bunker right of the green. Five strokes later I stumbled out of there with double bogey. (I had been even par to that point.)

On 9, another par 5, after another solid drive I duck hooked the 3-wood into a tough position short and left of the green which left me with an impossible shot to a pin tucked just behind a bunker from my position. I scrambled for par but should have had a good chance at a birdie there.

Then, on 17, the final par 5, I heeled the 3 wood into water left. Fortunately (or not) the ball skipped across the water coming to rest on a grassy upslope - another impossible shot that resulted in another bogey on the hole.

Three par fives, three solid drives, three lousy 3-woods and three lost strokes. Conservative play on these holes would have likely given me three pars. Solid 3-woods on these three holes would have given me decent chances at birdies on each hole.

Shot of the day - 215 yard 7-wood drawn over water at 18. Can't help wondering how I might've scored had I hit 7-wood instead of 3-wood on those three par 5's.

I commit to at least one practice session this week devoted entirely to woods.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Coming Home

Took the day off from work to play and practice. Because of the heavy rains last night I decided to forgo "cart path golf" at Signature in favor of a walking round. That cut down my choice of courses to just a few. In the end I decided to play at the city course where I more or less learned to play golf - Bow Creek.


I hadn't played at Bow Creek for quite awhile. I was struck by how tight the course is in comparison to my new home course, Signature. I was also surprised by my reaction, or actually my lack of reaction to certain shots that used to strike fear in my heart - the tee shots on 3, 8, and 12, and the second shot on 8. My game has improved so much since the days when I played this course regularly that these shots and others that used to pluck my nerves were no problem at all.

From the start I found the course to be much, much easier than I remembered. I felt like I should have parred every hole. I did par 11 of them, which with 7 bogies gave me an easy 77. I didn't feel like I played particularly well - I missed several makable birdie putts - but I was never near a double bogey. I also three putted several times, so my score could have been much lower. If I played this course regularly my guess is that my handicap would be 3 or 4 strokes lower than it is currently.

Never got around to the practice - work intervened.

Sunday, May 14, 2006


Had good success today using a tip from Every Shot Must Have a Purpose. They talk about separating the shot planning time (the think box) from the actual shot execution (the play box).

Essentially, the idea is to plan the shot, visualize it and commit to it, and only then step up to the ball and play the shot.

Also, it's important to stay committed. If you feel yourself changing your mind while standing over the ball they suggest stepping back into the think box.

I used this strategy this weekend with good success. While my shots didn't always come off exactly as planned a suprising number of them did, and I didn't have any poor shots caused by indecision.

New Irons

Played 15 holes today before the rains came, and 9 holes yesterday - both with my new Mizuno MX 23 irons in the bag.

During both outings my iron play was significantly better than last week, and also better than it has been recently with my old Comp EZ irons.

Is it the technology, or is it my belief that the technology makes a difference?

Monday, May 08, 2006

Further Analysis

I missed 4 putts of 5 feet or less yesterday.

Make those putts and I shoot even par 72 - which has been a goal of mine...well...forever.

The problem with analysis like this, of course, is that it ignores the breaks I had during the round. I had at least four of those - two long bomb putts that found the hole, a drive that hit the cart path and bounced back in the fairway and another drive that easily could have been in the trees but bounced out along the cart path and gave me an easy pitch to the green.

Still... I shouda' made those damn putts!

Friggin' game.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Scoring vs Shotmaking

May 2006 USGA Handicap Index: 9.9 (up 1.0 from April)

The object of the game of golf is to shoot a low score.

But what draws me to the game more than the chance to go low is the thrill of hitting perfect golf shots.

Of course, hitting great golf shots usually leads to a low score, but sometimes you can scrape it around the course yet still shoot a respectable score. That's what I did today.

I would normally be thrilled shooting a 4 over par 76, but my ball striking today was, at best, mixed. After the round I charted my shots, rating each on a scale of 1 (awful) to 5 (excellent).

On my non putts, I had nearly as many poor to awful shots (fourteen 1's and 2's) as I did good to great shots (fifeteen 4's and 5's). But my putter was hot, and that's the primary reason that I was able to shoot a low score today.

Usually, after hitting as many terrible shots as I did today my confidence would suffer, but most of my bad shots today were with a new (used) set of Mizuno MX-23 irons that I bought yesterday. I know that I need to give myself time to adjust to the new clubs. So I'll hold off on the panic for now.

I feel just like I would if I ate a large piece of my favorite cake while on a diet.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Kung Pao Revelation

So I'm at the Chinese takeout place last night, using the wait for my Kung Pao Chicken as an opportunity to think about my latest swing issues.

Whenever I have swing issues I always go back to basics. It's often a setup problem. "Why am I pulling shots, and why am I topping or thinning long irons and fairway woods" I wonder. Could it be ball position? Could all of these faults be the result of playing the ball too far forward? That seems a possibility, but I haven't changed my ball position. I'm mulling this over when suddenly it hits me!

WRT ball postion, I've always followed the standard teaching instruction of placing the ball off the front heel for driver shots and progressively back towards the center of the stance as the loft of the clubs increase.

But ball position, I suddenly realize, is affected by the width of stance! I haven't changed my ball position, but I have recently broadened my stance in an attempt to reduce a sway in my backswing. So my ball position is now effectively farther forward in my swing.

Eager to test my theory, I went to the driving range near my house after dinner. I placed a ball on the mat, took my new stance and then a couple of practice swings. Sure enough, my club brushed the turf a bit behind the ball. So I moved my back foot forward. Not very much - just an inch or two - enough to narrow my stance just a little bit. Now when I brushed the mat with my practice swings the bottom of my swing arc was even with the ball.

Voila! I proceeded to hit a bucket of balls as well as I have in years. Short irons weren't pulled, long irons and fairway woods flew high and straight, and with all shots - from driver on down - I had the feeling that I was swinging with more power and making contact with the ball at just the right moment.

Surprisingly, narrowing my stance didn't cause a sway on the backswing - perhaps because one of my two swingthoughts was to keep the weight on the inside of my back foot on the backswing. My lower body was relatively quiet during the swing but I felt like I was able to push off my rear foot for added power.

My other swingthought was to continue to swing "down and through" the ball - as per the other recent "revelation" I had while reading Byron Nelson.

With swing issues, sometimes, usually in fact, it's something just this simple.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Pelz on Putting in the Wind

Okay, I feel better now.

Still somewhat stunned by my poor putting performance on Saturday, I pulled out Dave Pelz' Putting Bible for some advice. What I found in chapter 9 helped me understand just why my Saturday putting performance was worse than a 3 year old his first time at putt putt.


Saturday was a very windy day, with strong winds and gusts (I'm guessing here) up to 30 mph. Just how much does wind like this affect putts?

According to Pelz, a 30 mph wind at eye level is roughly a 20 mph wind at just above ground level. And when Pelz experimented rolling 9 foot putts through a 20 mph crosswind on a green stimped at 9.5 they were moved 12 inches off-line by the time they reached the hole!

Hard to believe? Pelz explains why.

We don't see our putts blown 12 inches sideways because we don't get precisely these circumstances. Rather than a steady 20 mph wind blowing constantly for the full roll of our putts, what we might encounter is a wind that gusts to 20 mph for just a second or two during our putt, pushing the ball two inches sideways.

Most of us would chalk a putt like that up to bad mechanics, and we might even start doubting ourselves as the round progresses and our putts continue to miss the hole. And when our putts into the wind stop way short of where we expected them to stop, or our downwind, downhill putts roll past the hole and off the green we might even think that we've lost it entirely and really begin to press.

Which is exactly what happened to me on Saturday.

Pelz' advice on putting in the wind?

Expect and accept that your putting will be slightly less effective on windy days. And when I say windy, I mean days that most golfers would describe as "breezy" or "fresh", with wind speeds of only 5 to 10 mph. On serious-wind days, when wind speeds above the ground are 15 to 30 mph, expect some serious changes in your putting. And if the winds are really gusting, just smile and enjoy the day, because there is nothing else you can do. A good attitude and the knowledge of what's happening will give you an edge over your competition.

So, another lesson learned. On such strong wind days, play for the wind and when the putts don't fall, by all means don't blame myself. Chalk it up to the wind.

And stop believing that doing so is a mind game because it's not. Wind does, significantly, affect putts!