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!

Monday, August 28, 2006

Twelve Holes of Golf!

Sunday. For twelve holes, I was playing golf. I mean really playing the game.

Don't worry, I'm not going to bother you with the details, only the highlights.

After two holes, I was two under. After five, three under. After nine, one under. After twelve, two under.

Okay, I do have to tell you about my shot on eleven. It's a short par 3 over water. My friends hate the hole but I love it. I could have put my first born through college on the money I've won on that hole.

On Sunday, I aimed my nine iron about ten feet right of the pin, since it was cut on the left edge of the green, close to the water on the left. I pulled the shot, but only slightly... right at the flag. The ball landed four feet behind the flag and sucked back to two inches from the hole!

It was that kind of day. Or more precisely, that kind of twelve.

Because over the final six holes the wheels fell off and I gave back ten shots to par to shoot 80.

I hate to shoot 80 and above. For some unknown reason - and I do mean unknown because I've tried to figure it out but haven't come up with a valid reason - I think of a round less than 80 as a good round, and anything 80 and above as poor.

So after playing those first twelve holes so well and those last six so poorly - and especially after striking my fifteen foot bogey putt on 18 (my putt for a 79) right at the hole only to have it hit the back of the hole and stay out - after that you'd think I'd be ready to put my clubs in the corner of my garage and give it up for six months.

But I'm not. Oh I was disappointed after the round, but surprisingly, not all that much. The poor golf that I played over the last six holes was overshadowed by the exceptional golf I'd played for the first twelve.

Not only was I not ready to give it up, I was ready to go out for more - to find the magic that was there and that I know still is there - to be found again. And soon. Maybe this weekend!

Golf. What a game!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

In the now

In On Golf, speaking about attitude towards short putts, Bobby Jones wrote; "Hit the putt as well as you can, and do not allow worry over the outcome to spoil the stroke."

On first reading, this seemed so obvious that I skipped right past it without thinking. But on a second reading, and with reflection, I concluded that this is a profound piece of advice.

I've always stressed over the short putts. Those 3 to 5 footers are knee knockers to me. But Jone's statement made me ask myself why, and my conclusion was this; because I think I should make those putts I get nervous about missing 'em, knowing I'll be upset if I do. And that thought itself is what makes those putts so hard!

Another way to look at what Jones was saying here is that we need to stay "in the now" in order to play our best golf. As soon as we start to think about the future (the outcome of the stroke) we can stress ourselves, and that will usually affect the actual outcome of our stroke in a negative way.

Coincidentally (or maybe not?) this is the main theme of another book I'm currently reading - Fred Shoemaker's Extraordinary Putting. In fact, I've come across this theme in not only these two books, but in several GolfSmarter podcasts of late.

Somebody, somewhere, must be tryin' to tell me sumpin!

So... last Sunday I took this thought to the course. While my full swing ball striking was less than extraordinary, this might have been the most enjoyable round of golf - putting wise - that I've every played. Because my putting was simply extraordinary. Extraordinary in this way; every putt I stroked all day long was stroked perfectly. I wasn't nervous about a single outcome, and so I was able to concentrate totally on the mechanics of the stroke.

But by "mechanics", I don't mean that I had 30 thoughts crossing my mind before and during each stroke. My only thought, (and I'm not even sure it was a conscious thought), during my stroke was to putt into the hole, (or close to the hole - with the longer lag putts.)

And the results were simply amazing. Oh I didn't make every putt, but I didn't miss any putts due to a poor swing. Every swing was perfect. I missed when I misread the putt - that was it. I didn't stress over a single putt, or get upset at a single miss.

Because, if you read the putt, stroke it perfectly, but it turns out that you misread it and missed.... well how can you get upset at yourself for that?

All you can say is; "Great job Mr. course architect. You fooled me... this time. "

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The Axe

Well I suffered through another sub par (not literally, unfortunately) round on Sunday. Once again my swing was off and no matter how much I searched for it I was unable to find the magic of a couple of weeks ago.

So upon arriving back home I grabbed a quick bite and headed for the driving range near my house. I bought a bucket of 62 balls and set to work to find whatever it was that I had lost.

After about 50 balls I had made no appreciable headway and sat down to rest. I was tired. My pre-swing routine is now to take two or three practice swings, so including the golf, the warmups on the range prior to playing, and the 50 balls at the range I must have swung the club four or five hundred times. That, added to an extra morning workout made me one tired puppy.

After a brief rest I went back to the stall and, well, a funny thing happened. I can best describe it this way...

As I stood over the next ball my body took control from my brain. My body was tired, and it said to my brain; "Look here. If we're going to hit these last dozen balls we're going to do it in the most efficient manner possible. No wasted energy here dude, 'cause we're damn tired."

So that's what I did, with my 8 iron. I watched the ball sail high and land just in front of the 150 yard marker I was aiming at. A second shot sailed along the same arc and landed within a few feet of the prior one.

As I contemplated what had just happened, I came upon a swing thought that perfectly captured the feel of the prior two swings.

I imagined that the club in my hand was actually an axe, and that I was swinging the axe into a log perpendicular to my line of flight and just in front of the golf ball. I was swinging at the exact speed, and in the most efficient way possible, in order to cut the log as deeply as I could while still maintaining the control necessary to place the blade in the exact same cut as the prior swing. I estimate that I was swinging at somewhere between 80% and 90% of maximum. But I was doing so almost effortlessly. My lower body was involved in adding power to the swing, as were my arms, but the real speed of the swing came from the centrifugal force of the club head (axe head) as I released the club head to do it's job on the log.

With this swing thought I proceeded to hit 10 perfect golf shots in a row. All of my shots were high, long, and straight. I estimate that I must have added nearly 10 mph to my swing speed.

The coup de grace was the final shot, made with my three hybrid, a high draw that landed three feet left of my target 200 yards away.

I can't wait to play again!

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Out of the zone

If a golfer can have days where he's "in the zone" then it stands to reason that he can have days where he experiences golf at the other extreme. "Out of the zone" days.

Yesterday was such a day for me.

I had such high expectations for my morning round. I took the day off to play with a good friend who has had some recent health issues and is just now able to get back into golf. We scheduled an early time to beat the oppressive heat wave this area was experiencing. On the first tee we were paired up with a very nice elderly couple from Florida. I ripped my tee shot long and down the middle of the first fairway. All seemed to be going as planned. It was going to be a great round!

But it wasn't to be.

I pulled my approach shot badly into a trap left of the green. But I managed to get up and down for par - all was still good.

On the second hole, a par five, I flared my drive wide right, pulled my second badly, and thinned my third into a trap in front of the green. Again though, I was able to get up and down to save par.

Okay, I think, maybe this is going to be a special kind of round.

Oh yea, things got very "special" from that point.

There's no need to say much about the rest of the round except to say that the wide range of bad shots that I hit may have set a new personal record for one round. Chunks, thins, slices and hooks - you name 'em, I hit 'em. In spades and with creative variations.

But there were a couple of positives. First, I never lost my cool. Second, though I played exceptionally poorly, (e.g. I hit more sand traps than GIRs!), I scrambled to shoot an unembarassing 82.

I think these two positives are related. But I don't know how I managed to play so badly.

So... I'm gonna just try to put this round behind me and look forward to a better ball striking round next time.

Fortunately, I don't have to wait long - only until tomorrow!