Golf Misc

Another “Ah-ha!” Golf Moment

  • September 24, 2009

I told you guys this was going to be a blog for the dedicated weed-whacker. That means sometimes I’ll come up with things that to me are revelations, while to the more skilled golfer they’d be in the realm of, “Well, DUH!” Witness my recent post about gripping the club: even if it’s embarrassing I intend to share everything that comes my way.

Well, I just had another revelation. At address, don’t stand too close to the ball.

A little background: during yesterday’s round I happened to set up for a practice swing (I was on the tee box) with my club head grounded on some discolored grass. For some unknown reason I paid attention to where the head actually swept through the grass during the practice swing itself, and noted it was missing the discolored spot by a good inch or more on the outside. I said to myself, “Self? What if the ball were where the club head actually came through, instead of where I was setting up?”

Instead of my more-upright stance at address, I crouched just a little bit more, extended my arms a little further from my body (less vertical, more horizontal), and took a couple of practice swings (no one on the course to mind the extra time I was taking with this). Felt pretty good, so I went for it.

Bang. The ball leapt off the tee, dead straight and sailing as pretty as I’ve ever seen. I measured the distance via my Swami GPS unit and it went nearly 220 yards. Wow! For contrast, just a day earlier I’d been hitting off the tee maybe 170 yards with a wicked slice.

Folks, it wasn’t a fluke. I nailed every single driver swing just the same way. I got into trouble only twice, once when I pulled it left into trees on the edge of the fairway (and no sharp fade to save it), and once when I used driver where my new-found distance meant I should have used 3 wood. I’ll talk about both of those cases later, because I love blabbing about memorable holes played.

Analysis? I’m far from a swing coach, but I think I know a little about what happened. First, standing too close to the ball meant I wasn’t able to use full arm extension. That means I’d have to use muscle memory to keep the head on the same path from back swing to down swing, and of course I’d be off quite a bit each time. At full extension there’s nothing left to correct, you’re already at the limit, so the head stays on the same path. Also, my subconscious knew what was going on, and wanted me to pull the club closer into my chest to make sure I was on that desired path. That lead (my brother-in law was watching me and confirmed this) to an armsy, elbow-cocked kind of pull swing that couldn’t help but be outside-in and awkward, almost guaranteeing a slice. Again, you guys who already know this stuff, kindly stop snickering. You were this clueless once, and you know it.

How about away from the tee box? My first attempt at 3 wood on the fairway (and yes, it felt good to be in the short grass and looking at maybe reaching in two) was a bust. I over-did it, and the ball glanced off the toe of the club in a nasty shank. Being as how no one was around to care, I dropped another ball and tried again: similar result, slightly less shank. Okay, that was helpful in figuring out how far was too far. Yes, I played the original ball where it lay, so quit looking at me like that!

Ditto for irons. I was now far right and had trees in the way to the green, maybe 115 yards out. Normally that’s 7 iron for me, and that’s assuming I even hit it. I tried just a little bit of extra extension on the address, squatting a wee bit more than usual, and took an easy swing. I watched the prettiest arc I’ve ever generated from a 7 iron, all the way over the part of the tree that was in the way, and landing a good 20 yards past the green. Wow! Yeah, cost me a stroke to get back from there, but hitting 7 iron like that was a rush!

In sum, except for the inevitable mis-hits, I got similar results for the whole round. This was truly a revelation for me, and the results were consistent and immediate. If you’re still struggling with weak slices and fat shots, take a look at where you set up, talk to your pro (or buddy) about whether you’re really getting full arm extension with your current address position.

About those holes where I found trouble off the tee? Sure. I’ll start with the second one, because it ended well.

The hole was a medium par 4, maybe 380 yards long, with enough dogleg left you can’t see the green from the tee box. All along the left side of the fairway is OB, just a narrow strip of rough. Due to events during the hole just prior to this I was reluctant to press that left edge, so aimed it dead down the middle of the fairway and let rip with my driver. Another beauty of a shot, long and fast, with just a hint of fade towards the end. Problem was, the dogleg to the left. Never before was just banging down the middle with driver a problem for me. This time the drive went easily over 220 yards (yeah, I measured it), and ended up into a stand of trees just past the knuckle of the turn. I couldn’t decide whether to be excited (again) about the drive, or pissed about the results. I chose excited.

Got to the ball, surveyed the damage. If I knelt behind the ball I had a clear look at the green, no trunks in the way. Punch shot it would be, then! I took my 2 hybrid (being my lowest-lofted “iron”), set up with the ball off the toe of my back foot, and slapped down at the ball with locked wrists and a steep downswing (abbreviated to miss a possibly club-wrecking tree root). Sometimes a plan comes together, and the ball scooted on a perfect line, under the trees and with a ton of roll. I ended up inside 60 yards, made my chip, and two-putted for bogey. Success!

Okay, now about that other hole…

Sometimes, even when things are going well overall, the wheels come off the wagon for one hole. This hole is a long-ish (410 yars) par 4, the number 1 handicap hole on the course. The chief difficulty (apart from trees hugging the left part of the fairway at one point) is a huge bunker going all the way across the fairway, high lip on the front edge, about 80 yards from the green. There’s almost no getting around this puppy unless you play from the deep stuff up the right side.

I hit my drive, another scorcher, but I pulled it a bit left. No fade at all, ruler-straight, and one of those fairway-hugging trees on the left snagged it and spit it out right at its base. Ouch. I was in some deep cabbage, but still elected to try to dig it out with my 3 wood (probably a mistake, when I had 4 hybrids in my bag). I hit it really open-faced and it glanced off across the fairway (okay distance, nothing to exult over) and ended in more deep stuff off the right of the fairway and behind Yet More Trees. These were evergreens, no getting under them, but I could just see the left edge of the green peeking around. I figured if I played a slice with the 3 wood again, I could carry the bunker and worst case be off the left side of the green in three (I was about 150-160 out at this point). Again, why I didn’t pull out the 2 or 3 hybrid I’ll never know.

Tension of knowing I had to dig the ball out, plus the bunker in my face…it got to me. I over-swung and dug a 6-inch trench in the rough that ended at the ball, which popped out and rolled to within 20 yards or so from the bunker. Argh! Now I’m about 100 yards out, thinking an easy 8 iron will get me on track to maybe save double bogey from this mess. Klonk. My mind was full of woe instead of swing thoughts and I went back to my usual shtick of chunking my irons—right into the forward edge of the bunker.

Unprintable thoughts ensued.

My sand shot was unremarkable. I dug it out, sure, but it flew almost straight up, and almost straight down, landing (again) in thick stiff just forward of the bunker’s edge. Now I’m 70 yards out and lying five. I still believe I can’t carry my sand wedge more than 50 yards or such, so I got out my gap wedge. I’m used to getting about 70 yards out of it from a good lie, and this was a buried one, so I gave it a full swing. Up, up and awaaaaaaaay! It sailed picture-perfect to a soft landing well beyond the far side of the (rather large) green. No way in Hell would I have said I could hit a gap wedge that far, and out of a buried lie! Just goes to show you how much guess-work is involved in this game when you don’t have distances dialed in.

Facing a chip back onto a large green, now, and it sloped away from me towards the front with the hole placed dead center. I knew if I got too froggy with the chip it’d scoot well past the hole, so naturally I over-did my caution and landed it well short. Now a long downhill putt, and lying seven. Of all the crappy shots I’d managed to string together this far, my putt for snowman was actually pretty good, and I lagged it to tap-in range to end with a nine for the hole.

Le Sigh.

And that, my friends, is why I was loathe to crowd the left edge OB on the next hole.

(Oh, that next hole where I pulled a bogey out of my ass? That was my brother-in-law’s turn to card a nine. He ran afoul of those OB markers. So there.)

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