Tuesday, 18 August 2015

A One-Way Miss

There's a lot of virtue in having a one-way miss; to be able to count on the fact that, if you miss it, the ball will only go one way.  As a young man who grew up trying to swing like Jack Nicklaus.  I always held the face open, perhaps more like Lee Trevino than Jack Nicklaus, and tended to hit a high push-fade.  I was able to hit it plenty long, and I never hooked the ball.  I might pull it left sometimes, but it never hooked.  I came to visualize most of my shots moving left to right towards the target.  Come to think of it, I always liked to cut, or slice, the ball when I played table tennis or regular tennis as well.  But I wrecked my back, and everything changed.

Steve and I played Trillium Wood golf course in Corbyville, near Belleville, Ontario.  It's a lovely course designed by Steve Ward, who is a member at our club in Picton and designed our new nine as well.
We played with Rick.  I'm pretty sure I had played with him once before, but he didn't remember.  I never forget a face, probably as a result of my time in the penitentiary service, so I told Rick that we'd either played together before, or he'd done time.  He assured me that he had never been locked up, so there you have it.

Rick played a pretty steady game, hitting what amounted to a push-fade which sometimes bordered on being a slice.  He took a real rip at the ball, starting every shot well left of his target and watching it come back to the right.  He hit fairway after fairway, and hit lots of nice shots into the green.  Had his putting not been off, he would have easily scored around 80.  He only missed one fairway that I could recall, when he started his ball too far left and, though it tried to come right, clipped some trees lining the fairway. 

Watching Rick reminded me of the fact that a one-way miss is a really effective way to play decent golf.  As I said earlier, I spent most of my early life hitting a fade.  However, after I injured my back and neck--and put on about fifty pounds--I turned into a guy who suddenly draws the ball instead of fading it.  Although some people find my draw to be quite serviceable, I tend not to be enamoured with it.  I guess that's because I'll probably always be a fader at heart.

I still find myself trying to fade it, even though my ball really wants to draw.  The end result has been a very sore back, and some ugly double-crosses where I start the ball left and it goes farther left, instead of coming back to the right.  The double bogeys that often result from this are almost as painful as my ailing back.  

On the way home, Steve and I talked about the round and remarked on Rick's surprising consistency.  While Rick's was not a swing you'd want to copy, and his fade/slice was not the ideal shot shape, he always knew where the ball was going and he played for it.  I told Steve that I still longed for my old fade.  He reminded me that my draw had been producing quite a number of decent scores for me lately and that I might want to learn to love it. Steve believes the draw is a stronger shot, but I keep hitting draws and grimacing if the ball draws more than a few yards, because I'm always worried about it hooking.  After all, you can talk to a slice, but a hook won't listen.

Steve thinks I'm nuts, and believes that if the ball wants to draw with my natural swing--the swing I make when I'm just swinging without making any adjustments--then I would be well advised to play the draw whenever possible.  After all, I still eliminate one side of the course, just not the side I'd prefer to eliminate.  I guess he's right.  It's much easier to just start aiming ten feet right of the pin, or down the right side of the fairway, and having the ball move back to the left, than making all sorts of adjustments trying to make it move it the other way.  

I have always been surprised when I hear announcers talking about tour players having a tough time getting to a left or right pin because they play a fade, or a draw, and the pin calls for the opposite shot shape.  I often wonder that a tour player should not be comfortable moving it both ways.  But I suppose the reality is that, while they all can move it both ways, most tour players are just naturally more comfortable moving it one way or the other, and they choose to try to go to their natural shot shape whenever they can because it's easier to play and the results are more dependable.

If tour players go with their natural, or dominant, shot shape--as good as they are--I guess a mug like me should be grateful that I have a dominant shot shape, and I should learn to embrace it, instead of fighting it.  Though I wish I could fade it as easily as I once did, there have been, and still are, some pretty good players who draw just about every shot.  Billy Casper was pretty good playing a draw.  So was Bobby Locke.  But, then again, I'm definitely no Billy Casper--or Bobby Locke for that matter.  Those guys could play; and, man, could they putt!