Monday, 24 August 2015

If You Know What to Do and Don't Do It

I think, after fifty years of playing this game, I have finally settled on what I need to do to play my best.  Believe me, I've tried just about everything in this game except the long putter.  I've stacked and tilted, one-plane swung it, two-plane swung it; I've hit it with my right hand dominating, and went to left hand dominance.  I've tried the rotational swing.  I've tried swinging the way Hogan taught us to swing in his Five Lessons.  I've tried the vertical swing.  I've tried to swing it like Jack, Freddie, Lee Trevino, Nick Faldo; hell I've even tried to copy Moe Norman's swing.  I swear, if I haven't tried it, it probably isn't worth trying.

Finally, I've settled on the method I think works best for me.  I figure the way that works for me is to push the club straight back with my left hand and arm, and pull  it through down the target line with the same hand and arm.  I picture a nail going through the center of the ball right along the target line and try to hammer it.  I want to do this on virtually every shot, from the driver to the putter; except bunker shots and little finesse wedge shots where you need to slide the club under the ball.

I was awake at three o'clock in the morning, and, like a man with a mistress, was once again absent from my matrimonial bed, downstairs hitting putts, and then outside swinging a wedge.  It's an obsession.  I guess it's better than being addicted to dope, gambling, or philandering, but I must say my wife shows more than a little patience dealing with me and my golf addiction.

At three in the morning, it struck me.  I had been advising Billy to use the "push and pull" method, along with saying the mantra, push and pull, as he swings.  He has done this with some positive results, including winning the B-flight championship at our course.  I have convinced Steve, who loves to get all caught up in swing mechanics, to go to the hammer the nail method and stop thinking about his swing, which has been producing some much-improved shots; although he's still not scoring as he really should yet.

I have advised others, but too often haven't taken my own advice, jumping around from one idea or method to another.  I have professed to know what I need to do, but haven't been consistently doing it.  So, after my three AM epiphany, I went to the course today determined to, no matter what happened, practice what I've been preaching on every shot.  

After a routine par on one, I hit my tee shot on the par three second into a greenside bunker.  I played a weak bunker shot, and promptly three-putted from about twenty feet for a double.  Lately, I've been plagued with lousy starts like this.  But I stuck to my guns, and, despite missing a three footer on five for a another bogey, made three birdies to make the turn in even par.  On the back, after finding myself two under, courtesy of a couple more birdies and a string of pars, I made a weak bogey on fifteen when my second shot came to rest against the collar of the green and my bellied wedge came up five feet short.  I missed the putt.  

On sixteen, I hit a reasonably solid tee shot that was slightly pushed.  With the help of the push and a cross wind, the ball actually ended up perched, as pretty as you please, in the branches of a small blue spruce that sits on the right side of the cart path.  The spruce catches a lot of balls, and is named, at least by some, the Douglas fir, after my former brother-in-law who routinely tangles with it.  Dazed, but undaunted, I took my penalty drop and made another bogey.  

Two pars later, including a sand save on the par three eighteenth, I managed to tie Old Man Par.  For me, any time I can tie, or beat, Old Man Par, I'm a pretty happy camper.  Given that it was a windy day, and I'd managed to also beat Carl the Grumbler, I was pretty darned satisfied.  But what gave me the most satisfaction of all, when I looked back on the round, was that I had, perhaps for the first time ever, followed the same routine on every shot.  I had picked my target, visualized the nail going through the back of the ball to the target, and pushed and pulled every shot with my left hand and arm, hammering the nail.  Not only had I done this, I'd also managed to repeat the mantra push and pull with every shot. 

For a guy like me, with the number of toys I've got kicking around in my attic, this was a major accomplishment.  I've been the kind of guy who, at the first hint of trouble, or after a bad shot or two, can't resist trying something else.  I'm a tinkerer.

But today, while I didn't play perfect golf; and I didn't shoot my best score ever--or even my best score of the year; I played one shot at a time and made the same swing every time.  I can hardly believe it. I honestly don't think I've ever managed to do that before.

I really shouldn't be surprised that things turned out so nicely for me today.  I was finally doing what I was supposed to be doing. I actually managed to practise what I'd been preaching.  And, when you really think about it, there isn't much point in knowing what to do, if you don't do it.