Thursday, 10 December 2015

Call Shots

I have discovered something quite interesting in my own game, and with others I've played with.  When you call your shots, you have a much better chance of making them.  I've seen it work time and again.

Having spent a lengthy time being discombobulated by different swing thoughts and theories, I have managed, for the last couple of rounds at least, to get back to picking a target, a shot, and just hitting it.  Whether it lasts--or how long it lasts--is really up to me.  The fact is, we are all actually better players than we often think we are; at least if we get out of our own way and let it happen.

I think I first noticed this call-shot phenomena playing scrambles.  When you play this format; picking the best shot, and everyone playing from there, I noticed that I was often able to hit some amazing shots after having called them.  A buddy of mine and our fathers played in a number of scrambles over a period of several years, winning several of them. 

I remember bumping into his father years after and him saying to me, "Remember that shot you hit on seventeen?"

I had hit a driver from under a tree, off a scruffy lie, up a hill to three feet on a par five.  We made eagle.  I had seen the shot, and called it.  It came off just as I described it; a cut that started low, under the branches and climbed enough to get up the hill, land twenty or so yards short of the pin, and after a bounce, curled around onto the green and snuggled up to the pin.  It was like magic.

There have been plenty of other shots over the years that were like that; shots that I first imagined, then described to my playing partners, and then produced.  I don't know how many times I've announced that I was going to hole a lengthy putt, or a chip, or a bunker shot, and then promptly did it.  

I've had buddies who have done the same thing.  In fact, a buddy and I used to routinely play call shots, where we would announce our target and describe our shot before we hit it, be it a low cut, or a high draw--I hate the high draw.  It always surprised us how often we managed to pull the shot off.

A few days ago, after struggling through another lousy round, preoccupied with swing thoughts, I came to the last hole.  I had eighty yards to the pin and said to myself, "I'm just going to knock this in the hole."  I was playing with only seven clubs, so I had to use a pitching wedge, producing a feel shot.  I struck the ball and watched it fly just as I imagined it, and from where I was standing seem to disappear into the hole.  I heard it rattle the pin.  As it turned out, the ball had not gone in.  It was about ten inches, directly behind the hole.  But it was a perfect shot.

I drove home, thinking about that last shot.  It convinced me to try to start playing call shots every time.  I've been trying to do it faithfully the last couple of rounds and have played pretty well.  The interesting thing is that it helps me not to think about my swing.  I seem to be able to get caught up in just hitting the shot, really focussing on where I'm going to hit it, instead of how I'm going to hit it.  The thing is, though, it takes discipline to do it every time.  You have to first imagine a shot; then picture it; then commit to it.  Then you just hit it. 

We see it every time we watch the pros play.  They are often heard discussing the shot with their caddie.  They settle on a shot, and then the pro, after describing it, often produces it.  Sure, they don't always pull the shot off.  But they do quite often.  I think that is one of the virtues of a caddie.  You have someone you can call your shot to who won't think you're an arrogant so-and-so.  In fact, the caddie wants you to call it, because it means you are committing yourself to hitting the shot; not just thinking about keeping your head down, or keeping your left arm straight.

I'm playing with Steve tomorrow and I'm going to try to get him to play "call shots."  It's amazing how often he produces the shot when he calls it.  Awhile ago, I had said to Steve, "I'm going to try to cut this drive off that end tree."  We were on number fifteen at Picton.

I missed the shot.  (Notice I told Steve I was going to try to cut it.  I should have said I'm just going to cut it--not try to cut it.)  Steve said, "Here, I'll show you how to cut it."  He teed one up and hit the prettiest cut you ever saw.  Sometimes--in fact, often--it works.

You don't even have to call the shot out loud if you don't want to.  You can call it in your head.  I often talk to my old father in my mind sometimes, telling him I'm going to hit this shot or that.  Damned if I don't often do it.  If you haven't tried it, I recommend you try playing call shots, just like when you're playing pool.  Better to play call shots, than to rely on fluking one in.