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Saturday, 16 April 2016

Swing Your Swing

There was a good commercial that ran on the Golfchannel that included Arnold Palmer advising golfers to swing their swing.  It's great advice.  But does everyone have their own swing?  Having studied the golf swing, perhaps more than was good for me, and having tried several different methods, I finally realized, almost by accident, that we all have our own swing.  But how do we find it?

I found that our swing is the swing we use when we are just clipping the flower off of a daisy, or a dandelion.  It isn't our practice swing, although our practice swing is often more rhythmic and fluid than our swing when we're confronted with the golf ball.  Because often in our practice swing we're focussing on something mechanical; like making a goid shoulder turn, or taking the club back a certain way.  But when we just swing at a dandelion, or a piece of grass, we are just swinging our swing, with no thought of how we're doing it.  Our focus is where it should be, on the object we're hitting.

That's why Harvey Penick advised golfers never to take a practice swing unless they are aiming at something--a leaf, a tuft of grass, or a bit of clover.  He also taught golfers to "clip the tee."  He would put a tee in the ground and have them keep swinging until they could consistently clip the top of the tee with the club.  Then he'd have them make the same swing clipping the ball off the top of the tee.  He didn't know why it worked, but it did.  By clipping the tee, golfers squared the clubface and hit good shots.  Harry Vardon taught golfers to clip the legs out from under the ball, which is the same idea.  

I have, from my idolizing of Jack Nicklaus, the mental image of my perfect swing as being upright like his was.  When I just clip the tee, my swing is flatter and generally produces a draw if the ball doesn't go straight.  When I try to make my swing upright, like Jack's, I hit the ball higher, and I fade it easier, but I am also prone to pulls and the occasional pull hook.  So "my swing" may not be the swing I would ideally like to have, nor does it produce the ball flight I would prefer to have, but it's pretty consistent and produces very few really bad shots and it's easy for me to do.  That's why I wish I used it more often.

Another way that helps me swing my swing and find my ideal tempo and rhythm is by taking practice swings with my eyes closed.  I have found this really helpful when I get to tinkering, or I start swinging too fast or too hard.  Today, I actually played seventeen holes using my swing.  It was such a comfortable way to play.  It just made me wonder why I keep forgetting to do it.

I played my first round of the new season with the boys, Steve and Spiros, today.  The weather was a perfect, sunny 17 degrees Celcius, which is somewhere around 67 degrees Fahrenheit.  We played Salt Creek Links near Warkworth, Ontario, because, as usual, our home club is bent on being the last course in the area to open--but that's another story.

As is generally the case, we played a match--me against their best ball.  Today I offered them no strokes and informed them that I had every intention of administering a sound thrashing to them.  This sort of talk usually ensures that Spiros gets his game face on, and today was no exception.

As usual, I teed it up on the first hole thinking about how I intended to hit it, instead of where I intended to hit it.  The result was a hook into the left tree line followed by a missed sand wedge shot that left me still in the trees.  A chip out of the trees short of the green, followed by a poor chip and a missed five footer, left me with a double bogie and one down right out of the gate.

I announced on the next tee that I intended for the rest of the day to just swing "my swing."  The boys thought this was a great idea, since, as they have often observed, I generally wait until much later in the round to finally start doing it. 

I failed to get it up and down for par on two when a perfect tee shot went over the back of the 210 yard par three.  But Steve three putted after hitting the green and I managed to dodge a bullet.  My resolve to just keep swinging my swing continued and, after back to back birdies, I had clawed one back, Spiros also birdieing the fourth hole.  We battled on with me eventually taking a one up lead into the back nine after the boys failed to par the ninth.

I finally arrived at sixteen two up and facing a four footer for birdie to seal the deal after the boys both missed their birdie putts.  As I have so often done, I missed.  Starting to feel some pressure, after a perfect tee shot, I promptly thinned a sand wedge over the green and into Salt Creek on seventeen and suddenly I was one up going down eighteen and seemingly in full choke mode.  However, after leaving my lengthy approach putt six feet short on eighteen, I stood up and banged it in for the match, Steve only just missing chipping in for birdie.  It wasn't a thrashing I gave them, but it was a good start.

I always learn something every time I play.  Often it's something I already knew and had just neglected or forgotten.  Today it was once again the importance of swinging your swing--not thinking about mechanics when you play.  I managed it today for seventeen holes and it felt awfully good.  The game is a great deal more fun when you are thinking about where you want to hit it, instead of how you want to hit it.

Tomorrow, since our course still isn't open--I think I mentioned that already--we're off to play Roundel Glen, formerly CFB Trenton golf course.  It's an iteresting and pretty demanding course, with lots of mature trees and doglegs.  It can be had, but it demands that you be able to work it off the tee to really score well.  I just hope I can step up on the first tee, pick my target, and just swing my swing.  Whether I can or not largely depends upon whether I come up with any bright ideas between now and then.  Hopefully I won't.

From now on, I want to just play golf using "my swing."  My wife, of course, would say, "Why, who else's swing would you use?"  She'd be surprised.