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Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Finding What Works

Jack Nicklaus said that the only thing constant about golf is its inconstancy.  You go out one day and play great.  The next day, you can't hit your hat.  Same guy, same equipment, same game plan, and nothing goes right.  It's a mystery.

I went out yesterday, after a couple of recent even par rounds, thinking, "I've got it."  My first tee shot, which should have been a draw, sliced out of bounds.  I found myself six over after six before I finally got it together again by focussing on driving a nail into the back of the ball straight down the target line.  I also focussed on my right hand and arm using the bowling, or underhanded pitching motion that Jack Nicklaus used.  Suddenly I was back in business.

But that's golf.  As Ken Venturi said, "Golf is finding what works, losing it, and finding it again."  The swing thoughts we all use work for awhile, then the charm wears off and we need to find something else.  This often happens as we begin to exaggerate the swing thought or peg, over-doing one thing at the expense of another.  

It's great to say that all you really want to do is focus on striking the ball, as Bobby Jones and Jack Nicklaus advised.  But even they used swing keys, or pegs, to keep their swings in the groove.  Jack Nicklaus said that, when playing his best, he had as many as five swing thoughts--things he made certain of doing in his swing.  So, go figure.

Pure golf is when you are able to just see the shot and hit it.  When you are able to get into that zone where things are pretty much automatic.  But that only happens occasionally.  The rest of the time you must do whatever you can to make do with what you have that day.  That mythical perfect, repeating swing just doesn't exist.  At least not when you are on the course.  You can stripe it on the range, but then you find yourself in a divot, or with the ball well above or below your feet and you must make adjustments.  Golf isn't played on an even playing field.

So, it's great to work on your game.  Practice can certainly help--especially short game practice.  But, at the end of the day, every round is a new adventure.  You just never know whether you will have it, or feel like you've never played the game before.  Ultimately, the best golfers know how to use their heads to minimize the damage and find a way to make the best score they possibly can with what they've brought to the table that day.  That's all any of us can do.