May 13, 2013
Thus far, this season has been a strange up and down of scoring. I opened up my official 2013 season with a bunch of scores in the low 90s coming off my winter workouts. Although my scores weren’t thrilling, I was encouraged that I was close to the 80s right out of the gate. Then my scores went north in a hurry. I put up three rounds in a row in the 100s. Even today, I can’t fully explain what went wrong in those rounds. It was as if every aspect of my game was collecting rust every time I stepped out on the course. I was at a point of severe frustration and was almost resigned to say that the work I put in during the off-season was for nothing.
Saturday morning rolled around and I was on the treadmill getting a work out in when my phone rang. It was my good friend Rob asking if I wanted to sneak in 18. I looked outside and it looked cold and doomed to rain. After some thought I said sure why not. I figured with some bad weather and no real preparation I could use this round to make some adjustments to my game.
We got to the course and walked onto the tee box immediately. No chipping, putting or warm up at all. Just two practice swings and let it rip. I found the dead center of the fairway with my first drive and found my way to a double bogey after a shaky short game shot. On the second hole I made another double bogey. Great start!
On the third hole I gave into my frustration and told myself that no matter what happens with my swing I am just going to keep my head down through the swing on all my shots. After telling myself that I went on a string of pars that included a birdie on a par 5 and 4 straight pars to end my front 9. I was out in 40 and felt like I was getting up and down from everywhere on the course.
I hit a few loose shots coming home, but managed a 44 to post an 84 for my round. Although I know the round could have been much lower, I am encouraged again that the work I put in this off-season on my short game was finally paying off. I am excited to play again and I know that I am getting closer to breaking 80. As long as I keep that scoring goal out of my head on the course I think I have a great shot at making it happen this season.
May 7, 2013
I have written about this before, but I have to address it again. I played this past weekend with a good group of buddies and witnessed the most absurd practice swing routine I have ever seen. Let me try to explain.
The practice swing routine was this:
- Walk up to the ball
- Take 3 – 4 full practice swings
- Step off the ball and look at the target
- 1 – 2 more practice swings
- Look at the target 2 more times
I don’t know about you, but this routine is ABSURD. This buddy of mine shot a whopping 99. Breaking that down he took 99 actual strokes. Add on 6 extra practice swings to each of his real strokes and he took 594 strokes during our round. Even if he only took the low end of his routine he took 396 strokes. There is no possible way that taking that many practice strokes can be beneficial on the course. Not to mention it must be exhausting.
When we asked me why he was taking so many practice strokes, his response was that he wasn’t comfortable over the ball. If you ask me, taking less time in between shots and just getting up and hitting the ball would probably help him get more comfortable hitting shots. It sounds like he is thinking way too much over the ball and the results are not in his favor.
Watching my buddy go through his painfully long routine made me think about mine. To be honest, I was happy with where I was with my routine. I have evolved mine to include one practice swing and two looks at the target before pulling the trigger. It takes a ton of the technical thought out of your mind when you know you have to pull the trigger. It also speeds up play and doesn’t allow you the same amount of time to think of all the things that could go wrong.
How many practice swings are you taking and why? Give it a look and consideration.
April 17, 2013
If you are anything like me you desperately want to get better at golf. You think about your swing at night, at work and maybe even while out at dinner. You probably even stroke putts and hit chips somewhere in your home. You watch golf on the weekends and you read about it during the week. You have taken lessons, purchased strange training aids and struggled to get significantly better. I am guilty of all of the above and I am beginning to think it is more of a detriment than anything else. The reason I say this is because the more I think about my swing the worse it gets. I’ll explain.
I recently came back from a six-day golf trip in North Carolina. While I was on the trip I played a lot of golf. I played so much golf, I didn’t have time to think about my swing. I never had a long period of time where I was sitting at my desk wondering what my next round would hold. My next round was always the next day. The next range session was only a few hours away. It was easy to let go of some of my swing thought anxiety because I knew I had a chance to work on it in the very near future.
Now I am back in Chicago and I am thinking about my swing again. I’m thinking about it a lot. Sitting at my desk not knowing when my next round will be is causing me to think about my swing more than I want. Since I have been back, I have played two rounds of golf. They were my two worst scores I have ever shot on this course. Being stuck at a desk and having two terrible rounds of golf to reflect on is causing me to think about the mechanics of my swing way too much.
Last night I went to the range to pound out some of these new demons. I bought a large bucket and went to work. I knew my grip was a bit off, as was my takeaway and my release just wasn’t getting the job done. I was determined to fix all of these things. Want to know the result? The WORST bucket of balls I have ever hit. I was hitting my pitching wedge a good 20 yards left of my target. 20 yards!!! I was furious.
I bought a second bucket. This time I said to myself, “keep your head still and hit down on the ball.” The result? A bucket full of golf shots. I started to hit the ball straighter and further by just trying to smash the ball into the ground. I wasn’t worried about my takeaway or my angle of attack and blah blah blah. I have written this before, but over thinking the swing is an absolute game killer.
A lot of mechanics goes into the golf swing. My experience so far has been that over thinking those mechanics can be a real pitfall. This might be a gross over simplification on my end and I recognize that. My experience has shown me that getting the swing thoughts out of my head is the best way for me to play golf. There are a few more range sessions in my near future as well as a few early morning 9 hole outings before work in order to keep working on my game. If I don’t have something on the horizon I know I will let myself fall back into over thinking and analyzing my swing.
April 2, 2013
I am officially back from my trip down to Pinehurst and back at the desk. It is tough coming back to chilly Chicago after six days on the course in nice weather, but it is inevitable for us cube monkeys who don’t live in the ideal golf climate. The trip down south produced a few things I really liked and a few things I really didn’t like. Let’s start with the good.
1) My swing is MUCH better than it was last season. The work I have done with Mike Thornburg at Play 18 this off-season has helped a ton. During this trip I hit the ball the best I have ever hit it off the tee and produced some of the better iron shots I have ever hit as well. My irons were a bit less consistent, but the results were noticeably different.
2) My ability to go “Play” golf has improved as well. I did a great job of focusing on each shot as they came and left the worry and stress about my score and the technical aspects of the swing on the range. I shortened up my range warm up sessions in an attempt to not over think the game and just go play and it really helped. The main change I made was that if I hit a club well three times in a row during my warm up I was done with it. That was all the confidence I needed to take to the course.
3) I was surprisingly confident with the putter for not having worked on it much. The take away I had from this was that it is very easy to over think putting. I found that when I was more reactive to each putt I felt more natural as opposed to worrying about technique. There is something to be said for letting go of the concept of control on the greens.
Ok, time for the not so good.
1) My scores did not reflect the way I hit the ball tee to green.
2) My short game is still rusty and needs the most improvement. Part of this was that I practiced a lot with my wedges this off-season and got down to Pinehurst where the lies around the greens are much tighter than I expected and require much more bump and run shots or putting off the green. I was not ready for this at all and was a bit lost in the short game area. I eventually adjusted, but was very disappointed with the short game results.
3) I have a lot more work to do, but feel I am trending in the right direction.
4) Looking back on these rounds I didn’t set any real tangible goals to shoot for and I wish I had. I need to take a good long look at this upcoming season and set some real goals and stick to them.
This weekend could mark the beginning of the Chicago golf season for me even if the weather is still in the 50s. I have the itch to play again and I need to do something about it. Stay tuned as the journey continues!
February 22, 2013
I just had a great session with Mike over at Play 18. The two weeks leading up to this session I have been working on short chip shots with my 7 iron working on hitting the ball first and moving my hips forward of center and towards the target. It helped but I still had some major issues going on. The dead right shank was still coming out when I tried to speed things up and hit full shots. Long and short of the problem was that I was coming too much from the inside with the club, my grip was too weak and too tight and I was swinging the club out and right of the target. All of this equalled an open club face and the hossel on the ball. To make things better, my left wrist at the top of the back swing was bending the wrong way. Seems like a lot to fix in one session, but I have to say Mike made it pretty simple to feel what I needed to feel to get my swing on plane.
First Mike told me he was going to get my swing on the proper plane by switching up three main things.
The first was my grip. Mike had me move the club in my left hand even further into the fingers. He had me hold it straight up in the air in front of me so it felt light. Once I had my left hand on it correctly he had me put my right hand on and keep the light feeling. After that, he said keep that pressure and feeling throughout the swing. I instantly felt that my grip was much tighter in my old swing than what he currently had me doing. I hit a few shots with the new lighter grip and it felt much smoother and had a bit more of effortless power.
The second item to address was my address set up. I was getting into my set up with too narrow of a stance. This was probably the most bizarre thing Mike had me do in our lesson. He had me take my set up without my club and close my eyes. From there I let my hands swing out and in. Because my stance was too narrow my hands were actually missing each other when I brought them together. When I widened my stance a little bit the started hitting perfectly together. I can’t explain why, but it was weird. Widening my stance made me feel more connected to the ground and on my back swing my weight was more in the instep of my right foot than rolled over to the outside. This actually made me feel more comfortable over the ball.
The last thing Mike had me work out was feeling like my hands were swinging to the left of my target. Mike put down a foam roller and put the ball right up next to it and gave me the classic “miss the foam roller, hit the ball.” My swing was hitting the ball and then right into the foam roller. Ahhhhh, so I am coming way too far from the inside? Bingo. Once Mike got me thinking about hitting the ball and getting the club to the left I started to miss the foam roller and hit the ball fairly well. The key here was that I wasn’t drastically hitting the ball to the left, but actually was getting the club back on a decent plane. The feeling for me that produced an on plane swing was getting my hands to the left of the target. The more I tried doing this the more comfortable it felt. It immediately got rid of my dead right shank shot.
I left today feeling much better about my swing and where I am heading. There are still a few things that I really need to get more comfortable with and work on. Mainly my left wrist at the top of my swing and feeling my hands swinging to the left of the target are things I need to work on a lot in the next few weeks. I have my big golf trip to North Carolina coming up in the next two weeks so I am going to get in a lot of practice and one more session with Mike. Hopefully this is the start of a great golf season!
February 4, 2013
After working on some of the separation that Mike is trying to get me to incorporate I have noticed a two swing keys that help me hit the ball solid each time. It may not go exactly where I am aiming just yet, but it improves my delivery of the club face to the ball at impact.
The first key is my grip. Mike had me switch my grip back to an overlap grip from an interlock grip. He was seeing my hands leave the club in the transition from back swing to down swing that I hadn’t noticed. Once he pointed it out I could feel the separation. This lack of a solid grip was making it nearly impossible for me to get the club square at impact. It was leaving it wide open on most shots that caused a slice or I tried to flip the club shut and it went dead left. Ever since I have focused on keeping my grip solid and on the club throughout the swing I have been hitting the ball much more solidly. What a shock right? It’s funny how some of the basics can slip your mind when you are trying to make your swing better. Working on creating lag and separation and more club speed is great, but in my case my grip was causing all of that work useless. I feel much more comfortable with my grip and the swing changes I’m working on now which is a nice relief. It felt like a big step forward.
The next key is my left hip. Mike is trying to get me to feel my shoulders rotating while keeping my hips steady and then bumping my left knee to the target, firing my left hip and letting the club swing through and into the ball with speed. The key here for me is to feel like the down swing starts with my hip opening and not my hands dropping. Often times when I am trying to get better with my swing I tend to try to control the club head. Controlling the club head is a killer in the golf swing for me because it makes me tentative. I don’t let it go, I don’t create speed and I don’t get the club head shut at the top. When I focus on starting the swing with my hip turn the club falls into the slot much better than when I try to control it. This is obviously a new feeling for me so it is taking some getting used to. When I get my hip firing and my grip solid it produces some of the best and most solid shots I have ever hit. I have faith in the process and feel like I am heading in the right direction so I am going to stay the path and keep working!
January 30, 2013
This winter I have dedicated myself to fine tuning my short game and putting any way I can. I figured I would give a brief update on how I have been doing this. Every morning when I get up I do some putting on my carpet. I know this isn’t ideal, but it is better than nothing. Each morning I pick a different distance and hit about 30 putts. The longer putts are all about finding the right speed and the shorter ones are all about aim. This has been fun because it has been a good change of pace and it doesn’t feel very repetitive. It has also greatly boosted my confidence with the putter. There aren’t many better feelings in golf than sinking 30 five footers in a row into a coffee cup. Trust me, it is addicting.
The other piece to my short game tune up is my chipping. Last season I struggled with my chipping the most and finally took the approach of getting the ball on the green as quickly as possible. I hit a lot of 8 iron runners and it definitely helped. I realize that this isn’t the best approach, but last season I was desperate and needed a quick fix. After I hit my putts I move on to some ship shots. Every morning I pick a new club and a new landing spot. I don’t focus on where the ball ends up, just where it lands. Often times I will put a pillow down where I think the landing spot will be and I will hit chips onto the pillow. I will do this with my 7, 8, 9, pw, 50, 54 & 58 clubs. The biggest thing I have taken away from this is how the ball comes off each club and how much takeaway I need to get the ball to land on the pillow. I know that when I finally get outside and onto a green I will need to calibrate a little for the rollout of the longer clubs, but right now I am getting very confident in getting each club to come off higher or lower and land where I want it to.
It will be a few more months before I know if this new practice routine will pay off, but right now I have never felt more comfortable or confident with my putter or wedges in my hands. It has been fun changing it up each morning and I love the lack of doubt I now have especially with my chip shots. Last year I was just looking to get the ball on the green, now I feel like I can take advantage of my short game to help me really drop my scores down. The winter won’t keep me down this year.
January 21, 2013
Last week I got a chance to get some winter work on my game in. There is a facility here in Chicago called Play 18 that is very cool. They are located right in downtown and they have tons of hitting bays and simulators tucked away in their lofty space. The other cool item that Play 18 has is a Tour Bound Golf Academy Robot. I wasn’t completely sure what I was expecting the first time I walked in, but I was pleasantly surprised. The place is just down right cool.
I made my way to Play 18 to get a tune up from my coach Mike Thornburg. The session was great and I have made a ton of progress since we first started working together. There were a few standout areas that I need to work on that he identified early on in the session. With a few tips and drills I was on my way to straightening those out, but it will no doubt take some time to get the timing and feel down.
The strangest part of the lesson was getting on the Tour Bound machine. It was strange to be guided through what a tour pros swing feels like, but it was also a learning experience. The biggest thing I felt different was the lag. Wow do they create some serious lag in their swings. I couldn’t believe how much lag the machine made me feel. It also made it clear that I don’t create much in my swing at all. I’m not convinced that doing reps on the machine will make your swing perfect, but I am convinced it is a good learning tool to feel the difference between how the pros swing the club and how you swing the club. At the end of the day, I would recommend it as a learning tool for someone looking to get better.
I’m working on some drills that Mike gave me over the next two weeks and then getting back to Play 18 for another session. My golf trip to North Carolina is coming up in March so I don’t have a lot of time to get my swing tuned up. I’ll keep the updates coming and hopefully a video update on the swing soon. Here is to hitting ‘em straight!
January 2, 2013
I’m back in Chicago after my trip to San Diego for the holidays. The weather wasn’t ideal while I was there, but it was a vast improvement from the dropping temperature here in Chicago. I was able to play three rounds while in San Diego and for the most part I was happy with the results. I played two of my rounds with a big group of friends in a best ball format and contributed the majority of my shots to the team. We made some birdies, a handful of pars and one too many bogies to win against the other teams. I was happy with the way I played for being off the course for nearly two full months.
It is amazing how quickly your game can go away when you aren’t hitting balls and playing every day. It is also amazing how quickly some of it can come back when you have the chance to hit balls on a consistent basis. As soon as I landed in San Diego I went home to unpack and put my golf shoes on and went to the range. I got three solid range sessions in before my first full round and it helped a bunch. My full swing was in decent shape and my short game was surprisingly sharp. Where I left the most strokes on the course was my putting. I just didn’t have a good feel for my touch on the greens and it cost me about 6 – 7 strokes a round. I’m not overly worried about this because with some steady practice it will turn around.
The one round I did play on my own was a very early morning round with a group of guys who were in town from Northern California and Chicago strangely enough. I could tell the one guy was from Chicago because he was the only person crazy enough to wear shorts to the course at 6:40am. Needless to say, I liked him immediately. My round started off with a couple fairways, GIR and a few three putts. I wasn’t upset and was hitting the ball fairly straight. I made a couple of scramble pars near the turn and was in decent shape. The back nine turned up two balls OB which pretty much sealed the deal for me and stuck me in the high 80s. It was disappointing, but I also realize it could have been much worse.
My takeaway from this trip to San Diego was mainly that my game is not that far off. I need to keep up my chipping and putting and find a way to keep my full swing in shape. I am going to try to work with my guy Mike a bit more each month and suck up the cold weather at the range a few times to stay sharp. I have a 5 day golf trip in March with my brother-in-law that has us playing Pinehurst #2, Tobacco Road and a few courses in Myrtle Beach! I’m excited for the trip, but I have a lot of work to do to get my scores down close to breaking 80 by then. Here is to a lot of hard work in the next few months to drop some strokes in the bitter winter cold!
December 17, 2012
Living in Chicago makes practicing a tad more difficult than I would like. The driving range stays open and has heaters, but it can be absolutely brutal. Indoor facilities are expensive and not that common. I have been able to implement some indoor chipping and putting, but those can get tedious. The bottom line is, practicing in Chicago can be miserable during the winter months.
That is why I take my annual trip home for the holidays to see family and energize my golf game. This is easy to do when your destination is a golf mecca like San Diego. This year I am going to spend ten days in San Diego with family, friends and lots of golf.
Every year I go home and spend a good amount of time at the range and on the course. I always come back feeling great about my game and full of anticipation for the Chicago weather to turn warm and the courses to open back up. It would be nice to carry some of the momentum I gain while I am in San Diego with me throughout the winter. I have a few ideas of how I might be able to do that, but nothing is sticking out to me as the clear-cut solution.
As it stands now, I am enjoying my golf in San Diego and trying to increase my practice in Chicago leading up to the 2013 season. I have set some lofty goals this season and I will need to start the year right with commitment and consistent practice to achieve those goals. For me, this holiday season marks the beginning of my 2013 journey. Here is to a successful New Year!