July 19, 2013
Well folks, I finally did it. I was finally able to break through the 80 barrier and post my first ever score in the 70’s with a 79. The course I played isn’t the most difficult, but I am still excited about it since I have never been below 80 on any course before in my life.
I started this blog about 2+ years ago and the entire goal was to post about the journey to breaking 80 while living in a city. There are a few unique hurdles that Chicago golfers face and I wanted to prove that you can in fact get better at golf while living in a big city. By no means has it been easy and I have put a lot of work into my game. That is why this first 79 means so much.
The funniest part about the score was how the round itself started. I hit the fairway on the first hole, sailed the green with my approach shot which hit the cart path and bounced OB. After two bad chips and a few putts I carded a quad bogey 8. I said to my playing partners “there goes breaking 80 today” and started to just play. Letting go of the score was the biggest part for me. Starting off so poorly really allowed me to enjoy the round and focus on playing the course one hole at a time. I made a few pars and a few bogeys, but also carded 4 birdies during the round. I birdied 2 of the 3 par 5s and 2 of the shorter par 4s which really helped me recovery from that brutal first hole.
I didn’t even know I had a chance to be in the 70’s until I stood on the 18th tee box. I found the fairway and the green, but the nerves kicked in on the green and I 3 putted for a closing bogey. Once the putt dropped I thought I would feel much more excited and give a fist pump or something more dramatic, but all I felt was relief. It was a moment that I knew would eventually come and when it finally did I was just happy to have the pressure off. I have been chasing the 70s for over 2 years and on a day I wasn’t expecting it to come it decided to show up.
Now that I have broken 80 once I know I can do it again. I’m not expecting to be in the 70s every time now, but the belief that it is possible is there for good now. I know my game and I know my ability level. Finally putting it together was something I will never forget.
Stats from the Round:
Fairways: 8 of 13 hit – 62%
Greens in Regulation: 11 of 18 hit – 61%
Putts Per Hole: 1.83
Total Putts: 33
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 20, 2012
I have recently made a few changes to my swing and in particular my fundamentals. These include my hip rotation on my back swing, my grip and my balance over the ball on the back swing. I wouldn’t consider any of these changes drastic, but they have all had a positive impact on my swing thus far. The biggest and best change I have made recently is on my takeaway.
The other day I was hitting balls and I was having a really hard time squaring the club face up at impact. My shots weren’t terribly off line, but they weren’t flush and they weren’t as straight as I had hoped. It was quickly pointed out to me that on my takeaway I was rolling my left forearm over too much. The best way to describe this is if you were to stand up straight and put your left arm straight out in front of you and then rotated to your right as if you were making a back swing your arm would stay straight and the palm of your hand wouldn’t rotate up at all. Mine was. This was causing me to bring the club way too far inside and on the down swing I was really fighting to bring the club back to square.
In order to fix this, I got a great visual tip. The tip I got was to picture that my left palm was going underneath the club on the takeaway. At first I felt kind of weird with this, but it turns out that it really helps me keep my left arm straight on the back swing and not rotating to the inside. When I pair this with taking my back swing to just above my right shoulder and not much further I get the club perfectly on plane and am able to release all the clubs energy down into the ball.
Out of all the small changes I am making this season this has been one of the most eye opening in terms of something glaring I was doing wrong. Can’t wait to go hit balls again tomorrow and keep working on this.
February 15, 2012
When I say that the average golfer is insane I mean that literally. The definition of insanity is repeating and action over and over again and expecting a different result. I include myself in this category, at least I used to. I, like most average golfers, went to the driving range all the time to “work” on my swing. I didn’t work on fundamentals, short game or putting that much. I just wanted to hit the ball and I thought that if I hit enough balls I would figure it out and get better. There are very few people who can go to the driving range and “figure it out” and become a good golfer.
Since I never took lessons growing up I was spending my time at the driving range hammering in bad habits and bad fundamentals into my swing. This off-season I have put an end to that. I took the time to find a swing coach that has gotten me to think about the fundamentals of the game and begin to understand the golf swing. The funniest part about this is that it is the middle of the winter in Chicago, there isn’t an open golf course anywhere to be found, I am not hitting a ton of golf balls and I know that I am getting better every week. It is possible to get much better over the off-season in golf by focusing on the fundamentals of your game and your physical fitness.
I will share more about my off-season regiment of drills and work outs later in more detail, but I wanted to share that it is possible to make positive progress in the winter time. I used to think that winter was just a time to wish I was somewhere warmer so I could be out playing golf. Not anymore. It is an opportunity to really solidify the fundamentals of my game so when the snow melts my game won’t have any rust on it. It will be ready to go and hopefully better than ever.
If you are like I used to be and love pounding balls at the range but have struggled to dip your handicap take a second to think about how you practice and prepare your game. Are you working on things that actually help your game? When was the last time you changed your practice habits if ever? Are you repeating the same habits over and over again and expecting a different result? If you are, STOP! You are insane and need to make a change! Don’t let an offseason, winter weather or old habits hold you back from seizing an opportunity to actually get better. It is 100% possible to get better at golf, we all just need to stop being insane and start being more realistic with how we intend to get better. I, for one, am doing it with fundamentals. How are you planning to make your game better?
December 19, 2011
As the snow rolls into Chicago and my season officially wraps up, I have been looking back on how I approached this past season and the goals I set for myself. One of my co-workers is getting her Master’s degree in sports psychology and has agreed to take me on as a bit of a project. I have sat down with her a few times already and discussed how I approach practice, playing, setting my goals and how I deal with stress and my bad shots on the course. It has been interesting to say the least and I am very excited to continue working with her on my mental game throughout the winter and into next season.
The very first thing we discussed was how I measure my game on the course. She gave me a book that her advisor wrote called “Smart Golf” by Dede Owens and Dan Kirschenbaum and one of the very first concepts they discuss is playing to your own personal par. I have been very caught up in the idea of breaking 80 and getting myself to a single digit handicap. Every time I go out and play and I don’t break 80 I consider it a failure. Since I have yet to break 80 you can imagine how many times I have walked off the course feeling like I didn’t accomplish anything even if I played decent.
When I go back to San Diego this week I am going to try this new technique. I am going to approach each round with the mindset of simply trying to break my own personal par. For me that means I get a stroke on the 14 toughest holes on the course. If I go out each round and try to shoot below my handicap, eventually I will start to drop my handicap and break 80. I really need a new metric of success on the course because the fact that I still have not broken 80 is getting very frustrating. I am hoping this new approach will let me enjoy the game a bit more and allow me to start seeing small victories as progress on the road to my larger goals.
November 29, 2011
This past season I set out to accomplish a full list of goals. I accomplished a few and have fallen short on the rest, but felt I made progress throughout the year. I will be re-evaluating my goals for this winter off season as well as my goals heading in to 2012 in the next few weeks.
Before I do that, I wanted to take a look at the goals I was able to accomplish and the ones I wasn’t. The reason is, I am going to San Diego in the next two weeks and plan on playing a few more rounds. This will be my last real chance to break 80 before I am stuck in a Chicago winter. In order to give myself a shot I need to see where I am coming up short.
The goals I accomplished are the following:
- Hit more than 50% of Greens in Regulation in a round – Encinitas Ranch (55%)
- Hit more than 50% of fairways in a round – Cougar Point (64%), Encinitas Ranch (71%)
- Beat my previous low score of 85: Shot an 83 at Encinitas Ranch in San Diego
- Beat my Brother in Law – Cougar Point: Brother in Law (88) Me (87)
The goals I did not accomplish are the following:
- Break 80 – Closest so far 83
- Lower my handicap to single digits: Currently 14
- Play a round with no 3 putts
- Get up and down more than 30% of the time. This includes sand saves.
- Break 100 at the Ocean Course 110
- Break 90 at the Ocean Course? 110
- Play a Course that has hosted a Major Championship. Don’t care which one.
I accomplished 4 and missed 7. Not that great. The two goals that stick out to me the most are “Play a round with no 3 putts” and “Get up and down more than 30% of the time.” I truly and honestly believe that if I can get closer and closer to these two goals consistently I will break 80 and drop my handicap to single digits.
I am very excited for one more opportunity to try and accomplish my season long goal and plan to give it my absolute best. Regardless of the outcome I will be resetting my goals for the upcoming winter season as well as a full new set of goals for 2012. This project will keep going as long as I can get better golf, so a LONG time. I have some exciting changes to share regarding my new goals and plans for achieving those goals, but I want to share them after the holidays and after they are final. Stay tuned!
September 20, 2011
A few weeks ago I did a full iron fitting with the guys over at Club Champion. I wasn’t sure how a fitting would really help my game because I wasn’t sure my swing was repeating enough to require a certain club, shaft, etc. During my fitting I was surprised to find that my swing speed, angle of attack and path were pretty consistent. Once I saw this I began to see how different combinations of shaft length and weight could get my ball contact more towards the sweet spot. I didn’t change a single thing to my swing during my fitting and I started hitting the sweet spot more often.
In the video Michael Thornburg (@mthorn316) explains in greater detail exactly what he did during my fitting to get me hitting the sweet spot. If you have ever considered getting fit for clubs I highly suggest it and you will see why in the video.
Here is the video from my fitting…check it out!
September 12, 2011
I just got back from my weekend golf trip to San Diego and I must say it was a successful one. My flight was cancelled on Thursday night due to the blackouts in Southern California. I had to get re-booked on a 6am flight that didn’t get me in to San Diego until 10:30am the next morning. Straight from the airport I had to go pick my friend up and run home to change in order to make our 1:30 tee time. I had time for a quick bite to eat, a rinse in the shower and to unpack my clubs before we had to take off for the course.
We made out tee time, but were only able to hit about ten balls each on the practice range. Obviously, this wasn’t an ideal warm up situation, but hey what can you do? What happened next was a prime example of why I love golf. I should have been all over the course coming off not much sleep and a stressful travel day, but the exact opposite happened. I shot my best round to date with an 83. I had two birdies, hit 71% of the fairways and 55% of the Greens in Regulation. It was one of those rounds where everything was effortless. If I had made just a few more putts I would have broken 80 for the first time in my life.
I found it incredibly humorous that my best round to date came after such hectic travel day and not from a round where I felt very rested and prepared. Maybe there is something to be said for not over thinking the game. Maybe the reason I played my best was because I didn’t expect to or I didn’t feel pressure to. If I played poorly it would have made sense due to all the outside factors effecting me. In a way, all of the outside factors allowed me to let go and push all of the normal pressure I feel to the side. I’m not 100% sure this was the case, but it kind of feels that way.
After that round, I feel as though my game is right there on the verge of being really good and I also feel as though I made a big step mentally. I shot a 42 on my front nine with a double and triple bogey. Neither one of those scores phased me for some reason. Ya it was frustrating, but I just kept chugging along and made my handful of pars and threw in a birdie on the par 5 9th after hitting the green in two! How about that for a next shot mentality?
All in all, I have never felt this good about my game and I am ready to break 80 in the next few weeks. I know it is going to happen, I just need to get out and play as much as I can before the winter gets here in Chicago.