As we head into the heat of summer, the number of rounds played tend to increase and the occasional golfer is hitting the links and the numerous charity events all over the country.
It’s sort of a “down week” from major sports. The NBA and NHL finals are over. MLB has the boring home run derby (boring for me anyway) and the dull lackluster All Star Game with another 3 hours+ of Fox Joe Buck banter. I wasn’t going to write anything this week but we do have the John Deere Classic and the Scottish Open leading up to next week’s Open Championship at Portrush. Business takes me to Germany, Lichenstein and finally China during the week of 7/15 so I’m going to miss most of the Open live coverage. I was pretty pleased to see that my partner in the AT&T Pro-AM, Roberto Diaz shot nine under 63 in the first round of the John Deere but he didn’t sustain in the second round. Hopefully, he’ll right the ship during the rest of the tournament.
I’ve noticed a number of pessimistic golfers on social media posts this past few weeks lamenting their poor play and looking for solace and advice. So I thought I would construct a short piece here with a few kernels of wisdom some of which are some threads from my first book “Golf Chronicles.”
Golf is a hard game requiring persistence and patience. The challenge is both physical and mental and the variability surrounding the golf swing would keep supercomputers very busy for years trying to codify a successful and consistent golf swing. I believe you have to match your skill set with the idea of continuous improvement to get maximum enjoyment out of the game. We will never strike the ball like a professional. Even the professional will tell you that they only hit a few quality shots per round. What is exciting for the amateur is that every once in a while, you actually hit a shot that a professional would be proud of. You won’t learn much of anything looking at Golf Digest photo layouts as these professionals have nearly perfect swings.
Some postulates of mine:
- Practice with a purpose–don’t just go out and whack balls to warm up. Decide what aspect of your swing you want to work on and find a sweet spot to maintain consistency.
- Driving range consistency doesn’t necessarily translate to good results on the golf course. Golfers often complain that the shots they hit well on the range aren’t achieved on the golf course. The difference is focus and concentration whereas on the range you are hitting the same shot repetitively, which brings consistency.
- Practice the short game–almost 50% of your golf shots in your round are going to be putts, pitch shots and bunker shots. You should spend at least 50% of your practice time in this area.
- The glass is half full. Don’t focus on shots that are missed and/or hit poorly. Emotion and negativity in golf breeds more emotion and negatively and results in a very negative experience. Toss the bad shots out of your mind and remember and focus on the techniques that generated good shots. Try and take yourself back to the driving range and consider this mid-iron to the green as you would hit it on the driving range to one of the flags.
- Don’t try the heroic shot. Most of us think we are better than we really are and can really carry the chasm 200 yards away with our hybrid club only to dump it in the hazard and get angry. The appropriate play is a layup to the chasm with the opportunity to hit a short iron or wedge to the green and make par.
- There is simply no good excuse for slicing the ball. It doesn’t matter what handicap you are but slicing the ball is unacceptable and must be cured or else you cannot enjoy the game of golf. I am no teacher by any stretch of the imagination but a number of actions can be taken to prevent the slice through alignment, posture and follow-through. Hooking the ball to the left is very acceptable and can easily be fixed but the slice must be stopped.
- Don’t take lessons one-off. If you going to commit to improve, you need to find a PGA teaching professional that you become comfortable with and commit to taking lessons long term. The game is too difficult to absorb a lesson in a sporadic manner and teacher compatibility is critical.
I am not Shivas Irons and don’t have the magic elixir to the game of golf. I enjoy the constant challenge that the game provides and am determined to get better. For me, it ebbs and flows as I envy some of my peers that simply continue to play well virtually all the time. I guess it’s the challenge that brings me back time and time again.