The Goofy Game of Golf Searching for the Answer

It’s a very chilly Sunday here in the Burgh, with temperatures in the 20’s, so no golf today. I was able to get in two rounds this week, shooting a 79 under some tough conditions at North Park, windy with temps in the high 40’s, and a nice solid 75 at Scenic Valley under better conditions with temps in the upper 50’s with just a slight breeze. I have been fortunate enough to have 5 holes in one, over the 50 plus years of playing this game, and the ball going in the hole is certainly just luck. But I must say, I had one of my luckiest shots of all time, which contributed mightily to my 75 on Thursday. I hit my tee shot just to the right of green on the par 3 sixth hole. It left me a very difficult pitch to an upslope and then a downslope to the hole. I shanked the shot across the green to the back and about 6 inches in the rough. I was already in a bit of foul humor, as I had just 3 putted the last green from about 20 feet. I did not go back to the cart and all I had in my hand was my 60 degree wedge and putter. I was about 50 to 60 feet from the pin and the correct shot would have been a low running chip. I was not comfortable shutting down the lob wedge especially after the shank. So I putted the ball and the ball just popped out of the air and carried about 5 feet onto the green and started to scurry along the green. As I was watching the ball, I thought I just might make a 4 here, and the next thing you know the ball broke about 10 feet to the right and into the hole. You gotta love this game. I bogeyed the next hole, but then went on to play the last 11 holes even par with two birdies and two bogeys. These two rounds this week were the 98th and 99th rounds of the year. Last year I was able to play 102 rounds. This does not include 9 hole rounds I played. The difference between the 2 years so far, is that I played 7 rounds in March of 2012 and only 2 rounds in March of 2013. The USGA doesn’t have to tell me to go out and play golf. I think all the new rule adjustments are fine that they recently made,  but I still think they missed the boat in one area. All rule decisions should be made on that day of play. Nobody should go to bed thinking they shot one score and then the next day find out they have been penalized for something that was discovered the next day no matter how it was discovered. When the day is over it is over. This weather is looking like it is going to sit in here for awhile, so golf is not looking too good this week. Will get back into the Mental A’ and discuss Acceptance next Sunday.


The Goofy Game of Golf Searching for the Answer

Even though temperatures are well above normal, it is a rainy day in the Burgh and no golf today. Only one round was played this week because of snow cover, but it was a pretty solid 77 at Scenic Valley. Even I, Mr. Shoulder Control Swing himself, forgets just how dominate the arms can be, and ruin a golf shot. I righted the ship around the 13th hole and made some nice putts to break 80 in less than ideal conditions. I have also made an equipment change in by driver and fairway clubs that has made a big difference so far. It has been tough to evaluate totally because I have been playing in mostly cold temperatures which will effect distances and ball flight.

Today I will discuss one of the mental A’s, with the first one being a negative one, anger. However is anger always negative. After all, we often see the best golfers getting angry and slamming clubs on the ground and letting out the F bomb, especially the No. 1 player in the world.  Tiger at times has espoused an eastern philosphy and I supposed if the Buddha had ever played golf he may have thrown a club once in awhile,too. The key here is the timing of the anger. On the golf course, you want to stay as calm as possible no matter how frustrated you get. Then when you get home just beat the shit out of a loved one and you will feel much better. Maybe thats why I am divorced. Just kidding, not about the divorce. I also wasn’t kidding about the timing. Everyone at times is going to have let off a little bit of steam on the golf course. Do it after the shot is totally done. If you react immediately to a misplayed shot, you will lose all feedback from the mistake. This can be difficult especially with putts. Never walk after a putt before it stops rolling no matter how bad you think it is going to be. I wish I could say that I follow this rule, but I am as quilty of this as next golfer. If you can do this, your putting in the long run will improve. Same thing with golf shots, don’t react negatively to the shot until it hits the ground and stops rolling. Again you will see improvement in future shots. If things are just going badly and you can’t just help yourself then do something from the shot to bag or the green to the bag. Slamming the club in bag is a good one. Throwing the ball is a good one. Try not to throw clubs or bang clubs in the ground because of injury. Again I wish I could say I have never tossed one, but it wouldn’t even be close to being true. I also like kicking things, air, golf cart tires, and tree trunks. If you are going to get pissed off so to speak, do it after the shot. Feedback is the key to improving during the round. Over reacting to shots completely blocks your feedback mechanism.

This week looks like there are some playable days in the middle of the week. If these forecasts aren’t right I am really going to be pissed off. See you next Sunday.

The Goofy Game of Golf Searching for the Answer

I had planned to write about one of the mentals A’s, as I call them, this week but my week was so odd I have decided to write about that. Usually I am not into decribing golf rounds in much detail because I think they are generally boring except to the person who is playing the round. I played two 18 hole rounds this week that were such studies in contrast, that I am compelled to go through each round in some detail. Now I am not sure what conclusions can be drawn from these 2 rounds but I will just describe them, and maybe that will even help me figure it out.

The first round was on Wednesday at Pittsburgh National, a course that I have not played all that much, and from the tees we played from, the course is rated at 71.2 and a slope of 135. It was a beautiful day for November with lots of sun, temperatures in the mid 60’s and with a little bit of a breeze, that kept you on your toes.  I was also coming off the trip from San Diego the day before so I was a little tired. We had an 8:50 tee time. The first hole is a 369 par 4 fairly straight away. I hit my drive to the right around some trees.  I had an opening over the trees and hit an open faced 8 iron over the trees and it hit the back of the green and spun forward about 12 inches. Another 2 to 3 yards and I wound have bounded way over the green and I would have been lucky to make 5. Instead I 2 putted for an easy par. From that point on I had a very good rhythm, and my thinking was very good. I had a great lay up on the second hole a par 5 which gave me a good shot in which I put in about 8 feet from the hole. Missed the birdie but made par. The next 2 holes were routine with drives in the fairway and on the green for 2 putt pars. The next hole I hit a great drive but it went through the fairway and with a downwind I thought my wedge would jump more and I left it 8 yards short of the green to an upfront pin. I elected to putt it and left it about 6 foot short but made it to save par. On the next hole a par 3 I hit a beautiful  7 iron to about 4 feet and made birdie. On the next hole I messed up a short pitch on a par 5 and made bogey. I finished with 2 routine pars to shoot even on the back. I cooled off on the back but it was mostly due to losing some touch on the greens and a couple of bad breaks but a four over on the back led to a nice solid 76 on a solid golf course. My thinking was pretty clear the whole day and I hit the ball well, especially the irons, crisp all day.

The next day I headed for Scenic Valley, basically my home course, that has a course rating of 70.0 with a slope of 131. The day was completely different. It was chilly with temperatures in the mid 40’s with the wind being pretty strong at times. The wind was really not predicted. First off I was not dressed warm enough considering the wind. I was not that uncomforable during the round but I was not prepared for the wind. The drive on the first hole was perfect right down the midddle. Then I hit the pitching wedge fat. That led to an opening bogey. I parred  the next hole but faulty thinking got me 4 straight bogeys. After a great drive on 10 the rest of my game with South. To make a long story short I shot 84. I can’t say I can blame this on the cold but I completely lost feel for the game. The best was on 16. I hit a nice low 7 iron into a stiff wind about pin high and around 40 feet from the pin. The putt was fairly flat. As I was taking my practice swing my putter literally felt weightless, like there was nothing there at the end of my putter. It was one of the weirdest feelings I have ever had on the golf course. Naturally I could not stop play and say I feel like I am on the moon, but I wanted to. I left the putt about 5 feet short and missed it. The next hole a short up and down par 4, I hit a horrible duck hook and then kind of a sliced 5 iron from a downhill sidehill lie in the rough. But them I hit about a 50 yard pitch about 5 feet from the pin and made a nice left to right putt for a par. That was short lived as I butchered the last hole.

Now maybe this was some kind of delayed jet lag, and yes I did have some physical issues with the round, but my thinking was way off, when on just the day before it was spot on. Like I said before I am not too sure what to make of this, but it was such a contrast in just a 24 hour period. I was playing the same group of guys for the same stakes. This is one of these posts that I will have to think about just a little more to draw any real conclusions if I ever do. The week is not looking great, but the end of the week may be playable. See you next Sunday.

The Goofy Game of Golf Searching for the Answer

The blog is coming from San Diego, and its been a busy trip with the grandkids and Halloween. Today I thought I would go through the things I tried this year to find an answer to the mental game. There were many things I did on a short term basis with little  success but there were two things that I did for about three weeks each that made me think that I might be on to something.

The first thing was what I called the “philosophy of golf”. This philosophy was to never feel that you are hitting the ball. You should think of putting the ball in motion with a smooth  controlled swing. This should be applied to all parts of the game including the short game, and putting. In the beginning this seemed to work very well. However, all I really proved was that Bob Jones was right, that you could swing too easy at the ball which causes as much problem as swinging too hard at the ball. It was a case of over control.

Next I abandoned my shoulder swing. What triggered this was my play in the South Park Senior Championship. I made a comment in the blog about fighting my swing during the round. You will hear players at every level talk about fighting their swings. So I thought why would you want to fight your swing.  I called this mental madness in the blog. What I tried to do was to swing as naturally as I could. This resulted in a swing that had a less than a 90 degree shoulder turn, somewhat flat, and very handsy, with a pretty big wrist cock. Well, the results very good, bordering on great. I did this for about 2 rounds with some pretty decent scores. Then I had an unbelievable ball striking day at Indian Run for about 15 holes. On about 12 holes not only did I hit the green but I was never more than 15 feet from the hole. I did not make many putts and I was one over par after 15 holes. Then on the last 3 holes I just started hitting it badly but managed to scramble for pars. For the next 2 rounds the ball striking was just horrible. Back to the shoulder swing I went.

Other short term failures: Not reacting to the results of the shot. Trying to play all shots the same, ie hitting every shot from right to left. Trying to stay relaxed.

On another subject matter, I think I can explain the phenomenon of the good round at the  beginning of the season or after a long lay off. We have all had this experience where early in the season or after a long lay off we shoot a really good round of one or two over par. One of the explanations for such a good round is we go into the round with very little expectations, so we are better mentally prepared for bad shots so they don’t have a negative affect on our game. I agree with this as far as it goes. On the physical side of the game our golf muscles are not quite up to peak performance at the start of the season or after a lay off. On the backswing our left side is stretched as we get to the top of the swing. In the beginning of the season this is going to be naturally shorter. So some of our short backswings from anxiety are really not that short and the resulting shots turn out to be pretty well. But as the season progresses those muscles become more stretched so our backswings become longer and that short quick backswing now results in some wayward shots. So as I said before I think the game is 50/50, mental and physical. Back in Pittsburgh next week and the weather is looking more than playable, so see you on the links.

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