100% Mental Golf Rounds 35-47

I have played 13 rounds since the last blog on May 8.  It has been a bit of a roller coaster and I must say I don’t really know if I stayed the course of 100% Mental Golf. Maybe I should change the name to just 100% Mental.  Played a few courses for the first time this year such as Quicksilver, Hartmans, North Park and Highland Springs.  My scores ranged from 74 to 85.  During the stretch I have 4 rounds in the 80’s and 9 rounds in the 70’s. I had a run of three straight rounds in the 80’s from May 16 to 21.  This little streak caused some concerned, that a slump may be brewing and led to some of the things I did, which apparently helped as the next 5 rounds were all in the 70’s.

After the 3rd round in the 80’s, and it being the worse at 85, I decided that I had to do something a little different.   I decided to concentrate on my breathing while getting ready to hit the ball and during the swing itself.  Now this is not something that is new, but I did put a little different twist on it.   When reading about breathing and the golf swing the advice is to inhale on the backswing and exhale on the downswing.  I did not follow this rule.   I did not try to time my breathing with the golf swing  at all.  I just tried to follow my routine and swing.   My swing may have started when I was beginning my exhale or when I was in the middle of inhale.   I did this for all phases of the game, long game, short game and putting.  The results were quite good, with the very first round  coming in at 74.  The next 3 rounds were good also, 75, 76, and 77.    Then on Memorial Day at Highland Springs I got away from it and had a bad front nine of 5 over par and made another philosophical change that seemed to right the ship and shot 2 over on the back, to end with 79.  The front nine was a major putting problem with 21 putts contributing to the bad score. For now I am not going say what that philosophical change was.  What does this all mean?  I am not too sure.    Thinking of breathing during the golf swing may not be  better than any other swing thought that we usually do.   I am not quite  sure why I stopped the process on Monday.    Have not been able to play the rest of this week because of very unstable weather and I think I needed a little break anyway to mull all this over.  In the coming 2 weeks there is not going be a lot of golf played because next week I am  heading to San Diego to see the grandkids.  Maybe I will ask them, especially the 4 year old.

So where do I go from here and how does this affect 100% Mental Golf.  I will probably play 3 more rounds of golf before a I leave for San Diego and hopefully will learn more. I will go back to the breathing and on the next blog I will talk about the philosophy change whether it works or not. Feel like I am coming down the home stretch here.  Rounding 3rd and heading for home.  Just don’t know if I will be safe or out.

100% Mental Golf: Rounds 27-34

I have played 7 rounds since the last blog and not much progress has been made.  I did have 2 good rounds, a 76 at Fort Cherry and a 76 at Rolling Acre which has a par of 73.  The other 5 rounds were all in the 80’s at the familiar places, Scenic Valley and Fort Cherry, with one round at Pheasant Ridge.  The weather has not been too bad but we are getting rain at least every 2 to 3 days and I must admit I feel that I  have been playing soggy courses forever. This really isn’t an excuse for the bad rounds but it does get old having to clean your ball almost after every shot. I had the 76 at Rolling Acre this past Sunday and it was by far the best ball striking day of the year.  I hit 14 greens in regulation and made 3 horrible iron shots, that led to the 3 bogies.  My putting was not bad but obviously my ball did not find the hole on all those birdie putts. I thought this was going give me some momentum for the week, but both on Monday and Tuesday my game was off and it was hard to tell why. It is still very hard not to think the old fashion way of looking at your swing, when things go wrong even when you know that this is not the answer.    Let’s go back to the Sunday round which was a great ball striking day, and look at those three bad shots.  This may show what 100% Mental golf really means.

I had parred the first 4 holes and came to the 180 yard par 3 fifth hole.  The conditions were chilly and damp.  The hole is slightly uphill.   Even though the pin was cut on the left I chose to cut a 5 iron because I wanted to get the ball in the middle of the green. I was not flag hunting here and this was good thinking.  What was bad thinking, was that the 5 iron was not enough club in those conditions.  I closed the club down at impact and hit a dead straight pull about 35 yards left of the green .  Even with the over the top swing, I was not green high and the pin was in the back.  If I  would have hit a draw 5 iron or  cut the 4 iron, I am sure the results would have been better. From that point my play was stellar but missed about a 4 foot birdie on 8 and a twisting downhill left to right 12 putt on 9 to shoot one over on the front.   The 10th hole is a par 4 and I hit a nice drive down the right side of the fairway.  The pin was cut on the right front of the green and I had about 150 yards to the pin. I took dead aim at the pin which was a mistake.  I did not have a good picture of the shot and hit it way right almost 30 yards off line.   I parred the next 4 holes.   They moved up the tees on the 15th hole a par 5 and after two good shots I was about 40 yards short of the green on the right and the pin was cut on the mid right of the green.   The problem was my ball was on a pretty good down slope.  I tried to hit a high shot and wound up chunking it about 20 of the 40 yards.  Even though I was close to the green and should have played a more conservative shot which would have gone lower and slightly left of the pin and would have wound up around 8 to 20 feet from the pin depending on how far the ball had gone.  Then I went on to par the final 3 holes.

The mystery to me was my bad play on Monday and Tuesday.   But then, when I think about it, I went back to some physical remedies that I did not really need to do.  I am not going into what they were.  It does go to show you just how brainwashed I am when it comes to trying to “fix” your golf game when it does not need really fixing.  Bad decision making leads to bad swings.  Once that gets better then the scores will come.  See you next week.

100% Mental Golf: Rounds 20-26

Played seven rounds of golf since the last blog, and I am floundering a bit, and it may have been because of the last blog.  Lets get to the numbers: Fort Cherry 85   Scenic Valley 78   Ponderosa 77     Fort Cherry 79    Scenic Valley 77    Ponderosa  78    Scenic Valley  78.  Other than the horrendous day at Fort Cherry  the rounds were obviously consistent. If I wanted to be hard on myself, I could say, consistently lousy.  The weather was not great, mostly dark and dreary with some rain here and there, cool temperatures but with little to no wind.  The weather was not the issue.  The Fort Cherry round was a total disaster but I managed to right the ship to the point of making 5 pars and 2 bogeys on the last 7 holes.  Fort Cherry’s par is 70 so I was 13 over after 11 holes and everything was bad.    The rest of rounds were ok  with the normal things from keeping me scoring better.  We all know them.  Putting and short game, with some bad decisions mixed in.

What does the last blog have to do with all this?   I wrote, does 100% Mental Golf mean you totally ignore the physical side of the game.  My answer was no and I explained that I was making sure I was turning my body on my swing and gave this credit for my really good round of 75 at Scenic Valley.  Four days later I follow this round up with one of the worst of the year.  I repeat the question.  Does 100% Mental Golf mean you totally ignore the physical side of the game?  Now my answer is yes.  Now again this is for just us poor pathetic single digit handicappers who are stuck on the number.  How to get to a single digit handicap and be miserable, is another blog altogether.   I am not going to defend this position today, because maybe it will change again, but after the last 7 rounds, I don’t think so.  Obviously turning my body did not help me at Fort Cherry.  In the last blog I made the comment that there is a difference between thoughts and feelings.  Who cares.  Neither one is worth a good crap for very long on the golf course.  It boils down to the body and mind and how they function together.  I think now that some of our preconceived ideas about the golf swing, short game and putting are not right for our own particular golf game.   I am not going to get into specific examples, because this could change  by next week.

We will see what happens over the next few rounds.   I feel there should be 3 golf books that need to be written.

  1.  How to Become a Single Digit Handicap Golfer (At Least a 12)
  2.  How to Become a Scratch Golfer or Die Trying
  3.  Putting:  Get the Damn Ball in the Hole Any Way You Can

See you next week.

100% Mental Golf: Rounds 16-19

Able to play four rounds last week, and it was quite a week.  Played Indian Run 78, South Park 76,  Victory Hills 86, and Scenic Valley 75.  I played Tuesday through Friday, and I managed to sandwich in that 86, among the other pretty good rounds.  The conditions were not too bad, with only a very windy day at Indian Run, which made the 78 a better score than it would seem. So what happened at Victory Hills.  Very fast greens, that were unexpected, and I  was never really able to make the adjustment.  I had 39 putts for the day, but I was on the fringe 2 other times, and 3 putted, but technically only counted as 2 putts.  My ball striking was really good for the first 10 holes, especially the driver. My iron game was off just enough to give me some longer putts, and the score was 8 over after 10 holes.  Then for 4 holes my ball striking just deserted me, and even though I struck the ball better on the last 4 holes, it was a little too late.   I had not played this course for about 3 years, and even though I know the course pretty well, the greens caught me by surprise.  The other odd thing, this was the first course this year, that was playing hard and fast through the green.   On that bad stretch on the back nine, the ball was rolling into trouble to compound the bad ball striking.

The rest of the rounds were pretty good, the Scenic Valley round being the best of the year so far. The putting had it’s moments, which almost made me grade it B, but it was still too erratic to consider good overall.  Does 100% mental golf mean that you totally ignore the physical side of the game.  After all it is 100% mental.  My answer is no, and I am not too sure how I reconcile the concept,  other that to say feelings are different from thoughts.  I have always felt that the golf swing is a turn back and a turn forward.  Even though my ball striking has been good this year, I felt the swing just did not feel right.  The last round of the week at Scenic Valley I made sure that my body was turning and it was controlling the arms and not the arms controlling the body.   I did not try to get the club in any type of position at the top, all I did was turn by body away from the target on the backswing and then turn toward the target on the downswing.   This led to some of the best ball striking of the year.  During the round I was aware of turning the body but I still was concentrating on where I wanted the ball to go and the type of shot I was trying to execute.  In other words even though I was aware of turning my body more, I did not get into the typical things that I think many golfers get into when they hit a bad shot.  Thinking swing easier, swing in balance,  don’t overswing, smooth transition, and lead with the legs.   There is a lot more here but I think you get the point.  Every bad shot and mean every bad shot, is caused by a lack of awareness of the conditions, trying to do a shot you are not capable of, playing the wrong type of shot, picking the wrong club, or the circumstances of the situation, like trying to beat your best score or win a match or hole.  What it is not, is some flaw that has developed mysteriously in your swing.  There are certain principles of the golf swing which must be obeyed but there is a very wide leeway on how to go about these principles.  There is nothing that you have to be very specific about.  The three principles of the golf swing  are 1) Your body must turn.  2) You must lift the club some way with the hands and arms. 3) The belly button must pass the ball before the hands and arms on the forward swing.   That’s it.  Of course there are things you must do before you swing the club, but as far as the swing itself that is all there is.

This week looks like another 3 to 4 rounds should be played  with weather issues maybe making that number less.  The scores are going down some.  The index dropped from 4.7 to 4.1 for the first 2 weeks of the handicap season.  For me putting will be the key.  Still having some issues with that but we will see how all this progresses.  See you next week. Oh, by the way, does anybody out there know who won The Masters this week, I’ve been kind of busy and  just kidding.  What a great weekend of golf.

100% Mental Golf: Rounds 12 thru 15

Four more rounds are in the book since March 28th.  Played at Fort Cherry 76, Indian Run 80, Scenic Valley 80, and Beaver Valley 76.  The 80 at Indian Run was a pretty good score with winds at about 25 to 30 miles per hour all of the round.  I did play 9 holes at Mt. Lebanon yesterday, where I hoped I learned some things about playing 100% Mental Golf.

Again putting was a big issue, although there were some good moments with the book end 76’s, especially the round at Beaver Valley.  One of the things I did which seemed to help, I changed my routine. Most of the bad putts were me reverting back to my old routine, and then not starting over and being frustrated rather than thinking about making the putt.  Every thing else with my game has been A-Ok.   The hardest thing about this whole process is still looking at my swing when a shot goes wrong.  I feel like I am getting there, however.   Let me give you some examples of where poor thinking or a lack of thinking is what really affected the shot not some obscure swing flaw.   Let’s start from the tee box and move through the rest of the hole.    The biggest mistake is hitting driver when less club would do.  Number 2 is hitting the wrong type of shot.   Remember there is nothing wrong on a particular hole of trying to hit the ball straight rather than a fade or a draw.  For the rest of the hole whether a par 5 or a par 4  it is under estimating the effects of the lay of the land.   You would think playing in Western Pennsylvania my entire life, that I would get this.   First of all, I am not sure that the current thinking on how to play uneven lies is even correct.  I have written about this in the past, particularly the ball below your feet shot.    Other issues during the course of the hole is choosing the right club and how the ball is sitting in the grass.  All I can say is, when you figure things correctly, 99% of the time you will hit a good shot.    If you have figured it wrong, or are not aware of something, then the shot will go awry.  This is particularly true of the short game.  If you plan the shot correctly then you will most likely hit a good shot.    If you are hitting it high when you should hit it low or vice versa then the shot will be less than average.

Then there is putting.   The ultimate mental madness, which can freeze your brain and make you dysfunctional.   Here is what I did different, which got me putting a little better, especially on the medium to long putts.  I always looked at the hole when I made my practice stroke.  But my real stroke never seemed to be like my practice stroke.  I have tried putting when looking at the hole and this does not work for me.  Believe me I have tried everything when it comes to putting.  Now I look at the ball and then look up on the practice stroke, just like the actual putt.    Now the strokes feel exactly alike and this started to give me a little more confidence when putting. Plus I seemed to be able to see the line better.  This week looks like another 4 round week.   Remember it’s not your swing.  Remember it’s not your swing. Remember it’s not your swing.

100% Mental Golf: Rounds 7 through 11

Have been able to play everyday since Sunday.    On Sunday played Ponderosa and shot 77.  Played Scenic Valley two days in a row and shot 81 and 78.   The conditions on Monday were worst than anticipated as a light rain started on the 5th hole and really never let up the entire round.   The condition were chilly and damp to say the least, especially since the rain wasn’t expected for another 3 to 4 hours. Wednesday went back to Ponderosa and shot 80.  Today played Fort Cherry with a score of 81.  Even though the scores were not that good, I felt I played 100 % mental golf for the first time this year.  With 5 rounds played I am just going to go through the highlights or lowlights which ever you prefer.

The scores were high because putting is still a big problem,  with not even some consistency in what the problem is.   Sometimes it has been very bad lag putting or distance control with the putts.  Other times it is just missing short putts.   When you are going through a stretch like this on the greens, it seems like luck is not on your side either.   Lots of lip outs, and hitting the pin and bouncing out, and burning lots of edges.  I would grade my putting a D minus.    If I had been only putting at C level then I would have easily had 2 to 4 shots less per round.  There were at least a half a dozen times this week that I would hit a very good putt from 15 to 25 feet, that would just miss the hole and go buy about 3 to 4 feet, and I would miss the putt coming back.   The frustration can  affect other parts of your game as well, which can contribute to poor scoring.    The short game is ok, but when you are not making putts, then any mistakes in other parts of your game is magnified.  My ball striking is good,  but even that looks or feels worse when you are not scoring.

I do want to discuss what I mean when I wrote that I felt I played 100% mental golf for the first time all year.    We have all been told that in order to play well, you have to trust your swing.  I think it goes a little further than that.   Once you have decided on the shot, then you have to trust that your body will perform the task that your brain has visualized for the shot.  We all talk about the repeatable swing.  Depending on shot, many times you have to swing differently to produce that shot.  What’s interesting is your body will perform the task correctly, if your brain has chosen the right type of shot to play. This is how you play with no swing thoughts.   However, if the brain has chosen a faulty shot, then the body will not make a good swing at the ball.   I believe this is the essence of 100% mental golf.  It becomes more clear every time you play.   I will give examples of this as the year goes by.

The top priority now is too find a solution to the putting problem.     May not be able to play until Monday for various reasons.   Hoping to start scoring better soon.

100% Mental Golf: Rounds 5 and 6

I was able to play on Wednesday and Thursday of this week with both rounds at Scenic Valley.  The scores were 78 on Wednesday and oops 84 on Thursday.    Not very inspiring rounds, and they were  different types of rounds even though the conditions were about the same, with it being just a bit cooler on Thursday, but there was a little more wind on Wednesday.  Scenic Valley for this time of year is in great shape and the greens had been cut and were very smooth to putt.

The Good:   Again, the ball striking was good on both days.  I could nit pick on some things but my driving was good and my iron play was very good on Wednesday.  My short game was not spectacular but was not at the root of the bad scoring.

The Problem:  Putting was an issue, especially on Wednesday with  4 putts under 5 feet missed, and although I did make two nice birdie putts,  missed another 2, between 6 and 10 feet.   I admit the short putt misses started to get to me and did affect my concentration as the round wore on.  My putting was again the problem the next day, but of a different type.   I had terrible distance control with the putts on Thursday, which led to a number of three putts.  This coupled with a slight decline in ball striking, that  easily led to the 6 shot increase the next day.  The biggest problem especially on Thursday, was my visualization process  was not working.  I just couldn’t get a good feel for shots I was trying to play.  I did not have any zone outs but I almost fell back into the trap of looking at my swing as the problem.  It was just one of those days where the picture would not happen.  It did a few times and when it did the shots were very good if not great. There were some other problems that were related to what I call cart golf syndrome.  You can’t go off the path and you think you have taken enough clubs over for the shot, but when you get there, you don’t really have the club you need and go ahead and hit it anyway.  Yes, I know, but it’s March and it is chilly and my happiness did not depend on me hitting a good shot and of course I didn’t. The solution to that problem is easy.  Hopefully, the other problems of the round will be that easy to solve.

Should be able to play about 4 to 5 times beginning this Sunday to the following Sunday, so will have many opportunities to find the solutions.