100% Mental Golf: Rounds 81 to 85

Back from vacation and back to the golf grind.   Five rounds of golf played with one of those a scramble,  and little progress to report.   The four individual rounds ranged from a low of 75 to a high of 82.  Again trying to make this game 100 % Mental is turning out to be way harder than expected.  When you are trying to improve, which we are all trying to do,  it is just about impossible to not try and tinker with some part of the swing.  I even brought back the old shoulder control swing for about  33 holes but abandoned that again.  The address position thing I was doing is gone.   Despite by being unhappy at times with my ball striking, my lack of scoring comes down to one big work this year.

PUTTING.   Despite my problems on the greens, which there are many, I am still able to keep my index in the low 4’s, with the latest on the 15th 4.2.  I am just not getting the ball into the hole.   The first thing I am going to change is what I do with the flagstick.  I have left it in for all putts this year.  Overall I think it helps you more than hurts but after doing it all year, I think there are two points that all the flagstick testers are missing.  All flagsticks are not created equal.  I play a variety of courses and I feel there is a difference on how some flagsticks receive a ball.  I do not think there is a standard diameter for flagsticks, but even if I am wrong,  I am not sure golf courses follow it totally anyway.  There is no question the hole looks bigger with the flagstick out.  100% Mental just kicked in.   It goes back to that old Ken Venturi saying that I have quoted before.  If the flagstick is out he trying to make the chip, and if he leaves the flagstick in the hole, then he is just trying to get it close.  So, on any putt under 30 feet, I am taking the flag out the rest of the season.   Longer putts I will decide on a case by case basis.   Sounds pretty serious doesn’t it.  The second thing I am going to do is try to make the most natural stroke for me that I can, and  not use any particular method.  The thing that got me out of my slump in 2017, and improved my putting immensely, was when I started to let my body move on putts. Since then, I have gone back and forth on this method over this 2 year period.  The problem is trying to make your body move on putts, is as bad as trying to keep it still on putts.  It distracts you from keeping your focus on making the putt.  We will see how this all goes in the coming weeks.

By now you see that the blog has a little different look and a slight change in the title of the site.   Since I am beginning to see that I am not going to find the answer after 9 years, I have decided to write about other subjects, that are near and dear to my heart.  They are Meditation, Food, Sports, and I will continue to write about Golf and the quest to find the answer.  Even though I feel I won’t find the answer I am not giving up either.   I will be playing about 4 times this week and we will see how it goes.

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 3 and 4

This week I was able to play golf on Thursday and Friday after about a one month break, due to something called winter.   Thursday played Scenic Valley and shot 77, and Friday went to Ponderosa and shot 80 where the weather and golf course conditions were a little tougher. At Ponderosa, we had a lot more wind and the golf course condition was very wet with the greens being very soft and slow.

The Good:  My ball striking was very good, considering the layoff.  I drove the ball well and my iron play was good.   I struck the ball solidly from all positions and was able to play the desired shot most of the time.   My short game continued to be more than adequate, as the early changes I made have helped.  For the most part my mental process worked fairly well and I made good decisions most of the time.

Problems: Putting was the biggest issue.  I did not putt horribly, but the best way to sum up my putting, was that I had no birdies for 2 days of golf.  I missed a couple of short putts at Scenic for pars, and some makeable birdie putts which kept that round from being a really good round for early in the season.  At Ponderosa the greens were really slow but I was ready for that, and my speed on greens was not bad but I could not get the ball in the hole.  I got off to another bad start at Ponderosa but only lasted 2 holes and some par saves on 3 and 4 helped get the round rolling a bit.   The other issue was that 2 to 3 times in both rounds I completely zoned out while hitting a shot.  My mind went completely off on other thoughts  that had nothing to do with the shot I was planning to play.  This happened completely out of the blue and at different parts of the round. Needless to say the results of the shot were horrible.   Considering  I am not thinking about my swing at all and just thinking of ball fight and shot planning it is surprising.  The definition of a loss of concentration.

Overall I was happy with the way I played during the two day.  Here is one principle, that forms one of the basic fundamentals of 100% Mental Golf.  Every golf shot is totally 100% unique.  I have stated that I do not have swing thoughts any more, which is true.  However,  I certainly have awareness as to how a certain swing feels in a particular situation.   When a shot really turns out well, that swing has a certain feeling to it.  This can be particular true on a tee shot.  The trap comes when you try to repeat that feeling on the next tee shot.   In fact this is often recommended in golf instruction to have a repeatable swing.  Believe me the shot will not be as good as the one on the last tee shot, because the next tee shot is unique from the previous tee shot.  The mind was not built to repeat, anyway.  Here is nice little test.  Get a piece of paper and make sure it is wide enough to sign your name about 5 times across.    Sign your name 5 times across the paper as naturally and with as little thought as possible.  Maybe your signature will even look exactly the same each time or there may be some slight differences.   Now drop below about one inch  each signature and try to copy that signature.  Take one look at signature for as long as you want and then right underneath the signature write it again and see how you do.  First it will take you longer to write the signature and you most likely will fail.  Part of the reason you fail is your trying to copy the exact signature.  This happens with the golf swing for even more reasons, but mostly because no two golf shots are ever exactly alike so why should you try to swing the same way a previous golf shot felt. More on that later in the year.   Hopefully a little more golf this week as the weather looks better in the middle to the end of the week.   See you then.

100% Mental Golf: The Flagstick

No golf this week, so I thought I would write about the flagstick.  Yes, that new rule this year, that you can leave the flagstick in the hole when you putt has created a lot of discussion.   These articles and videos on the subject have range from it helps 99% of the time, to it hurts,  to it makes no difference, and just about everything in between.  Some articles have many rules on when to leave the pin in and take it out.   These rules range from the type of putt,  to the distance from the hole, various conditions, and the way the pin may be leaning. Obviously the PGA tour pros have not embraced the rule change.   Only two players , Adam Scott and Bryson DeChambeu, seem to leave the pin in almost all the time.  Every once in awhile you will see somebody leave the pin in on a very long downhill putt.   But almost all the time the pros leave the pin out. In fact Justin Thomas says he couldn’t take himself seriously if he left the pin in.  I don’t even know what that means but it’s just another reason pros leave the pin out.  There have been some studies done to see if there is an advantage to leaving in the pin.

The biggest study was done by Dave Pelz in 1999 and explained in his book  Short Game Bible.  Quoting from the book ” What did I learn?  All  the evidence points to one simple rule: Leave the flagstick whenever the Rules allow, unless it is leaning so far toward you that the ball can’t fit “. I am not going through the study, but it was a very in depth study, where there were different types of greens used, and man and machine were used to role the putts. Since the rule change there have been more studies done and some have not come to same conclusions.  Here is the one limiting factor in my view of all the studies. In order to get the ball to hit the pin all the putts are rolled from a relative short distance. Pelz did not think this was all that important but I am not too sure.

When the choice to leave the pin in was only for shots off the green, my favorite golf announcer Ken Venturi use to have this well known saying, when a pro was chipping. If he takes the pin out he is trying to make it, and if he leaves it in, he is just trying to get it close.  Even though Ken was my favorite golf broadcaster, I often wondered what that saying meant and was it really true.  But it may give us a clue as to why the pros don’t leave the pin in more when they putt. My conclusion is this.   With the pin out of the cup, the hole looks or appears to be bigger than when the pin is in the hole.  So leaving the pin out when you putt again helps make golf 100 % Mental . You are going against the odds that the pin will help you when it is taken out, but most pros do it anyway because mentally they are more comfortable putting that way.

My own view on this is the jury is still out.  I am not going into great detail why I feel this way.  I feel there are some problems with the data that has been collected on this, from all sides.  I do not feel I am alone, when there have been times when I have seen one of my shots or a playing companion’s ball hit the pin and not gone in.  I immediately think that the ball might have gone in if the pin had not been in.  It’s that ball that seems to pinch into the pin, vibrates for an instant and then comes out.  For now I am leaving the pin in for all putts until I feel that it causes more misses than makes.  My exceptions for taking the pin out.  The extreme lean and if conditions are very windy. Some people are of the opinion that by the end of this year you will see more pros use the pin than not use the pin.  I think it will be at least 2 years before  we ever see that.