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 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.

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.

100% Mental Golf: Round 2

Played the second round of the year on Friday, under similar conditions with temperatures in the mid to upper 40’s with a little more wind this time.  I shot 79 but this was a totally different round than the last one.

The Good.  Ball striking was good again although not quite as good as the first round and I solved the pitching problem  with some alignment adjustments and a grip change.  When I line up for a pitch shot of 20 to 40 yards I feel that I am aiming about 4 to 6 feet left of really where I want to go.  Probably I am aiming right on, but this is my perceptions of things and I am fine with this because the results were great.  In fact I pitched one in the cup for a birdie on the 11th hole which really jumped started the round.  I got it up and down numerous times during the round. I went to my putting grip for these shots and this seemed to help. I have done this in the past with good results.  My putting was better especially the short putts.

Problems:  A horrendous start to the round.  I hit a beautiful drive off the first tee but then from there it was one thing after another.  A four putt on the first hole and then one mental error after another led to double bogey, bogey, double bogey, bogey start.  Then I slowly but surely righted the ship and even though I missed 2 rather short birdie putts on 9 and 10, the pitch in birdie on 11 got the round going, to be able to shoot one over on the last 14 holes.  One of the problems all day even as the round improve was to visualize the shot.  I could not draw the ball all day.  Early in the round this got me in trouble but then I tried to do it later where there was no trouble on the right and I still could not do it.   My mental process improved during the round as I did not make or look to make any swing changes and I started to play better.

Round 2 is in the books and it was kind of a strange round.  The wind was a factor but overall it felt good to right the ship.  When I was 6 over after 4 holes I thought maybe I was headed for a round that might not break 90.  As we were going  over to the 5th tee I was thinking, wow, this is really going to look good on blog.  100% mental you betcha, baby. There might be a possibility for a round this week but it is a toss of the coin.  See you next time.

The Goofy Game of Golf Searching for the Answer

After a brief res-pet from blogging for a trip to see the Grand kids in San Diego back with another in a series of instructional conflicts. Yes, I am going to comment briefly on the Lexi Thompson incident.  This blog is going to concern itself with chipping. The two points of view.  You should chip like you putt, or you should not chip like you putt. First we need to define a chip, which to some, has changed.  In Utley’s book on the short game he has his own definition of a chip, which I am going to ignore. My definition is that a chip is a shot with little or no wrist action.  In other words,the chip has nothing to do with distance. You could chip a ball 5 yards or you can chip it 40 yards or longer.  A pitch by my definition is a shot where the wrists will cock from 45 to 90 degrees.  Again you could pitch a ball 5 yards or you can pitch it 40 yards or longer. This post is going to discuss only chipping

The first view point is, you should chip like you putt. Since there is little wrist action in both chipping and putting this would seem to make a lot of sense. However, the clubs, ranging from anywhere from a 4 iron to a lob wedge, that are used for chipping, have nothing in common, in design,  with the putter. There is going to be some adjustments, you are going to have to make. The first, you must make sure the bottom edge of the club is square. This  will put your hands ahead of the club, sometimes as much as 6 inches if you are using the lob wedge. A lot of instructors advocate using the same grip you use for putting, to execute these shots.  The weight should be on the left foot a little more. Even though you are using your putting stroke to execute these shots, they still must be hit with a descending blow and not swept along the ground. You must have a good lie to execute a chip.  With any method you can not chip from the rough with the ball down a little in the grass.

Some instructors feel you should not chip like you putt. The leaders in this group are Phil Mickelson and Stan Utley. Mickelson has his hinge and hold method and Utley tries to get his hands leading the club head on his chips to deloft the club. You can read or watch their videos to get more details on their respective methods.  There are other instructors who have a more handsy   approach to chipping.

Now to the Lexi Thompson debacle. The one thing that has got lost in the shuffle is the second penalty that was accessed for the incorrect scorecard. She may have been done in by the new rule change this year on signing for a lower score than you actually made. The LPGA should have  never assessed her that 2 stroke penalty, and they had the perfect precedent of the Tiger Woods incident 2 or 3 years ago at the Masters. After Tiger’s ball hit the pin and went into the water on 15, he dropped the ball in an improper spot. The next day he was charged a two stroke penalty, but was not disqualified for the incorrect score card on the technicality that at the time he signed it, the score was correct. If the disqualification rule would have still been in effect this year, do you think the LPGA would have walked up on that tee box and disqualified Lexi Thompson, no way.  I am sure the Tiger incident would have been cited. Because now it is a 2 stroke penalty, they in my view went ahead and  penalized her those 2 strokes incorrectly.  Technically, and its all technicalities, she signed a correct score card when she signed it, just like Tiger Woods. Obviously with only a 2 stroke penalty she would have won the tournament out right and there would have been no play off. Shame on you LPGA.

The Goofy Game of Golf Searching for the Answer

Even though I like to call golf goofy, the weather took that honor this week. On Friday May 24th, the temperature never got out of the 40’s and winds were around 20 to 30 miles per hour. Unfortunately this was the day of the 2 man scramble at South Park. These weather conditions were just a little too tough for a couple of mid 60 year olds. Pete and I had a bad day all around, getting only one birdie and 7 bogeys, to shoot a pretty lackluster 78, which was near the bottom of the field. This is Memorial Day and with the holiday, the blog is running one day late. The weather remained on the cool side for the rest of the weekend, but nothing as bad as Friday. The week was fairly blah except for today where I was able to muster a 2 over par 75 at Rolling Acre with some hope being shone for the pathetic short game. On Wednesday under 80 degree temps I shot 81 at Quicksilver and yesterday shot 77 at Buffalo. Yesterdays round was particlularly galling because I played very well but the short game was horendous and thus the 7 over par round. I hit 11 greens in regulation and shot 7 over, I’ll let you do the math. Today I hit 12 greens in regulation but did better in the up and down department thus the 2 over par score. I did make some adjustments in the short game technique and although I am not ready to take them to the bank I did see some reason for hope. The putting could be rated fair at best. Still trying to find some mental keys, but I still think the mystery lies it how much of a problem with ones golf game is physical and how much is it mental. Does one problem cause another problem. Can some kind of mental block or problem cause you to make physical mistakes. Or does some technique problem creep in first, that leads to broken confidence and other mental mistakes and blocks. I do not have the answer to this predicament. If you watched the tournament yesterday, you saw one of the leaders, while he was having one of the great rounds of the tournament. chile dip a chip in the bunker, then failed to get the ball out of the bunker, and barely made a 6 foot putt for a double bogey. This cost him the tournament. Boo Weekly, who won the tournament, missed 2 short putts down the stretch, which fortunately did not cost him the tournament. It is amazing, that even the golfing elite will make big mistakes at the worse times. Today’s round was my best round in a long long time. I may not be any closer to the answer but I have learned one thing during this scoring and short game problem. The answer can only be found on the golf course, not the driving range, the putting green, or the back yard. Next week looks like it is going to warm up and I see myself playing 3 to 4 rounds. We will see if I really have some momentum.