100% Mental Golf: Rounds 48 through 67

Have not blogged for about 6 weeks, and that usually means things are not going all that well.    Things are not going great, as my index has inched up to 4.8, but there have been some other circumstances that have made this a bit of a blog drought.  So let me count the ways.

First, I have gone though a major equipment change.   I have gone with graphite shafts in my irons and have gone from stiff to regular.   The irons I have now are the Titleist AP 3 irons 5 through the gap wedge.  The “gap wedge” is 48 degrees and the rest of the clubs are strong lofts too.  The irons are investment cast, and I have always been a forged guy.  I hit these irons freakish long and that has taken some time to get use to.    I have also gone to a regular shaft on my Driver and 3 wood.  My 5 wood still has a stiff shaft but I have not gotten around to get a new 5 wood yet.  My only steel shafted clubs now are a 54 degree Volkey Wedge and 58 degree  Calloway wedge.    I acquired a 51 degree gap wedge with the same graphite shaft.  I call it gap wedge II.   I don’t know why I am getting so much distance with these irons.   The clubs are about what I would call about a half a club stronger than normal.  I would consider my 5 iron, a 4.5 iron.  My normal 4 iron distance would be about 200 yards but that would be a true solid hit.   Now my 5 iron carries about 205 to 210.  Could be the shafts or the club head.

Second, the weather is still terrible.  There is not one thing you can do about it, but it is discouraging.  Most golf courses are a mess.  It’s not their fault but we have had more rain in the last 11 months that probably in history.  Since last August 1 we have not gone more than 5 days without rain and a lot of these days we have had heavy rains.  Its tough hitting balls where normally you would just walk up and find it, but now the area is not cut, because it is just one big mud hole.   I admit, I try not to let this get me down, but I have never experienced this before, for so long and I have been playing since 1958.  You can only say it is what it is, so many times and there is no end in sight.

Third and probably the most important, I have not really been 100% Mental all that much over the last 5 weeks.  I hang my head in shame.   This is one of these things that is hard to explain,  so I won’t really try.   When you are not getting the desired results, it’s almost impossible not to try something different with the golf swing.  The other thing about 100% Mental Golf is that it can be quite difficult to keep the concentration level up over the 18 holes of golf.  I don’t know if golf was meant to be this hard.  Putting has still been a problem  with luck not being on my side much.  On the plus side my last 3 or 4 rounds have been pretty good.  I can honestly say over the last 2 rounds in particular my short game has evolved to average.   That is a huge jump for me and we will see how long that lasts, and if that may improve.   In the next few weeks I will see how some of these physical changes I have made work, and see if the putting can get better.  Should be playing 3 to 4 times per week until the beginning of August when I take a little 5 day vacation to the beach.   I am not sure I should be that close to the ocean, depending how things go on the golf course.  Will blog again in about 8 or 9 days.

The Goofy Game of Golf Searching for the Answer

The subject of today’s blog is the swing thought.   Why does it work, and why does it stop working.  We have all been there.  The only thing more seductive than a swing thought is a beautiful women in a low cut dress that stops at mid thigh.  It causes the golfer to think, I’ve got it.  This is the magic bullet.  Swing thoughts are many.   Slow down at the top, take it back low and slow, slide the hips,  hold the finish, and I could go on and on.  They can be pre swing thoughts like stand closer to the ball,  grip to the right, weight on the heels, and again many more.  They are brought about by desperation. The round is going horribly.  You may have even tried to use various thoughts to turn around the round with no success.  But then it happens.  You come up with a thought, and you hit a gorgeous shot and the  thought continues to work during the round.    This thought may even work when you start the next round.  It won’t be too long though, around the 4th or 5th hole, that the game will break down again and the thought will disappear into the vault of about 100 other swing thoughts that you were going to do the rest of your golfing life.

Swing thoughts are nothing new. Bobby Jones wrote about swing thoughts in the mid 1930’s.   “Sometimes by remembering to start the downstroke by shifting and turning the hips, highly satisfactory results may be obtained. While this continues, we are enjoying one of the peaks of our chart. But soon, either because we begin to exaggerate this one thing, or forget entirely about something else, the whole thing goes wrong and we have to begin over again. Again we set out to find another thought that will set things right”.   This was written in the 1930’s but if this same statement was in the latest issue of Golf Digest everyone would still be shaking their heads in agreement.    Jones even has an explanation why they stop working.     The point is this has always been accepted in golf practically forever.   You find the “magic ” swing thought, it works for awhile, and then, just as suddenly it stops working.     As much a I respect Bobby Jones as a golf writer and instructor,  I have to disagree with him on why these swing thoughts stop working.  Plus he gives no explanation why they start working.   I believe that this is what ties in to why they stop working .

So why does a certain swing thought seems to work?    It is a distraction as to what is going on, on the course.  This could also explain why you don’t find THE swing thought on the first try.  It is not enough of a distraction.  Do you ever noticed that the “right” swing thought is often easier to find on the practice tee.  The success of the swing thought has nothing to do with what the swing thought is but when you are thinking of the swing thought.  Let’s move back out to the course.   You start your round out and the ball striking is lousy and the score is going up and up and  by the 4th hole, you are in desperation mode.    The 5th hole is a difficult driving hole and you come up with your first new swing thought of the day.  But pow, off the ball goes into the woods.    Your second and third shots are not much better, and another bad score results.  But now you come to the 6th hole and easy par 3 with little trouble and a big green and today the pin is in an easy spot.   Now you go to a new thought, and you hit a very nice onto the green. The shot makes you feel good and the next hole the same thought gets you a drive right down the middle and you’ve got this game solved.  The first swing thought would have been just as good, if you had decided to use it on the 6th hole for the first time.  When you used it on the more difficult driving hole,  the trouble and the type of shot still had your mind occupied.  The sixth hole being much easier, your full attention was on the new swing thought and the result was great.  Maybe the results were  good to excellent even for the rest of the round, made a few birdies and salvaged the round with a mid 70 score.   Through the week you made it to the driving range, a couple of times, and this thought continued to work great through both practice sessions. Next blog I will write about why practice is a waste of time but to proceed.   Now you are at the course and you are brimming with confidence and ready to shoot a great round.   By the middle of the front nine you are 4 over par and looking for it again.   So what the hell happened.   Well that thought became so ingrained in your brain that it stopped being a distraction and all those little nasty places that your ball could go came back to the fore front.   So forget about swing thoughts and play free, at least from swing thoughts, you will probably have to pay.   Next blog,  practice, save your money and your time.

The Goofy Game of Golf Searching for the Answe

Well, its been four months since the last blog, which is one of the longest periods in awhile that I have not blog.   I really do not have any good reason that I have not written anything for a long time.  I have been playing golf like I usually do, as this past Monday I just completed my 112th round.  My play as been ok.  In Western Pennsylvania, the handicap season ended on November 14th and I finished the year with a 4.7 index.  Which is not bad but no major improvement.   I really did not prove some of the concepts that I wrote about on that blog 4 months ago.  So today I thought I would review the last year and the last 4 months in particular.

The one constant over these last 4 months was that the weather was lousy.  In 112 rounds of golf I would say I saw the ball roll any amount distance in only about 15 rounds.   This was by far the wettest most humid year of golf I have ever played and I have played for 50 years.  You rarely could play the ball down and course conditions suffered mightily.  If fact one course, Village Green closed down permanently and the weather contributed to it’s demise.  It was difficult to evaluate one’s game under those conditions. The weather just got worse as we headed into fall, which most of the time is fairly dry.  In mid September we got about 20 plus inches of rain over about a 7 day period. I have come to detest the word mud.

I could not quite grasp the concept of golf being 100% mental when you are a single digit handicap.   I still believe this, but it can be very difficult to put into practice, because I feel we are brainwashed into thinking that bad golf play can be fix with some physical correction.   This can be ranging from anywhere to “fixing” your grip, stance, transition, swing plane, weight distribution, and anything you can think of about the physical execution of the golf swing.    Part of the problem is that you hear every week on the PGA tour that a player is working on some part of his swing and it is helping him.  I think this is wrong.    Having  problems with your golf game at that level and I believe at the level of the single handicapper  is strictly mental and any physical correction is only temporary and in the long run no help at all.   However this is so much easier said then done.  I will elaborate more on this in future blogs, and yes, they are going to be more frequent than one every 4 months.

The albatross in May was the highlight of my season and was easily the shot of the year and probably in my life.  I did not have an even par round this year and had only 2 that were one over par.  I was consistent and had a pretty good putting year and have putted very well the last couple of times out. I am determine to prove the 100 % mental theory. One of the best things that I have done over the past year and half is that I have played golf with no swing thoughts.  It has freed up my game and has made golf so much more enjoyable.     Developing my own putting style has contributed to my overall good scoring and was the main reason that I came out of an 18 month slump from the beginning of 2016 to the end of June  2017, which saw my index climb to 6.9.  My index would have been even higher if there was not a limit on the strokes you could take on one hole for handicap purposes. I had some really high numbers during that stretch, where I proved the axiom, its not where your good shots go, but where your bad shots wind up.   So my game is where it’s mostly been over the last 30 years when I started to play a lot of golf again, between a 3 and 5 handicap.  Next blog will be about swing thoughts, why they work and why they stop working.  The amazing thing is golf instructors were writing about swing thoughts in the 1930’s.  See you then.

 

 

The Goofy Game of Golf Searching for the Answer

It’s been a while since the last blog, about 2 months, but I am still playing and still searching.   I have taken a totally different tact in trying to find the answer, and even though it has not improved my game by much, it hasn’t  made it any worse, and I am enjoying the game more than I ever have.  My index is 4.5 right now and is much better than it was about this time last year when it was about 6.5.  I feel I have learned more about the game in the last 6 months, than in any other time period of my life.  Today I will write about what I have learned in a series of statements that will express what I feel works to help improve one’s golf game, and what does not work.  Most of this will go against the grain of current golf thinking, and in this blog I am not going to defend these positions.  I will defend them in future blogs.  The following only applies to golfers with single digit handicaps that are looking to bring that handicap down to the holy grail of scratch.  This like everything else is an arbitrary number, which could be argued in either direction, that for this to be applied your handicap could be slightly higher or lower. But we have to start somewhere so single digit handicap is where this shall be. These are things that you need to do and not do in order to get that handicap down to zero.

I use to feel that golf could be divided into 50% Mental and 50% Physical and wrote a blog about it, stating that I felt too much emphasis was put on the mental aspect of the game.  Boy, was I ever wrong.   At the single handicap level the game is 100% mental.

Practicing is not going to get you down to scratch.  I have never been a big advocate of practice but I know positively that it is a complete waste of time. Sorry range owners.  Hey if you enjoy hitting balls and practicing other aspects of game go for it.  Just realize that it’s not going to lower your handicap.

Lessons are not going to bring your handicap down unless a psychologist is on hand. Instead of paying a pro for four or five lessons go see a shrink once.

I have learned why a new swing thought works and then why it stops working.  This was huge for me and now I play with no swing thoughts .

Accept the fact that putting is the most important part of the game.  Yes it is wonderful to hit that beautiful drive right down the middle, and watch that ball reach that apex against that perfect blue sky. Some may feel it’s the solid iron shot from 160 yards that ends up 4 feet from the pin that is the greatest  thrill of the game.   But the fact of the matter is, putt well and you score. Don’t putt well and you do not score.  Accept this and find a way to putt, even if this means sticking your putter up your ass.  If the ball goes in its worth it.

The swing is not the thing.  This is an old one but still is one of the most important.  IT IS NOT YOUR SWING THAT’S THE PROBLEM.

Learning what really causes bad shots and bad putts.

So there you have my holy grail for the moment.   My game has been more consistent than it has ever been and I feel I make progress almost every time I play.  More important I am having one hell of a good time.  My next blog will be about this idea about trying to limit the distance that the golf ball can go.  See you then.

 

The Goofy Game of Golf Searching for the Answer

After about a 6 week hiatus the blog is back and it has been a very very busy 6 week period, especially for an old guy.  I have cut back my work schedule and I am playing more golf than ever.  Yesterday I completed my 74th round of the year.  This should be a record breaking year for the number of rounds. So how am I doing you might ask? In a word better, not great but better. I am still experimenting around, searching for the answer, but I have settled into a good routine. I will get into some of things that I have been doing, that may, or may not have contributed to a certain amount of resurgence in my game, that has been mired in an eighteen month slump.

Before I discuss that,  I did do something that  I have always wanted to do, but never could pull it off, until Monday June 26th. My young friend David and I played 54 holes in one day on three different golf courses.  We teed off at 7:44am at Fort Cherry golf course,  moved about 15 miles down the road to Indian Run for the second round and went another 3 miles down the road to Highland Springs and pulled out of their parking lot at exactly 6:30pm. Beating the dark was no problem.  There were two major factors that helped make the day go smoothly.  The weather was perfect, in the mid seventies with a little breeze and no humidity.  We never had to wait for one shot.  There was nobody in front of us the entire day.  The scores weren’t great, ranging from 79 to 86, but it was one the great golf days I have ever had.  There is no question, that hot dogs increase your stamina, especially when you put chili on them.

Last year at this time I was in the midst of a run where I did not break 80 for almost the entire summer.  This month I have had one 74, and two 75’s, with some 78’s and 79’s sprinkled in. I still feel that I have a ways to go but progress is being made. The first big difference is, I have found a way to putt.  Am I going to discuss this method? NO. Why? Because it is too goofy to write about at the moment. It goes against every putting principle that was ever written, but it is working for me. I have been putting this way for about 3 weeks, and it has held up in various pressure situations.  If it continues to work, then I will write about it.  I made it up and it is totally unique. There are three other things I am doing and I am going to discuss two of them. I have improved my posture at address and I am making sure my aim is correct.  Posture is by far the most important and I think even low handicap golfers get a little lazy in that respect. We have a tendency to get a little slumped in the shoulders and this has a very negative effect on our swing. The third one is a unique take away I am doing for each club and  I may delve into that later, if this continues to work. There are few other things I am doing different which I will discuss in later blogs. One thing that is not a factor is my increase play. Believe me, if your game is messed up and my game is, it doesn’t make any difference how much you play, your not going to improve.

I am going to leave all the  frustrated single digit handicappers who are trying to get to scratch, with one final thought.   It you want to get closer to 0 handicap, you must become Jim Furyk. Some day I may explain what that means. If I continue to make progress then the next blog will be sooner than later.  Please don’t hold your breath.

 

The Goofy Game of Golf Searching for the Answer

The blog is back after about a months absence and today I am going to go through each of the 16 conflicting viewpoints on golf instruction, and give my opinion on each one.  I have cut back my work schedule and playing more golf than ever, which I am not to sure is good for my mental health, but we will see. Each of these points were blogged, so to see them in more detail just go back to the previous blogs, beginning in January.  So here we go.

You should keep your left heel on the ground or you should raise your left heel.  To me this is something that should just be a natural thing. If you need to lift your left heel to make a fuller swing then do it.  I do not think you should raise your left heel deliberately. You should feel it is being dragged off the ground by the turn of the body

The putting stroke should be straight back and through, or it should be an arc, like the golf swing. Again this is something that does not make a difference as long as you know how to do the straight back and through stroke. If a lot of your putts are off line then this stroke could be for you.

The left arm should be straight throughout the swing, or it is ok to bend the left arm during the swing.  It is fine to bend that left arm during the swing. In fact you may even be able to hit the farther with that little bend at the top of the swing.

Keep the ball position the same for all shots or move the ball back in the stance as the clubs get shorter.  Try anything and do anything, when it comes to ball position until you find something that works.

The weight should be on the balls of your feet, over the arches just in front of the heels or over the heels.  Over the arches and favoring the heels is where you want your weight. Stay off the balls of your feet or you will restrict your body turn.

Restrict your hip turn or do not restrict your hip turn.   DO NOT RESTRICT YOUR HIP TURN UNLESS YOU ENJOY HAVING YOUR BACK OPERATED ON.

Your shoulders should turn 90 degrees or more if possible or they do not have to turn 90 degrees.  They should turn 90 degrees if possible and an increased hip turn will help this.

Your swing should be compact or your swing should be nice and long.  This is personal preference in my view.  A shorter swing should have a faster tempo and a longer swing should have a slower tempo.

You should pause at the top of the swing or you should not make a conscious pause at the top.  You should not make a conscious pause.  It happens naturally.

Take the club back low and slow or this is the worst thing you can do.  Again makes no difference. Find your method

Chip like you putt or do not chip like you putt.  Chip like you putt, much easier

You should change your grip to help square your clubhead or you should not change your grip to square the club.  Definitely, experiment with the grip to square the clubhead.

Hand position at address, many are advocated.    Find yours and stick with it.

The first move to start the downswing, too many to mention.  Find one, but be open to change if it does not seem to working.

Head movement.  Don’t worrying about, but know what yours is doing and why.  This has a lot to do with knee flex and the left heel.

Natural golf.  Nothing natural about it. Forget about it.

What I find amazing about all of this is this is not even a complete list about the conflicting viewpoints of what it takes to hit a golf ball accurately.  No wonder people find it difficult to play this game and even low handicappers seem stuck. Other than Natural Golf, I haven’t even included the other so call methods that are out there. I don’t know maybe we need some kind of federal regulation. I can see it now, the Federal Golf Commission (FGC), headed by Bob Toski.  More discussion in future blogs.

 

 

The Goofy Game of Golf Searching for the Answer

Today, I am going to discussed three aspects of the golf swing with various viewpoints.  The take away, the top of the swing, and the start of the downswing. The last one will just be fun because how to start the downswing is pretty much endless, but we will list the main ones. Most of what I am going to post today will involve some of Jack Nicklaus’s opinions on the golf swing.  I am not saying I agree  with everything that Jack says about the swing, but I don’t think you can go wrong by adopting many of his swing suggestions. However, in the main stream of golf instruction most of the things that Jack advocates is pretty much dismissed, as not the way to play golf.   I am not going into great detail, here but I think the reason for this is Jack made conventional golf instruction look pretty silly with his so called flying right elbow.  He took a lot of flak for that early in his career, to the point that many said he would never be a great golfer. Talk about being very wrong. Let’s begin.

The take away should be low and slow, or is that the worse thing that you can do?  Nicklaus was a low and slow advocate and his own backswing did seem to start in a very deliberate manner. Today most instruction says to start the backswing smoothly in a more rhythmic manner and do not start the swing in a jerky manner. Instruction today feels that you can start the backswing too slowly, which robs you of any rhythm and timing, and makes you rush the rest of your swing. Try either method you may find you like one over the other.

At the top of the swing, should you make a conscious pause, or is this something that you do not have to think about. Trying to pause at the top will cause more problems with your swing.  Nicklaus summed up his feelings on the subject with an instructional chapter titled”There is no pause that refreshes in the golf swing,” taking a slogan from a popular soft drink. In order for the club to change direction in the golf swing it has to stop or pause or whatever you want to say, whether you think about it or not. There is no question that you can see differences in this pause at the top. Some Tour players have a very distinct pause at the top of their backswing, and others with very fast swings, it is very hard to detect. There are players everywhere between these two extremes.  Pick your poison, you may find something your like.

Now for the fun part, How do you start the downswing. OMG are you kidding me. The first one is the Nicklaus method. Obviously you have to lift your heel on the backswing. The rest are just listed but these are all from legitimate instructors.

Plant your left heel on the ground, turn your right knee to the ball, drop your right elbow slowly into your side, bump your left hip toward the target, shift your weight to the outside of the left heel(this is for the heel that stays on the ground during the backswing), raise your left shoulder from under your chin, drive the left hip back and begin straightening your left leg, pull down with the last three fingers of the left hand like you would be ringing a church bell, drive the left knee toward the target, while remaining the flex in the knee, and only allowing it to straighten well after the ball is struck, and finally slowly dropping the arms while allowing the hips to unwind. This list has 10 ways to start the  downswing, and people say that golf instruction is confusing, you have got to be kidding, what could be more clear then that. The list is not even complete but I think the point is made. So what’s a mother to do?  My suggestion for now is try em all, you may find one that really fits your swing and can help you hit the ball better.  It looks like we are going to have winter in March, so another blog on the swing won’t be far behind, as we are getting close to the end of conflicting ideas on how to hit a golf ball.