Tuesday, November 24, 2009

What Have I Found? part deaux

The entire Robert Allenby approaching me in a dream is not quite accurate. You see, I was watching Robert Allenby play golf during the recent Race to Dubai Golf Tournament on the Golf Channel. He appears, during his golf swing, to simply turn away from the ball, pause at the top of the swing, and then turn back through. It looks as though he is not manipulating the club with his hands AT ALL. It's like his hands, and therefore the golf club, is just following his body turn, with rigid elbows making the connection from body to hands.

Does that make any sense? The set up still has to be square to your target, and the ball position still needs to be correct, but otherwise it is a very simple move. Rigid elbows, and loose, supple wrists. The looseness of the wrists allows the club to lag behind on the downswing. The club catches up, similar to the tip of a whip, right at impact. Think Roots where the guy is whipping Kunta Kintay because he will not take his slave name. The whip cracking is the tip actually passing the speed of sound. That is fast.

Albert Pujols is a power hitter in Major League baseball. He plays for the St. Louis Cardinals and can hit a baseball a country mile. Why a country mile is longer than a city mile I have no clue, but there you go. He hits the ball a long way. If you watch his technique closely you can see that he has rigid elbows, with his back elbow (his right arm) away from his body. This is so the bat does not drop to the inside of his desired swing path. If the bat did drop to the inside he would swing under the ball, or at least have to manipulate the bat with his hands and arms to just make contact. Any such manipulation would rob him of power, and the ability to hit the ball SQUARE.

Hitting the ball square is the key to both a straight and long golf shot. If the face is not square at impact then the ball will not go straight, and it will lack maximum power. So, this was my hypothesis, and I took it to the course on Sunday.

Tee to green I hit the ball straighter and more crisply than ever before. I can think of only one shot, and it was an easy wedge, that I hit poorly. Off the tee I was a God. Long and straight all day long. The only time I got into trouble was when I let the club head travel inside the target line on the takeaway. If I consciously kept the clubhead OUTSIDE of the target line on the takeaway, and kept my elbows rigid, with my wrists supple, then I cranked a long and STRAIGHT tee shot. It was wonderful.

As usually happens though the golf golds would not allow me to be very happy. If I did miss a green I was sure to dub my chip, or possibly three putt from 15 feet. I have never had a worse short game than that day. I lost one golf ball and shot a smooth 88. It could not have been worse if I had tried.

My friend, Dean, who may be the worst chipper ever, actually had a better short game than I because he used a designated chipping club. It's basically a putter with a loft of an 8 iron. It helped him immensely, and as he gains confidence it is hoped, by all who play with him, that he will be able to begin using his regular clubs around the greens once again. Meanwhile... I have contracted his obviously catchy syndrome.

I think the scientific name for this mental problem is wedgeaphobia. The fear of wedges. Many people mistake this for a fear of being crammed, or wedged, into a small space. But, no, it is a fear of the pitching wedge. Damn, I'm infected. Now what?

The putter, the old new putter that was supposed to revitalize my game? Suck it. I had countless three putts. In fact I had two three putts for pars! Unbelievable and disconcerting at the same time.

I am at a loss. One the one hand I feel like I have had a breakthrough with my long game, which is nice. On the other I feel like I have lost the ability to score. I don't know where this will lead but at least I have become mature enough to not throw any clubs in ponds, or break them over my knee, or take a divot out of the green (I did that only once, and it was an accident), or spaz out in any fashion. So, that is encouraging. It's just a technique issue, and a practice issue, which can be fixed.

I'm off to the practice green. Out.

What Have I Found?

This morning I awoke to the sun shining through the window, and the sounds of my family preparing to take on the day. I rubbed my eyes and heard my wife yell to our son, who is all of 11 years old, to get up it's time for school. He answered back in his usual "I'm dead to this world" tone letting M know he was awake. At that point my 14 year old daughter strolled through on her way to the master bath for I was assuming one more look at her face and hair before she ate breakfast. She asked me if I would take her to the movies this evening, and I said maybe I would like to go to a movie. She told me, with a sort of scowl on her face, that I could see a different movie than the one she and her friends wanted to see.

She may not understand that i do not wish to see a movie about teenage vampires. So, there was no problem. Myah wandered off and M brought me a cup of coffee. Man, life feels good today. My son caught me at the perfect time because I agreed to deal Deangelo Williams to him in our fantasy football league. He almost came to tears when I at first said no. I have a soft heart, what can I say?

M took the kids to school, and then ran off to work herself. I perused facebook and felt the sudden urge to try this putter I recently borrowed from my buddy, Mike. Now, I have to explain that I have used this putter in my distant past. I originally putted with it while I was in high school and college. I don't really remember why, it could be that I needed $30, or it could be I had three putted one too many times during my previous round, but for whtever reason i sold mike this putter. He and I had been talking about it since this past summer, and he mentioned I could give it another try since my putting was clearly awful. He was right too. I have not putted well in many, many years. Like twenty years...seriously.

So, now I have this putter, and the sun is shining, and life is grand cause i won a pretty good amount at the poker tables yesterday, and there is surely more of that to come today. The weekend is here, Myah has soccer tomorrow, Sam is doing better in school, M looks really great, and well, I am in a damn good mood. What else to do but head to the golf course?

Unfortunately, I'm unable to play golf at this moment. I am playing Sunday, and quite frankly that is enough. I have been hacking at it like a rank amateur, and generally unhappy with my play on the course. I have been dealing with it by staying inebriated during these enjoyable rounds with friends. But, I do have the time to go to the practice green. This is perfect.

I arrive at the course, and get permission to use the practice green. This is done as a courtesy to the guys on the pro shop. I play there quite often, and they recognize me, so there isn't ever a problem. I walk towards the practice green and I have with me my old new putter, a pitching wedge, and two Titleist Pro V 1's.

Normally I would carry my sand wedge with me instead of the pitching wedge. But, I always used to chip and pitch with my pitching wedge. In fact I didn't even own a sand wedge until I was about 18. We had little sand on out home course, and I learned to use the pitching wedge for a variety of shots both low and high. I could lay that club wide open and hit a flop shot of a tight lie. I shit you not. Now? Please. I can barely get up and down to save my life. The only thing that aids in my mental health is that the people I play golf with have worse short games than I. I think that MAY be the key to golf, always find worse golfers to hang with.

So, today I was going to learn to hit all the shots with my pitching wedge, just like way back when. I was also going to see if this old new putter could help in any way. I knew it couldn't hurt, that much was definite.

I looked at the greens and realized they were quite slow. That's ok though, it'll help with my chipping. Slower greens aren't as penal and therefore actually help build confidence. Confidence is a good thing.

I throw down the two balls and set my pitching wedge aside. There is another guy chipping on the other side of the green. I watch him hit one shot. Ugh, don't look like that guy I tell myself. His arms were all stiff and his sort of swayed backwards when he took the club away. he then had to sway back towards the ball while sweeping the club along the grass. Needless to say he hit a lot of fat and thin shots. It was not pretty.

So, I started putting, just getting the feel of the putter. It's ok, but I'm missing the sweetspot every time. I make some adjustments and start to hit the putts solid at least. It feels ok, but not really any better than usual. I start to get the speed right and roll some closer. But, I keep missing my mark, and the line is off on most putts. The putter looks like it is lining up right of my target line as I stand over it. I don't understand and decide to shelve it for a minute while I go hit some chip shots. Maybe I'm too impatient, but I just wasn't feeling it. Something's not right, maybe the grip is off center a bit, I don't know. I picked up my pitching wedge.

I start to hit some chips shots. The ball is rolling nicely. I'm chiiping well, and the ball is going close to the hole once in a while. Suddenly, I start hitting some fat, meaning I'm hitting the ground behind the ball. Gross, the ball hoes half the distance to the hole. The next one is thin, dear lord, it goes screming by the hole making the guy on the other side of the green look up at me. His eyes are saying "WTF", I smile and yell "head's up!". Screw him anyway. Now what?

I mix in some good chips, but every once in a while I hit one fat or thin. This is no good as it is clear something is definitely wrong with my technique. I can't figure it out. For some reason my bottom hand on the club is taking over at the impact time of the swing. It is the bane of all bad chippers. But, there is a cause, and therefore can be fixed. I just had to find it.

I'm tired for now so I'm going to finish this later. I do find the key, and it has to do with right angles, lines on the putter, and Robert Allenby approaching me in a dream telling me to be more like Albert Pujols. I know....but it's true, and it works. I think.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Road Trip 11.09

It's been so long since I have last jotted anything down on these pages that I feel almost foreign sitting here in front of the screen. I had an interesting trip out of town last week and I'd like to share some of my experiences and observations.

The trip began with a quick 6 hour jaunt to Charlotte, NC. to visit my cousin, once again. He had invited me for three days of golf and I was not going to pass it up. He has recently been promoted to Head Superintendent at Myer's Park Golf Club. I'm proud of him. He's worked hard, put in the hours, and obviously learned the deft art of the handjob. Nice job, cousin. Incidentally, the golf course is in great condition. The greens are full, firm, and fast, and the rest of the course is tip-top as well.

We also played a course named Tobacco Road. All I can say is "wow". This golf course is the ultimate in target golf. Precision is a must, and the greens are nightmarish. Optically it is one of the most challenging I have experienced as there are numerous blind shots and hidden dangers. It saves itself from becoming too difficult by requiring only short irons in your approach to most greens. It has a rating in the top 50 according to Golf Digest. I hate to be negative, but it's my blog, so here it comes. The entire course seems overly contrived. Which is to say it is not natural. It appears they had to move a lot of dirt in order to bring it all together. This is but a minor hiccup in an otherwise great course, and it is only a personal issue.

We played a third course, of which the name escapes me. It was also immaculate. It was also free as the man in charge of remodeling the course was our host. The greens were extremely slick, easily the fastest I have ever played. Needless to say I did not adjust well and played poorly. It was still a great time as our foursome partook in some mind altering liquids while our leader, Mick, told us all he was going to kick all of our asses the rest of the round. We were on the 13th hole, and Mick was completely plowed. I can't be exact, but I think he did not get out of the golf cart, following his tee shot, on the 14th, 15th, and 16th holes. He was, in effect, the perfect host. He provided great golf, reckless gambling, entertaining golf shots, and the whole while had us in stitches with his many stories from his colorful past. A more entertaining day I could not have had.

At night, at my cousins place, we ventured out to Club 133. It's a pretty trendy nightspot outside Charlotte in a little town called Mooresville. Davidson College is in Morresville. I didn't see many college kids at Club 133 as the clientele was made up mostly of middle aged men and women. The club itself is right out of the Twilight Zone. The entire place is made to look like a garage. In fact, the nickname for the place is "The Garage". The walls are covered with rakes and shovels. There are rolls of toilet paper and plenty of dried goods on shelves. There are even two bikes hanging from the ceiling of this place. The music was ok, they played predominantly hip-hop and top 40 stuff, but it was pretty cool. I mean, it felt like a garage! Right down to the frigid weather and people hanging out with blankets wrapped around them. It was a lot of fun and I'd certainly do it again.

After Charlotte I got back on the road and began my journey North, on I-81. I needed to get to New York state where I would meet a high school friend of mine and venture Foxwoods Casino to play some poker. There was also a football game on the docket, as well as a promised night out. Hopefully I will have the time to continue writing of this tomorrow or the next day. Right now I need to check Facebook and get a passport. Yes, a planned out of country experience is on the horizon.