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Sub Par in 8 months.... from better Golf IQ

All change

 

Winding forward to 2015, at the age of 52, I was able to pick up the clubs again after a health issue had stopped me playing since my mid 30's.

Gone from the top of world rakings was Tiger Woods and all my previous golfing hero's, including Colin Montgomery and Fred Couples are now competing on the champions tour.

Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson & Jason Day, have been trading places as world No.1 recently (World Rankings), and I missed most of Tiger Woods period of dominance as I moved away from the game.

The game has changed a bit too. I found that the heads on drivers got HUGE, 1 & 2 irons are kind of obsolete, and there were these strange clubs called 'hybrids'. A new set of irons could cost £1000+, To help your game there are range finders, GPS & even the electric trolleys, can now follow you around.

I read about things I had not heard of before, like launch angles, and spin rates and note that Butch Harmon had become professional golfs mega guru, replacing David Leadbetter.

What is just the same is that hitting a golf ball in the general direction you would like to is no easier than it used to be.

Despite all the technical advancements in equipment, greater understanding of the swing (seemingly), and bright shiny new hi tech golf balls, some things just hadn't changed.

The game was still the same infuriating, inspiring, demanding, ludicrous & fantastic game it always was.

The game was still the same infuriating, inspiring, demanding, ludicrous, & fantastic game it always was

The beginning

 

In late summer 2014 I began to sell golf clubs, & this re ignited my interest in the game. I dont know how or why. I just saw a bit of an opportunity in a pastime I used to adore.

Being interested again, and watching golf on Sky, I began to think my nerves may be able to allow me to begin to play once again.

I wondered whether, with these old bones, I could still hit it long enough. I wondered if my golfing muscles were hiding underneath my middle age spread..... and most importantly, whether my anxiety condition would allow me to move freely enough.

There aren't too many golf ranges in my part of Lincs but luckily, there was one about 15 minutes away.

This was January 2015 and my wife Tracy and 14 years old son Marcus, fancied having a try as well. The first trips to the range were a family outing. Every Tues, Thurs & Fri evening for an hour or so we bashed balls and of course, it would spoil an evening out if I had to rush home to cook, so a pizza was the order of the day on the way home.

As Tracy and Marcus drifted away from the game, my 3 days per week increased to 5 and more. My old obsession was back and as strong as ever.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   Faulty DNA

Something had to change, or this faulty DNA would mean I would crash and burn, with all the pressure I put on myself. Llike I did all those years back... and luckily something did change.

Love for the game, but faulty DNA

 

In just a few sessions at the range, I felt the same about the game I always did. I found that I had a deep emotional connection to hitting golf balls, whether it was on the course, or in practice on the range.

Even though so many years had passed, my original golf DNA was still intact (and still faulty). I was still the old me, hitting high impressive (I thought) irons, and reaching back for that very last possible yard on my drives..... miss-hitting badly during most sessions.

In those early months of returning to the game, I re-read all my old golf books, and bought a few more. I found youtube, and gobbled up swing analysis, from all the worlds top players. I began practicing again, just how I finished it years before. I had the mental pictures of Jack Nicklaus and Fred Couples swings, as my influences.

When I was hugely interested in golf 15 years ago, when I practiced I thought in terms of my 'swing', and what it had to. I used a fairly upright action, and drove my legs to start the downswing (thanks Jack).

Now I was back, and this way of seeing my game went on for the first few months, I was striking it reasonably, some good ones, then a few bad ones, I very quickly got back to about the same-ish striking standard that I was back then.

Also, I still had an unhelpful attitude to golf. This included, unrealistic expectations and impatience, so feeling a lot of disappointment and annoyance, after the range sessions became normal.

Something had to change, or this faulty DNA would mean I would crash and burn, with all the pressure I put on myself. Llike I did all those years back... and luckily something did change.

False dawn

 

I got much more engaged with accuracy, both in club-ball contact, and shots in general.

It wasn't like I thought 'I know better now', I just liked the new challenge. I was just engaged with practice in a different way, and it didn't arise out of any sort of plan on my part. I'm not a smart or talented person in any field!

I think I just evolved because I had a desire to improve, a love for practice, and dissatisfaction about how things hadn't changed much, from 'then' to 'now'.

A pro at the range had watched me bash balls for some weeks, and one day asked me what handicap I was because he said he thought I should be 'off about 2'..........I replied 'I never had one' (handicap)............it was a nice compliment, and gave me some confidence.

This was about May-June ish 2015. He must have been watching me on a good day, because every single day it seemed, I came off the range really disliking how I hit it.

The changes in my approach to practice were subtle. I remember at the range (a different one from Skegness), there was a flag at about 100yds, and behind it there was a small hump which I tried to land the ball on. I drove home many days with the 'hump' with myself. I could not wedge the ball onto this grassy mound with any great regularity.

Close wasn't good enough.

Then I went through a mini slump, I lost my desire for accuracy. My old self re-surfaced yet again and muddied the waters. Through this period I began to be obsessive with my backswing, through swing, shoulder turn etc. I was bouncing around different ideas and swing keys, which lead to a reversal of my striking skills........ again! I had been inadvertently and unconsciously directing my thoughts away from contact.

I hit the ball more like a 12 handicapper through June & July.

The arrival of the Jap

 

During this confused period, and golf being golf, I miss hit more shots than I middled.

About this time I got this lovely 'Fourteen' (Japanese club maker) hybrid. I never used a hybrid before, and I didn’t get it because of any difficulty at hitting long irons, I still had the swing speed, to fly them high and long enough. I just nabbed it when it came in, because I like the exotic club makers from Japan

Somewhere I read that hybrids were easier to hit than long irons. .......... but my 'Fourteen' wasn't listening. I was horrible with it............ so I thought I would just keep hitting it and hitting it, and something would click.

Many weeks of solid practice with this club, and maybe 3000+ balls later, I was still waiting for that click. This club proved to be a demanding teacher, so I added a couple of other hybrids to my bag for practice. Just to be sure that Japanese club wasn't 'defective'.

Yep, something was defective, and it wasn't the Fourteen.

So, I got a couple of Callaway hybrids just to be sure, but they must have been chatting with the Jap, because they all behaved in the same way, (or should I say misbehaved).

I think that advancing age, and my previous failed golfing efforts, convinced me I had something really wrong again.

At this point, I would like to mention, that I have about a thimble full of natural talent as a golfer. If I hit it well its truly earnt, its not bestowed.

My old stock shot, the 'push fade', with its high flying & weak ball flight, was still hard wired.......... but, I didn't care too much for a more inside swipe at it, with a closing clubface to promote the draw........this felt un-natural. The quick improvement I had experienced in the previous few months when I focussed on accuracy had gone.

So I thought if I rewound a bit, and concentrated on the specifics of contact again, I might improve.

As a bit of a side note, I would have missed this, had I not had the experince of hitting well some months before, and knowing where my mind was focussed, during that period.

This time, it was easier because I was armed with some experience.

With accuracy being the focal point once more, it forced me to concentrate very closely, on the actual conditions of ball-club contact. I began to hit it nicely quite often with the irons again.... but I had not discovered the way to hit the Jap and his buddies yet. I could hit 8 or so cracking 3 woods and hybrids off the deck one after the other, only for it to be followed by a few stone cold 'tops'. Something still had to be wrong.

Somewhere I read that hybrids were easier to hit than long irons. .......... but my 'Fourteen' wasn't listening. I was horrible with it

My own little green

 

This went on for week after week with the hybrids and the fairway woods….. but, also during this period, a goal started to form.

I began to wonder how long would it take me, to shoot an under par round on my 9 hole home course (the only one I played). The Skegness Golf Centre in Addlethorpe.

Its a seaside-ish type course (although its inland), its pretty flat and pretty long, and the wind blows (all the time). The good news is, that it has 3 par 5's, and I was long enough to reach them all in 2 with the right wind conditions.

Also at the course, was a really nice little extra hole, which I had pretty much all to myself every time I went…. and it was during this practice, that I made another little breakthrough.

I hit 1000's of putts, chips, and pitches on that little extra hole green, and funnily enough I had hardly any technical thoughts about form in the short game.

I just figured, that getting the right distance, while trying to make solid contact, would do me.

So armed with the goal of shooting under par, I practiced with more intent.

This was about the time, that the 'then' golfer in me retreated, and the 'now' golfer began to tentatively emerge and hold its own. July-August 2015 I guess

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Golf IQ

 

I started to get things more 'right'. I never really thought about a golfing IQ, I just happened to have read or overheard the phrase, and it sounded like the right tag. I recognised what it was, and naturally some people had more of it than others.

Besides the normal ups and downs of golf practice, where one day ball striking is easier than the next, and no 2 days are quite the same...... the accuracy of the shot, was now the theme of every session for me.

I loved hitting to the 100 yds & 125 yds markers...... and during one of those sessions, something significant happened.

The range at Skegness Golf Club is pretty open, and most days, the wind blew predominantly left to right. My stock shot was a push fade (I'm right handed), so I was really at its mercy.

This particular day the wind really whistled, and every iron shot landed so far right of target. … but out of this frustration, another piece of the puzzle revealed itself.

Hittting the ball from 'close' to the middle of the clubface, wasn't good enough to play accurate golf on windy days.........the really really good ones, the shots I buttoned, dead out of the middle of the face, would bore through the wind without it troubling the accuracy so much, however all the others were badly affected.

The catalyst that changed my thinking (my golf IQ), grew out of my desire for more accuracy.

What does intellect have to do with it?

 

Intellectually, I knew all about playing in the wind from books, watching tournaments on the TV, and reading more books. My favourite book was Jack Nicklaus Playing Lessons. In the book, he describes in depth, his thinking behind all golf shots, including how to play in the wind.

I had read that book many times, but what I knew intellectually, through reading,  I could not apply when practicing or playing the game (I always wondered why that was). .... and I mean I couldn't. I really couldn't, I was unable, the information didn't register, it didn't go in, none of it. It was as if my DNA was incapable of learning in this way.

Strangely though, if I had a conversation about golf with someone, I could describe what I had learnt from my favourite books.

How Nicklaus, went full out on a drive only when circumstances absolutely called for it, and conditions were in his favour, or, how when hitting into the wind, clubing called for as many extra clubs (to keep the ball under control), as the strength of the wind dictated.

The process of getting better for me was not an intellectual one (at least not my type of intellect anyway). I wasn't suited, and I wasn't wired to understand.

I didn't 'trial and error' my beliefs, they were inflexible. I was conditioned to be this type of golfer.

The process of getting better for me was not an intellectual one (at least not my type of intellect anyway). I wasn't suited, and I wasn't wired to understand.

Tick tock

 

I discovered that looking for accuracy in my shots, (as opposed to being engaged with swing keys), meant I had to find more accuracy in my club-ball contact.

This changed everything for me.

I began to experiment, with 'how' I was best suited to accomplish this.

I also needed an easy way to understand what I was trying to do.…. and luckily this part did come quite naturally.

I never saw anything like this in a book nor surfing the web, but it made sense to me (and maybe it will to you as well).

When I looked down at my ball I visualise a clock face, from 22 minutes round to 12 minutes, as my entry point on the right side of the ball, and 40 minutes to 50 minutes, as my exit on the left hand side of the ball

Depending on the shot I wanted to hit I would stay within these parameters. I would tell myself 14-44 (entry exit) to account for my fade.

This practice, immediately improved the accuracy of my shots.......I also became conscious of where I needed the clubface to point. I began to hit my wedges so they spun left on landing, or spun right.

If I wanted the ball to spin left on landing, I did that by concentrating on 16-46 (minutes entry-exit), and made sure my right hand was more active, with a toe leading mental picture.

If I wanted the ball to spin to the right on landing, this was easier, due to my shot tendency of hitting a bit of a fade.

I had to compensate for how much it would move left to right, by cueing myself on 13(entry)-42(exit),......and pulled a little harder with my left hand.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I never saw anything like this in a book nor surfing the web, but it made sense to me (and maybe it will to you as well)

It all came together

 

I began to hit my Jap well (we were friends at last), and he taught me 'angle of attack' (the final ingredient), after I had topped the devil out of it for months. The angle of attack had to be down more, (duuuuuh, didn't I read that 1000 times before without getting it).

To do this, I began to focus on the upper back centre of the ball, and tried to hit that into the mat or turf, or I would look at the grass 1 inch or so in front of the ball, as the contact point (you might find this weird if you try it).

The great thing is that I recognised the difference, from what I was doing  before.

Back then I would just look down at the ball and hit it, whilst thinking about some sort of body position, or just trying to muster the most power.

Hitting it so much better requires so much more content to each shot.

There is the path (entry-exit minutes) through the ball, but this didn’t sort out the odd top with the 3 wood, but bingo, when I added the angle I wanted the face to approach the ball from (angle of attack), my really bad miss hits dropped away.

I was hitting it so nicely, I started to work on force.

I began to really enjoy, hitting my Fourteen randomly to the 50yds, 200yds, 100yds, 150yds targets, and to land left or rightt of the flag.

I would hit only 1 ball to each flag. I did this to keep me present, so my motor function could adjust to the strength of the hit. This way each shot demands a fresh intention.

During the end of August and early September 2015 I hit 3 particular shots whilst playing that really stood out for me.

I hit a cut 3 wood, into a howling wind, onto the 2nd green from only about 160 yds.

Another round I hit a cut hybrid into a strong wind, on the 165 yd 3rd hole to about 15 feet............ and on a 3rd occasion I hit a cut 4 iron 3rd shot, from just 120yds into the middle of the green, with another howler of a wind blowing in my face, on the par 5 6th hole.

I could 'play golf'. I had played, 9 hole rounds, no more than 20 times, from about April onwards (fair weather golfer).

I shot 2 under par, for 9 holes at Skegness golf club, in the middle of September of 2015 (I didn't diarise the exact date).

This was 8 months, after I hit my first golf ball in 15 or so years, at the age of 52.............. and I had accomplished my goal.

I played sub par in 8 months...from better golf IQ.

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