I got the shanks about five years ago. It was strange and very disturbing that I couldn’t simply make and adjustment and get rid of them. Never happened before. I went to the range for three straight days and hit jumbo bucket after jumbo bucket of shanks. Every shot. I enlisted my pro, who gave me a tip. One swing and the shanks were gone. That tip? Keep all 4 balls of your feet on the ground. Did that really solve it physically or did it just give me something else to think about?
Last Thursday I told my buddy Marius that my swing was on the verge of a complete breakdown. I could feel it slipping away from me. The hole after I told Marius of my feeling of impending doom, it happened. I shanked a pitching wedge. Then I shanked or nearly shanked every shot for the rest of the round (10 more holes).
I took a break of four days and didn’t even think about picking up a club. I have the biggest and most intense tournament of the year, the one I desperately want to play well in, coming up this Saturday and Sunday but I still felt no desire to pick up a club. I didn’t want to do it until I’d cleared my mind.
So today I finally picked up a club. First shot? A shank. 2nd? Shank… At that point I started to try some of the drills I’d gotten from two PGA pro pals and from many friends, along with the 4 balls of my feet thing.
4 balls of my feet didn’t do it this time. My buddy Dave told me my shoulders were aimed right of target and feet left. Then he said I was thrusting my hips (sorry ladies) forward and having to compensate with a pull to hit the ball on line. Thanks for telling me I’m golf’s version of a pretzel. But some of what he said made sense and I tried to adjust.
I tried my PGA Pro pal from Arizona Scott’s suggestion, hitting 7-irons with my feet together. I hit them solid and straight. Hmmm.
I then tried hitting shots with my stance open about 30-40 degrees and the ball on my right toe. Solid and on line with my intended target.
So I thought I’d reverse the last one. I closed my stance to an insane amount. I was basically standing with my left foot two feet farther forward than my right. Solid shots right on line.
So at this point I found that I could hit solid shots online with insane stances and ball positions. The only shot I couldn’t hit was with a standard setup.
BUT something happened in my swing with the open stance. For some reason I felt something click in my takeaway with the insanely open stance and ball on my right foot. The club fell into some sort of perfect position. My right elbow wasn’t a granny chicken wing and my wrist cock felt right for the first time in about a month.
I just tried to remember that feeling and kept it in my mind. I set up with my regular stance, pulled the trigger and felt the same takeaway. The ball flew straight and didn’t feel like a near shank. I looked at the clubface and the ball mark was in the center.
I had two swings as a result of today’s session. I had my old swing back, with the new feeling takeaway. And I had this crazy open stance punch something which I could almost never miss.
I played 18 holes, never made a putt under 10 feet (greens sucked) and shot 77 today. I had 8 bogeys and one birdie. NO doubles, no shanks. No shots even came close to a shank. I did however, start feeling a TON of pain in my left elbow. The pain is an all too familiar pain, that of golfer’s elbow. This is why I’m not a ball pounder. My damn elbow can’t take it.
During today’s round I tried to pretend I was under pressure and that my confidence was shaken during a tournament. I decided on the 11th tee that it was time to pull out my emergency “can’t miss” shot. I pulled a 5-iron and opened the hell out of my stance. I put the ball on my right toe. I swung the club, made solid contact and threaded it right down the middle.
City amateur, BIG tournament this weekend
I don’t expect to win this weekend’s tournament. I’m a 2 handicap in champ flight playing straight up gross against fearless -4 handi 20 year olds who can out drive me by 80 yards. The “flat bellies” if you will. Though my belly is flat these days… There will be players shooting 66, 67 over the two days. My lowest round EVER is a 68, two years ago, and I haven’t shot in the 60’s since.
I want to make a good showing and play well for my abilities and perhaps, finish IN the money for the first time ever in this event.
A report will follow.
I think I’ve done it. I lost my swing. I’ve felt this coming on for a few rounds now. I’ve been hitting shots which are not solid and I’m not able to concentrate at all.
Today I actually sh***ed not only one, but almost 10 shots. Until last week I hadn’t hit one of those horizontally challenged shots since around 2004. Today all I could do was laugh because no matter what I tried I kept doing it. Last time I had the sh**ks it took me going to my pro to solve it after hitting bucket after bucket of them for three days.
This score tied my highest round of the year and I really had no clue how to swing a club. It seems like it is slipping away for some reason.
I’m going to try and chalk this up to the fatigue of my big trip this week and to playing a bit too much. But I wonder…
Golf and life. Sometimes they get in each other’s way.
I’m discouraged about my game and I think the game is reflecting some changes in my personal life recently. I’m much more emotional now when I’m golfing, compared to being more even keel or should I say, even robotic. If I hit a great shot I’m very excited and I’m very mad and frustrated when I it a poor shot. The poor shots are sticking with me more and sometimes I want to throw a tantrum like a little baby. Fortunately that hasn’t happened yet. Higher highs, lower lows.
I think happenings in my non golf world have brought my emotions to the surface now, rather than having them buried deep under many layers of callus.
I’m also wondering about my physical body. I think back 3-4 years ago, when I weighed 56 pounds more than I do now. I played much better and more consistent golf. I also drove the golf ball much farther because I was shifting my weight into the ball.
I’ve dropped 20 pounds over the last couple of months and I think it has changed my swing. The good thing is that I’m more flexible and I generally feel better physically. My back isn’t stiff and I’m in better shape.
Could my increased flexiblity be contributing to my shots being more wild and erratic?
Sounds to me like I’m saying I was a better golfer when I was unemotional and fat. That may be the case, but I’m not going back to that state so I guess I’d better work it out.
Today’s goal, break 80 at Black Mesa
The more I play Black Mesa the more I love it. This is a special golf course. I become more confident in my shots and where I want them to land or roll the more I play the course. I played probably the most solid nine holes of the year on the front today. I got up and down on #1 from a deep green side bunker. On #2, a short par-4, I used the contours to the right of the green to bounce my 100 yard approach shot to about three feet. But my putt didn’t drop as the speed was not as quick as I expected. That would be about the last bad putt I’d make for the whole day.
Above, the old squeeky windmill at Black Mesa. When the wind kicks up, the windmill plays a an eerie yet rhythmic tune. Normally I’d dislike a sound like this, but this tune almost hypnotizes me. How many millions of times has that wheel spun around? I need to find out if there’s been a name given to this windmill. If there hasn’t, I’m going to come up with an appropriate one….
On with the story…
When I got to the mega cool #4 hole I was still even par. #4 is the famous “dome” hole, where a cool sand dome guards the green left. I didn’t trust my yardage. It dictated a six iron. I hit five. Good choice. It ended up about eight feet below the pin. I drained the putt to reach -1. I played solid golf the rest of the front nine. My new and improving short game and some great putting helped me turn to the back nine at even par. I shot even on the front at Black Mesa. That is good. Could I hold it together for the difficult back nine?
I have shaky confidence in some holes which have kicked my butt every time I’ve played them, like the par-5 13th. Today I was cruising along playing well and 13 humbled me once again. I knew I couldn’t miss the green right or I’d have an impossible up and down from a very deep bunker. I missed right, 7. Ouch. I’m realizing how demanding this course is. You really can’t miss a single shot in the wrong place your you’ll have to make some incredible shots to save par. Usually errant shots will result in an “other” score. My two severely errant swings did result in double bogeys on the back.
Yesterday I melted down on the 15th, a beauty of a par three. I clanked my tee shot into the water and scored a double. I was wanting redemption today. With my good pal Eddie Peck, principal guy here at Black Mesa watching, I pulled a six iron left. The shot bounced off the contours left of the green and ran down to about five feet. I laughed and looked at Eddie and said, “I meant to do that.” Eddie laughed.
Eddie took off to watch the other groups so he didn’t see the putt, which I drained. The first thing he asked me upon the conclusion of my round was if I made that putt. I proudly told him that yes I’d drained the putt, and that despite having my golf ship taking on heavy water on the back nine, I paddled home with a 78. To me a 78 on this course is like shooting a 73 somewhere else.
Puye Cliff Dwellings
Following the round we visited the Puye cliff Pueblo Indian ruins, about 30 minutes from Black Mesa Golf Club. The Pueblo Indians had built an incredible set of dwellings on top of, and on the SIDE of, a cliff. I’ll post more about this fascinating part of the trip later, but here’s an image of our tour guide (right) telling us about the dwellings for now.
I’m too tired to continue writing, though I’d love to share the rest of this great day…
My game stinks
I don’t know what is up. I feel good physically. I’ve lost 20 pounds over the last couple of months and I’m looking like a younger “flat belly” player now. My back isn’t stiff at all. The swing “feels” good. I feel loose. Everything seems to be working and feeling good up until I make contact.
Tuesday I did something I haven’t done since somewhere around 2004. I shanked a shot. I handled it fairly well and didn’t get too bent out of shape.
I feel like I’m actually making solid contact but finding my concentration level is very low and I’m making poor decisions. I’m not focused.
Worst round of the year
Today I carded my worst score of the year and sent myself into an even more confused state than I already was in, which is hard to imagine. Somehow I managed to push on all my bets (won some lost some) which I can’t believe.
Game management? No. Course management? No. I’m in a state of “disaster management.”
Maybe I should just let it go
Perhaps I shouldn’t get too down about my bad rounds right now. I do seem to go through this phase a few times per year. Tomorrow is another day, and I’m golfing so it won’t be too bad. A report will follow.
The HP Byron Nelson Championship is played May 21 through May 24 at the Four Seasons Las Colinas outside Dallas. The tournament is affectionately called “The Byron”, and it’s put on by the Salesmanship Club of Dallas. This is the first in a series of preview articles leading up to the tournament.
The numbers speak for themselves, but no matter how impressive Byron Nelson’s records are it’s the quality of the man people talk about first. He set records as a golfer that may never be touched, and it’s only appropriate that the tournament that bears his name continues to set records every year, even after his death.
BEFORE THE TOUR
John Byron Nelson, Jr. was born near Waxahachie, TX on February 4, 1912. Throughout his career on the course and his life afterward he’s intrinsically linked to fellow PGA Tour greats Sam Snead and fellow Texan Ben Hogan, as the three of them were born within 6 months of each other.
When Byron was 11 his family moved to Fort Worth, and he proceeded to have a close call with typhoid fever. At age 12 he was baptized, and it also marked the beginning of his life in golf, as he started caddying at the Glen Garden Country Club. The fact that caddies were not officially allowed to play on the club didn’t hold Byron back, as he used to sneak onto the course to play in the dark. A couple of years later the rules were relaxed a bit, and Byron defeated fellow caddy Ben Hogan in a 9-hole playoff to win the club’s caddy tournament.