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Challenging My Limits – The Continued Quest for 66

The quest for 66 is stalling faster than the Rubio run for the presidency. Where to begin…or maybe the question is how to end the pain. All in jest, commitment is there, but the results are falling incredibly short. Have yet to break out of the slumber this last month or so, though did manage to win a tournament, so it all hasn’t been a total loss. Nothing in the low 70’s as far as my scoring and somehow managing to shoot some spectacular rounds in the mid 80’s. Sometimes with change, comes pain and you have to be willing to endure a little pain in order to grow. Working on a plan to shake the malaise and generally positive that we will be turning the corner in short order. Let’s examine some of the highs and lows and exactly what I have incorporated in my process.

Win, Lose, how about a Baby Draw?

I took some expert advice concerning my real swing versus my imagined swing. For years, my ball flight of choice, “power fade”, has been as consistent as the United States deficit. Under closer examination it was far less a thing of beauty and more a measured implement of masochism. My swing was badly flawed, robbing me of distance on tee shots as well as my long approaches. Incapable of easily working the ball from right to left, playing the game with one leg essentially. Upping the ante, my decision was to change for the better and deal with some possible ugliness in the process. Oh, if only the United States Congress could follow my lead.

Altering my swing path wasn’t as difficult a change as anticipated. Bringing the club into the ball more from the inside feels natural and the results are addictive. Pounding the golf ball with little real effort is nice and I don’t care if I have a problem. I’ll go down with the ship, mark my words, you can keep your 12 steps to sanity. If you ever played baseball, you know the feeling. Like dropping the bat head into the zone and letting nature take it’s course. Blissfully unaware of anything but the ball leaving the club head. In practice, my ball flight has significantly improved and for a growing number of shots on the course the same is true.

Not Quite Palmolive – Soft Hands

The more difficult adjustment has been softening of the hands on the grip. While it seems simple enough, I’ve found it problematic at times. Grooving my swing on the range the feeling is perfect as I have an established rhythm. Also known as the Ranger Rick syndrome, perfect practice sessions don’t always yield great results when the strokes count. Probably hit 400 balls on the range, going through the bag several times. Did the 9s drill working on my shot shapes, everything felt so solid. The tee ball with driver had some gumption, able to work it both ways pretty well. Easily one of the better range sessions I’ve had in years, every shot had a purpose.

Well we had another tournament this past weekend and I had a new partner for this member/member event. Warmup on the range was stellar, same feelings, the ball was coming off so clean even though the ground was soft from an overnight rain. If only, I would have stayed there this story would have a happy ending. I can’t say I hit the ball all together poorly, that simply wouldn’t be the truth. Hit a ton of great shots which is where I draw my inspiration for staying the course. What was terrifying were the horrific misses. Not your average push or hook, these shots had more character. The only way I could wipe a ball more right of the fairway would be to tee off sideways. I’m talking 50 yards right of my target. That ain’t good. The hooks were a little less hair raising. More of the Cheese Whiz variety kind of squirting left. Alas, the dreaded two way miss. The only good news…it mostly happened with the driver. I did have a couple of pulls with my pitching wedge, but that was more of a flip action from being too free with my grip. Easy fix, it’s a feel thing. With the driver, it was almost as if I couldn’t feel where the head of the club was on the way down and I would subconsciously panic and throw my hands. Dummy.

So here’s were it got beyond weird. If you hit it all over the yard, it’s still possible to score if you are a good putter. I consider myself to be a pretty decent putter most days except for this particular day. My hands on the green felt like giant toasters, not the silky petals of a 50’s Palmolive house wife. Probably had 5 birdie opportunities inside 10 feet. One of which was inside 4 feet. Even when I attempted to touch the ball, it would shoot off the putter face like I hit it with a 20oz framing hammer. Who 3 putts from 8 feet? How about 6 feet? Still not entirely sure why this was happening, but I finally got a handle on it on the back 9. The problem there, this was a 27 hole event….had already destroyed any chance of contending with the first 18 holes we played. Soft hands is the answer to many of golf’s great mysteries.

Solid State

The plan is to work out the kinks to this new era of my swing. It’s weird, even with all the setbacks, still feeling keen on my goal for the year. I saw a quote today that gave me some inspiration. Don’t limit your Challenges – challenge your limits– well said, wish I could find the source of such a poignant philosophy. Incorporating the hands is so important. Great players always seem to have soft, yet strong hands. That magical grip pressure that allows for maximum power in tandem with absolute control. Will take some work, but the fruit will be worth the effort.

Thanks for reading and I wish you good luck on your next round. If you have any comments or advice, please share below.

Pursuits in Life and Golf

Pursuits in life fuel our existence. Proven, those that thrive aptly challenge themselves breaking new barriers in the process. This post is a child of a self decreed challenge. Call it a product of the game of “double dog dare you” that continually manifest and thus this blog lives. The self talk doesn’t just happen on the golf course, the conversation is a life long healthy dialogue with that little voice inside. I only call it an “issue” if you verbalize the inner voice in public…you know out loud. As my daughter would say, that’s just creepy and weird. How does this all pertain to the blog? Well, follow along, I’ll explain.

The problem with golf or rather the human playing golf, is the insane pursuit of perfection. No matter what we do, perfection on this plane can never be obtained. Absolute perfection is simply a fleeting and unfulfilling undertaking, yet we doggedly strive for the unattainable. Why then as players do we continually critique our imperfections? The negative chatter, even framed in a positive light over time deflates the very confidence needed to perform at our highest capabilities. Recently, I’ve noticed I have developed a bad habit of adding value to an otherwise innocuous miss. It’s one shot gone awry, let’s move on and don’t compound the error. Maybe some of those Bob Rotella books actually permeated the fortress and the little guy in the shadows has grown tired of all the “crying” over what amounts to spilled milk. I’ve taken notice making a careful and concerted effort to shut down the naysayer within. There are times during a round a temporary schizophrenia arises and there almost seems to be a chorus of differing voices adding to the debilitating din. Again, cluttering the pursuit and denying the next barrier break. The change is coming.

We subconsciously suffocate the coming opportunity that is the next shot when we debase the merits of the shot already hit. I’ve caught myself, now armed with this new awareness, still holding a grudge about a particular shot 3 holes ago. The “what ifs” echo, gnashing of the teeth as I continue the walk…”I should be 2 under right now, instead of 1 over”…snuffing out the future potential. Ugh!!!!, for that matter, insert your favorite curse. The light comes on just in time. Recognition enables me to move on. Learning a new skill is so rewarding when you can see progress. My next full round out I shot a 71 trying my best to stay in the “now” and more importantly shutting down the need to add value to any miscue. Simply, I’m learning to shut up and play or play stupid as they say. Was it a good day? Um, yes, I’d say it was. I had 5 birdies in the round and a bunch of other good looks. Converted some huge par putts to keep the mojo going and a couple of terrific up and downs. We started off at 6:45 in the morning. I birdied the first from about 12 feet which gave me some confidence. The round turned for me between the second and third hole. The par 5 2nd, I was just short reaching it in 2, made a good up attempt for eagle leaving about a 3 footer for birdie just past the hole. Missing that putt rattled me a bit. It wasn’t the miss as much as it was such a poor putt. That voice rose up demeaning the feeble attempt. The tee shot on the 3rd was dreadful. I hit it short and right leaving myself 186 yards to a tucked pin on the left side of the green. This hole is the #2 handicap for a reason, it sucks. I hit a 6 iron to 8 feet using the slope in the middle of the green to carry the ball down to the hole. Might have been one of the best shots I’ve ever hit. Made the putt, we are 2 under now. The 4th hole, I cover a 6 iron from 182 to the par 3, how it didn’t hit the pin, I don’t know. Just over the flag, my pitch mark a foot beyond the hole. Left with a 5 footer downhill….which I miss. Right there, the round could go south, but I didn’t let it because I stayed positive. I made a good putt that didn’t find the hole. A very positive outlook that carried me on. Trying to butcher the 5th hole, I left myself with 15 feet downhill for par and I make the putt. If I was in the bag or rather still in the past, I wouldn’t make that putt, I would still be brooding about 2 and 4 and how I wasn’t 4 under par…..or perfect! The round in itself was a battle. I will admit, I did crack a bit on both 9 and 18. I had 128 yards into both of them which is a yardage I played to and love. It’s like an automatic full pitching wedge. I pushed both of them thinking about where I was score wise. On 18, I was thinking of shooting a 69 and breaking down another barrier. In other words, I blinked and didn’t stay in the moment.

After the round I wasn’t quite yet introspective about how I played. I might have said, “that was a bad 71” 50 times. In my mind, it could have been better. Again, adding negative value to something I can do nothing about.The voice I had rendered useless had been reborn and it kept saying “that should have been better”. Who broods over a 71 anyway? Now I look at it a little differently. The next day I shot 80 on a different course. That bastard of an inner voice was ever present, I had neglected to shut him down from the beginning. We will continue to spar, that I am certain of, but he will need to lose to breakthrough. The more and more I play with better players, it’s the mental game that impresses me the most. Not the swings, the short games, or even the deadly accurate clutch putting, it’s the way they go about it. It’s a game and if you address it as such, your potential is given the opportunity to be realized. Some of these guys have swings only a mother can love, yet they are single digit assassins that will happily take your money….smiling and joking all the way down the fairway. That’s the next step in the evolution of my game. The next barrier will fall soon enough.

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Withering of the Mind

Been awhile since I posted something to this section of the site. Not like I haven’t been playing much golf, it’s just the state of play is such in flux it’s exhausting. Making a concerted effort to affect change in my swing. Primarily bringing the club into the zone more on an inside path to the target. Sounds simple enough. Normal people….not the afflicted…seek help in such pursuits. Quite certain my son will call a family meeting and discuss the possibility of staging an intervention. Having never paid for a lesson, I tend to tweak from time to time, ostensibly in the cloak of darkness. Ever put those blue socks on thinking they were most certainly black at 6:30 in the morning? I haven’t committed to the 12 steps apparently, absolutely refusing to admit I’m powerless over my addiction. Consider this post from a man happily festering in the sea of denial.

So this is more of a cumulative post. Drawing from the experiences, say over the past month or so. I’ve carded some pretty good rounds. A couple of 75s on our family trip to Hilton Head Island, beating my son in the process which is a bonus. He did clip me with a stellar 79 to my 81 at our favorite course just off the island (Hilton Head National), but I won the family championship, so “I be fat and happy” till next year. I know, crying about a game in disarray with some pretty good scores, but wait there’s so much more….”if you order now, we will throw in another one free” (just pay $14.95 S&H) . I’ve also managed somehow to card some truly scary numbers. During this same span, I carded a 42, 43, and a blistering 45. I shot two 87s to boot. I’ll give you an example for further illustration. Imagine a world, where you are a golf god, a par making machine, sprinkle in a birdie here and there…wait no, that’s my pitch for a movie I might write someday. One particular round, lights out on the front 8 (like that’s real or something) going into the 9th hole. Very solid drive in the middle of the fairway, playing a mild mannered par 5. I can just smell the fresh aroma of a 35. Insert the “Blink”, some jackass apparently pulled the pin on the grenade and tossed it in my bag. From the middle of the fairway I make a double bogey…double bogey…who does that? I should have been brought up on charges for the carnage I laid on the back 9. The only good news, I didn’t have a bogey on the back side and I managed to make 4 pars. The bad news, those other 5 holes I made double bogey (no trips damn you). Holes 9 through 11, I was on the double bogey train to hell. It was so bad, I think Lucifer himself was the staff engineer, that little engine that so “F$%GAD” could. All the while I could hear his maniacal laughter…that might have been when I actually crossed over to the other side of madness. A putrid experience.

I’ve learned to let these little jewels go. Those rounds you only share around the campfire late at night with the sole intent of scaring the little children back to their tents. Writing about them is my way of putting them in their rightful place, on the internet where they will surely shrink in the abyss of porn and Nigerian money order scams. Seriously, it’s cathartic in a way. Cleansing the palate as I move forward on this journey. You have to let the bad go. You can’t hold on to the negative that can happen on a golf course, let it lie and move on. I’ve played Bridgemill Athletic Club many times. It can be tough, but I’ve challenged par a few times and I’m positive I can break par given the right mind set. The elephant in the room or the fire breathing dragon as it is in this particular case, is the proper frame of mind. Proof positive, I played the other day, a little 9 hole practice with my favorite playing partner my son. Played well going out, 2 under through 4, could have easily been 3 under, but I guess we weren’t playing horseshoes…hope I don’t need to spell that one out. This is where you need to be particularly alert to the “Blink”. Mentally, you can’t let it happen, stay in your process. I blinked yet again, but I wasn’t as dismayed, because I recognized it for what it was. A moment in time is all. That inside move…produced the dreaded hook. I’ve made a real honest to goodness effort to only swear when necessary on the course. This particular ball, got the “oh no, hold….you wet mother.…”well I think you get the gist. Double bogey, but not the kind that sends a round spiraling into perdition. I was pretty positive, upbeat after the bad hole and I immediately moved on to the task of trying to birdie the par 3 coming up. Didn’t happen, but the shot I hit was good, very good, just got unlucky that it spun back off the green. The next hole is a par 5 that I have the most solemn of love hate relationships. Again, the positive vibe was still flowing, I’m still even par and a birdie will make it all better. I hit a very good drive that we both see hit right center of the fairway. Then the luck intervened, not of the good variety, the kind of luck dealt by IRS agents and divorce lawyers. Ball is nowhere to be found. We literally looked for 5 minutes and couldn’t find it. I drop, hit my shot to layup spot, leaving myself 95 yards to get up and down. Hit it to 8 feet, uphill putt that should break a little left. I hit it right edge, great speed, the ball just doesn’t want to go in the hole, bogey. To sum it up, I stayed positive, up until that point. I left the 7th hole feeling robbed, gypped, unjustly fleeced. You can’t score with that mindset. Ended up shooting a 39, because of a mental outlook that syphoned any of the optimism needed to finish the round strong.

It’s important to learn from these experiences. I hope sharing the success along with failure provides solace for some. If it helps one person, I swear it makes it all worth it. Everybody has to learn to defeat the obstacles that prevent realized potential. If the process was too easy, we wouldn’t appreciate the accomplishments and milestones when we reach them. Good luck, more to come. Played my first tournament, like by myself, with no help. That’s a post all into itself. Oh, my feeble little withered mind.

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