Sunday, June 29, 2008

The shot of my life (so far)

Yesterday I played 9-holes on a really hot afternoon. (100F, 37.8C). Phew.

My improvement with the irons continued. I carried on my run of great first shots on this course with an opening 5-iron that I lost sight of immediately, only to see it land cleanly on the green.

My putting absolutely sucked. I must have had at least four birdie puts and didn't even manage a single par. I really must play more.

I was also very pleased with a 7-iron shot in a fair wind with the ball a good foot above my feet. The club was too long for the range, but I wanted to keep the ball down. So I hit it with reduced power, and was delighted to see the ball land and stay on the green.

I'm actually starting to get used to iron shots hitting the green...

Anyway, the reason for this post is the tee shot of the last hole. Normally I choose my irons based on the 7-iron giving me 140 yards, and moving up and down a club for each 10 yards each way. This hole was 145 yards: between clubs. There was no wind at this point, so I picked the 7-iron because I'd much rather be short than long on this particular hole (hills at the back, flat fairway at the front).

Now, as I said before, my iron play has greatly improved of late, but I do still have three main problems:
  1. I sometimes spoon the ball massively high and right, curling right viciously (normally with the shorter irons).
  2. When I hit it straight it tends to be pushed right (no curl).
  3. I'm still not hitting down on the ball as much as I should be (I'm not taking divots for a start).
The first problem I have basically identified as being caused by my wrists being lazy and not squaring up the clubface at the bottom of the swing. I'm aware of this and am working on it.

The second problem is more of a mystery, but I have a theory. I think it's because I'm not unwinding my hips early enough, so my entire upper body is still rotated away from the flag somewhat at the time of contact. Given a proper swing plane relative to my upper body, this would tend to produce a straight shot to the right.

The third shot is I also think connected to my wrist action.

Anyway, when stepping up for the 9th hole t-shot I concentrated on these things when doing the practice swings. I always like to find something I can think of that will produce the result I want without having to think about the mechanics of it, so in this case I concentrated on snapping my wrists through at the bottom and making a nice "thwack" sound with the club on the grass. I also concentrated on driving my hips through, especially close to the bottom of the swing (not the top: this used to contribute to the slice I used to suffer from).

So, I stepped forward and put all of this into practice, and...

OK, one more tangent. Since I've got better with the irons I've been listening out for a nice "click" sound when I get a decent contact. If I get that sound, I know I've hit it cleanly.

Back to this shot. I didn't get a click. I got a louder, sharp "snap" sound, the ball rocketed into the air, and seemed to hang there for an eternity. When it came down it did so behind the hills at the back of the green.

I just hit a 7-iron something like 150-160 yards, maybe more. And it wasn't bladed.

Oh, and it was straight too. No pushing to the right in sight.

Good news? Well, yes of course, but it does present a couple of problems. For a start, what club do I pick now when I want to hit 140 yards? I'm certainly not going to start hitting like this consistently overnight. I think I'm going to have to spend some time at the driving range in order to discover exactly how I did this and get consistent with it. Then I'm going to have to reevaluate which clubs do which distance all over again.

Then I really do have to work on that sucky putting...

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Shot shaping

Shot shaping is something I've stayed away from since I've been trying so hard just to hit the ball straight I didn't see how it would be possible to tell if I was doing it on purpose or not. It's just not sensible trying something like that until you can hit the ball consistently.

In my last round at Indian creek I was doing pretty well in some regards (long game), but the round was a failure from the point of view of breaking 100 due to my short game. In situations like that, I tend to let myself experiment a little more in the latter part of the round.

On one par five I found myself in the trees on the left, with little to do but chip out sideways. There was a tree bang in front of me and no gaps in the canopy. Depressing.

So, I decided that this might be a good opportunity to try playing a draw intentionally. I have tried before but always failed, because my swing involuntarily changes itself due to the different club face angle I create. It is as though your mind is determined that the club will hit the ball square on. This time I resolved to remain consistent.

I picked one of my hybrid clubs, and did a practice swing; noticing the weird effect on my swing again. So, I tried once more, this time taking care to ignore the clubface angle as best I could, and got a much more consistent swing out of it.

When I struck the ball for real, I was delighted to get a clean contact. I was even more delighted when I looked up to see the ball arcing beautifully to the left. It continued to do so until it caught one of the tree branches on the far side of the fairway.

So, not a 100% success, but a lot to be happy about. I've not done this before so I couldn't be expected to know how much the ball would curve. I'm sure that the combination of club and clubface angle can make for quite a combination of different types of ball flights, both in terms of height, curve and totall roll: I just got the combination wrong this time.

One thing's certain though: I was in a much better position than I'd have been in had I just chipped out sideways...


Tying swing plane to club length

I was going to write a full post on how I'm smoking the driver at the moment but I figured I'd mention that only in passing as I move onto a related subject.

At the end of last season I decided to cancel my PDP membership with Indian Creek, due to them raising the monthly membership price and the per-round charge, and since I wasn't playing all that often it just wasn't worth it. It's a shame because I really like that club: two great courses, friendly staff and (formerly) good prices.

So I went there for one last time, after which I would cancel. I went alone, but got put into a group of three other guys who really welcomed me into their game. They claimed to shoot in the 90's with the occasional round the in 80's. Well, for one of them I can't really see that being the case as he had a worse slice than I've ever had. He aimed 45 degrees to the left on every hole and still ended up in the trees on the right pretty frequently.

I out-drove all of them, which is where the smoking the driver part comes in. I'm really pleased with how that part of my game has come along. I actually free confident stepping up with the long stick that I'm going to crush it straight down the middle. I did pretty well with the 3-wood too, reaching one par-5 green in two strokes.

As usual, with me the problem starts as the club gets shorter, which is odd since I always hear that people tend to find the shorter clubs easier.

Just after I failed with a short club shot, one of my playing partners pointed out that I was swinging it like a wood, and that I should be hitting down on the ball when playing the irons.

This is something that I knew already, but had forgotten. There are so many things to remember in golf, it is all too easy to forget the things that you thought you'd already got figured out.

This was close to the end of the round, so I didn't get too much opportunity to try things out, but I did find myself in the trees on the left with a nice looking hole in the canopy above me in line with the flag. I took the 8-iron and really concentrated on hitting down with a steeper swing plane, and was delighted to see the ball flying up straight through the gap. I was well short of the flag, but a longer club wouldn't have had the loft required to make it over the trees. In the end, this was a far better result than chipping out sideways, so I was very happy with that.

From this I took away the lesson that the angle of your swing plane should be tied to the length of the club you are using. It has served me well since as I will post on later.

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Long time no post

To be honest it's because I've not played much really, mainly due to lack of time. And if I'm not getting enough time to play, I'm certainly not getting enough time to write blog posts.

Having said that though, I have played a few times, and have a few things to post about, so I figure I might as well post them individually instead of just lumping them all into one massive golf dump.