Sunday, September 27, 2009

Month Two - What was I thinking!

A funny thing happened on the way to the driving range. On Saturday as I was getting dressed I accidentally cinched up my belt an extra notch! It took a moment for that information to sink in. I had lost weight! Curious! I felt fine so I wasn't likely to be dying from a rare disease! Maybe it was all the exercise I had been getting in the yard. Hmmm... Now that was unexpected. I pondered the realization. If you think about it, the current trend in exercise seems to be centered on your core. Or your midsection where your good health originates. And what better way to exercise your core than swinging a golf club? And the walking you do chasing the ball is chocked full of health benefits. This WAS unexpected and welcome. I convinced myself to step on the scales. I had lost 12 pounds in a month just by being more active. Cool!

I got to the driving range early Saturday morning, unloaded my clubs and found a space under the covered shed and set my clubs down to mark my spot. I went inside and asked the man behind the counter for the extra-large bucket of balls. ($8, tally total $233) I went back outside, picked up my clubs and moved them from the left handed "only" stall where I had set them down to a stall marked for right-handers. I don't think anyone noticed.

My son had told me when I went to the range to start with the short clubs and work my up to the woods. He had been playing golf 30 days longer than me, so I took his advice. I started whacking the pitching wedge. I was immediately impressed with the energy the ball had when it left the club face. Please remember this was the first actual golf ball I had hit in 20+ years. I still had no idea where the ball was going, but I was impressed. Man, can you say whack! About a dozen balls later I started to hurt a little under my right ribs. I guess I was hitting 3 to 4 balls a minute. I was excited!

I knew better than to try to hit the woods. My plan was to hit the irons because my track record with the woods in the front yard was spectacular and not in the good way. But I was just so curious... By the time I was done with the last ball, 10 dozen of them I think, I couldn't take a deep breath. Man my right ribs really hurt!

I did manage though, to catch a few balls in the sweet spot. I hit a 7 iron past 150 yards! And twice shots off my driver rolled past 250. One of these was straight and left 100 yards off center and the other shot was a cork screw right, then left, then right 100 yards off center in the other direction, but man they really flew. The funny thing, as bad as I was, I knew that when I solved the whole lefty-righty problem and was making better ball contact I could make the distance! Cool! (call me the optimist!) Did I mention my ribs hurt like hell on the right side!

OK, what did I learn from my first outing to the driving range? First lesson, if some activity hurts you stop doing it! Seriously, when you feel any abnormal pain stop what is causing it, no matter how many balls are left in the bucket. Luckily nothing was broken, I just strained the intercostals, muscles in my chest that support my ribs. It was nothing that a couple weeks off from swinging the club, Ibuprofen and muscle relaxers wouldn't fix, if you take enough of them.

Consulting the best golf instructional manual ever, I also learned that you swing the club as much with your hips and body as you do with your arms. It seems that swinging too armsy and/or too hard can injure you. Hmmm, again, I am behind the learning curve. Secondly, you have to warm up your muscles, especially if you swing hard like I do. Take the extra five minutes to stand in the parking lot and stretch your major muscle groups, your back, hips, legs and arms. There are hundreds of examples of proper golf stretches on the web. Third lesson, hit the balls at a slower pace. Take 3-4 minutes between balls. Analyze your last shot. Watch the ball flight path, see where it lands, see how it acts when it lands, see where your hands are when you finish your swing, take a drink of water. Do whatever you need to do to pace yourself. Remember you are going for quality not quantity.

Sitting there at home in the evenings recuperating, wishing I was hitting balls in the yard, I began to think about my pitching wedge. I hit it 50-100 yards, and I never knew which distance it would go, when I caught it sweet. But it was the shortest distance club in my new mega mart bag. What if I was actually playing a game of golf and had a shorter shot? Maybe it was time to look at those wedges. I visited a discount golf store online and found a set of wedges that were normally $45 each and were now heavily discounted. I checked the manufacturer online and they were still in business and these were their current production wedges. $80 for three. What a deal! ($80, total tally $313) They were great! When I was able, I got back out in the yard and hit them. They felt great!

My next trip to the driving range, ($8, total tally $321) after I warmed up stretching and swinging easy, I was nailing the new wedges. I could really feel the ball. 15 - 50 yards was now covered. It was at that moment a thought crept into my consciousness. If these current production wedges feel so good and perform so well, what would current production irons feel like and play like? Dang! There it was and I couldn't undo it. A thought is like an off-handed comment, once it happens, it becomes history and you cannot take it back. Like a seed in the garden (a weed seed or crabgrass seed) once it see's the light of day it blooms and flourishes with it's own will to survive. And no amount of Round-Up can kill it. I go back online for more research.

I had already decided I wasn't going to buy big box store golf clubs. There is nothing at all wrong with these clubs. They are great clubs for beginners. They just did not appeal to me. Even though my goal, nay my dream, was to someday become an occasional player, I didn't want to look like an occasional player. Yeah true, I had the big box store golf bag, but I considered that analogous to a demure looking automobile with a huge honking engine under the hood. The big box bag was fine for the understated look I was going for. But I still wanted the huge honking engine under the hood. So I began looking at the different manufacturers. All of them seemed to have the same marketing to a skill level strategy for irons.

At the high end were the Tour models, marketed towards players who wanted to play what the PGA Tour Pros played. Even though, at my level of limited knowledge of the game, I suspected that the tour models offered had very little in common with the clubs the pros used. The pro's clubs were probably hand built for them. At the mid level was a little lower performance club built to a couple of price points for mid level players. They offered better performance with more forgiving designs. At the low priced end was the club that was designed to be the most forgiving and was marketed more to beginners of the game, but also able to carry them to the next level of play. I decided that was the type of club for me. Back I went to the online golf discounter's web site.

Three days and $167 later ($167, total tally $488) I am in possession of a new set of name brand hybrids/irons. Retail was $299. What a deal! A word here, if you buy golf equipment online make sure you do business with established business'. I read somewhere that 70% of the golf gear on eBay was counterfeit. As much as I like to save money (tightwad) the cheapest is not always the best. So be careful. But I digress, my new clubs are current production and includes the 3 and 4 hybrid clubs. Hybrid clubs are clubs that are versatile, forgiving and contain a certain level of coolness.

Back to the driving range I go. (8$, total tally $496) The new clubs swing great. They seem to be easier to control but don't hit as long as my other irons. I think that makes them easier to hit shorter distances more accurately. They make a funny vibration in the grip if I don't hit the ball flush, but I like the clubs, a lot. After another week of hitting them in the yard with plastic whiffle balls and another trip to the range ($8, total tally $504) I am getting used to them. I am eight weeks into this golf gig and still don't want to go play until I am confident I won't make myself look like an idiot (Oops, again, too late!)

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