Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Month Four - D-Day looms...

It was two weeks before my son was due in and there were a few things I wanted to accomplish before he arrived. One was to ask the pro at the driving range if my clubs were the right fit for me. Again this is something I probably should have done $769.96 ago. I also wanted to work on my aiming issue.

I loaded up my irons and my battlewagon, er..., my lovely bride, Big Red, and drove to the driving range. Actually it's funny, she asked to accompany me to the driving range. A thought that should have struck me as odd, but was immediately lost in the cacophony of my A.D.D. eddies and currents.

At the driving range I found the pro and asked him to look at me and my clubs and see what if anything needed to be done. After hitting some balls he determined that my lie was all that really needed tweaking. ($5 a club, tally total $809.96, and I still haven't hit a ball in a game) My clubs came from the manufacturer with a 3 degrees upright lie. I needed a -1 degree flat, or 4 degrees difference. What this all means is the bottom of the club or sole of the club does not rest flat on the ground when I address the ball. (Dear Mr. Ball, I am fine, how are you?) The end of the club head, or the toe, is upright or off the ground. Flattening the club head so the sole rests flat on the ground when at address puts the sweet spot on the club face at ball level. It also keeps the toe of the club from opening or closing during your swing, helping to fix hooks and slices. The Pro put my club in a machine and cranks on it actually bending the club head hosel, the part that the shaft goes into.

"Here, try this..." he says, handing me the club. I hit a few more. "Keep your head down and still" he says. Yeah, yeah, yeah! I know already! I try harder. "Slow down your back swing, you don't have to kill it, it's already dead." Huh? What was that? Slow down my back swing? Hmmm, ok... slowly back... slower... WHACK!

10 minutes of work, and two sentences from this man have done as much for my golf game as all the money and time and sweat and pain I have experienced and expended to this point. I am not easily amazed, but in this case... "Do you give lessons?" I asked, full well knowing the answer. "Yep, the package includes 5 private one-on-one one hour lessons, one a week, including video of your swing progress and launch monitor sessions with a complete club and ball fitting, and a free extra large bucket of balls to hit each week while you take lessons." ($275, total tally $1084.96) I look at Big Red expecting the wrath of Kahn and instead I hear her say, "Can I try to hit a few balls?" Huh!?

We spent the rest of the afternoon hitting balls. I taught her everything I knew. That took less than ten minutes. The rest of the time we blissfully whacked away at the little white demons.

I had read that my aiming issue was a classic newbie mistake. We newbs tend to line up to far to the right of our target and then swing from the outside in across our bodies to compensate. So I picked a spot on the driving mat that was online between my ball and the flag, about a foot or two in front of me, then I lined up on that spot. When I lined up on the spot it felt way to far left. I step behind the ball and double check. It was right in line with the flag, just as I'd left it. OK then! I hit a bunch of balls with my new lining up technique trying to teach myself not to believe my eyes. It works! I can't say I hit every ball where I was aiming, but I can say I hit a lot more balls where I was aiming! Cool, I began to work this into my pre-shot routine. Yes, dear readers, I have a pre-shot routine and you should, too! What lining up like this does for you aside from obviously pointing you in the right direction is it tends to correct your outside in swing. It seems to make you swing more around rather than looping the club at the top of your swing and or trying to correct on your downswing as you try to compensate. Try this easy fix for fast easy improvement.

My son drove in from Norfolk and arrived around midnight on Sunday night. Before day break on Monday morning we sat on the deck, drinking coffee and making plans for our first outing together. Here was our plan. When I got off work I'd call him and we'd hit the local muni-course. We'd play nine and then the other nine if we had daylight enough. But the golf gods must have been angry. My son had been on duty all day Sunday then drove most of the night and had been up all day. He was sound asleep when I got home. That explained why my phone calls had gone unanswered. Oh well, I had waited this long. Another day wouldn't kill me.

Tuesday evening, I beat feet home from work and we loaded our clubs into the car. I felt much more comfortable going to my first golf game with my son who had played twice a week for months now, than I would feel going alone and getting paired with strangers. I was nervous with anticipation. I was excited with the thought of finally playing my first game after so long being absent from the game. I was proud to be sharing this day with my son, a real hero.

We got to the golf course and paid our monies. We loaded up the cart and down the hill we flew to the first hole, a 350 yard slight dogleg left. When we got to the tee, I reached in my bag and pulled out my #3 hybrid. I glimpsed a raised eyebrow from my son. I explained that in my humble opinion, 180 yards in the fairway was better than 230 yards in the bush. He tee'd up and drove a rising fast ball with a slight left shape 230 yards and more. Sweet! I tee'd up. Man it was hard to get the ball to balance on those tiny tee's. I was used to the rubber driving range tee's.

I took a couple of practice swings. The first practice swing hit the ground 8 inches behind my ball. I took a deep breath. The next practice swing was about 5 inches off the ground, a perfect whiff, if there is such a thing. I recognized the bobble-head problem. This was going to be a long evening. Then I remembered the other reason I picked this club. The last ball I hit at the driving range was with this club. And I had clobbered the ball an easy 180 right up the middle, straight as an arrow. I stepped up, ignoring my previous attempts at practice swings. Sometimes you just have whack the ball. I sole my club behind the ball, bend my knees and inch forward just a bit lining the ball up just outside the hybrid's hosel.

Then from out of nowhere and before I can protest, my backswing starts all on it's own with no input from me whatsoever. Stop, stop! My brain yells to myself, I'm not ready! The club starts slowly back, then my waist and shoulders start to turn on their own. Stop! No! Wait, wait! I feel the club head top out on the back swing. Oh boy! Too late now!

I perform a panicky systems check... well... things could be worse. There's the ball right over my left shoulder where it should be... what the hell! My brain reports ready for lift off but again I am behind the curve because my waist is already turning toward the ball. My shoulders unwind and my arms follow. As my hands start down the swing plane I decide that at this point I should probably play along. I start tracking my left wrist keeping it flat as my body accelerates the club head, my wrists working now. Eye still on the ball I see the club head coming into view from the right. Then WHACK! In a flash the ball is gone and I am finishing my swing completing my turn. The feel of the impact arrived in my brain just as my hands come up towards the target then continue around behind me. My buttocks turned to face the clubhouse, where the golf demons, now temporarily at bay, were peering at me through the club house windows. I murmur under my breath to the devils, "Oh yeah...? KISS THAT!"

My son, having faced his share of demons and with a knowing grin asks, "Say something Pops?"