Monday, October 27, 2014

The Week in Legitimategolf

Sorry. I'm not sure what to say these days. I have been plenty obsessed with the game of golf lately but evidently it's kind of hard to describe what's happening; the words aren't really forthcoming. Plus, who the hell wants to brag to the World Wide Web about improvements in their game only to fall face forward shortly thereafter? But take heart, friends. I really hope I don't regret saying this, but I am onto some serious, next level shit, I think. And perhaps such an experience is hard to capture in lousy words.

It all started when I managed to identify a fatal flaw that has booby-trapped my swing since the beginning of time. This fatal flaw, I believe, was responsible for a lot of the maddening inconsistency that has kept me mired in the desolate world of double-digit handicap golf for too long. (No offense to double-digit handicappers, of course.)

Earlier I posted about coming to grips with a shut clubface, which I finally broke down and confronted after seeing candid video of myself on the course and saying "Enough." Well in further examining some similar videos I discovered an even worse, more deeply rooted problem.

Hogan's Five Lessons book is explicit about maintaining the angle of the rear leg throughout the backswing. The stable rear leg is, as Hogan would put it, fundamental to a good swing.

For me however, this was a major blind spot, a component of the swing I never saw fit to specifically bother with. For years I fixated on the plane of the club, ignoring too many all-important biomechanics. But dammit, fundamental is fundamental. Ben Hogan was not a time-waster and his "Fundamentals" book is a paragon of conciseness--there is practically no fluff in it. Everything in needs to be taken dead serious and given the utmost attention.

Not quite me, but an apt illustration.
Instead of restricting the hips on the backswing, I lurched myself backward in an ungainly sway move. When you lurch backward, you give yourself only one real option and that's to lurch forward. Looking back the swings I was making on the course were, let's face it, more akin to a chopping-wood action than the rotary, athletic Ben Hogan-style golfing swing I have always idealized.

Lay off, I'm workin' on it.
Once I got to work on restricting that stupid hip turn, everything improved. The world appeared in technicolor. Backswing to impact to follow-through, everything. Ball flight.

So I took it out to the course last week. Things started out fairly awesome. A handful of shots hit on this day were among the very best long irons, woods, and drivers I have ever hit--no joke. I had a good score working until a little meltdown in the middle of the back nine, three straight holes with penalties.

I was feeling a little anti-social today (i.e. a typical day) so I opted to walk instead of carpool with some stranger. It is funny, not that long ago I used to walk 100% of the time, and now these days it feels a little foreign. Daunting, even. What the hell has happened to me? This is how you get old I suspect--you lapse into a comfortable pattern and then before you know it you are set in your ways.

When it's just you and the bag, it's liberating. You come and go wherever you please, your whole kit, everything you need is on your person at all times. Don't have to worry about stuff like stepping on the gas pedal during someone's swing, or having to make small talk on those long rides between shots. Carts can be nice but let's face it they introduce a lot of artificial bullshit into what is at its core a very pure outdoors activity.

In the midst of the back nine meltdown ordeal I hit a full lob wedge that came to rest extremely close to the lip. But while I was walking up to the green, still about 20 yards away, one of the old schmucks in my group whacked my ball back to me. Well that tore it. What the hell, what's the use of hitting one stiff if you don't even get to walk up and see it for yourself? I told him Thanks for nothing and stomped off towards the next tee really mad. And then I fanned a 3-iron into the pond. Then I fanned another one but it managed to just barely scrape dry land. Then I let the rage take over and I kicked one of the tee markers out of the ground. So what. In the end the marker was replaced, no person or thing was disturbed so save the preachy comments about enjoying life and smelling the roses.

I stewed in it for one more hole and then finally said "WTF, asshole?" and gathered myself for the difficult last three holes. And what do you know, after putting aside the negativity I carried on hitting really good shots all the way to the end, wrapping up the round with a couple of skillful pars. Still, six strokes were lost in that three-hole misadventure, blowing my score up to an 83.

No matter. Like I said, next level. I know that in golf nobody, not even the best in the world, wants to tempt fate and spout off about the health of their game. But hey, I am pretty optimistic that a considerable improvement is coming. I can feel it. Besides what is the point of a blog if not to make a bunch of needless and wildly speculative self-aggrandizing claims? It is the 21st century way after all.


  1. bkuehn "I Found the Secret" 1952October 27, 2014 at 3:52 PM

    You are doomed. Once you think, "I figured it out," it will quickly become apparent that no, you have not. I hope you are the exception to this immutable rule.

    No, I am not a robot although I have been accused of having a personality like one.

    1. Which is precisely why I tossed and turned over this. It can be real. Why can't it be real? Improvements happen in this world all the time. Why not to me? I am a diligent student of the swing. I have faithfully studied the same golf textbook since the beginning. I never go chasing quick fixes. I shun all "tips" and other golf instructor jive talk. If anyone deserves to have a good swing, it is me goddammit.

  2. How timely is this blog post!

    I am going through exactly the same change (and also worrying about the swing plane, taking a divot, and a few other things, thanks to a lesson package at GolfTEC which I highly recommend btw) and just today I had a few really bad holes, including a triple and 4 doubles for a lousy 88 on a par 70 course. But, just like you, I have recently experienced some of my most beautiful ball flights with irons, woods and even the driver, some of those even today.

    Next level stuff? Perhaps, most likely. But a few more practice sessions or rounds are needed before it becomes second nature and the next level happens. If you have to think too much about things while swinging, you are not really playing golf...

    Oh, and look at the bright side of life, quit your whining and smell the roses! :)

    1. I take this next level business serious. I did not run to the keyboard at the very first glimpse of this next level, you know. No, I kept mum about it until I felt I had some actual footing on it. You'll see.

      You'll see.

  3. Great post. It's nice when you make a spurt of progress in this game, largely the reason I'm so addicted.

    I think the analogy '2 steps forward, 1 step back' is applicable to improvement in the swing. As Brian alluded to above, you will almost assuredly have some form of regression, but overall progress is always forward.

  4. Good work on your next level. I enjoy your writing, your passion for golf and even your misanthropy most of the time but storming off and getting butthurt because some random gives you back a clear gimmie (thus robbing your ego of seeing the ball an inch from the hole?!) is an extreme overreaction; you are not in a tournament, get over yourself. Kicking out a tee marker is gauche but understandable after a couple mishits but I lost a little respect for you with this post.


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