Yes, you can have too much of a good thing. In late June, I traveled to Bandon with three buddies for a three day excursion into the heart of golf Valhalla. We had wonderful days of sunshine and temps in the low 60s while inland locales baked in the 100s. It was ideal for golf on the dunes by the Great Pacific on the Oregon coast. Only thing was that the days were comp0unded by 40 to 50 mph winds, which in golf language means about a 4-club compensation. I overdid it, swinging hard in the wind, and, over two days, not realizing what a toll it might take on my body. And a toll it did take.
But isn’t that often the way? We are determined to make something happen as per our hopes and expectations, and we fail to consider the possible, and often unexpected, consequences. In my case, after two days of struggling with these elemental forces on my favorite courses in my personal rota, I developed a persistent pain in my rib cage that still nags at me two months later, despite multiple treatments and a break from golf. This stealth injury, probably involving soft tissues around the ribs, slipped completely under my radar, sneaking by my usual defenses like a paratrooper in the night. Worse, I have been unable to get proper sleep, with pain my constant accidental companion through each night. It will eventually leave, this pain, but most of the summer golf season has passed with hardly a round played or a full swing attempted at the range.
However…what I often do with injury that forces me to forgo my normal practicing and playing, I determined to put the time to good use, and practice my chipping which has been a recent bugaboo. That’s the essence and importance of the mental and emotional side of golf. Yes, we have an injury, the pain of which keeps us from playing our revered game, but we will use this time away from the long game to practice chipping, pitching, and putting which do not cause us pain. As we say in the States, “When you have lemons, make lemonade.”
The first step in this process of making the most of injury is, like with alcoholism, to accept that you have a problem and that you can’t handle it alone. We–most often men–deny that we have a problem in the first place and, remembering old saws like No pain, no gain and Get up and walk it off, we try to play our way through it and prolong the injury in the process. So, yes, we are injured, or we are sick, and we need to take a break.
The second step is to, instead of stew about it, take a proactive approach, get proper treatment, and heed the necessity for rest, which leads to the word restoration. You have to give the body time to help restore itself to equilibrium. Tiger Woods was notorious for returning to the fray too soon after an injury or surgery. He paid the price several times over. Rory is also known for this, and is currently not heeding advice to take the remaining months off to prepare and heal for the ’18 Masters. Once you rush the healing process, and not pay its due diligence, it’s often hard to extricate yourself from behind the injury or illness eight-ball.
Once you accept the often bitter realities of your injury, you can then look for ways to take full advantage of this unwanted sentence away from your golfing life. One advantage is that some time away from golf may be a boon for your overall golfing goals. It’s a time to gain perspective, to take inventory, again as AA asks of the alcoholic, to take a step back and see what has been working and what needs improvement, and choose the parts of your game that will not exacerbate the injury. For me, it was chipping which involves fairly gentle, relatively slow movements of the torso that do not cause any pain with my current injury. Now once when I cracked a rib, I couldn’t even chip, so I defaulted to putting, and focused my efforts on that critical, and often neglected, part of the game.
Now, I’m sure many of you are thinking: OK, OK, I get it with this mindful, mental stuff, now get on with what you discovered about your chipping game. So I went back and reviewed some of my own notes and blog posts on the gnarly subject, tested out some theories and former practices, and discovered that I’d been adding too much wrist into the stroke, causing greater inconsistency to my strikes. So I placed the ball off my right toe, made a straight line between left arm and the club shaft, and kept that position through impact, making sure the wrists did not break at impact. The other visual and most important swing thought is that of the grip end leading a shallower path of the clubhead through impact, striking the ball first then a follow through that is slightly longer than the backswing. The weight, of course, is more on the forward foot. This is the classic chip and run so you must aim at a spot that will allow the proper runout once the ball hits the green or fringe. The shot is easier, of course, when you have abundant green; the more fringe you need to go through the greater degree of difficulty.
The key? No wrist action in the shot. The angle of the right wrist stays the same through the shot as it did at address. Pelz has has a simple device to attach to the butt end of the club to help get the feel of this; or you may be able to poke a knitting needle through the hole at the butt end of the grip to accomplish a similar in vivo feel. If this device strikes your left side at impact, you’re breaking your wrists. Keep trying until the device does not hit your side at and just after impact with the ball.
So, with this proactive practice, I continue staying in touch with my game, within the confines of my doctor’s advice to stay away from the more active twisting, turning and striking. Of course, like a sick dog who mopes about, longing for the days of returning to running after and retrieving his thrown ratty tennis ball…over and over and over…I pine to return to my temporarily-barred, beloved, full-swing game.