As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been plagued by the shanks lately, and was at a complete loss about how to treat my affliction. Feeling desperate, I combed YouTube, viewing every solution I could find. But no dice. Nothing worked. Butch Harmon had the best explanation of cause–closing the clubface severely at impact, and sort of coming over the top, thereby striking the hosel as a result. His solution, similar to a number of other pros, was to put a club cover just beyond the ball and make sure not to hit it at impact. Worked a couple times but mostly no go. I gave serious thought to giving up the game. Really. I felt hopeless, defeated, and downright discombobulated. And seeing as how I’d started this game at 14, fairly depressed.
Give it up, said the devil in one ear. You’ll never figure this out. And the next time you play a round, you will walk off the course, totally embarrassed. That devil in your ear is a real bastard, isn’t he.
Stay with it, Stephen, said my better angel in the other ear. You’ll find the answer. You just need to persevere. Golf is in your blood. You can’t give it up. I love that angel and her positive, gentle ways.
Next morning I awoke dispirited, planning to return to the range but without any idea of what to do about the shanks, and still considering the devil’s advocacy. I went to YouTube one last time, praying for a miracle, and stumbled upon a pro who had trained with Moe Norman, the Canadian who was arguably one of the greatest ball strikers of all time. Moe, who was reportedly on the autism spectrum, died in 2004 at 74. The pro was Todd Graves, founder of Graves Golf Academy, a school that teaches how to swing a club like Moe Norman. Tiger Woods, by the way, labeled Moe and Ben Hogan as the only two golfers in history who truly owned their swings.
Inspired, and having a feeling this one-plane swing could help cure my shank, I ordered the DVD/ebook program Graves put together, and, delaying going to the range, studied it for the next few days. Hopeful, I went to try it out. The transition to that swing wasn’t as hard as I’d imagined. An altered address position, with the lead arm and club shaft forming a straight line, the ball position and clubhead position skewed some, and the backswing inside the plane to start, returning to plane early in the downswing. There’s more to it, of course, but those are the main alterations from the swing I was used to. To practice the new positions this swing required, I followed the Graves instruction and had a six foot CVC pole cut at the hardware store which, held like a club, clearly showed me the correct positions, touching my left side when I was off kilter.
Right off, I noticed some major changes. The shank was gone.
That’s right. Solid, freaking gone! But even better, I was hitting the ball, with irons and woods, more solidly, more accurately, and farther than even before I completed chemo. I finished the bucket without a shank and a few drives that went 230 with range balls that even Tin Cup would have rejected. I turned to the devil and huffed and puffed him off my shoulder, and to my better angel turned to plant a sweet kiss on her lovely cheek.
To corroborate all this, I returned the next day, after re-watching the Graves DVDs that night, and again, no shanks through the bucket, and the same solid contact which, in my thinking, is why people come to this game. That special feel of contacting the club on the sweet spot is near-addictive and one of the more satisfying sensations in this mortal life.
Now I’m not saying everyone should switch to this swing. I have no connection with the Graves PR team, and paid full price for their program. The address and backswing look a bit weird compared to the way the swing is taught by the majority of pros and instructional books. But for me, it has cured the shanks and given me back a game that I only knew when I was a lad back in high school. I don’t really care what this swing looks like. A few days later, I had another productive session at the range. It’s a keeper.
Tiger Woods came in last among those who made the cut at the Genesis this past week, an event he hosted. Normally I wouldn’t report on such a failure, but with Tiger, it’s different. Tiger is perhaps the best example in sport of transforming failure into success. We can all learn from him in this regard. He uses failure as a springboard to analyzing what happened and what he needs to do to correct it. So instead of being burdened or depressed by failure, he learns from it, makes the corrections, and applies those adjustments to the next event.
So I predict Tiger will win again this year, and very possibly that win will be a major. He is just about the only pro in the world I would ascribe such a skill, as described above, to possess. We are fortunate to be around to witness, first hand, arguably, the greatest golfer who ever lived.
‘Nobody Hit It Like Mickey’ – Hall of Fame golfer Mickey Wright, who won 82 LPGA tournaments including 13 majors, passed away Monday. She was, by almost all accounts, the greatest woman who ever played the game. She was 85.–Golf Channel