Well, I finally did it, thanks to a gift from my golf bud, Steve P. I took the plunge and saw the very able pro at Tri Mountain in Ridgefield WA, Michael Parker. Essentially, he diagnosed this old fart with a kind of old-fart kind of a swing. This was a bit of a rude awakening since I used to have a rather picture perfect swing back in the not too distant past. But because of the ravages of age and infirmity, I had devolved into–taking it from finish to start–a half-assed follow through, quitting at impact, reaching just before impact, weight shift too slow from the top, coming over the top, and being too close to the ball at address, with my weight too much on my heels. In other words, far from picture perfect, unless you’re talking about Edvard Munch’s The Scream. I obviously had work to do to escape a half-shank that would periodically emerge like the Loch Ness monster, both tanking my confidence and entertaining thoughts of leaving this god-forsaken game for good.
There was one aspect of Michael’s lesson that had a lasting effect on me. He had placed two balls down about 3 inches apart in a line parallel to my feet. He then instructed me to line up my club to the ball closest to me but focus on the ball farthest away. Then take a normal swing and actually hit the ball farthest away. Awkward, right. But surprisingly, I hit that ball flush just about every time. That told me I was somehow reaching for the ball upon impact. His idea was that because of the peripheral neuropathy in my feet, my balance was off and that I was somehow compensating for that.
Now since there is no known cure for this medical condition, there was no easy cure for my swing flaw that caused me to reach like that at impact. Michael kind of scratched his head, as he’d never seen anything quite like it in his many years of teaching as a PGA-certified instructor. So he recommended when my hands reached waist level on the downswing that they pass over my right toe, then let the club go out to the right after impact, and finish fully with relatively high hands on the follow through. Good advice, I thought.
But when I tried it out a couple days later on the range, it didn’t work too well. It was difficult to manipulate my hands coming down as it was all happening just too fast to have a sense of where they were. Alas, I was still, on too frequent an occasion, half shanking the ball. I could have stuck with Michael’s advice and kept at it, but given my race with Father Time, I decided to try something else.
Thinking it through, and based on his impromptu drill, I set up my 8-iron with the ball just off the toe of the club. Then, still concentrating on the ball, took my normal swing and, lo and behold, I smacked that pill right on the sweet spot every time for the next half dozen shots. Man, was that a good feeling, as most of you know after hitting a shot on the center of the club. These shots were going high, far, and hanging in the air like a hawk in flight. This was near the end of my session, but for the remaining six balls, more of the same. For some reason, I think, because of the peripheral neuropathy, I was reaching a couple inches out from my original position off the toe of the club.
Was that it? Was I back to the kind of golf I used to play? With golf, you can never be too sure, but my hopes are high, and I’m no longer on the bridge contemplating jumping off the game. It’s back to the range today and see if it holds up. Will let you know.
Later that same day…
Yes, it did hold up. No half shanks, and a free swinging feeling at impact–a kind of reaching for the ball…in a good way. It felt natural, as long as I didn’t try to make it happen. It’s a bit hard to describe, as you can see. But the set up is sort of a hybrid between a one plane and two plane swing. The address position feels more like the comfortable two plane that I’ve been doing all my life and that looks and feels more natural to me (and many others). But at impact, my arms and the club shaft are more in a straight line like the one plane swing as demonstrated by the late Mo Norman and the very alive Bryson DeChambeau. The results, for me, at least, were a very high soaring ball flight, of adequate distance, and near straight as a laser to the target. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it…for now.
From the depths of his unfortunate homophobic slur to the glory of his Players slam dunk, Justin Thomas has shown negative thoughts can be overcome in this game. The thoughts can still be there, but once the golfer addresses the ball, the obtrusive thoughts can quiet, allowing a grooved swing to do its thing. We can literally get out of our own way.
My 82 year old friend Steve, who is far from a Zen practitioner, found this out the other day when he added 20 yards to his drive by doing just that: not giving a second of thought about his swing but just concentrating on the ball and swinging away. Solid contact shot after shot. He was spilling over with excitement when he told me about it.
This is what JT did in the last two rounds of the Players. After almost missing the cut on Friday, he shot 64 on Saturday and 68 on Sunday to blow past Westy and Bryson DC to take the coveted title. His 14th win on tour. Congrats JT. Welcome back to the kind of golf we all admire and expect from you.
The injured Tiger Woods reports he is now home with his family and recovering nicely, and that is a good thing. Wishing him well.