I must admit, I get lazy with my golf swing and can easily fall into a kind of default when it comes to the top of the backswing. For that is the point when my body needs to stretch to its maximum capacity. And those last few words are most important because what you don’t want to do is to go beyond your capacity and get injured (which most of us have done from time to time unfortunately!). But, alas, we do indeed at times go past our limit to coax that extra few yards from a drive–and it mostly involves driving–in our deals with the devil at the crossroads of golf. In fact we often stay well short of our limits in most aspects of life, choosing instead to stay safe or unchallenged or stuck in neutral. But golf is a dynamic sport that requires a continual monitoring of our bodies, our minds, and our game. Where do I need more practice? What are my particular golf skills that I mostly get right on the course? What skills do I need to develop. And can I do this on my own or do I need a teaching pro?
What I noticed is that I often blamed my serious illness and recovery for my loss of distance. I’d ascribe it to a loss of body mass, a loss of stamina, a loss of sleep, my peripheral neuropathy in my feet, and, of course, my older clubs. So I wondered: Is all that true? Is that why I’ve lost so much distance since my cancer treatment? What I discovered is that I’m pretty good at talking myself in things that might not necessarily be true. As a result, I found myself coming well short of my actual bodily limits. I’d descended into comfort zones bit by bit, inch by inch, muscle by muscle.
So before you start your distance rehab you need to establish your baseline. This is true with anything you’re wanting to change in life. A baseline is simply where are you presently at with what you’re trying to change. Tiger, Bryson, Brooks, and DJ didn’t just get to where they’re at overnight. After Tiger’s recent accident, his baseline was pretty low, but day by day, muscle by muscle he began to improve to where he was able to compete in the Father/Child event remarkably in about nine month since that near-fatal car accident. And how he did it, is how you and I can do it: hitting your limit physically, noting how that feel, then very slowly go a centimeter or so beyond your limit, note how that feel, then back off, and see if you repeat that little bit beyond your limit in the next session. Of course, it may take 10 or 20 sessions to get to the next level of limits, and that’s fine. The point is to go slowly so you don’t reinsure the muscles you’re trying to lengthen and strengthen.
The problem comes in where mentally, we get impatient with our progress to meet our goals. Tiger, whose goal is to play on the PGA Tour again (at least at majors), is learning more patience with age. Previously he’d come back too soon after injury and reinsure himself requiring more surgery and recuperation time. So mind and matter becomes mind over matter and a conflict ensues, usually resulting in contention between mind and the matter (or muscle) we are trying to change. I’ve never it in gyms where young bucks are going too fast, too far, too soon, for whatever reasons, and then are not seen for days or weeks or months after that.
Now for what Bryson and company have achieved, you do need personal trainers and 24/7 gym facilities. But for what I’m suggesting for ordinary golf blokes like you and I, the only equipment you need is your living room and your own body. You don’t even need a club for you just need to get into your usual address position and move into the top of your backswing. You then get a baseline as to how far up and back your hands, arms, and shoulders can go before they can’t stretch any farther, note that, and try to extend just a centimeter or so, hold for a moment, then return to your baseline. Do a set of 10 of these stretches and call it a day for your distance training. Of course, everyone’s different, so some will do one set while others will do two or three. Again, the number of sets is part of your baseline and varies for each individual player. After Tiger’s accident, I, a 76 year old cancer survivor in remission, could do more than he could!
The other thing involved here does require clubs and a place to hit them. To measure your progress, you need to measure your distances. Some have indoor setups with swing monitoring devices, which is great. Others might have access to a driving range. And still others may have a course nearby without a foot of snow upon it. Whatever your situation, you need to monitor two things: your distance and the quality of contact at impact. For as you stretch you limits over time, both of these will be affected.
For example, the other day at the range, I noticed that when I took the club back a bit past my backswing limit, the ball was going to the right, indicating I was leaving the face too open at impact. I then returned to my baseline and my ball flight was straight with solid contact. It was not as far as I would have liked, but I’ll take straight and solid any day. More distance will obviously take more time with my chemo-infused body to get back to anywhere near where I used to be.
Are you getting the idea? It’s a wholistic approach to increasing distance in this sport. A safe and effective way instead of a “go for broke, damn the torpedoes” approach. Hope it works for you.
Another of my favorites, 28 year old Aussie Cam Smith, won the Players, and a serious round of applause for him. He showed great grit and grace coming down the stretch, hitting fairways and sinking putts that only a pro’s pro could accomplish under that amount of pressure. This young man, I believe, is destined for greatness.
Congratulations, Cameron, for winning one of golf’s truly prized events, and taking some time off to spend with family, getting his priorities straight.