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Practice Makes Good Enough on the Greens

Practice Makes Good Enough on the Greens

When I look back at the 2010 golf season, I’m a little disappointed in the results.  As mentioned in my first post about how the kids can wait, I shot lower more consistently but my handicap plateaued due to a lack of truly remarkable and supremely fulfilling rounds of golf.

I don’t have to look too far to understand why.  Work was busy and I simply didn’t play and practice as much as did the last few years when my handicap dropped.  Normally I would play at least once a week and get to the range or just pitch and putt a few times.  I was down to playing every other week and barely practicing at all.  From that standpoint you could say maintaining my level of play wasn’t too shabby.

The most irritating thing was that my putting dropped off a cliff.  I was a decent hockey player back in the day and one of my strengths was good hands, so in my mind there was no good reason not to putt well.  It was bad though – bad enough where I felt like I was lagging from 8 feet and had no idea if the ball was going to come off the putter head straight.  The low point came at a scramble that some dudes and I have been trying to win for six years.  I didn’t make a putt all day and we lost by one.  I felt like I let the guys and myself down and now we have to wait until July for another crack at it.

In preparation for a tournament for my golf league in October, I finally put my mind to getting the putter back in gear.  I had been using an Odyssey 2-ball but thought a switch to a blade might do the trick.  I brought in a few putters and consulted with the guys at 2ndSwing.  They had me move the golf ball inside the front of my left foot and make sure my eyes were directly over the ball.

We also talked about my thought process and routine.  I had been overly concerned with bringing the club straight back and then straight through while concentrating on making perfect contact by staring at the back of the golf ball.  Instead, it would be better if I actually focused on where the ball was going to go and aiming for a spot, thus taking the emphasis off the stroke itself.  This made sense:  just like in other sports, you’re at your worst with a jump shot, a slap shot, or any other athletic move when you’re thinking about it.  Instead, you need see it and react.

Last but not least, the 2ndSwing guys looked at me squarely and said I simply needed to practice more.  Deep down I knew it wasn’t the equipment, but thought a new club might be a quick fix anyway.  Humbled and knowing they were right, I hit the practice green for several long sessions to work on my new routine.

I had four golf balls and I would start from four feet out.  If I made all four I could move back to six feet, then 8, and so on.  I putted until the set up changes felt natural, and found that when I aimed for a spot the swing happened more naturally as well.  I ended up sticking with the 2-ball, finding that the extra weight lets the club do more of the work and keeps the putter head stable.  With extra work on the greens I started feeling a lot better about my stroke and much more confident about where it was going to go.

I won that tournament in October and a lot of it was due to my putter going from bad to decent.  The improvement was bitter sweet, however, knowing that I probably wasted a whole season by not devoting the practice time.  That’s one mistake I won’t make next spring.

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