Putting Changes

It seems every MCO brings about a change in the golf game.

Possibly due to boredom and the closure of golf courses, I’ve taken the time over the past 6 months plus to revamp the swing and move from the conventional weight shift left-right and left again to a stacked left side. The result? Well, I am not playing worse as before. In fact, my score is more or less the same, hovering between high 80s, low 90s and occasional moving down to mid 80s and low 80s but never breaking 80. That’s pretty much how I play previously.

The problem now seems to be more in the irons and less of the driver/woods. Especially, the shorter irons which I generally pull left and the occasional struggle with the mid irons when I would shank it. I haven’t figured out why, but those blow holes are usually the 7/6-iron shanks. But the drive now is very much more consistent and distance wise, more confident.

Putting seems to be the problem now, so for this MCO, 3 things are being experimented.

a) Left Hand Low

I saw Jordan Spieth putting the lights out and tried his grip. Even though it’s indoors, and on a cheap putting mat – it works. It feels much more ‘intact’. In terms of the takeaway and stroke, it feels more one piece as opposed to my previous conventional overlap. Of course, it’s on a mat, so a lot of discount is needed on the results, but it does feel better, which is important.

b) Forward press

I never thought this would help, but it does. I always had a weight back a bit on my putter stance and sometimes hit up on the ball the same way as how I hit the drive. With the forward press, the putter face is more level and lower when it impacts the ball and it seems a lot more solid as opposed to my previous attempts to hit up – causing very inconsistent hits and often end up just brushing the damn ball – the way I did my eagle putt at the Impiana a few weeks back.

c) Head Up Putting

Now I probably won’t put this in practice just yet but have been experimenting this since a year + even before I knew there was a term for it. My original idea was that – if we threw a ball, we don’t look at the ball we are throwing, we look at the target. So why is putting different? Only recently I found out this is actually a thing that many other people are thinking – and saw Jordan Spieth do it as well. So, head up putting isn’t about staring at the golf hole, it’s about just loosening up without getting too caught up staring at the ball. What I do is to just look probably a few feet ahead of the ball, or to the break-line that I want my putt to go, blur my vision and just stroke the ball.

Blurring my vision is how you do when you disfocus your vision on purpose, same way as you would do when you are looking at a 3D magic eye picture and looking through the picture instead of at it. So far, again, it works but I haven’t done it much on the course except for some simple 9-hole games when we don’t have those previous RM5 hanging on the hole. But now that I know it’s an actual method used by the best putters in the world, why not??!

So those are the changes on the putting – let’s see how it works out as soon as this MCO is over and we are back out on the course!

A Review of Q1 2021

So after around 4 months into 2021, it’s probably a good time to review how the new swing change is shaping up. First of, for a couple of months, the lack of golf was evident, although we are getting back into the groove now (despite our COVID cases increasing!), so we are trying to get as much golf in before any lockdown occurs.

I do a 9-hole walk on Tuesday with a secondary set – a 917F 3 Wood with a putter and 2 wedges + 3 irons (5,7,9 – my old Mizuno MP-57). Honestly I think I play better without my driver as this 3 wood is only around 30-40 meters shorter.  So scoring wise there is good, but better is the morning walk, with just a range bag without trolley.

We’ve crammed in also a couple of rounds of golf in Mines, Glenmarie, Saujana Impiana, Palm Garden and the results were – varied. I think I am back to my scoring as previous before my swing change. Like in Mines, I scored a 90 and 84, Glenmarie – 100 and then an 88. Palm Garden a 92 and an 84 and Saujana Impiana a 92. Good scores? It’s more or less the bloody same as I would score before the changes!!

But.

I do feel the game is coming along fine. For Saujana Impiana, that 92 could have easily been an 87 or 88. I had 4 triple bogeys against a fair number of Pars and a birdie. Of the 4 triple, 3 were really ridiculous. One was caused by a six iron shank from prime position on Fairway. Second was a lost ball after a good drive that just skittered a bit to the left, but for some damn reason, we couldn’t find the ball (most frustrating thing in golf), the third was the final hole, after being on the fringe in 2, and proceeded to duff a chip and 4 putted into infamy.

Only the first quad bogey where I hooked 2 into the woods would I say it was unavoidable.

But the encouraging thing for Impiana was how I played the par 5s. The first par 5 (Hole 3 I think), I proceeded to birdie it after my second 3 wood shot left me only 40 meters from the hole. The next par 5 in the back 9 I thunked my 3 wood so perfect from the fairway from 240 meters that I had to run up and apologise to the group on the green because my shot ended up around 20 meters from the green.

And the final par 5, hole 17. Bombed a drive (or so I thought) to around 160m from the green, and hit my new 5-iron (I reshafted it to a graphite) for my first two-on Par 5 after such a long time. What proceeded after that would forever be part of golfing lore. But before that, the group behind us had a guy who bombed his drive even further, to 100m marker. In fact, it was extremely dangerous as we were around that area as well. So actually, the par 5s are quite short and dangerous in Impian especially if you are a long hitter.

Going for my eagle, my ball was resting at that part where the fringe and green met, so it had that tuft of raised grass. I didn’t think much about it but when I putted, brushing the stupid grass on the backstroke caused a sudden retardation of my brains and I completely lost focus and I literally molested the ball to not even halfway to the god-damn hole. Molested my eagle putt. What. The. Flaming. Fukuoka.

I just stared in disbelief at my partners, before they all started to rail on me for my failure. This is a devastating failure. Because then I proceeded to miss my birdie and was forever labelled the biggest choker of all time. DAMN.

That has nothing to do with new swing. This is to do with a new brain, which I cannot change.

Same thing as Hole 18. Hooked my shot into the woods and from a superbly difficult shot down the hill, through the trees with just a bit of opening, I hit a glorious hybrid to the fringe of the green from 180. I mean, even Mickleson will be proud. Celebrating at least a bogey, I cockily went up and duffed my chip. Ok, no problem, a putt from fringe should be fine. I overputted, and sent the damn putt 15 feet downhill, my uphill putt didn’t have legs and I missed my double bogey putt.

You see, failures are often not due to the swing. My swing (except for the occasional and unknown shank) is coming along nicely and distance is better, consistency is better on the drives. My irons are the ones failing me (short approaches) and my stupid putting is as bad as a Gremlin high on cocaine.

So, overall review of 2021? Good with the long clubs, everything in 100 meters, atrocious as can be seen by up down scores. Am I encouraged with the swing change? For sure yeah. Very encouraged.  Just completely shit around the greens, but that’s not due to the swing change.

The Different Types of People on the Range

Honestly – I’ve never spent so much time on the driving range before (pre- MCO2.0). Because of the implementation of the new swing, to groove it, I was hitting the range, 2 -3 times a week. That’s 2-3 times a week more than I ever did for the past 3 years I think. The reason, as mentioned before, was when I was on my ‘old’ swing, I ended up with a backache hitting diggers on the mat. With a more rounded swing, I am less digging and more hitting, and I don’t have any more backaches after even 200 balls anymore.

But boy. When you are on the range – there is so many, many strange and weird people there. It’s like going into a circus, and seeing all sorts of weird and fantastical creatures. The more public the range, the stranger the creatures, and they are as strange as they come on the Kota Damansara public driving range.

Behold, the fantastical beasts of driving ranges:

a) The Teaching Instructor Uncle or TIU

Let’s start off with this specimen. Every range (except maybe the extremely high class ones that specifically have a ban on them) has this person. He is the uncle that sits and watches other people and makes comments and gives instructions. Very loudly. And often with very flowery language, either cantonese or Hokkien. The TIU guy is often smoking, if not, he is there almost every day, because he is probably retired and prefers not to lounge around his house. He often has a teh tarik or kopi O that can last minimally 8 hours, or until spiders start building their nests there. He is the greatest advisor. Sitting down, he will tell his unfortunate victim golf tropes like: your head move lah, you look up! Keep your elbow together! You are not shifting your weight! Stay still! etc etc. He barks these instructions as if he is running a military camp and he ALWAYS wins. When his victim hits a bad shot, the victim is blamed for not following his (often conflicting and confusing) instructions. When his victim hits a wondrous shot, he would nod his head in satisfaction and confirm that the victim is improving directly due to his supreme advice. The TIU almost never touches the golf club himself otherwise the club would turn to gold at his greatness. Wonderful TIUs are found all over driving ranges across Malaysia.

b) The Talk Cock Uncle  (TCU)

This is the distant cousin on a). Instead of instructing, the free talking uncle is visually identical to the teaching uncle, except – well, he doesn’t teach. He just talks. About everything. And almost as loud as his cousin. His subject can range from golf to drinking to politics to sex to sex to sex and back to golf. His voice range, while usually loud, usually increases exponentially when a girl or aunty with short skirt walks by.

c) The Teaching Boyfriend (TB)

This is a relative to the teaching Uncle. But instead of sitting down and barking orders, the teaching boyfriend can often be found going to and fro from the chair to his girlfriend and adjusting her swing for her, oftentimes regarding her posture, and almost invariably improving her butt protrusion by physically adjusting that abdomen for her, as if it’s a car tyre. The TB is considered a hazard on most ranges because he would be standing in parallel to his girlfriend to observe her swing, not knowing the guy in the next bay is swinging a driver and the back swing would almost chop his head off while his eyes are afixed to his girlfriend’s front assets…i.e her swing.

d) The Family Guy

The family guy treats the golf driving range as his family vacation plan, bringing his entire family (often with a glum faced wife) to the range, ordering copious amount of food and drinks and allowing his cretins kids to roam freely as buffaloes on the prairie. The problem with this guy is that one of his kids invariably runs up and down other people’s bays screaming their little heads off, and in an early age, is then introduced to the wonderful world of cantonese, malay, hokkien, tamil and other language cuss words which will be well remembered and responsibly used as they continue to grow up.

e) The Inspector Gadget

This is quite a guy. Inspector gadgets takes around 15 minutes to set up their tools and another 15 minutes to calibrate the cameras, the swing analyzer, the launch monitor, the alignment sicks etc. Watching him is like watching Thanos getting all the infinity gems together, so intense is this pursuit of absolute greatness. Unfortunately the inspector spends so much time on his gadget, and almost never enough time for his swing and usually plays golf only slightly better than a cat with leprosy.

f) The Millionaire Golfer

This is a relative to Inspector Gadget, but instead of gadgets, he has all the latest clubs. The SIM2? His. The Envroll Putter? His. Honma gold clubs? His. While this beast is rarely seen in public ranges, sometimes they tend to appear and his golf clubs is oftentimes more expensive than the entire property the driving range is built on. They are often serviced by running servants, and have variations to their titles including Dato, Tan Sri, Your Emminence or God.

g) The I-Don’t-Give-A-F*ck Golfer (Or IDGAF)

The IDGAF are often in flocks together. They are the ones who sits in one bay behind the chair, often 5 – 6 of them together, usually in jeans, slippers or inappropriate dressing for golf. They sit together the same way as they would when to do bowling or other social group activities. They often either just have finished karaoke-ing or would be karaoke-ing after the range session, and they would be laughing, talking and ribbing each other. VERY loudly. They can be identified by taking turns in hitting the golf ball and sharing a beat up 7-iron that they found in the trash bin. They are very dangerous species as they generally have no f*cking clue how to hit the golf ball, and often shank, miss, hit backwards or sky it – resulting in dangerous flights of balls whacking into the bay separator with a loud CRASH! and making the other golfers jump and take cover, under their hyena-ic laughter. Generally, we also don’t want to f*ck with them as sometimes they are armed with very impressive tattoos.

h) The Sweet Young Thing (SYT)

This is quite a sight. Golfers are usually male when they are in the public driving range. So when there is an occasion where something in a skirt flashes by, everything becomes hard. As in harder to play because cannot concentrate. What were you thinking? To be a SYT in public ranges, the standard is fairly low. As long as there is a short skirt and slender legs, you will qualify as an SYT. There is no other standards above the waist, except that an SYT should not have a beard. Whoever is next to the SYT, especially the bay directly to her left (if she is right handed) will benefit for viewing her ample…skills in swinging.

i) The Booby Auntie (Boobs)

This is a variation of the SYT except Boobs are usually aunties. Who has large and ample…appetite for golf improvement. The aunties are almost all very serious, usually with lean bodies with tight fitting clothes that announces their assets specifically well. Unlike the SYT, they aren’t as eye pleasing, but to some strange golfers who find the Boobs auntie attractive, these golfers in the next bay usually converts themselves into left handed players to enjoy the…fruits…of their labour.  Whatever rocks their boat. Speaking of lefties:

j) The Phil Mickleson

These are actual golfers interested in improvement but unfortunately they are born left handed, and learnt golf left hand. Because of this, they need to switch around the bay, which isn’t a problem in high class ranges. But in public ranges where the bays are as small as homes in Hong Kong, pairing a left handed golfer swinging a driver, next to a right handed with a driver = disaster. It’s often an excruciatingly experience seeing their driver heads miss each one by milimeters, akin to watching a cable car swinging in a 150mph hurricane.

k) The Entitled Prick Golfer (EPG)

We all know golfing bays are difficult to get during CMCO. The normal SOP is for us to sign in and wait patiently for the attendants to tell us which bay is available. The EPG is the guy that comes in, walking quickly with a large stride as if he has a dongle the size of a horse and brushes everyone aside and demands from the attendants whether there is a bay, ignoring all the disapproving stares from other patient golfers. The EPG is often associated with a large, fast and expensive car that double parks in front of the entrance and has what we term as “Muka Ch*bai”. Everything about the EPG is loud and large, except, invariably the most important thing to be large in life, they usually have a very small variety of.  Hence, they need to compensate.

l) The Neverending Yawning Assh*les (NYA) 

While not as assholic as the EPG, the NYA is just as bad. They are the ones who sits down in a bay, with 100 balls, and hits at the average rate of 1 ball per 15 minutes. After one ball is hit, he stretches, and yawns and sits down again and start looking around, usually for the Booby Auntie or Sweet Young Thing. They never , ever finish their balls and they enter into the twillight zone when they are down to their last 10. It’s like watching Inception where the dream level passes 10x slower than normal. They often can also be found whistling or humming a tune instead of finishing their balls, and this subspecies can be termed as NYA SING due to their singing nature.

In fact, this species can be sometimes amalgamated with the first species (Teaching Instructor Uncle)  and the resulting creature is called TIU NYA SING. Very, very special creature.

m) The Legend

I believe there is only one Legend. This guy is found in the KD range. He is the legend. I was practicing one day when I heard a thunk behind me of the ball hitting the bay separator. Thinking it must be either the IDGAF or a beginner golfer, I didn’t think much of it. Just at my topswing, I heard another thunk! It wasn’t a loud thunk as it would be for a IDGAF doing a full swing with a trash bin 7 iron. It’s not so loud as would make me run for cover. So I stopped and restarted my swing again. Right on my downswing, another Thunk! on the bay separator and made me stop. WHAT THE FOO-CHUK was going on? I looked behind me and glimpsed the first time, The Legend.

He is the legend because he only has ONE range ball. One range ball. But instead of hitting it into the range as all normal species do, he is practicing chipping, and chipping against the bay separator between us. Thunk thunk thunk thunk thunk….he is chipping with ONE range ball, using an entire BAY. Against the separator that’s around 2 feet high, separating him and me. He is so legendary that his chip is unerring, otherwise, it would be hitting me.  Thunk thunk over and over. Chipping with one range ball, oblivious to the distraction he is causing to the golfer trying to swing with this damn sound going on.

WHAT.A.LEGEND.

MCO2.0 What a timing!

What is worse than having a really shitty game on the course?

When you have planned for golf and it gets cancelled by MCO2.0.

Now I get it. I get why we need to enter into a second phase of MCO. We have 3000+ cases every single day so yeah, I don’t think people are too bothered about playing golf. But, DANG! Just when you are getting used to a new swing and grooving in, this lockdown means another month (at best) or two months (expected) or 3 months (at worst) without golf.  I guess, it should sync up with the next time I go for a round, I would have my new wife (The TSi) in the bag.

My stack and tilt adventure has gotten me so far to a somewhat middle ground. I don’t think I can fully implement the stack and tilt yet – so I have sort of gravitated to keeping stacked on the left, and minimizing my head movement. I still feel my body shifting a little, and I can’t keep my elbows too tight to my body throughout the backswing, but it could be a combination of age/flexibility that makes this swing different from the classic S&T I see on youtube. I don’t know, I still feel the same on the backswing in terms of my arms movement, its just that I am stacking on my left this time throughout.

One of the things I observed when I did my fitting was that I was much more confident of my swing path. I demonstrated a consistent inside out swing with my misses to the left. So the fitter set me up to play on a nine hole (with just drives) and with the new swing, I felt I was able to at least manage my swing path much easier. With the limited movement and sway now, when I need to carve an inside-out swing, I make sure I start my path flatter and more circular. At some holes where a fade was needed, I started my swing path more straight to the back and steeper. In my previous swing, because I was moving my body back first along with my hands, my swing path was only one way, inside out. I could never fade to save my life. It feels much better to be able to call the shots when needed now, although this obviously needs a lot more bedding in.

Unfortunately the MCO2.0 is upon us, so practice is going to be difficult to get  in. What I am feeling now (positively) is that I am beginning to forget how my old swing was and this current swing seems to be almost like what I am getting used to.

Here Cometh the TSI

In almost 20 years of golf, I have been an absolute miser when it comes to equipments. My first set was a hand-me down Maruman set from my brother. After hacking around with that, I decided to splurge on an iron set – the Taylormade RAC LT. I honestly don’t remember how I purchased it – I think it was either second hand or it was on a fairly cheap sale. From there on, all my clubs were second hand, purchased from E-Bay or elsewhere.

I really don’t remember any club I purchase brand new. Even my Mizunos I am gaming now – the MP54 was a set sold to me second hand from a friend. My MP-57s were purchased second hand from a shop. All my drivers were second hand or on cheap sale – my first real driver (the first few years I was using those that came with the set) was the R510 I bought in Bangsar cheap sale. Then I got the R5 Dual from E-bay which I gamed for many years, before making the jump to the Hi-Bore Cleveland and Hi-Bore XL. Gamed that for a bit, then moved back to Taylormade – the whitewolf we call it – the R11. Because it’s white. And because we like wolves.

I gamed the R11 for the longest – I think close to 4 years before switching to a second hand Cobra Flyz+ (which I am using right now), for about a year + and went to buy on sale the Titleist 917 D2 which took a while to bed in but after getting used to it, was really smashing it. The Titleist by far, was the one driver that looked best, even if it was gray. But the shape was just perfect.

So I sold it off.

I sold it and a Titleist hybrid, a mizuno wedge, a Titleist 915 5-wood, a golf mat, a golf trolley, a Ping 60 degree wedge and I think a few more things that I can’t remember to prepare to purchase a nice Christmas Present for myself – a new driver. As in a really new driver.

However, in November, I decided to institute this swing change to move to stack and tilt, just as I sold off the Titleist. So, without a proper driver, I just gamed the Cobra for a few more rounds, at least until I groove this new swing in and have a more consistent way to whack the ball.

So, now, all ready to go, I headed to MST Superstore at the Federal highway for a fitting session and to try this:

A year plus ago I went for a session with these guys as well, as described here

Lesson Learnt: Don’t Binge Buy

Back then, my results were around

BallSpeed: 137.9

Total Spin: 2475

Carry: 212m

Total: 230m

Club Head Speed: 96.2mph

That was with my Titleist 917D.

Fitting into this TSi3 10 degrees with a Tensei AV White Stiff Shaft. My results were…meeh…

You would think it’s a lot of difference.

BallSpeed: 138.1

Total Spin: 2663

Carry: 215m

Total: 233m

Club Head Speed: 98.3mph

It’s slightly faster. But the spin is much higher and of course, things vary.  My longest drive was around 248m while my shortest were the hooks into the forest. Am still grooving this swing in so it’s not easy.

And honestly, trying out the TSi2 and the SIM MAX from Taylormade, I was able to hit these two slightly better.

But have you seen how the TSi3 look from the top? Take my money.

So against better judgement, and opting for the better looks instead of better performance, I told the fitter OK, I know I don’t deserve her, but I need to have her, so since the TSi2 is going for the same price as the 3 – why not the 3? It’s like you know that the vegetable burger that cost 20 bucks is good for you but when you see a same priced burger with double stuffing and wagyu beef next to it – why wouldn’t you go for it, even if it gives you a heart attack?

So there you have it. It takes 6 – 8 weeks for them to deliver – as the TSi3 is out of stock and the tensei shaft is also unavailable. But hey, since we are heading into another lockdown, I guess waiting won’t hurt anyone.

Swing Overhaul Part 9: The Plan Comes Together

So. I am writing this on the final day of an eventful 2020. This year has literally FLEW by. It seemed yesterday that on March 18, 2020 the lockdown was announced by our government. What proceeded after that was beyond mine or anyone’s imagination as this COVID pandemic wreaked havoc to our business and personal plans. I witnessed customers shuttering their businesses. I witnessed close friends losing their jobs. Even for the first time in our 10 year history, we had to let people go in our company. It was an unprecedented, global disaster that seem to be continuing well into 2021.

To all affected in some ways, whether its a job loss, business loss, personal and health loss, I can only provide the scarce comfort that we have the largest brains in the world all working together to get us out of this and we pray that humanity will show its merit for survival by surviving this.

Back to golf though – I had the chance to cram in a few games since the previous 9 hole.

a) Another 9 hole round following it (my 4th round with new swing) – continuous improvement was evident and finally began to get my winnings back again.

b) Another 18 hole at Palm Garden – and shot an impressive 90 on the back of 6 pars . This is my 5th round – I gave myself 10 rounds to shoot under 90, which I hope I will be able to do soon, with this new swing.  My dropped shots in this game was more of my irons – short changing myself on numerous occasions and landing into hazards. My drive was working out reasonably well except for one hole where I OB’ed.

c) Another 9 hole – and once more ingraining the swing more and more.

The plus I am getting on this new swing was that there is less (much less) movement and swaying. I feel more ‘on top’ of the ball and more confident in hitting the ball consistently at the same spot. The other plus is that when I feel I should crank it up on strength, I can do it with just ‘stepping down’ on my left side. And likewise, if I want to control, I can not ‘step down’ so much. Stepping down here is described as literally, pushing down on my left leg, as if I am hitting a throttle. To boom the drive, I step it down, but I tend to pull this if I hit it too quick. Otherwise, I don’t and the shot seems to be ok but I tend to fall back a bit as if I just reverse-pivoted. I don’t really know how to reconcile these movements properly but the results are OK. I also find myself able to conjure up a baby fade as well if required, by ensuring my takeway is not so ’rounded’ but rather straight back, and my finish has that Patrick Reed-ish kind of twirl. I have never been able to do something like that before with the old swing, but with this stacked swing, since my body isn’t swaying so much anymore, I feel that I can get more control over the swing.

Overall, I think I made the correct decision to change my swing. It feels less stressful and I am not over swinging or over-bashing the ball but with the stacked feeling, I feel I can pummel the ball equally long with less moving parts. This hopefully ensure my swing can last me for the next 30-40 years. I love this game too much to give it up when I hit 60 due to a bad swing mechanics.

So – have a happy new year and here is looking at a better 2021 – not just in golf, but in everything else happening on our beautiful planet Earth!

Swing Overhaul Part 8: Part by Part

Keeping last game’s takeaway in mind, I decided not to worry too much about positions and focus on basically one thing only – keeping my weight on the left (and also my head not moving much). The swing thought now is broken down into easier bits. Address the ball in a slightly closed position, keep weight on the left and shift my hips to the left a little. From that address position, I just take a way as how I would usually do. I don’t think about dipping my shoulder, or tilting my spine or even keeping my elbows close to my body. I just use whatever swing I had from there on while keeping my weight shifted to the left.

So another 9 hole, and finally, something began to click. I gave myself 10 games to embed the swing mechanics in. I am into my third game – 2 X9 holes and one 18 holes.

The first 9 and 18 holes were disastrous. But now, this time it was different. With the simplified swing thought in my head, I proceeded to rip the first drive down the fairway – a welcome sight, after 27 holes of train wreck.

My iron approach was pushed way right but at least there was contact, and I knew this was probably how I will proceed on from here on.

Throughout the entire 9, swing thought was simple – weight left, head still. All the other thoughts, on whether my shoulder was at a tilt angle, my right knee straight, my elbows connected to my body and all those – out of my head.

Without those thoughts, swing began to free up. And the concern just became distance and alignment. What a difference.

Sure, I still lost my 9 hole bet again, but I know for sure, I am on the right road to improve.

Swing Overhaul Part 7: 18 hole Tryout

The great Tiger Woods once said: “Achieving trust is always the final step with a change. That’s the hardest thing, taking Ranger Rick to the course.”

While my golf game is currently probably around 0.04% of hit level, this ranger rick quote still applies. We all can hit it on the range, but what the hell happens on the course?

Since my previous nine hole outing, I’ve gone to the range to sort out a few things and am getting more and more used to this Stack and Tilt. To an extent I felt fairly confident in accepting an invite to tee it up at Amverton for my first 18 hole with a new swing.

WHAT. A. MESS.

I really, really do not understand why the flaming heck I can be hitting great shots on the range but end up like an epileptic baboon when I am on the course.

Its strange, because while I am fairly comfortable with the changes, when I hit the course, I struggle to even hit the most basic shots. When I pulled my driver far left to begin, I knew I was in for a long day.

It was a game that was as unmemorable as anything. When you are playing badly, all holes sort of converge into a single messy experience and you don’t really remember anything except hacking the ball over and over. Therefore, I don’t recall anything much except for a chip in birdie and some good chip shots here and there. Otherwise, except for one good drive on the 10th hole (or was it the 10th?) – all my drives were either missing , topped or yanked. I probably shot close to 110 on total scores.

Would it be back to the drawing board?

Again, I don’t know what more can be done except to try to ingrain the whole feel more and more into the game and go out and play. The proof is there that I am hitting the ball better than before when I am on the range. I just need to ingrain it.

As I told my partners – it’s very easy to tell what’s happening but very difficult to actually fix it. I would address the ball – ok. I would do a takeaway, into the ‘slot’ – ok. It’s right at the top of the swing that everything breaks. My right elbow disconnects from my body, and then its an all arms swing –  my swing drops without connecting to the body so I have no idea where the clubhead is because the arms and body are no longer working together. I can feel the disconnect, but by then, it’s too late. The swing is already on its downswing and the transition is completely off.

One of my playing partners did make an interesting note: “When making changes, don’t try to change everything at once, but make it incremental. Small changes first and slowly move into it.”

I think it makes sense. I may be trying to tear down and build everything up too quickly. Maybe what I need isn’t a house tear down but a home renovation room by room.

That’s food for thought.

Swing Overhaul Part 6: The course

You always hear: I can hit it well on the range, but I cant do it on the course.

It’s very true and real hackers (and even Pros) will admit to this. You can hit it well when there is a level ground, and consistency on the driving range, but once you go out into the battlefield, everything changes. It applies to everything I think – from flying a plane, driving a car, riding a bike. I recalled when I had to drive in America for the first time. I downloaded a driving simulator a few weeks before I went to the states to get used to driving on the left hand side. My God, when I was in that American made Pontiac on the San Diego freeway, everything changes. It was the most stressful drive of my life.

And same here for golf.

I’ve been hitting it reasonably well (not great) on the range. I knew to translate this to the course would take a long time and I would struggle very badly for the first few games.

Was I every right. It was an early 9 hole tee off in my home course.

My first tee off (I used driver), I completely missed the ball and it just tottered over 10 feet. This is in front of a whole gallery of people watching. My second shot (simple 9 iron), I topped it again and it went around 15 feet or so. The next shot, I thought I was ok to use my hybrid since I was hammering it on the range. Another top, another 5 feet. Thank you, pick up the ball, move on.

Next tee, my driver at least contacted the ball but duck hook so badly it went out of bounds. Second shot, hybrid – topped 15 feet. Third shot, topped again the hybird to 10 feet. At this point, I sort of said, Shit, lets go with irons. So for that par 5, I used my 9 iron and for the first time, hit a flushed shot. Second 9 iron, with this new stack and tilt, hit it well but into the bunker. Bunker back and forth, pick it up, thank you.

Third hole, again, at least my driver hit the ball, but it was hooked. My eight iron was topped and then just chip on and 2 putted for bogey. Not too bad.

The next hole, par 3, I topped my hybrid again!! From there, 9 iron was hit well.

Finally on the fifth hole, was the first time I hit my driver the way I wanted. Boom. It was hot off the surface, unfortunately into the trees. From there, back and forth again, topping to the green.

Sixth hole, a so-so driver with a hook, but my next shot was the first time I pounded it with a hybrid and man, it flew. A perfect 9 iron then saw me hit green in regulation for the first time, and missed my birdie by an inch. This was a perfect hole for me and made me believe again I am on the right track.

Next hole, pounded right (so my driver seems to be sorting out) but after that, another back and forth sort of recovery.

The next hole my 3 wood tee off was topped , but my 2 iron shots were actually not too bad. And finally, the final par 3, I flushed my hybrid so well, it flew past the green 180 meters away. Great way to end it.

Conclusion: It was expected. I knew I would find it very difficult to hit the ball, because on the course, the expanse of it makes it very different. You feel different. You aren’t compartmentalised like you are on the range – everything feels very wide. Your body tends to revert back to what its comfortable with and for many many instances, I sensed even when I forced my weight forward, my swing invariably went back to my old way. I know this because I felt my elbows disconnected and my body stopped turning. Yet, I am firing my hips but without a body turn, my hands have no where to go but to come down, and began topping every single ball.

I know the issue – the body isn’t moving as a unit. It’s all dis-synchornised. I don’t feel any connection to my left at all and I have no clue where my hands and clubface is. Its all very disconcerting – as if I am learning golf for the first time.

My playing partners were curious, since my last time out with them, I was shooting in low 80s. I explained that this was a process I need to commit to, because my old swing had an expiry date. I had that since I was in my 20s. I just needed a swing for my 40s, 50, 60s and hopefully 70s.  If it’s going to take time, then I will take time.

But overall, even though I scored almost all tripe/quadruple except for a lone par and 2 bogeys and lost half a dozen balls – I felt positive about it. There were enough good shots in there that makes me believe the method works – I just need to get the execution correct!

Swing Overhaul Part 5: Knee Problems

So one of the conclusion of my previous range session where I was twacking the bejeezus out of the ball with the new Stack and Tilt swing, was that I began to feel my left knee a little sore the next day. OK – a lot more sore. I didn’t think SnT would cause knee problems, but the problem was the stand up motion and the straightening (or jerking up) of the left knee would be naturally stressful for someone who has never had that part of the body worked out before. While I liked the results of the swing on the golf ball, I didn’t really enjoy the results of the swing on my knee, which isn’t strong to begin with.

So again, back to reading and researching, and one of the ways I learn on how to alleviate knee problems was to flare out the left knee and feet. This is also advocated by Hogan, but I always thought this opens up the body somewhat for an outside-in swing path. But because I’m using a few concepts from Venetos where I pre-set my body in a closed position, the flaring of my feet generally doesn’t change my swing patch much. But what it theoretically should be doing is to relieve the stress of the knee, since my knee isn’t rotating as much. It’s like I am also pre-setting my knee post-swing.

Additionally, I found that the right knee straightening up too much lends too much weight on my already weak left side, which made it all the more uncomfortable, so for this round, I had to experiment with these concepts of flaring out the feet and ensuring I maintain a bit of flex on my right knee and not do the Hogan stance at the top of my swing.

The results was mixed, I am still getting used to my shoulder turn, but I did find that flaring out my feet did alleviate my pain a fair bit. I didn’t feel so stressed on the knee after a session of 200 balls (as opposed to 100 balls previous). I also tried working on the flex on the right knee and not have such an extreme amount of weight on my left, but maintain a bit more like 60-40 favoring my left. Again, these are tweaks.

But the driver swing is coming along. Although my stance now, with my flare feet makes me look like a clown, I don’t care because I was now blasting the ball the way I’ve never done before.

The other issue I find now is that because my right elbow is ‘connected’ to my body, I don’t get the super arch I try to get on my driver. When I do try to do it, my left arm ends up bending like below and this usually results in the club dropping without speed on impact.

 

This is why the advice of ‘Relax’ on golf swing is quite stupid. The golf swing is never relaxed. Sleeping on a hammock is relaxed. The golf swing is like a loaded gun. It has a tension associated to the body especially on the back swing, where it’s coiled with stored energy about to be released on the ball with the Wrath of God.

So to keep the left hand straight is a key thought and if it starts ‘breaking’ then you know you are overswinging. It doesn’t really matter, because even with a bit of a half or three quarter swing, I still can whack the ball further than I ever did with a ‘big arch’ swing.

I think the swing, after around 600 balls and four session on the range is shaping up ok. There is a drill I even do where I consciously just do a half swing with my right elbow tucked close to the body on my long irons. My five iron is still slightly problematic, as my 3 wood, but these are problems I already had in my previous swing, so it’s no big loss that I still can’t hit them properly. I would say, my driver right now is further than my previous, it’s more hot off the face, but the dispersion is a little worse – sometimes, the ball can go straight, sometimes left and sometimes right – a bit more than my previous swing.

But again, these are attributable to an overhaul of swing after 16 years. It’s not going to happen overnight. It will get worse before it gets better. I think with this mantra, I can try to get a balance of this SnT swing that fits the limitation of my body and see if I can play golf better, and more importantly – longer.