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Starting Over

JonMA1

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For the last couple of months, I’ve been trying to implement some changes a local teaching pro had been kind enough to share with me. The results weren’t bad at first, but as I started to work in more of his advice, my iron swing became harder to control. Still, I remained patient with the poor results — that’s how it works after all. I anticipated the bad rounds and, for a while, was able to control the frustration. 

The last two rounds pushed me over the edge.

I tracked many of my 2016 rounds with GameGolf  - both the good and bad. While 35% of GIRs is nothing to brag about, it does indicate a level of competence with irons befitting a high ‘capper. The last 36 holes I played yielded exactly 0. The round played on Sunday was surreal — and not in a good way. Even the first couple of years learning the game offered the occasional good shot. Fortunately, there were few golfers out on the rain-soaked course Sunday because I was no longer just swearing under my breath. (Even with the absence of witnesses, it was an embarrassing meltdown.) 

The aftermath of a poor round of golf normally brings about some sort of positive reflection. Not today friend I thought to myself. There was no optimism, no profound understanding that golf consists of good rounds and bad, and no plans moving forward. There was only the feeling that the train had jumped the tracks. I had taken a wrong exit with no idea of how to get back on the interstate.

By the time I’d arrived home, the madness had subsided and was replaced by the realization that there are worse things in life than sucking at golf. 20 minutes later I was out in the field taking easy swings — immediately understanding how much work would be needed just to get back to the level of golf I’d enjoyed during the summer.

The optimist in me wants to believe this may be a blessing in disguise. I am starting over from near scratch and would like to think some good habits can be developed. My daily practices consist mostly of easy, half swings working on a specific move while trying to maintain parts of the swing I feel are correct. The 5 Simple Keys are the real deal and I am trying harder than ever to ingrain them. But I’ve changed my opinion regarding the importance of results when trying to develop changes.

I used to buy into how results during practice should be of little concern. I’d read where better players will accept shanks and tops while working on a specific move, and I tried to adopt that way of thinking into my own practices. There’s one important difference… they know that what they’re working on will eventually prove beneficial. I have absolutely no idea of what will work. I can only look at video and recognize that no good player in the world does what I’m doing. That’s not anywhere near the same as knowing what I should be doing.

When I’m playing poorly, my result is anything from a weak fade to an all-out slice. I get the ball flight laws and believe I know what’s going on with the swing path and club face. What I fail to grasp is the reason(s). Might be keeping my weight back on the downswing, coming over the top, lacking a full shoulder turn, hands might be going outward from the top then in and across the ball at the last split second, any combination of these things or something I’ve never even considered.

So trial and error and assessment by way of the results are all I really have.

If I can achieve “better” results from a half swing where my keys — at least the first 3 - look somewhat correct, I’m going to assume I’m on the right track. If I can develop feels that will repeat the good results, I’ll gradually lengthen my backswing and speed up the club head through impact. Then, as the results begin to fail, I’ll hopefully be able dial everything back until the positive results return.

My 2016 season is likely over. I’m still happy with the progress made through to the beginning of September, but after Sunday’s ass beating, things have definitely changed.


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24 Comments


Man if I don't feel your pain. I have digressed so much over the past few months. Not able to practice as much as I was and it shows. I have tried some swing changes. I noticed I was bending my knees when swinging down and that was causing me to hit fat. I had three truly horrible outings. The last one was paired with a dad about early 50s and his 14 year old son. His kid was a great ball striker with a really slow backswing tempo. Good playing partners. Very patient and encouraging. They offers a few tips and although hesitant to pay them heed one was to slow tempo down. I have been working on that and noticed some improvements coming back but still horrible. 

Today was practicing and was ripping my 5h with a three quarter swing punch type shot. But ironically could not hit my low irons that well. It seems when I figure out one club I forget the others. I'll keep trying. 

My plan is to take a few days off from work in November and work with a golf pro both or three times and play two rounds each day focusing on the things he says to do. I am so far away from my goal of breaking 100 again, one that seemed in my grasp and although deterred I will not give up. 

Dont. Give. Up. Keep at it. 

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Playing on soggy wet turf will test most people's game.  Your poor results were in part created by the playing conditions. You might give it a go when the ground is dry and firm just to test the idea.

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Golf is deceptively simple and endlessly complicated; it satisfies the soul and frustrates the intellect. It is at the same time rewarding and maddening - and it is without a doubt the greatest game mankind has ever invented. ~Arnold Palmer

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Use video to review your swing.  I don't have great flexibility and when I'd try to achieve a full back swing I found through my instructor and video I was cheating the last 25% of the swing to feel like it was a full back swing.  To get the club in the position of a full back swing I had to bend my right arm (I'm a lefty) which introduced a whole bunch of timing and down swing problems.  

My golf game has improved significantly since I accepted I won't have a back swing like Rory or Bubba.  I've actually gained distance with the shortened back swing because I'm in a better position for the down swing and overall I'm making better and more consistent contact with the ball.  

A shortened back swing may cost you a bit of distance on your best hit balls but overall I think you'll find your average distances go up.  

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11 hours ago, Gator Hazard said:

I have digressed so much over the past few months. Not able to practice as much as I was and it shows.

it's amazing how far back I can fall when I take a break. At least we know we know we aren't wasting time by practicing.

3 hours ago, bkuehn1952 said:

Playing on soggy wet turf will test most people's game.  Your poor results were in part created by the playing conditions. You might give it a go when the ground is dry and firm just to test the idea.

Thanks, @bkuehn1952. I wish I could blame it on the conditions, but the swing is just wrong. I think the advice from the instructor was sound, but the implementation by the student flawed.

I needed to get to this point and hopefully can take advantage of it. Please excuse the expression, but I've been trying to polish a turd of a swing for years now. It's an opportunity to get rid of some bad habits and band aid fixes. Will it happen? I don't know, all I can do is give it a go.

2 hours ago, CarlSpackler said:

Golf is deceptively simple and endlessly complicated; it satisfies the soul and frustrates the intellect. It is at the same time rewarding and maddening - and it is without a doubt the greatest game mankind has ever invented. ~Arnold Palmer

Great quote. I don't think I'd ever seen this, but it pretty much describes the game. Maybe the ones who "master" it do so only by accepting the how tough it is. The rest of us are constantly pissed off at ourselves for failing to reach some ridiculous goal.

2 hours ago, newtogolf said:

Use video to review your swing.  I don't have great flexibility and when I'd try to achieve a full back swing I found through my instructor and video I was cheating the last 25% of the swing to feel like it was a full back swing.  To get the club in the position of a full back swing I had to bend my right arm (I'm a lefty) which introduced a whole bunch of timing and down swing problems.  

My golf game has improved significantly since I accepted I won't have a back swing like Rory or Bubba.  I've actually gained distance with the shortened back swing because I'm in a better position for the down swing and overall I'm making better and more consistent contact with the ball.  

A shortened back swing may cost you a bit of distance on your best hit balls but overall I think you'll find your average distances go up.  

I think "cheating" is a perfect word for what I do as well. The backswing is a good example. When I feel like the club shaft is vertical at the top (it's not, but it feels like it), I can get decent contact and power. Yet, I will often fall back into the habit of trying to get the club parallel. It's not even a conscience effort. I likely do that in other areas as well.


Thanks for the replies gentlemen. I didn't mean to turn this into a my swing or woe is me blog entry. Hope it didn't come across that way. 

I went out to my home course this morning and played irons only from the short tees. While I may not have made progress with the priority piece, I was successful by not saying "screw it" and going back to my old ways. Today, every swing was either a very slowed down full turn or a half swing focused entirely on the fault I want to fix, with absolutely no regard to the score right through to the last hole. There was no frustration despite a lot of mishits and getting 2 - 3 clubs less distance on good contact. I hope this works.

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I broke 90 a few times 2 months ago.  I thought that I had arrived and lower scores were on the horizon because even those days "still left a lot out there" .  Well about as quickly as i thought that, I have struggled to break 100.  Even got my first eagle from a good chip in on a Par 5 last week but then managed to barely card a 98.  

Funnily enough I too can blame this on "good", but maybe not for me instruction that i got when we were on vacation. They offered free lessons everyday, and since they were slow I got a lot of one on one time too, and even paid for a trackman lesson.  Since then I wish i could forget it.  I alike it to the instruction that i paid for about a year ago, that when i am in their "alignment, posture, and positions, on flat fluffy lies i hit good shots" but on the course with tension, nerves, and bad lies, I swing a amalgamated version of old swing and new.  I prefer a fade, they taught a draw. I liked the distance, but on course this led itself to a magical snap hook that could make any ball and good score disappear.

I like LSW and the keys and I feel they are really good check points, but right now i don't feel like i even have a swing to check.

 

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Hi Jon.

I see that you posted this only a day after I posted about my utter implosion of a round that I played on Saturday taking out an entirely new swing (which I have since abandoned). I appreciated your kind words to me. My situation was somewhat similar to yours in that I had taken a lesson and began to make some major alterations to my swing and subsequently attempted to play which resulted in about the worst round I have ever played in my life. I am not sure what is best for you, but what has helped me tremendously over the last few days has been to generally revert to my normal swing, albeit while focusing again on those fundamental problems which tend to break down and induce my poor play. I have been able to get my long game functioning again very quickly.

I also came out of it be reminded of a huge lesson in the game of golf. Major changes to your swing never come quickly and so it is imperative that you are conscious of how much you want to work on at one time and the potential ramifications are for different swing changes that you make. I have also noticed that my swing has actually improved somewhat from my experiment. I think that the exxagerated changes have helped me mitigate some of the things that I needed to improve in the first place even while generally abandoning the entirely new swing plane/path..

On Monday at the range I was hitting 5i beautifully, out about 185. So, just be conscience of what you change and how much those changes can impact.

Edited by TryingtoPlay
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I think that my experience demonstrates that you have probably not regressed in terms of your ability by that much. I think that there is a good chance that you can be back to playing at a much higher level without too much time. 

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@sirhacksalotI hope you get if figured out soon. You know it's a curse once we even dare think we've made any progress. Lol.

I remember your post @TryingtoPlay. I could relate so well because I'd spent all week thinking about the freak-out round I described above.

In my situation, I've gotten to the point where I have fix what I know is a huge problem - which is leaving my weight back. Little else matters at this point.

If or when I make real, lasting improvement in that area, then I'll pay attention to my swing plane, or how fidgety I get, or my posture, or whether my hips turn too much in the BS, or how much tension is in my arms, or my grip...

Don't get me wrong, it's all worth listening to in due time. But thinking about anything else right now distracts me from what I'm certain is a priority.

BTW, nice job on hitting 185 with your 5i.

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1 hour ago, JonMA1 said:

@sirhacksalotI hope you get if figured out soon. You know it's a curse once we even dare think we've made any progress. Lol.

I remember your post @TryingtoPlay. I could relate so well because I'd spent all week thinking about the freak-out round I described above.

In my situation, I've gotten to the point where I have fix what I know is a huge problem - which is leaving my weight back. Little else matters at this point.

If or when I make real, lasting improvement in that area, then I'll pay attention to my swing plane, or how fidgety I get, or my posture, or whether my hips turn too much in the BS, or how much tension is in my arms, or my grip...

Don't get me wrong, it's all worth listening to in due time. But thinking about anything else right now distracts me from what I'm certain is a priority.

BTW, nice job on hitting 185 with your 5i.

I understand your situation very well. I have several priorities which I must keep in focus if I am going to play as well.

I just got home from hitting a bucket of balls and I have extremely mixed emotions. The majority of my practice went extremely well. I am making alot of progress in key areas. I went through a few ruts during the session, but for the most part I was able to work through the problems that began to crop up. Once I got into a groove I was flushing my 4i out 200 yards and my 8i out about 145 putting the ball right on target. My father was with me and was making sure that I didn't lapse into any of my poor tendencies which is obviously incredibly helpful. After looking at some alignment issues when I aim to the right though, I stepped up to hit the last 15 balls in my bucket with wedge and 9i. I proceeded to top around 12 of them and duck hook the other three. Needless to say I was about ready to pull my hair out at the end of the practice.

This can be a baffling game.

 

Edited by TryingtoPlay
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1 minute ago, TryingtoPlay said:

I understand your situation very well. I have several priorities which I must keep in focus if I am going to play as well. I just got home from hitting a bucket of balls and I have extremely mixed emotions. The majority of my practice went extremely well. I am making alot of progress in key areas. I went through a few ruts during the session, but for the most part I was able to work through the problems that began to crop up. Once I got into a groove I was flushing my 4i out 200 yards and my 8i out about 145 putting the ball right on target. My father was with me and was making sure that I didn't lapse into any of my poor tendencies which is obviously incredibly helpful. After looking at some alignment issues when I aim to the right though, I stepped up to hit the last 15 balls in my bucket with wedge and 9i. I proceeded to top around 12 of them and duck hook up the other three. Needless to say I was about ready to pull my hair out at the end of the practice. 

This runs contrary to my original post, but If I've learned anything over the last 5 years, its that I don't get too excited about a good round or practice session, or too down over a bad one. They're just peaks and valleys. But it used to really piss me off. Now I feel pretty confident I'll quickly bounce back from a bout of complete ineptitude.

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41 minutes ago, JonMA1 said:

This runs contrary to my original post, but If I've learned anything over the last 5 years, its that I don't get too excited about a good round or practice session, or too down over a bad one. They're just peaks and valleys. But it used to really piss me off. Now I feel pretty confident I'll quickly bounce back from a bout of complete ineptitude.

That's a great attitude to have. I found one little thing last weekend that brought my swing back around. Easy go. Easy come. ;-)

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14 hours ago, JonMA1 said:

This runs contrary to my original post, but If I've learned anything over the last 5 years, its that I don't get too excited about a good round or practice session, or too down over a bad one. They're just peaks and valleys. But it used to really piss me off. Now I feel pretty confident I'll quickly bounce back from a bout of complete ineptitude.

I am sure that you will. Have you been able to practice recently?

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7 hours ago, TryingtoPlay said:

I am sure that you will. Have you been able to practice recently?

Yes, every night on the practice (like a crack addict). I'm just now working up to 3/4 swings. Trying to do it right this time around.

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14 hours ago, JonMA1 said:

Yes, every night on the practice (like a crack addict). I'm just now working up to 3/4 swings. Trying to do it right this time around.

That is good to hear. As you are rebuilding your swing I would suspect that you are going to go through some significant growing pains in the future. You are probably going to have some very poor practice sessions/playing rounds amongst the process. It is not the easiest thing to do. I commend you on doing what you feel is right though. I very much respect your decisiveness and your commitment.

Nice win for the Bucs on MNF, by the way. Great win for you guys on the road and in the division, not to mention over the defending Conference champions.

Edited by TryingtoPlay
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Thanks for the insight @TryingtoPlay. If the process isn't difficult, that probably means it's not enough of a change. The challenge so far has been trying not to progress too fast.

How's your game going?

7 hours ago, TryingtoPlay said:

Nice win for the Bucs on MNF, by the way. Great win for you guys on the road and in the division, not to mention over the defending Conference champions.

Don't know what to think of the Bucs. Right now, they are a long way from being a playoff team. I was glad to see them win, however.

I thought you said you were a dolphins fan, is that correct? They were my team in the 70's before Tampa Bay was awarded the franchise in '76.

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2 hours ago, JonMA1 said:

Thanks for the insight @TryingtoPlay. If the process isn't difficult, that probably means it's not enough of a change. The challenge so far has been trying not to progress too fast.

How's your game going?

Don't know what to think of the Bucs. Right now, they are a long way from being a playoff team. I was glad to see them win, however.

I thought you said you were a dolphins fan, is that correct? They were my team in the 70's before Tampa Bay was awarded the franchise in '76.

I practiced for about two and a half hours today. After an early rut where my swing felt profoundly off, which I was able to fix within a few minutes, I began to hit my irons fairly well. I wouldn't say that I was consistent but I am working on it. When hitting my Hybrid I began to hit a chronic hook which I was largely unable to correct today. The positive news is that the swing was generally as good as my swing has ever been. I like where my grip is, I was keeping my right arm inside, keeping my right leg firm, keeping my left arm fairly straight, rotating well with good clubhead speed and rolling my weight over to my left side through the ball. I was still hooking the ball, but that is very good news I think for a lifelong slicer. I have taken a few critical steps towards being a better player. Overall, I think that I am on the right track.

 

Yes, I am a Dolphins fan. They unfortunately have some serious problems as a team right now.

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10 hours ago, TryingtoPlay said:

By the way, what clubs do you use? Just wondering.

GI irons - Mizuno JPX 850's (cast) GW - 4iron. Adams driver and 3 wood, a Nicklaus Signature 5 wood, a cheap 60° wedge and a cheap putter.

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15 hours ago, JonMA1 said:

GI irons - Mizuno JPX 850's (cast) GW - 4iron. Adams driver and 3 wood, a Nicklaus Signature 5 wood, a cheap 60° wedge and a cheap putter.

Very cool. I am using my set of Callaway X-18 (CB) Steel Cast irons GW-4i. My SW is Callaway X-12 which is a 54° club as compared to the X-18 SW which is around 56°. The difference in loft between my GW and SW is hence too small. I also would like to get a used copy of the X-18 3i because I am improving in long iron play more than I am with Hybrid. 

I also have two other sets of irons, one of which are PowerBilt irons from the 1990's which I can always switch to if I ever choose to do so.

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On 10/17/2016 at 9:56 PM, JonMA1 said:

GI irons - Mizuno JPX 850's (cast) GW - 4iron. Adams driver and 3 wood, a Nicklaus Signature 5 wood, a cheap 60° wedge and a cheap putter.

I practiced again on Tuesday, but I simply could not stop slicing the ball. It was as bad as it has ever been. The slice just creeps back in. I cannot seem to vanquish it with any permanence. I can eliminate it for a while, but it will it just always ends up rearing its head. It was demoralizing because I hit the ball as badly on Tuesday as I have ever hit the ball. It was completely hopeless.

I hope that your game is coming along.

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6 hours ago, TryingtoPlay said:

I practiced again on Tuesday, but I simply could not stop slicing the ball. It was as bad as it has ever been. The slice just creeps back in. I cannot seem to vanquish it with any permanence. I can eliminate it for a while, but it will it just always ends up rearing its head. It was demoralizing because I hit the ball as badly on Tuesday as I have ever hit the ball. It was completely hopeless.

I hope that your game is coming along.

I'm not much on giving advice because I struggle so much myself, but I'm working on developing a base point - for lack of a better term - to get back to when things start to go bad. This might be something as simple as slowing way down, or a half swing, or even a pitch... whatever it takes to get the kind of contact and ball flight I'm looking for. When I go back to this point, I'm focusing on the key(s) that I think might be causing the mishits. As I start to feel more confident, I'll slowly start to increase my back swing and try to bet a bit more club head speed into my shots.

If you haven't already, consider creating a my Swing thread. There are folks here much smarter than I am (obviously) who are always willing to give advice.

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On 10/20/2016 at 6:12 PM, JonMA1 said:

I'm not much on giving advice because I struggle so much myself, but I'm working on developing a base point - for lack of a better term - to get back to when things start to go bad. This might be something as simple as slowing way down, or a half swing, or even a pitch... whatever it takes to get the kind of contact and ball flight I'm looking for. When I go back to this point, I'm focusing on the key(s) that I think might be causing the mishits. As I start to feel more confident, I'll slowly start to increase my back swing and try to bet a bit more club head speed into my shots.

If you haven't already, consider creating a my Swing thread. There are folks here much smarter than I am (obviously) who are always willing to give advice.

Yeah, I was trying to work on it but I was really struggling. I brought my Dad along to that session so as to try to help me but we really were not able to get much of anything going. Due to the weather where I live and also due to his disappointment in how terrible I am (although he won't admit that openly) he told me that I should essentially quit playing until at least next Spring. It is all really pretty discouraging.

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7 hours ago, TryingtoPlay said:

Yeah, I was trying to work on it but I was really struggling. I brought my Dad along to that session so as to try to help me but we really were not able to get much of anything going. Due to the weather where I live and also due to his disappointment in how terrible I am (although he won't admit that openly) he told me that I should essentially quit playing until at least next Spring. It is all really pretty discouraging.

Speaking as a dad, I seriously doubt yours is disappointed in your ability. It's probably hard for him to watch you go through the frustration this game can bring. I don't know how old you are, but you likely have most a lifetime to improve.

The weather here is getting crappy as well. It's actually snowing right now as I type. I wish I could give up practicing throughout the winter, but I can't. Practice no longer holds much hope of real improvement. I just like the game so much that even hitting into a net that's less than 10' away, or taking half swings and getting the ball and my body to do what I want is a hell of lot more fun than just sitting around the house thinking about it.

When I write these blog entries, there's nothing I can offer in the way of wisdom. But I can at least show those who struggle that it could be worse. Most of the guys I play golf with are not very good even though many have played longer than me. Some are a little better, but most are not. Yet, they almost all enjoy the game.

Still, I am at the bottom of the learning curve. It sucks, but that's the way it is. There are so many people in the world who will never be fortunate enough even try the game.

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