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I Finally Have Golf Figured Out!

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JonMA1

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I can almost sense the collective cringes of those reading that title. We’ve seen newbies make this claim one week, only to post the next week how much they hate the game. I've certainly been guilty of it, though I’ve since learned my lesson.

While most of the time we are talking about the one swing thought or swing adjustment that will carry us to single-digit greatness, other times it’s a can’t miss epiphany on the strategy that will have us navigating around the course like a pro.


 

During yesterday’s round, I arrived at a par 5 that has a wide landing area for the driver. That's the easy part. A decent drive leaves about 270 to the green, but with a very narrow bottle neck about 100 yards from the green created by a fairway bunker and large tree on the left, and golf ball graveyard woods narrowing the gap from the right. My choices were to use a wood to carry the bottleneck, leaving a half swing wedge from where it opens back up, or mid-iron layup in front of the bunker leaving a good angle with a mid-iron to the green. 

I chose the latter option and it worked out perfectly… I mean I couldn’t have walked up and placed my next two shots any better. An easy uphill 6 iron that stopped short of the bunker leaving me the best angle to the downhill blind green, followed by a full 6 iron that felt good coming off the club and confirmed when I walked over the hill to see the ball resting in the middle of the green.

I finished the hole thinking that was easy, I’ll just play it that way next time. Next time occurred an hour and a half later when I played the 9 hole course a second time.

An identical second drive set me up for my can’t miss strategy. I addressed the ball with all the confidence in the world and promptly hit a push slice to the right leaving a poor angle to the green.

Ok, no big deal. I’ve been hitting fades all day, I thought. I’ll just have to start the ball close to the tree line with a 4 iron and it should come back close to the green. What could go wrong?

A minute later I was hitting my approach shot with a pitching wedge after that “can’t miss” 4 iron started 3 yards too far right, hit a tree, dropped straight down and rolled out onto the center of the bottle neck a whopping 80 yards closer to my target. It could have been worse.


One of my favorite expressions is the Mike Tyson quote “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face”. I think it’s profound in that we tend to put all our eggs in one basket with little regard to something going wrong, hoping so hard for the plan to work that we fail to have a contingency plan or even consider an alternate one. Fortunately, poor execution in golf doesn’t result in a right cross to the jaw from Mike Tyson, though we often react as if it’s just as debilitating.

When I arrived home, a copy of “Arnie” by Tom Callahan was waiting for me on our table - a gift from my wife. I started reading it this morning and was struck by a quote. 

“From the Masters on” Arnold said, “I had a philosophy of golf: when you miss a conservative shot, you’re in as much trouble as when you miss a bold one.”

Strategy, risk and reward, and execution are things we all love about this game. In my world, almost nothing really bad happens when I employ poor strategy or fail to execute. But somehow, it’s still important that it doesn’t happen. Yesterday, I was pleased that the bad results didn’t bother me.

I’ve finally got it!

Stay tuned for my next blog entry that asks the question "Should I quit golf?"

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4 hours ago, RandallT said:

Looks like a fun hole, and I'm glad that it played a part in you solving the entire riddle that is golf!

That's right. I'm now full of insight... or maybe full of something else.

I'm waiting for the sequel to LSW titled "Golf Strategy for Those with Giant Shot Zones" and subtitled "There's this new invention in golf... it's called a practice range".

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12 minutes ago, David in FL said:

They say tennis is fun... :-) 

If playing tennis at a decent level was more fun than playing golf at my crappy level, I wouldn't be posting nonsense on a golf forum.

At least in tennis you're given two chances to hit a good serve... although I've witnessed some who apply the same rule to golf.

17 minutes ago, David in FL said:

The golf gods simply won't allow you to go unpunished.  :-O

$@^$ 'em! What are they gonna to do, take away my awesome double-bogey game?

Bring it on golf gods!!!

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9 minutes ago, JonMA1 said:

 

$@^$ 'em! What are they gonna to do, take away my awesome double-bogey game?

Bring it on golf gods!!!

Oh my!  :bugout:

The one thing I've learned, lo these many years, is that while there's something of a finite limit to how well I can reasonably play, no matter how bad I play, there's always room to get worse! :-D 

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Nice title, but the golf gods only let a very few figure out this funny game. Problem is, those vety few are still searching for answers in the form of consistency. 

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2 minutes ago, David in FL said:

$@^$ 'em! What are they gonna to do, take away my awesome double-bogey game?

Bring it on golf gods!!!

OH NO YOU DIDN'T!     

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24 minutes ago, Patch said:

Nice title, but the golf gods only let a very few figure out this funny game. Problem is, those vety few are still searching for answers in the form of consistency. 

Thus far, the only thing I've really figured out is that there is no figuring this game out - hence the tongue-in-cheek title.

What works one week or one month will almost never work the next. A personal best score will be followed by a stinker of a round and vice versa. A swing thought that seems to make good shots automatic, loses its mojo eventually... at least for me.

On the other hand, we think we aren't getting any better until we look back at old score cards. Not saying this will be the case for me, but I see older players doing pretty well getting around the course. Without knowing them personally, it's hard to say how good they once were. Certainly age will likely take it's toll on how far we hit as we get older. But some learn to do pretty well with what they have.

All I can hope for is that all the failures and successes might have a (positive) accumulative effect.

42 minutes ago, David in FL said:

The one thing I've learned, lo these many years, is that while there's something of a finite limit to how well I can reasonably play, no matter how bad I play, there's always room to get worse! :-D 

I may know very little about playing better golf, but I'm an expert at playing worse golf.;-)

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2 hours ago, JonMA1 said:

Thus far, the only thing I've really figured out is that there is no figuring this game out - hence the tongue-in-cheek title.

What works one week or one month will almost never work the next. A personal best score will be followed by a stinker of a round and vice versa. A swing thought that seems to make good shots automatic, loses its mojo eventually... at least for me.

On the other hand, we think we aren't getting any better until we look back at old score cards. Not saying this will be the case for me, but I see older players doing pretty well getting around the course. Without knowing them personally, it's hard to say how good they once were. Certainly age will likely take it's toll on how far we hit as we get older. But some learn to do pretty well with what they have.

All I can hope for is that all the failures and successes might have a (positive) accumulative effect.

I may know very little about playing better golf, but I'm an expert at playing worse golf.;-)

I could teach "worse golf". No problem.

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A playing partner prepared to hit his tee shot on the narrow par 5 3rd hole at Travis Pointe Country Club.  He is a student of the game and is a pretty good player. He decided that the tight space between the two tree lines left & right necessitated his hitting a 3-iron for accuracy.  He proceeded to pull the 3-iron into the woods on the left,  Exasperated, he told me, "Darn it, it would have been so much more satisfying to hit driver into the woods." I guess he would agree with Arnie's thought, "when you miss a conservative shot, you’re in as much trouble as when you miss a bold one.”

I would also echo some of the other's thoughts that when one voices the idea "I think I have finally figured this game out," terrible things usually follow.  Sadly, that knowledge doesn't seem to stop me from thinking the same thing now and again, much to my later regret.

Edited by bkuehn1952

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The Secret to Golf is easy, but it's in 5 parts:

  1. It's ok to use a stock bloody mary mix
  2. Sriracha Sauce, NOT tobasco....trust me
  3. Use good vodka, don't skimp
  4. Seasoning is important, not just celery salt, also Lawry's
  5. No, it needs more snacks than that......no....even a couple more....cheese sticks are just as much your friend as a beef stick, or chicken wing, or mini-hamburger

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5 hours ago, bkuehn1952 said:

A playing partner prepared to hit his tee shot on the narrow par 5 3rd hole at Travis Pointe Country Club.  He is a student of the game and is a pretty good player. He decided that the tight space between the two tree lines left & right necessitated his hitting a 3-iron for accuracy.  He proceeded to pull the 3-iron into the woods on the left,  Exasperated, he told me, "Darn it, it would have been so much more satisfying to hit driver into the woods." I guess he would agree with Arnie's thought, "when you miss a conservative shot, you’re in as much trouble as when you miss a bold one.”

Great story, but the thing that leaves me shaking my head is that someone is so good that a 3 iron is preferable for accuracy.

I have a 3 iron from an old set. I practice with it only when I want to feel worse about myself.

I'd have to take @rehmwa's advice above - and a lot of it - before I'd pull my 3 iron for a shot calling for accuracy.

5 hours ago, bkuehn1952 said:

I would also echo some of the other's thoughts that when one voices the idea "I think I have finally figured this game out," terrible things usually follow.

I can safely say that thought never crosses my mind - at least it hasn't for several years. Over-confident on occasions, sure. But never the feeling of figuring much of anything out.

I will sometimes work on a piece or swing thought that seems to hold up longer than others. But I've quit trying to figure anything beyond why I'm topping the ball this week or something along those lines. Even then, it's less of a cerebral accomplishment and more of just getting lucky through trial and error.

A "fixed" swing flaw only stays that way for a limited time. I try to enjoy the ride while it lasts.

Oh, and bad things always follow regardless of my thoughts.

SHANK! SHANK! SHANK! SHANK! SHANK! SHANK! SHANK! SHANK!

 

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Good stuff. Love the title. I still think fondly of an afternoon on a driving range in '04 or '05 when I was slotting the club so well I may have thought those words exactly. Every shot was a gentle draw... same height, same ball flight. All I was doing was taking it back and turning through. It was glorious. Suffice it to say, it did not last. The golf gods giveth and the golf gods taketh away. And sometimes, they're just plain mean.

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Good post @JonMA1. I feel that golf forces you to live on the edge of your ability. It's always either too safe or too aggressive with some lucky just rights sprinkled to keep your hopes up. 

Playing conservatively will eventually catch up with you just as well as playing aggressively. 

There is no outthinking this game..

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19 hours ago, GolfLug said:

I feel that golf forces you to live on the edge of your ability. It's always either too safe or too aggressive with some lucky just rights sprinkled to keep your hopes up. 

Playing conservatively will eventually catch up with you just as well as playing aggressively. 

There is no outthinking this game..

I never thought about it this way, but that's exactly right. 

22 hours ago, georgep said:

I still think fondly of an afternoon on a driving range in '04 or '05 when I was slotting the club so well I may have thought those words exactly. Every shot was a gentle draw... same height, same ball flight. All I was doing was taking it back and turning through. It was glorious. Suffice it to say, it did not last. The golf gods giveth and the golf gods taketh away. And sometimes, they're just plain mean.

I've been playing about 6 years now. I remember for the first few years that a stretch of good hitting meant "I've finally turned the corner". It's comical now.

But even a good practice like you've described is an enjoyable experience. The more I start to understand how hard the game is, the more I try to appreciate the good shots for what they are - as well as try to remember what they are not.

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Golf is a mirage. Even good players freely declare they are not good at golf, and that might be true in their own heads. Because no matter how good one might play, we always remember the one (1) shot we missed. 

You can never have enough success on a golf course.

This being my third season, I have decided on one (1) truism in golf, and that is, the longer you play, the better you get. Even if you have a "bad" swing, you will improve every season in increments until one day your health slows you. Of course I am not referring to casual hackers, but dedicated golfers who practice and play on a regular basis. I don't think there is any way to shortcut this process of building a golf brain. 

Edited by Kalnoky

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Golf directly parallels the law of diminishing returns from our economic terms. The effort you put in does not meet your level of improvement.   

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On 5/1/2017 at 1:46 PM, bkuehn1952 said:

A playing partner prepared to hit his tee shot on the narrow par 5 3rd hole at Travis Pointe Country Club.  He is a student of the game and is a pretty good player. He decided that the tight space between the two tree lines left & right necessitated his hitting a 3-iron for accuracy.  He proceeded to pull the 3-iron into the woods on the left,  Exasperated, he told me, "Darn it, it would have been so much more satisfying to hit driver into the woods." I guess he would agree with Arnie's thought, "when you miss a conservative shot, you’re in as much trouble as when you miss a bold one.”

I would also echo some of the other's thoughts that when one voices the idea "I think I have finally figured this game out," terrible things usually follow.  Sadly, that knowledge doesn't seem to stop me from thinking the same thing now and again, much to my later regret.

Don't you just love it when that happens? You decide to throttle back to go short but straight, and hit short and crooked! That's why I usually just bomb away unless it's a really unique circumstance. 

Harvey Penick used to say, "The woods are full of long hitters." If he had our perspective he would have added, ",and short hitters too!"

On 5/1/2017 at 4:20 PM, rehmwa said:

The Secret to Golf is easy, but it's in 5 parts:

  1. It's ok to use a stock bloody mary mix
  2. Sriracha Sauce, NOT tobasco....trust me
  3. Use good vodka, don't skimp
  4. Seasoning is important, not just celery salt, also Lawry's
  5. No, it needs more snacks than that......no....even a couple more....cheese sticks are just as much your friend as a beef stick, or chicken wing, or mini-hamburger

Hmmm. I wish I could still find Major Peter's Bloody Mary Mix around here. You didn't have to add anything to it, the stuff was awesome! Even had horseradish in it! I can't stand a bland Bloody Mary, so the idea of a little Sriracha is cool with me. Much more interesting flavor than Tabasco.

Cheap vodka tastes like lighter fluid smells! Hideous!

I'd rather a freshly cut stalk of fresh celery rather than the salt. Fresh celery oil adds a unique flavor element to nearly anything you put it in.

And anything goes with snacks!

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