My Plan to Get Better at Golf
By Shane Jones
After over two decades, I have decided that I am not very good at golf. I mean at all, I am a terrible driver of the golf ball (If you look at my strokes gained statistics), I don’t gain a lot of strokes with my approaches. I am a terrible wedge player. I’m a decent putter, but anyone who plays miniature golf with a four-year-old child can do that. With all of stuff I’m bad at, I needed to find some things that I was good at to build on. I was reasonably long, both off the tee and with the irons. I am decent from 100-125 and 125-150 (I don’t gain a lot of strokes to a scratch, but I’m good enough to gain strokes against a 5 handicapper), I usually don’t have a lot of blow-up holes, and I know how far each of my clubs go with a normal swing.
In the days, in which we are analyzing everything, you wonder, how you will ever get better at golf. I think that I may have devised a plan in which to do this. I will get into a more detail with each of these later in this blog. First, I’m getting lessons. I’ve already started this part. Next, realize that just because I can hit it 270 yards off the tee, doesn’t mean that I necessarily would need to. This isn’t the Soviet Union in 1947 after World War II with Joseph Stalin telling me, that I must hit it 270 yards on a hole with a 14-yard wide landing area, while having a firing squad locked and loaded at me. Furthermore, I need to have a better practice plan. I used to practice whatever I felt like that day. That doesn’t work especially if you want to get better. I’m trying to embrace the Five S’s of practice, so when the money down in tournaments, I’ll have dealt with it in practice. Practice isn’t just hitting balls either. As @iacas and @mvmac have preached, practice can be rehearsing a motion while waiting for a bus, getting a motion down in front of a mirror, or a golf specific workout. Finally, I need to GamePlan better. I need a back-up club to advance the ball safely, when my driver goes awry.
You’ve made it through my first two introductory paragraphs without going to another blog or thread. Here is the meat and potatoes of this blog. Explaining myself about how I plan to get better.
The biggest obstacle, I’ve had in my lifetime for golf is that I’ve never taken a lesson. (As of this posting, I’ve taken three). I asked all the questions in Lowest Score Wins to a few instructors. I accidently came across the instructor that I choose. I went into an indoor golf center and saw a sign for a 5-lesson package for $250. I received a $300 gift certificate for Christmas from a family member who knows how much I love golf. I was just trying to get some launch monitor time and the Pro there and I struck up a conversation. He asked if I had ever had a lesson. (I’m paraphrasing for time’s sake) I said no. He said, the launch monitor time would do me some good, but lessons would probably be better. He’s a younger guy (a bit older than me, probably Erik’s age or so). I asked him my questions, he asked me his. We went on like this for about 15 minutes and I decided it after a few days of going through the data, that he was right. So, I called and signed up for some lessons.
The first lesson, was a “figure out where I was” and “where I want to go” lesson. So, he had me hit 3 solid shots with each of my clubs. So, we got my distances down, and he noticed that a lot of my shots were leaking to the right. That’s where the first seeming monotonous drill came in. They have the “Eye Line” training aid that you see advertised on TV and Internet. Craig is more old school… He pulled out 4 water bottles. (If you’ve read the “5 Minutes Daily Practice Challenge” thread the last couple months, you know what I’m talking about) he placed a ball down. Placed 1 bottle in front of my left foot and one in front of my right foot a little further from me. He says, take a waist high swing and don’t hit these bottles, once you can do that consistently 10 times in a row, for 3 days. You can move to a half swing (9:00). If you can do that, move to a three-quarter swing, if you can do that, you can officially hit a draw. I asked, “What about a full swing?” He grinned and said, “Your three-quarter swing, looks like a full swing to me”.
After a month of getting this drill, down to a science, I go back. The results were amazing. Longer and hitting draws very close to the center line on some, relatively close with others. He complicated it for the next month. The hardest shot in golf to hit. The straight one. All four bottles. In a 6” X 6” square. Can’t hit the bottles. Nothing longer than a 9-iron, for a month. (It’s the hardest damn drill to get perfect that you will ever see.) After a month of that, I go back. I’m doing all that right. Craig notices that my body is a little out of sync with my arms during my transition.
Now he has me doing this “Arms lead the body drill”. It’s not a hard drill to master, but I think he’s up to something. I don’t have another lesson until April (he’s going down to Florida for a month for a tourney or two and to see some family). I was second guessing myself for a very long time. For once, however I’m trusting the process. I DO believe this is making me a better golfer.
Next, having a better practice plan. I used to practice whatever the hell I felt like. It was like okay, If I hit balls, I must drag the net out, put it up, hit balls and take it back down. (A pain in the ass if I ever knew one). This is related to getting lessons, either directly, or indirectly. I’m a believer that now that I am receiving lessons, I’m practicing better. I’m working on the two “SV4” skills for sure with what I am practicing.
The bad thing is, no one ever really taught me how to hit a bunker shot. I kind of picked up things on my own. Then, the skills with less separation value, I’m left to practice on my own. Will I? I will, at some point. My pitching and chipping need some work. I guess when Craig comes back, he’s going to work with me on that. I need to plan better. I DO believe I am on the right track though,
I’m getting tired, and my paragraphs are getting much shorter. The third thing is having a back-up club when my driver goes awry. (Sounds like something Tiger needs right now). My home course is 9 holes with two sets of tees. 6,385 yards. If you divide that by 28. It’s around 228 or so. I don’t need my driver (270 yards total) to necessarily get around. If driver is putting me into trouble, why be a stubborn ass and keep hitting it? I’ve found a “magic club” that can get me 220 yards or so off the tee and I can choke down to the graphite and hit it 180 yards if I must. If driver is causing double bogeys or worse, the 20-degree hybrid will be the way to go. (Mission accomplished there).
Finally, I need to GamePlan better. I need to get my Shot Zones down to a science. Even if I must get some ¼” grid paper, a ruler and a compass and draw this out and keep the paper in my bag I will. If it helps me get better, damn it, I’ll use it.
Well of all the blogs on The Sand Trap, this one may be close to the longest. I typed it up on Word so that I would have a spell check and such. But there you go, that’s my “Plan” to get better at this beautiful game. I want to thank Erik, Mike, and all the golfers and other members that keep the Sand Trap going. I’m sorry I wrote a damn novella for a blog, everyone.