March always marks the beginning of the golf season in WA. We have pro-ams starting up, the temperature starts to get back into the 50's, and the winter rains start to lessen and go away. So, it's time to start getting back into some serious practice and see how low we can go this year. In the beginning of February, I decided to get over it and make a change to my swing that it needed. It was flat, loopy, flippy, bizarre, and too many things needed to happen correctly to make it work. I managed to make it work quite a bit, but it felt like I needed to stick another band-aid on every few weeks. I was very hesitant to make the change because I was getting results that I liked, so why change? 3 things made me want to give the change a go. 1) as an instructor, it was pointed out and it makes sense, that I should have a reasonably "good looking" swing as well as functional, otherwise it would be hard to get new students. 2) I've never once heard someone say that I have a nice looking swing. It's either you are certainly athletic or you have good tempo. It shouldn't get to me, but it kind of does. If I am to be a golf professional and leader of the game, I should be someone to follow. 3) With #2, my athletic background in general, and past teachers telling me I learn very fast, I know that no matter what kind of swing I try that I would be able to do it with success, eventually.
Well, I'm a month and a half into it and things are going smoothly. My backswing is much more on a plane than it was before, but it still loops a bit at the top. A big change that I'm still getting used to is the stronger grip. I've always had a weak grip. The downswing feels more powerful and easier to control. The thought/feel on the backswing is to feel like I want to hit a slice or come way over the top but also keep my hands more in sync with my torso on takeaway. The second part that I'm still working on, is to feel my right hand try to point "down" from A2 to A4 which would keep the loop from happening near the top. For the downswing, I have to feel like the hands are low or something. I can't explain it other than saying "don't flip the club phil." If I feel like I'm following through towards my target, I'll get a great shot. The miss is when I lose that thought and I flip and follow through left of the target.
A nice outcome, but slightly annoying right now, from the swing change is added carry distance. I didn't need more distance but I'll take it. Driver clubhead speed has been consistently at 122mph when swinging at normal speed (it was at 118mph). A big improvement with the change comes from the long irons. In the past, I always thought they didn't go as far as they should, but now I feel they are at exactly where I want them. Problem is I'm not 100% sure how far they are going. With the temperature warming up, they are getting another 10yds or more. In my event yesterday, I had a lot of iron approaches go long. The other noticeable improvement is from wedges. Before, I couldn't take full swings with them because I'd scoop them. But, now I'm getting good distance with them, and once again, I'm not 100% sure what that distance is yet. Wedges are my scoring clubs as I'm typically less than 150yds out on most par 4s in these pro ams, so my goal this week is to try and nail them down.
By making these changes, I neglected short game and it came back to bite me the last 2 weeks. Thankfully, I figured out my problem and I just need to practice it a bit more. I had been standing too far away from the ball on short chips and I had a lot of chunks/skulls, which is really annoying to do after 300+yd drives in the FW that leave you <30yds from the green. I started standing closer and almost feel like the heel of the club is off the ground and it's made a big difference. I haven't skulled/chunked one yet, but distance control is a bit off, so like I said, just need a bit more practice. I've also worked on my putting stance and stroke a bit. I was pulling the ball in my stroke a whisker, so I stood more upright and a bit closer to the ball. Through some practice and a round with the newer stroke, it seems to have fixed the pull.
So far, I've had 2 pro-ams. The first was a mess. Started in a 36 degree downpour that left me shivering for 7 holes, but the afternoon was warmer and sunny. It took me until my 9th hole to find any sort of rhythm but I still had those issues with short game that cost me a ton of strokes. I didn't have a single up and down for par that day. I shot 82 but got a stroke added on because my team struggled too, and we received a pace of play penalty. Yesterday's pro am was a completely different story. Sunny and 70 degrees, I couldn't have asked for a more perfect day. I started with 2 birdies in the first 3 holes. Like I said above, my carry yardages are kind of unknown to me right now, and my guesses still left me long, and a few times, I didn't save the par. We were an afternoon tee off and with a full day of play on poa greens, they were certainly getting bumpy. I also had 2 wayward drives that I ended up getting bogeys because I had to punch out from trees. But, overall, I played a lot better and shot a +2, 72.
My work for this week, like I said, is to work on wedge distance control. I lost several strokes yesterday from not being 100% sure with how hard to hit them. I'm also going to try and nail down mid to long iron distances. For eg., on one par 3 yesterday, the hole was 215yds, downhill 1 club and a cross wind right to left, maybe helping a sliver. I ultimately went with 6iron which, in winter weather I was getting 190-195 with. 7 iron was getting about 180, and with bunkers in front of the green, didn't think I'd quite get there. With 6 iron, I wanted to be safe, so I gripped down about an inch and swung a little easier. I was right on line with the pin, but it airmailed the green.... ugh! Heck a full 7 might've been too much. This happened to me a few times yesterday. So, getting those distances down will be nice.
My next event is a Pro-assistant best ball event with my boss. It should be a good time, but we are looking for a high finish this year. I'm hopeful for this season.