Seeing the forest through the trees
Now that I have a more consistent swing path, I need to work on contact and release
Published on Wednesday, Jul. 18, 2012 03:23PM EDT
As I stood over my ball on the scenic 14th hole at the even more scenic Heron Point Golf Links near Ancaster on Tuesday, a feeling of calm came over me.
Though it's possible the source of the feeling was the early signs of heat stroke turning my brain into a substance resembling guacamole, it was a good sensation. Surrounded by trees providing welcome shade, I knew then and there I had not lost any of my creativity when it comes to golf.
I had hit my tee shot into the trees, managing not only to land off the fairway but having enough expertise to place my ball between a tree trunk and a root the size of an oil pipeline. With scant inches of backswing space, I then managed to carom my second shot off two other trees before it came to rest about 10 yards behind me.
I did manage to chip out on to the fairway with my next shot in rather pedestrian fashion, but wasted no time in exhibiting my flair for artistry. Using a 6-iron from 155 yards out, I sliced the ball back into the trees -- once again placing it directly against a tree.
I not only could see both the forest and the trees, but also knew that I still had the magic touch that can produce an eight on a 348-yard par-4 hole.
Maybe it was that reassurance, or possibly heat-induced brain damage, but I walked off the course that day forgetting the 96 I'd shot, the five balls I'd lost or the wildlife I'd threatened. Instead, I focused on how I really, honestly believe I'm getting better.
While that belief may be added to the thickening file of evidence I'm convinced is being collected for my inevitable mental competency hearing, there are reasons for optimism.
One is that I haven't gone over 100 in my last four outings, with my experience at fescue-heavy Heron Point my highest score since late June.
Another is that I'm developing some serious confidence in my putting abilities. I took 35 putts at Heron Point, but considering the fast and unfamiliar greens and the heat that took its toll on concentration, I considered it a good day.
I even got a compliment on my putting skill on Tuesday, though the golfer who issued it may have been suffering from heat-induced hallucinations at the time. The fact he swore that Ben Hogan was in the foursome behind us made me suspect he was losing touch with reality.
Another reason is that I am actually making progress with my new drills.
Bradlee Ryall, the golf pro who has borne this cross with commendable bravery, has me working on the next stage of swing reconstruction. Now that I have a more consistent swing path, I need to work on contact and release.
For most of my golf life, my contact point has been rather inconsistent. The result is thin shots that tend to veer right and land me behind trees, or fat shots that dig up enough turf to bury road kill and send my shots straight left and short.
The first drill works on my release point and involves hitting balls off a tee while standing with my feet together. While it draws more than a few strange looks at the driving range, it should help me square up the club face better and develop a proper release point.
The first time I tried this, I hit everything left. But the second time, things started to go straight more often. Surprisingly, I was hitting the ball almost as far as I would have with a proper stance.
I'm resisting the urge to use this on the golf course, at least for now.
The second drill is intended to work on what's called the dump, which is basically the part of the swing that allows you to hit the ball. Though that's a rather unfortunate name, it seems to suit my game.
In this drill, I purposely try to hit the ground behind the ball -- something I've done without trying for years. That's why I call my 6-iron ``the spade."
After a few chops I then hit the ball.
The first time I tried this, I ended up with sore wrists and hit fewer than one in two shots well. Two days later, more than six in 10 went in the general vicinity of where I was aiming.
So there is progress.
I'm sure knowing that will ease the pain of the groundskeepers who had to resod after I left the range.
PROGRESS UPDATE: My day at Heron Point for the annual Lincoln Canadian Media Golf Championship was one of my best at this yearly orgy of freeloading at the expense of ClubLink and sponsors. The fact I have participated for most of its 10 years indicates that I've ignored my vow that I would never play in a tournament that would allow a golfer like me to take part. I'm usually over 100 on these tough ClubLink courses, so 96 not only matched the temperature but was one of my lowest scores ever. The highlight was a birdie on the 160-yard, par-3 eighth. The lowlight, lower even than the aforementioned eight on the 14th, was a seven on the 130-yard, par-3 third. Now that takes some creativity!
One game does not an improvement make
I am certifiably insane
Turning the corner?
Mirror, mirror on the wall
All part of the learning process
Practice what you putt
Nothing easy about my swing
The Cadillac of golf testing facilities
First date jitters
Miracle worker or victim No. 5
Getting to the root of my rot
Why doesn't golf love me back?
Chris Zelkovich has accomplished many things in a journalism career that has spanned almost 40 years. He has worked as a reporter, editor and columnist for a variety of newspapers and his work has appeared in several magazines. His 12 years in golf have been somewhat less distinguished.
Bradlee Ryall is a Class 'A' member of the CPGA and Director of Instruction for the Braeben Academy. Nominated for the Ontario PGA Teacher of the Year award in 2009, Bradlee has studied and trained with some of the best golf instructors in the world at the David Leadbetter Golf Academies and served as teaching professional at some of the greatest golfing destinations in the world including the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge in Alberta, Canada.