Hello World

In 1996, Tiger Woods starred in an ad titled “Hello World”, announcing his entry onto the golf stage. That same year, I too said hello to the world, much less dramatically. (You can watch the ad below).

If you stumbled on this post and wondered why you should care that I was born, you shouldn’t. My name is Michael, and I am a perfectly average golfer. This blog will chronicle my quest to become a better-than-average. This first post will explain why.

The start: I was basically born with a club in my hand. I loved golfing from a young age, but I was never all that good at it. The highest level I ever competed at was high school, and I wasn’t all that good then either.

My golfing peak was the summer after I graduated high school. Free of worry or responsibility (my summer job was blogging – go figure), I played daily, and became respectable.

By the end of the summer I had a smooth, compact swing and could reliably shoot in the low 40s on a reasonably difficult track, occasionally shooting in the 30s.

Then came college. I went to school in Chicago. Between the long trek to the golf course, the cold, snowy weather, and the difficult schoolwork, I had very little time to practice, and my game atrophied. I played a bit in the summer-time, but the long, ugly swing I’d developed led to a painful wrist injury that made playing painful, and frankly not fun.

Well, I’m finally a graduate, out in the world and free to golf to my heart’s content (when I’m not working). I’m determined to get better. Much better.

Late last year I started chronicling my golfing exploits in a Google doc. This writing habit has been helpful at breaking down the mechanical and strategic flaws in my game and fixing them, especially since in the winter I could go weeks between rounds. That Google doc has gotten long and slow though. It now spans 21 pages and 4,900 words, and sorting through it is messy.

That’s the main reason I’m switching to WordPress. WordPress blogs are sortable, and it’s easy to embed media like swing videos right into the post. That it’s public also motivates me to keep getting better. I can’t fail in front of the 3 people that somehow stumble onto the blog and read it (Maybe I’m being optimistic).

Anyway, I’ll keep you posted.

Workman-like Golf

Lately I’ve been doing a lot of chess puzzles before bed. I was really into them a year or two ago, and watching the Queen’s Gambit re-energized me to add them back into my day. One thing that chess puzzles teach you is to assess the board you’re playing and think a few moves ahead to spot any danger and opportunity.

Today I went out for a twilight nine (more info on the past few days of golf coming), and on the sixth tee box, I started thinking about those puzzles. The past few holes had been a mixed bag. I parred the first, thanks to a great drive and a good chip. I doubled the par-three second after hitting a ball in the water. My drive on the third, which I thought I hit well, came up well short, although I still managed a bogey. The fourth hole, a challenging par 5, I made an eight, courtesy of a bad drive, and several more bad shots. The fifth, I hit a good drive, only to choose the wrong wedge (out of fear of being short) and thin it over the green into the water (I made double). There were definitely a few muttered expletives on 4 and 5.

So on that sixth tee, a par three over water, I thought about those chess puzzles, and the fact that I’d been playing very brain-dead golf. I hadn’t been planning, and that had left me in some dubious spots. I chose a club carefully, and a line carefully to maximize my chances of an easy chip or putt, and steer even my misses away from the surrounding water. My nine iron was 10 yards short of the green, but it was safely on grass.

For my chip, I decided on a low runner with my 48-degree gap wedge. It’s low enough that, short of the green, it would dribble on, but high enough that it wouldn’t run through the narrow putting surface, and down the hill into the rough. I picked a line and landing spot that would, if I hit it too soft, still leave a putt, and if I hit it too hard, not run too far past the flag. I hit it a little left of my target, but I still had a 12-15 foot putt. Strategic pacing on that left me with a tap-in 4 (That’s good for me, to those of you that are good at the game of golf).

I applied this workman-like routine to the tee shot on the next hole, carefully selecting my line and setting my clubface to avoid the hazards on either side of the par 4, and piped one to an ideal spot. On the approach shot, I did the same. I took enough club to reach, but not enough to risk a wayward shot into the bushes or the back water. My shot wasn’t great, but I had a chip with a decent line at the flag. A strategically placed chip (avoiding the runoffs) left me a leisurely two-putt for five.

On the 8th tee, I applied the same formula. Again, I hit a soaring tee ball to a great spot. My pitching wedge approach came up short, but the good choice of line left me a fairly easy pitch shot, with little trouble to worry about. On that shot, I made a mistake. I used the distance to the center of the long oval green, not realizing that the flag was in the back. I hit a nice gap punch on to the green, but well short of the back pin. I hit two pretty decent putts, but from that distance I couldn’t get them into the hole and walked away with six.

The strategy worked perfectly again on the tee box of the par 5 ninth (over a large and intimidating pond). I hit a mediocre 2nd shot (it only travelled 90 yards), but because I chose the right club and line, I still had a decent chance at par. My approach shot, a 3-wood, was well struck, but wound up in the left rough (a side effect of my deciding to aim a little left, because there are some ghaslty bushes on the right). I hit a workman like flop with my 60-degree wedge over the bunker, leaving a 20-foot par putt. My goal was to leave a tap-in on the difficult down-hiller. I left it about two feet away. I had the speed, but my line was a little too right.

I was +9 for the first 5 holes (with a par on 1). I was +5 on the last 4, even with some mistakes. This workman-like way of playing led to much better scoring, but it was also much more fun and low stress.

Anyone reading this is probably thinking “Wow. Is he really surprised that thinking through golf shots helps him play better?” It’s a fair question, and academically I’ve always know it to be true that I should think through a hole (and avoid my “big miss” – shout out to Hank Haney), but it took that thinned wedge on 5 for me to realize how little thinking I was really doing in an average round.

I don’t really know how to wrap this up with a nice bow, so I’ll just say that I’m determined to stick with this, and that I think that strategic decisionmaking on the golf course could go a long way toward making me a better player (and I’m sure it can make you better too).

Play Chess, not Black Jack.

Nine in the bag

After landing in Florida, I played nine today for the first time in weeks (on three hours of sleep). There were some definite high points and some definite low points:

  1. A decent drive, a little right (but in the fairway). Approach wood just over the green. OK chip and two putts for bogey. I may have been able to get up and down here had I putted on the practice greens – dumb move on my part. I overestimated the speed of the greens and came up short on both my chip and my putt (despite good contact).
  2. Well-struck 7-iron off the tee is the right distance, but way right of the pin (middle-left), leaving an 80+ foot putt. Three putts for a four. Once again, I overestimated the speed.
  3. My drive is once again well struck, but not terribly long, a little high, and a little right. It semi-plugs in the right rough, leaving a challenging approach from 165 or so. I manage to advance it around 100 yards with a hybrid. My 55-yard pitch with my 60-degree wedge is the right distance, but right of the green. I hole a 30-foot putt from off the green for par. I guess I’m finally used to the greens.
  4. I hit a short pop-up drive, then pretty much topped a wood 20 yards, then hit a low hooking three wood 150 yards into the left rough, on a side-hill lie. I hit that into a fairway bunker. I hit a nice 9-iron from the fairway bunker to just short of the green, hit a decent chip with my 60, and two-putted for eight. Oy vey.
  5. You guessed it. My drive was decently hit, a little high and right, and left me 65 yards or so. I opened up the face on my 56 a bit and took a full swing. The distance was right, but I finished 5 yards left of the green, pin high. My putt from the fringe barely climbed the hill onto the edge of the green, leaving a long two-putt for five.
  6. I hit a really nice 7-iron to the right side of the green, 15-20 feet short of the back-right pin. Two putts for a par.
  7. My drive was a little right, as you might have guessed, leaving me towards the end of the waste bunker on the right, blocked by trees. My attempt at a hero shot with a wedge failed, but I hit a nice punch with an 8-iron from the pine straw that just ran off the back of the green. I’m not upset with the result because I have 0 feel right now, but it was technically well hit. A chip and two putts landed me with a double.
  8. My drive was decent and left of the bunker in the center of the fairway. My approach shot, a 7-iron, was well struck, but ended up in the bunker to the left of the green because I was on a side-hill lie I thought would push the ball right, and it stayed straight. It took me three shots to get out of the bunker, although my third shot was decent after I fixed my ball position, which was overly forward. Two putts for a seven, a triple, ugh.
  9. My drive was straight as an arrow. My 2nd shot on the par 5 was a well struck 3-wood. I saw it hit something and kick toward the middle of the fairway short of the green, but I couldn’t locate it. For the sake of pace of play, I dropped a ball, which I chipped into the bunker. I got out in one shot this time (barely) and walked away with a 7.

That all sums to a 49, which is not awful considering I had an 8 and two 7’s. I didn’t even notice the pattern of the right-sided miss until I wrote this out, so this writing process proved helpful. My wedges need work (aim and feel), as do my woods (consistency off turf) and my driver (aim and speed/ball-flight), but I hit a few really nice shots (those 7-irons 😍) and very few god-awful shots. I think more routine and focusing on hitting quality shots, every shot, mixed with some practice on the range could easily get me scoring in the low 40’s.



It’s been a long time since I checked in here. A big chunk of that delay is because I got Coronavirus (ugh 2020). The good news is that I think the 10+ days of isolation in Connecticut might have helped my golf game.

A few weeks before I got Covid, I took a great lesson from my pro in Virginia. He pointed out to me that the moment of the body turning will unhinge the hands naturally at impact, so I don’t need to do anything with my hands or arms after getting them to the backswing. A drill for this involves swinging the golf club horizontally, like a baskeball bat, to practice letting the momentum of the turn unhinge the hands. This change not only boosted my swing speed a ton (because you can generate more rotational velocity closer to the center), it also gave me a lot more control in my hands, since they’re doing less to actually deliver the ball at impact.

Just before I got the virus, I was struggling to translate that insight into my irons and wedges and to shorten my swing overall. Watching Sung-Jae Im’s incredibly slow backswing at the Masters, I realized that slowing down might be the answer.

I haven’t yet hit a full iron or driver with this method, but I have been able to dramatically shorten my backswing in practice (and put the club in a better position) and hit some very nice wedges off of a mat I purchased on Amazon ($50 for three surfaces. So far not bad).

Today I went out to the yard to work on pitching distance control. Using the extra control in the clubface, I was able to deliberately set the clubface in my slow backswing hinge, allowing me to reliably hit 50-yard pitches within a yard or two. It feels a lot like the method that worked for me when I was at my playing best, just after high school.

I also tried some chips using the “Phil Mickelson” setup (from a Youtube video where he gives his three keys to chipping). Lefty suggests keeping your weight forward, keeping your hands/shaft forward, and keeping your ball position either forward (for high shots) or back (for low shows), but never middle. Obviously I have no cause to doubt the short game legend, and the tips seems to work as I chipped around indoors with some foam balls and a mat.

Staying on the Masters theme, I took some inspiration from (Masters champion!) Dustin Johnson, who bought a putting mat to practice while he was isolating for Coronavirus. I just putted into a Masters putting cup I already had, on carpet, but I feel like I’ve improved my stroke, and I switched back to my high school putter which seems to be more reliable.

To try to maintain my speed, I’ve also been doing a few dozen fast swings with the orange whip every day.

Maybe it’s false confidence, but I think I’m in a good position to come out of this isolation 3-4 strokes better per round than when I started.

I’ll keep you posted after I put everything to the test on real grass.

Keep golfing.

The World’s Weirdest Par

Yesterday I played eighteen holes with my sister. My swing was OK, but my scrambling was great, including the world’s weirdest par.

We started on 10. I hit a nice drive out of the gate, finding the fairway on the right. I hit a mediocre second shot, then hit a 7-iron all of 40 yards. Luckily, I hit an oustanding pitching wedge just short of the front pin. I two-putted for bogey.

11 was a mess. I hit my drive into the right trees, hit a mediocre punch, then a decent recovery around a tree, but I still had 70 yards or so. Then I made a mess and finished with a 7.

I hit a decent drive on 12, landing in the left rough, then hit a 7-iron that bounced short of the green and somehow rolled up the hill onto the front. I drained a long uphill putt for birdie. Nice. (I started flattening the putterhead (making it more upright), which has led to straighter, firmer putts).

On 13, the long par 3, I hit a soft popup driver. It was pin-high, but 40 yards right and down the hill. I hit a decent pitch up the hill, but it was a little too firm and rolled into the fringe, 15 feet or so from the back pin. A putt from off the green and a tap-in led to a four.

On 14, I hit a beautiful drive that split the fairway and I thought would go far, but it only went about 202. Then I hit a five-iron way short (a little heavy). I hit a decent 56-degree wedge, but it wasn’t quite hard enoug and was just short of the green. I putted up towards the center pin, but came up well short, two-putting for double.

On 15 I hit a nice 7-iron, but well right. I had a great lie, but hit the chip thin and ended up in the left rough, going down-hill towards the flag. Impossible. Trying not to hit it too hard, I left the ball well short of the flag, leaving a long two-putt. Double.

On 16, my drive went well left. I hit it well, but over-drew it. Trying for the hero shot over the trees, I hit a wedge into a fairway bunker. Then I hit an oustanding fairway bunker shot, but couldn’t convert the par putt. 5.

On 17, I hit another drive that felt great and went nowhere. My 2nd shot, an 8-iron, also came up a little short, although close enough to putt to the front pin. One putt from off the green and two putts left me with a 5.

On 18, I finally found some power, hitting it 218, but a little right and blocked by trees. I hit a nice punch-out 108 yards, but flew my wedge from there a little too far, and int rolled off the green. Two chips (yeah) and two putts later, I walked off with a seven. No good.

Luckily, there were nine more holes to play.

On 1 I smoked a drive 225. I hit a mediocre 3-wood short and right, blocked by trees, but punched a 5-iron through the trees to just short of the greenside bunker. I got up and down for par.

On 2, my drive was long (236), but left. I hit a decent approach shot, but ended up just short of the left bunker. I hit a nice pitch shot to 10-ish feet, but couldn’t convert the par putt. Bogey.

On 3, I hit a hybrid so good that I thought it might be in. It was maybe 10 feet long of the flag (it landed about 5 feet long). I made the putt for another birdie.

On 4, I killed a driver. It plugged on the fairway, but still managed to travel 236. I hit a mediocre 8-iron that left me 60 yards short, then a 9-iron punch that ended up in the right bunker, then two bunker shots, winding up with a 7.

On 5, My drive trailed way right, leaving me no clear approach. I hit a nice punch 6-iron to get to the base of the hill, then hit a great wedge to give myself a putt for par. The putt was decent, but didn’t fall, and I walked away with five.

On 6, I hit hybrid again. I hit the green, but three-jacked for bogey.

7 was an adventure. I hit my drive way right. From the trees, I attempted driver-off-the-deck to go up the 9th fairway, but the ball only travelled about 40 yards. I tried one more time, this time hitting it a nice distance, leaving a wedge over the trees to the green. I hit a beautiful gap wedge that clipped the trees but still left me 20 feet for par. I rolled it in for one of the weirdest pars ever (3 drivers!)

8 should have been better. I hit my drive into the right trees. On a rock wall, all I could manage was to knock the ball 40 yards down the hill with a 7-iron. I then hit a crazy driver off the deck that ended up pin-high on the long eigth, sitting on the back tees of the 9th hole. Somehow, lying three I had a clear 30-yard pitch at the flag, but I hit it long, had a medicore pitch back, and walked away with a disappointing 7.

Finally, the 9th hole. I hit a good drive although I started it too left, so it wound up in the left rough. I hit a good driver off the deck (yeah I hit a lot of them) to 50 yards or so on the right. My pitch up was short, so I had to putt from the fringe again. This one was better than past efforts, leaving a makeable putt. I hit a good putt, but it lipped out (I still don’t know how), leaving me with double.

All of that added up to a 94. It’s certainly nowhere close to the best I’ve played on this course (that would be an 82), but I scrambled a lot better today than I have been. I made some decent pars and bogeys out of some god-awful shots today. Once the shots themselves improve, I’ll be in good shape.

Driving: Decent. A few that were shorter than I’d like, and a few that went wild or weren’t well-aimed.

Long approach: The driver-off-the-deck worked pretty well, although I really need to get a 3-wood I like. My 5-iron was not successful today.

Medium approach: Needs work. My irons were no bueno, for the most part.

Short approach: Spurts of greatness. Several decent, good, or even great wedge shots.

Short game: My pitching and chipping was bad. My sand game, with the exception of the long bunker shot on 16, was not good at all. My putting was much better than it’s been, although I could have made 1-2 more short ones.

Mental: My scrambling has improved, but I still need to work on not compounding mistakes. There were several 7s today that should easily have been 5s or 6s, even with a mistake or two.

Overall, I’m optimistic, and that’s a joyous thing.

A Quick 9

On Friday, I hit around 200 balls on the range, and worked on putting until the sun set. With the swing changes I made the prior week and the data showing I was weakest from 150-200 yards, I practiced some things I rarely practice, including my 5-iron, 3 wood, and hybrid. I also hit a lot of mid-irons and wedges, doing the five-ball drill I learned a few weeks ago to analyze and adjust contact.

Today I played a quick nine holes in the afternoon, and the practice seemed to have helped.

The first hole of the day wasn’t so pretty. My drive went about 195. It wasn’t too long, but it was in the fairway, and not bad for having not warmed up. I attemped a 3-wood, but topped it, leaving 160 or so. I did hit one from the same spot for some extra practice afterward, fixing my ball position, and hit it nicely. Next, I hit a 5 iron runner, which wound up around 30 yards short. Then, I hit a wedge that was just slightly too short and right to clear the greenside bunker, and crawled in. A bunker shot and two putts later I walked away with seven.

The second hole went better. My drive was right on line and about 225. I laid up short of the hazard with an 8-iron, then hit a mediocre 56-degree wedge that ended up well short and in the rough. I hit a good wedge to 18 feet or so and two-putted for bogey.

The third hole, the group in front of me waved me through. I rushed the tee shot and came up short of the hazard, on the left, in thick rough. I hit a decent recovery shot and played quickly to get out of their hair, but walked away with a “four”.

On the fourth hole, I hit my driver fairly well, but it crawled left and rolled into the hazard. I dropped and hit a low runner with my hybrid to the back of the green. I hit a great chip to two feet, walking off with a five.

On the fifth hole, I hit a drive that was as straight and perfect as I can hit it, leaving a short wedge. My wedge was a good distance, but I left it a little to the right and it came to rest pin high, but a foot into the rough. I hit the downhill chip a little two hard, leading to a two-putt 5 that should have been a 4.

On the difficult sixth hole, I left my drive in the right fringe, well righter than I intended it to be (especially since there’s a hazard right and it was cart-path only, with the cart path on the left). I hit a decent 5-iron, but protecting against the hazard on the right, I left it left of the cart path, in the rough on a hill. I hit a nice little pitch runner to about 20 feet and two-putted for five.

On the seventh hole, I hit another great drive that split the fairway, 217 yards (I get no roll). Guarding against my tendancy to leave approach shots left, I aimed a little more right than I usually do, and left a hybrid in the collection area to the right of the green. I pitched up to a few feet and made the putt for par.

On the eighth, I hit another excellent drive that split the fairway. Waived through by another group, I rushed and hit my 3-wood only about 115 yards. Wanting to get out of the gentleman’s hair, I approached my ball quickly (about 80 yards) to hit an iron as close as I could. The end result was an excellent shot that ended up about 8 feet from the hole. I two-putted for five.

I’ve struggled with my hybrid off the tee, so on the par-3 9th, I made an adjustment. I teed it up a little higher. The result was a nice, high ball flight. I was a little long and left of the back pin, but happy with the swing. My delicate chip, way down-hill to a narrow portion of the green, was short, so I had to chip again from just off the green. I hit it to a few feet, and walked off with a four.

All in all, I was satisfied with my 45. I hit almost every fairway and made really great contact with my driver. Even my one pentalty stroke of the day was on a decent swing. My approach shots from 150-200 still need a lot of work, but they’re much better than they’ve been. My wedge game still needs a bit of work (my feel in particular), but I hit a few great shots, and didn’t have any of the skulled chips I had to deal with earlier in the summer. I’m also loving these summer-fall-hybrid temperatures, versus the scorching summer we’ve had (and the cold to come). I’ll have to take advantage.

Fall Approaches

Yesterday I felt 59-degree chill for the first time since last year. Leaves are starting to fall, Autumn definitely approaches, and my golf game is still nowhere near where I want it to be.

But over the last two weeks there has been progress. I switched to a baseball grip after an unsuccessful (read: painful) attempt at switching to an interlocking grip. Last week, I walked into a lesson and told the coach “I want to be a great ballstriker”. We went out to the grass part of the range, and I proceeded to hit probably 60-70% of my balls at least reasonably well. I hit balls especially well when I brushed the grass on my practice swing, then tried to swing like my practice swing when actually hitting the ball.

Between shots, my instructor encouraged me to acknowledge my good shots and note what I could do better on my bad shots (e.g. “a little more turf”). He also showed me a good drill in which you line up 5 balls each a few inches apart, so that you can precisely compare divots from shot to shot.

The only technical change of the lesson was to slow down my backswing and accelerate more on my downswing (to a full finish).

I realized that a lot of what weighed down my iron game was mental, but even with that I struggled to get that good ballstriking to appear on the course. My lesson was on Tuesday and I played 19 holes Wednesday, 18 Friday, 18 Saturday, and 9 on Monday (labor day).

On Saturday I figured something out mid-round: When I swung out to the right and up high (rather than trying to swing to a finish), I hit really nice pitches. After hitting a few good shots with this, I tried translating it to full swings and found it worked pretty well. I hit some good shots, and even went birdie-par on 16 and 17.

Today, I translated that thought all the way up to the driver and hit the ball much better than I have been. I hit 4 of 7 fairways, including a smoked drive on 4 that travelled 255.

The good shots:

  • I hit a great punch from the trees on 1
  • I hit a decent drive and a good pitch on 2
  • I hit a nice chip on 3 (though I misjudged the speed, and I was out of position after a terrible tee shot).
  • I hit a great drive and a good full gap wedge approach on 4 (somehow I was long, despite really nice height).
  • After a bad tee shot, I hit a nice recovery 6-iron on 5 and a good wedge
  • I hit a good hybrid off the tee on 6 (it was a little too much club), and a good chip (although I should have used my 60 rather than 56).
  • I hit a great drive and a good low runner approach shot on 7.
  • I hit a great drive on 8 (the rest of the hole was messy).
  • I hit a decent drive on 9, a great 3-wood that was somehow really short, a good chip, and a good putt for an up-and-down to close out the day.

I shot 50, but if I didn’t make a mess of 3 and 8 it could have easily been 46 or better. Not all of my shots were great, and I didn’t make any putts until the last hole, but it was much improved from my disaster of a round on Friday.

I have another lesson scheduled for Thursday. Here’s to continued improvement and some fun fall golf.


After yesterday’s promising short-game session, I returned to the practice area today to see if my takeaway from yesterday (slow backswing, stop, and turn while holding the backswing) would translate to the full swing. I’m happy to report that it did.

I warmed up with some chips and pitches, achieving results similar to yesterday. After that, I went to the range, hitting wedges, short irons, and driver on video, and for the flightscope mevo. I recorded 89 shots on Mevo and hit another dozen or so on video.

Below was the Mevo data for the 9-iron of the day.

Below was the data for the driver of the day (Part of the secret of this particular shot was slightly lighter grip pressure.

Not every swing was great. I hit a few low/thin, and with the 8-iron (the longest iron I hit) I struggled to hit good shots, making a lot of heavy contact.

One more negative is that my left shoulder and elbow are sore, although some of that is definitely attributable to a tough workout I did after the session.

Still, it was nice to hit good full shots for the first time in a few weeks, and the solution that got me to this seems repeatable/ingrainable, plus the low speed of the takeaway makes it seem more amenable to customization down the line if I need to adjust trajectory for a certain shot.

I was particularly surprised by how well the super-slow backswing and pause worked on the driver, with the (theoretically) minimized conscious downswing with the arms. I carried a number of nice, straight drives over 215, and a few over 220, and I did so very efficiently. The contact felt good.

Next step: Let’s ingrain this swing, carry it over to longer irons and woods, and regain some shortgame feel, continuing to focus on raising the floor.

Raising The Floor

I was listening to “Get a Grip” today, Max Homa and Shane Bacon’s podcast, and Homa had an excellent phrase for my top golf goal: Raising the floor. The ceiling of my golf game, at the moment, is pretty decent. On a good day (month?) I drive it nicely, hit smooth irons, and have lots of par and birdie tries in a round. But when things go wrong for my game, they go really wrong.

Take the last three weeks or so. After playing great golf in Florida, I returned to DC and could not hit the ball. I took big divots and hit a variety of thin, fat, and topped wedges. Even my chips and pitches were attrocious. My drives went in all directions, and about 30 yards shorter than I was hitting them a week earlier. I’d like to one day be a scratch golfer, but my over-riding golf ambition is to just be less bad when I’m playing my worst. I want my floor to still make for an enjoyable round.

The process of fixing my swing has been rough. First, I tried a couple of range sessions on my own, experimenting and taking swing videos. This wasn’t fruitful. Next, I took a lesson with a local teacher. He had me working on a variety of things. He had me step on a grip with my left foot to focus on keeping it planted, put a yardage stick in the back of my grip to work on takeaway, and gave me a variety of drills. He also made a suggestion about my grip. I’m sure that the advice he was giving me was valid, but the number of changes was a bit overwhelming. I tried for two or three range sessions to turn his suggestions into reasonably decent irons and I just couldn’t get it to work.

Finally, I booked another lesson, this time with a teacher back home in Connecticut that I’ve worked with a lot, and whose lessons I find usually click with me pretty well (I was in Connecticut for the 4th of July).

This pro had me widen my stance for stability (which the other pro did suggest, though this pro made it a focus), and had me focus on making a full turn in the backswing (to elbow under the chin), but at 3/4 speed, and making sure that at impact, the hands were ahead of the ball (e.g. maintaining lag). He also put a ball about a foot in front of the one I was hitting as a visual aid for the path of the club, and explained to me the action I should look for from my arms after impact (the forearms rotating to the left, not the hands flipping).

This lesson made sense to me and I hit some better shots after it, though I wasn’t sure how much of my improved contact was attributable to hitting off of mats (versus the grass I’d been tearing up down in DC). After the lesson, I practiced for another half hour or so, leaving just in time to beat a summer thunderstorm.

The next day, the 4th of July, I played 18 holes at Rolling Hills Country Club in Wilton, Connecticut. My game was incredibly mediocre, though I did manage to hit a few decent shots (including one great drive) and par the par-5 10th (one of the easier holes on the course, but a par nonetheless).

On Sunday the 5th, I played the back nine at Rolling Hills and had similar struggles. My dad smartly suggested that, rather than play the front, we just practice on the first few holes. Hot, sore, and frustrated, I took him up on the offer. I played a variety of shots on holes 1-3, hitting some nice 60-degree wedges, a great 7-iron, and a good 6-iron. All the while, my dad video-d and shared his thoughts on the swing.

I’m usually not the most receptive person to feedback on the course, but with video evidence and no actual score to worry about, I listened, and he had some good ideas. He suggested trying a pause in my backswing (Matsuyama-style) to work on getting in the right position for the downwing, and to prevent the volatility of my backswing from knocking me off balance (The pro in DC also diagnosed this issue). I immediately hit some good irons. It worked on chips as well, and I called it a day after pitching in from 30 yards or so on the par-3 3rd.

Yesterday I drove back to DC, and today, after work, I drove to the course, eager to see if the strategy would work reliably on the range. This mission didn’t go quite as planned. First, my Flighscope Mevo was dead (I’d forgotten to charge it), so any feedback on my swing would have to be visual. Second, there were thunderstorms fast approaching.

Still, the session was fruitful. I grabbed five balls and my 60-degree wedge and practiced, taking a few videos along the way, for 30 minutes on the short-game area before the lightning alarm went off. Iterating on what I learned on Sunday, I took the club back to a fixed point, held the club where it was, and just turned my hips to make contact (no conscious downswing). This strategy worked very well, and allowed me to be very precise about the top of my swing and the loft/position of the clubface at the start of the downswing. I made good contact and had excellent touch from 20-40 yards. It’s definitely the best I’ve hit the ball since last month’s trip to Florida.

It’s still early, but I’m hopeful that this swing thought will be what it takes to get my irons back in good shape and raise my floor. Keep swinging.

Pro Golf P.S. Bryson Dechambeau is a beast, and I don’t know what to think.

Hole in 3

On Tuesday I had a disappointing range session. I didn’t hit the ball well at all. Yesterday, I flew to Florida for some appointments. Today, at Old Palm Golf Club, I had a hole in three.

What’s a hole in 3, you might ask? Well, on the par 3 2nd hole, I hit my tee shot, a hybrid, right and it plummeted into the water. Confident in the club, I reteed, choked up a little, and proceeded to hit the ball 155 yards in the air, nice and high, right into the hole. For par. I’ve never had a hole in one, but honestly, a hole in 3 might make for a better story.

My stereotypical hole-in-one photo:

The rest of the round was fun, but unremarkable.

On the 1st hole, a par 4, I hit a great drawing drive 243 yards and a nice wedge toward the back flag that just skidded off the back of the green. I then proceeded to skull a short chip from just off the green, leaving me in the rough farther than I’d started and I walked away with 6.

On the 3rd hole, I hit a great drive, a decent short iron, and holed a lengthy putt for birdie (not a bad followup to the sorta-ace).

On the challenging par-5 4th, I hit a decent drive that popped up a little to the right, but still found the fairway. I hit two mediocre fairway woods and a couple of mediocre bunker shots (one was a fairway bunker) for double.

On the 5th hole, my drive ended up in the left rough, on a big downslope. I hit my pitching wedge approach too far right and ended up in the water. I hit a nice 40-yard flop over the bunker that guards the green, but only managed a two-putt for double.

On the 6th hole, I again had trouble with a hybrid on the 1st shot of a par three and finished with another double.

On 7, I hit a really nice, high draw that somehow managed to get no roll whatsoever, then left my 2nd shot right. My third shot left me pitching up over a bunker to a narrow green that sloped away from me to a steep dropoff. I hit a decent shot, but hit to a number that was too long, and rolled off the green. Double again.

On 8, I hit a great driver 223 yards to the left side of the fairway. I hit a nice 9-iron approach just left of the front pin, about 4-5 yards off the green. I almost got up and down, but walked away with 5.

On the par-5 9th, my drive trailed a little right, but carried the hazard and found grass. I hit a nice 3-wood layup to about 75 yards. My 56-degree wedge trailed right of where I was aiming, but still found the green. My birdie putt, from 30-40 feet, came up 3 feet short, but thankfully left an uphill putt. I drained the 3-footer for a closing par.

Several doubles, a hole in three, a birdie, and a par summed to 46 from the blue tees, not great, but not terrible. I definitely felt like I hit the ball better than I scored. All in all though, it was a fun nine.

I hit 4 of 7 fairways with an average driving distance of 209 (+- 23 yards). My drives were reasonably consistent, especially given that I didn’t warm up, and almost all of my irons were good or great. My putting was excellent. My 3-wood and hybrid need a little consistency work, as do my short chips off of closely mown lies (realistically I should have putted the chip on one). I do need to work on getting a more penetrating ballflight (and more distance) out of my driver, so that I can continue to take advantage of my short irons and wedges on longer courses.

First 18 Since Covid

After weeks of practice, I finally played a full 18-hole round today for the first time in months.

Before the round, I warmed up with some 10-30yard pitches with my 60-degree wedge, and some putts.

When I teed off, I was a little rusty. My first drive was dead left. My next was alive, but short and left. With 220+ to a narrow green, I opted to lay up with a nice 9-iron. I then hit an 8-iron to the right rough just short of the front flag (if I’d been a yard left I would have been on the green). My 60-degree wedge lipped out, but finished within tap-in range.

On the par-5 second I hit a nice drive over the right bunker. Underestimating the distance left to the green, I opted to lay up with a 7-iron, which I hit rather short, leaving a long way home. My 3-wood approach trailed a tad right and ended up in the greenside bunker. I hit an OK bunker shot, but three-putted to the back pin for a double-bogey.

On the par-3 third, I tried to hit a high fade with my 3-wood but ended up hitting a low fade that started lefter than I wanted, hit a tree, and came up short of the hazard with a horrible lie (on dirt, with a giant tuft of rough in front of it). I tried to hack out of the lie with a 60-degree wedge, but the ball shot 45-degrees from my target line, hit the bridge over the hazard, and plummeted to its death. I dropped, pitched, and 1-or-2 putted quickly, trying to wipe the memory of the hole from my brain. I failed at that.

On the 4th hole, I smoked a drive, but started it too left and it failed to carry the massive hazard on the left side of the hole. My re-tee hit the right trees (overcorrecting) and bounced into the right rough, with 220 to the flag. I smoked a 3-wood to the back fringe of the green, hit a crappy chip, and two-putted.

On 5, I smoked a drive over the center trap, but hit the 80-yard approach (56 degree wedge) a tad heavy, coming up short of the green. Luckily, I’ve had a lot of practice with 20-30 yard pitches lately, so I hit the next one to a foot or two and rolled in the par.

On the challenging 6th, with the tees up, I hit my drive way left (overcorrecting again for trouble on the right). I knocked a hybrid up the left side of the hole, hit a 35-yard wedge to about 10 feet, and two-putted.

On the 7th hole, my drive went left again. This is the hole where I noticed the pattern. Luckily, I found it, but it was in tall native grasses, so I pitched out to safety with a pitching wedge. I then hit a pitching wedge to just short of the green, putted to within about a foot of the front pin, and knocked in the kick-in.

On 8, after noticing my left miss, I made sure to miss right. I hit a nice 3-wood approach, but it was just left and ended up in the greenside bunker. My bunker shot was mediocre, leaving my ball about two feet off the green. I skulled the little chip, leaving a 25-foot two-putt.

On the par-3 9th, first I tried to get cute with a hybrid, teeing it up to not hit it too far. I hit it into the short hazard. Reteeing with the same club, swinging normally, I hit it to about 12 feet from the back flag. I rushed in a two-putt so that I could run to my car to get an extra sleeve of balls, which at this point in the round I worried I might need.

On the par-5 10th, I hit an excellent drive that split the fairway, but got very little roll. I laid up with a 3-hybrid, then hit an 8-iron to the back flag that just crawled over the green (Arccos says it travelled 152 yards). I got up and down for par.

On 11, I had hazard trouble twice and picked up with a 7, preserving balls and trying not to slow down my group.

On 12, I hit a nice hybrid to right of the green, but hit the 60-degree wedge chip a little thin and ended up having to chip back up from the left side. Two putts left me with a double.

On 13, still trying not to miss left (and with some actual trouble there), I over-aimed right and hit it o.b. My retee was also right, but safe. My 2nd shot was short, and after a medicore few short-game shots I walked away with triple.

On the short par-4 14th, I gave it everything I had to get on the green in one and came up just short. My drive travelled 230 to the left greenside bunker. This shot was a tough one, given my lack of bunker practice, the unraked nature of bunkers in the covid era, and that it was an unusually long bunker shot to a small green that slopes downhill to a water hazard I didn’t even know existed. Anyway, now that I got my excuses out of the way, I hit the bunker shot too low and it went in the water, and I wound up making double on an easy hole.

On 15, I split the fairway with driver again, and hit an excellent 3-wood to just left of the green. I then proceeded to make a short-game mess, involving three chips (one may have been a bunker shot), which were either short or thin. I made 7 after being 30 yards away in 2. I’m not proud.

On the short but tricky 16th, I hit a hybrid for safety, but still ended up in the right fairway bunker. I expected a repeat performance of the last hole. Instead, I hit a great layup wedge from the bunker and hit my 9-iron 124 yards up the hill to two feet (pic of that beauty below). Par.

On the par-3 17th, I hit my 3-hybrid a little too high and wound up wet. My next shot was with a 9-iron, which was hit well, but into the left-most trap. I wound up with 5.

On the par-4 18th, I hit a decent drive into the left rough, but hit a popup 3-wood off the extreme side-hill lie, leaving about 100 yards to the flag. I hit an excellent gap wedge to about five feet, but missed the putt and finished with bogey.

That all summed up to 102 strokes. Not winning anything, to say the least. That said, I felt really good about my game (I know that sounds crazy). A lot of those blowup holes were a result of bad course management, not bad shots. This was particularly true on the back 9, which I’ve only played twice since joining. I also played without hitting a single 5 or 6 iron, and with maybe 1 (bad) 7-iron.

I need to work on chips from the fairway/closely mown grass, short pitches from uphill lies in the rough, and bunker shots, but my irons and full wedges were, for the most part, crisp, and most of my drives and woods were well struck, even if I didn’t always aim them particularly well (I should probably work on that as well). I also need to work on utilizing the power I have in my drives. My drive on 14 proves that I can get more distance when I need it, so I need to work on putting that to use for every drive. I also need to work on preventing compounding mistakes. One mistake, too often, leads to another for me. I think that in my next full round I should be able to improve by at least 10 strokes. Back to the range we go.