Sunday, October 19, 2008

Alignment Work

Although I’ve enjoyed my recent laid-back excursions to the range, today I decided to try something a little different. Whereas before I would turn on my iPod, hit shuffle, and crank up the tunes while I went through my normal routine of practicing my impact position via punch-shots, today I decided to turn it up a notch and remove the music.

And what I found was a little annoying. It was annoying because I found, like so many other golfers, just how boring it can be to plug away at a bucket of balls. But what I also discovered was something valuable: combining visualization with execution. So often, you hear professional golfers talking about visualizing a shot before they hit it. Well, although it takes a lot of focus and patience, I tried my damndest to visualize the shot I wanted to hit, and then saw if I was able to execute it. So far, I think I was only able to execute about 50% of the shots I wanted to, but I think my range time was much more productive today because of it.

I also did something else: I placed two clubs on the ground. One to line up my feet, and one as a visual-aid on the other side of the ball. While they were lined up squarely at my intended target, and while I could feel my posture and alignment follow suit, my ball flight did not. I was still striking the ball squarely, but the ball was flying a good 15-20 yards left of my intended target. Damn my strong left-hand grip. Damn it! But I LOVED the rotation. Felt good.

So obviously, I started working on straightening out my draw / quasi-pull. After about 20 balls, I started hitting my shots dead straight, but I came across another problem: poor contact. I was focusing so much on the angle of my clubface at impact that I forgot to make solid contact.

But that’s golf, right? If it isn’t one thing, it’s another.

Fortunately, after another 20-30 balls, I was able to put the two together and removed the clubs to see if my posture and alignment still felt solid after my lines were taken away. Well, so far so good. In particular, I’m glad I’m currently working on strengthening my lower back. It’s the first thing to get sore on the range or on the putting green, and I have no doubt where it came from: 3 years of running with bags on my shoulders. I just wish the gym in my apartment complex wasn’t so cheap with the fitness equipment. I’ll probably have to join a gym soon.

I was also thankful the wind was in my face today. I’ve found over the years that although trying to determine accurate yardages for your clubs is impossible when the wind is gusting up your nostrils, any deviation in your swing is revealed instantly, as it exaggerates the spin you impart on the ball and turns a fade into a slice and a draw into a championship hook. I was happy to see that my shots held fairly straight, even if there was an occasional tendency to bear left.

By the end of my session, something else struck me as odd: I don’t have a comfortable full backswing. What I mean is, I’ve become so accustomed to taking half to three-quarter backswings that a full backswing seems to knock me slightly off balance. And, seeing how my yardages are just the same or a little further using a three-quarter backswing, I think I’ll stick with that for a while and see what happens. I figure the fewer moving parts you have, the more repeatable your swing, right?


Anonymous said...

Morning Tom

Sorry for taking a little while to comment on this - plenty has been going on and I had no motivation until yesterday, when I had the most rare of rare birds ... a productive practice session!

I had sneaked away from work early on Wednesday and got a quick round in, during which I proceeded to hit the ball sideways all the way round, which dismayed me greatly, especially with a pairs tournament coming up on Saturday, so I hit the range Thursday evening with a definite plan about what I wanted to work on (long irons and driving accuracy), working particularly on alignment and giving myself space to get my arms extended and hit the ball, as I am quite tall with longer then average arms and I have a tendency to crowd the ball far too much which leads to me hitting blocks and cuts (OK, wild slices, you caught me!)

So I hit a few warm up balls with my wedge and 7-iron to get everything moving properly before moving on to the real business at hand; concentrated on those two points about lining up square and giving myself space and, lo and behold, I hit the ball really quite well! I was so pleased. So I'm looking forward to playing tomorrow now instead of dreading it.

So, yes, visualisation/execution and working to a plan on the range is the way to go. To my mind, there is no point just hitting balls for the sake of it. And if you hit almost roughly the same distance with a 3/4 backswing as you do with a full swing with which you're not comfortable, then for God's sake man, keep swinging 3/4! It doesn't seem to hurt JB Holmes that much. And I bet it will improve your quality of ball striking over trying to swing too far back.

Keep it cool and take care, old pal. All the best,


Kiwi said...

My god I've gone back in time. A post by Tom and and a longer reply from English Dave!!!!

Sweet, life is good again

Tom Collins said...

Good to see you again Kiwi. Been awhile. Hope all is well.