Saturday, November 15, 2008

Me and My Shadow

I went to the range today with just one goal in mind: working on getting comfortable with a strong weight shift onto my right side. As I mentioned before, due to my half-swing practice regimen thus far, I’ve been steadily improving my impact position and making good, crisp contact, but when it came to me transitioning to the full-swing, my muscle memory seemed a little weak when it came to loading up my right side.

So that was my goal. At least, that was the initial plan. I only say that because once I actually arrived there, I realized there were a couple more obstacles to deal with today: wind and my own damn shadow.

Now don’t get me wrong—this was a great thing. As long as the wind isn’t blowing directly behind you, taking all spin off of the ball and making you look like King Kong with a pitching wedge, having the wind blowing strong can really help you work on things like balance, tempo, contact, and overall focus. I can’t remember how many times back in the day I’d be caddying for some poor guy and the wind would gust up right as he was about to hit the ball. Having wind in my face that SAILORS would envy today was a good thing.

My shadow: it’s funny, but only in the last year or so has this been a real issue. I don’t know what it is, but I seem to get incredibly distracted when my shadow is cast over the ball and within my field of vision. I’m more apt to watch my own swing than the ball. And it sounds like a ridiculous problem…and you’re right. But at least today I got to exercise some demons and try to work out a solution.

I started with my pitching wedge, doing some quick stretches and taking my routine half-swings to get the session going. I decided not to wear a glove today, as I felt my last practice session yielded some great feedback without one. Well, that, and I’ve always idolized Ben Hogan and perhaps at some point my hands will bleed while hitting balls as well. But I don’t think I’ve reached that deity status yet.

After the first few shots, I grabbed another club and aligned myself at a far-off flagstick, just to make sure that I wasn’t slacking off in the alignment department. And I’m really glad I did, because I immediately noticed a problem: my shoulders were out of alignment. For some strange reason, my shoulders naturally align slightly closed. Now, I’m not sure what Mr. Haney, Mr. Smith, Butch, or the rest of the gurus would say about that. Perhaps new school knowledge would tell us that my natural shoulder alignment is acceptable. But nevertheless, I opened up my shoulders a bit to keep them square, and something strange happened when I moved onto my 6-iron: I didn’t pull-hook the ball even once today. All of my shots today were straight or had a slight fade. Normally, my ball-flight is either straight, slight draw, or pull hook. I blame that on my strong grip. I think I’m going to have to look this up somewhere, because I’m not sure how much of a factor changing the alignment of my shoulders affects ball-flight, but my shots really did look unfamiliar today. Then again, it very well could’ve been the wind. But even with a strong left to right wind, a pull-hook is a pull-hook is a pull-hook. Oh well. At any rate, it felt great to have a very consistent ball flight today.

Surprisingly, the only moment today when I screwed up a shot because of my own shadow was when I was on my last ball of the day and said: “I can’t believe my shadow hasn’t screwed me up today.” Shank. Normally, I would’ve braved the balls of fury from the surrounding amateurs and grabbed another ball from the range to re-tee it and end on a good note, but I just laughed. I think the solution I came up with for dealing with my shadow today was just to stay focused on the ball. And that wasn’t hard to do, especially when I was working on loading my right side and finally making a good weight-shift. I’d say my focus on achieving that goal today overshadowed issues with my shadow. Ha…sorry for the redundancy there.

But I was amazed at how easy it was to make a proper weight shift. I didn’t feel out of alignment or feel like my swing-path was compromised at all. The new issue, however, is my follow-thru. I’ve put so much thought into my backswing and impact position lately that it seems I’ve become un-focused with my follow-thru. I feel like after making a good backswing, staying steady and making solid impact, the rest of the swing should take care of itself. But what I saw today was that if I didn’t focus on releasing my hands and making solid contact all the way around, my poor follow-thru seemed to pro-rate issues from follow-thru to impact, meaning my impact position started becoming weak and I could feel the feedback in my hands as I “toed” or “thinned” a shot I knew I could’ve smoked.

And after reading over that last sentence, I feel like it doesn’t make any sense at all outside of my own head. But basically, I just need to focus on more of a full-release throughout the follow-thru.

But that’s it for now. At least I know what to keep working on next time. Then again, I’m sure the next time I go to the range I’ll be opening up another massive can of worms. A golf swing is, of course, a house of cards.

3 comments:

English Dave said...

Hey Tom

Sorry I took so long to comment ... how rude of me. Mayve you should be more funny? Post some pictures of nudie women? That might galvanise me into action a little quicker.

It's funny - I love playing directly into the wind, or even straight across the wind. I think it's great to try and hit shots that aren't your normal stock, trying to punch 7 irons 100 yards or setting up 30 yards wide of the target and drifting the ball on the breeze back towards the green. That kind of stuff makes it interesting, but I hate playing with the wind behind - I just find I lose control of the ball when it takes off. Maybe I need to learn to punch the ball when I have a tail wind, too.

Shadow over the ball is never good. Yet my swing always looks better in silhouette (can't look much worse, some "friends" would say, and they'd be right) and, like you, I find myself watching the swing rather than the ball. That's never good. Although sometimes it is. No it's not. Who's fricking writing this, Gollum? Schizophrenic Simon, the psychotic street-sweeper?

My shoulders line up OK but my feet naturally line up a bit open. I rationalise it by telling myself that it helps me to clear my big child-bearing hips, but the truth of the matter is that I can't be bothered to check. And I never know which way the ball is going - anything could happen at any given time. But I do find that if I try to close my feet, it really hurts my swing. I blame everyone else but me.

What are the balls of fury that you would normally brave from other players? And do you get so many pro's at your range that you need to differentiate between them and the amateurs? Man, you mix with the élite. I'd like to have balls of fury. Every time there was a sudden noise, I could say "Oh, that's just my hoo-jahs. They're really angry. I blame that Tom Collins - he hit a shank and they've been upset ever since." If I ever start a metal band, I'm calling them "Balls of Fury". That would be great. We would call our first album "The Nads of Wrath".

Swing thought moving forward - I always think "Smack it hard as fuck". Usually works.

Take care, old pal. Look forward to hearing from you again soon.

David

Tom Collins said...

You're brilliant Dave. I think you should start a blog called: "The Nads of Wrath." If it were a novel, it would be a bestseller here in the States. I need to get over in your neck of the woods for a proper Nassau: trash-talking and all. "Smack it hard as fuck." Brilliant.

For some reason that reminds me of a story I heard about a European Tour player who finished his final round and started hitting the free bar HARD after he signed his card. A couple hours later, he finds out that he's in a 9-hole playoff with another chap. He proceeds to shoot a 29 for 9 holes and claims he can't remember half of it. Man...why can't an American player ever pull that off? Like win a major and pass out after holing out on the 72nd hole? That's like Happy Gilmore to the n-th degree.

I wish I could remember the name of this European Tour stud who pulled this off.

English Dave said...

Well, shit, Tom. I've done some research (not very much, admittedly) and I can't find anything about anyone like that. Normally, playoffs on the European Tour are sudden death affairs. Are you sure you didn't just make that up? If I had to guess at anyone doing it, it would probably be John Daly. (my boy!)

You're welcome over here any time, old pal. The dollar's strengthening - better get to stepping!