Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Stupid Range-Finder

Saturday, November 22, 2008

As I arrived at the range, I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to work on. So far, my main focus has been on my impact position, alignment and grip. Now, that’s not to say those things aren’t important, but at this point, I need to move onto the next step.

And I think my next set of practice sessions will be devoted to one thing: distances for my half-wedge swings. Three to four years ago, I took Pelz’s Short Game Bible to heart, and bought a laser range-finder (this was prior to my days of caddying, where I spent 3 years HATING these devices because of how OBSOLETE they were) to focus on distances for my pitching, sand and lob wedges with ¼, ½, and ¾ wedge swings. Pelz’s theory was that I would then have 9 yardages inside of 100 yards that I could draw from while on the course. Now, it’s a nice thought, but one thing I found out all too quickly was how difficult it was to stay focused when you’re making these baby wedge swings for an hour on the range. So I shortened his suggestion and simply recorded distances for half (9 o’clock) swings with my three wedges. I would make sure that I had made at least 10-15 “solid” shots with each wedge, and then used that infernal range-finder contraption to obtain the average distances. I remember that for the next couple of months after I began practicing these shots, I won a crap-load of money off of my playing partners because my ability to get up and down from inside of 100 yards increased dramatically.

So I decided that today, after warming up with my 6-iron with a few punch shots, half and full swings, I would focus on recording yardages for my pitching, sand and lob wedges.

At least, that was the plan.

Unfortunately, that isn’t what happened. First, I left my range-finder at home (probably an old habit from my caddying days, where a range-finder is to a caddie what garlic is to a vampire), and there weren’t really any yardages at the range, so practicing with my wedges didn’t really materialize. There was, however, one challenge I wasn’t really expecting: the ground below my feet.

As I walked over to the range, the wind was blowing hard enough to create white-caps on the water and turn it black. With the location of the range, I knew I’d have to deal with hard right to left gusts today. To be honest, that was just fine with me, as my strong grip has led me to believe that such a wind direction could very well be my Achilles heel. Good. I get to work on a weakness today.

But when I arrived at my station, I immediately noticed a new challenge. The teeing ground was moved up to the front of the range, and the front of this range…is…crowned earth. Now, I’ve been a caddie, worked on the outside staff and been responsible for setting up the range, etc (as an aside, driving that range cart to pick up golf balls is not as fun as advertised. You often have to go over the same patch of balls multiple times before you’re able to pick them up, and you KNOW every golfer and their mother are gunning for you.). So I’ve been responsible for setting up a driving range before. I’m not saying it’s hard, but WHY would you set up the teeing ground right on the FREAKIN CROWN. I know not all driving ranges can be perfectly flat the whole way around, but why would you MAKE golfers hit from uneven lies. That sort of punishment should be self-induced.

I hate to be that picky, but I was a little frustrated because I wanted to keep working on fundamentals and getting back the swing I remember…I wasn’t in the mood to hit 70 awkward shots with a strong crosswind. Then again, I’m sure there are plenty of professional golfers out there who would LOVE to practice under those conditions so they can be prepared for all situations. Well fine…I guess that means I’m HAPPY about it. GREAT.

The first few swings were UGLY. Chunk, back-tweak, chunk, chunky-monkey. It wasn’t until I started remembering some of my basic golf instruction material that it started to work out for me. First, obviously, I made sure to angle my shoulders with the slope. Then I took a few short swings without a weight shift, keeping my lower body still. It was only after I started making consistent contact that I started to make full swings again. But even after I started becoming comfortable with the ball position, stance and alignment (because of course I had to aim right of my target due to both the wind and the lie), I couldn’t seem to stop falling forward after each swing. The downhill/side-hill lie made it impossible to end with a balanced finish position. So every swing looked and felt awkward. I suppose the plus here is that after 20-30 balls, I became fairly proficient with it, putting a good move on the ball and letting the wind carry it to my target. I’m sure my back will feel great on Sunday.

I didn’t finish the day without some putting practice though. The strong winds and firm greens proved to be both annoying and highly enjoyable. Enjoyable because I didn’t have to take the putter-head back very far for a hell of a lot of roll, which is great because I’ve been working on a good impact position with my putter as much if not more than my full swing. The annoying part came in because the ball oscillated each and every time I was about to putt, and due to the firm greens, there were some ridiculously subtle breaks that blew my mind. But after 30-40 minutes, I discovered that what I loved most about practicing my putting was not about getting it in the hole. It was about hitting the ball on the line you wanted and being able to repeat the same swing and resulting distance 3-4 times in a row without a mistake. I mean, if you think about it, the same goes for the full swing: if you know that you usually draw or pull your long irons, wouldn’t you make sure you aligned yourself right of your intended target from those distances? If caddying for players has taught me anything, it’s that golf is all about managing your mishits.

Anyway, I’m rambling, but the important thing I learned is not to fight things like the wind or the lie, contorting your swing or putting all of your force into an awkward shot, but to try and use the circumstances you’re given to produce the easiest shot for your own abilities.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

I made sure to bring my range-finder on Sunday, dead-set on getting at least 2 yardages down for my PW and SW. I had some wind behind me, however, so I know these yardages are a little off. I started my warm-up with the 6-iron again, punching balls with little half-swings and getting a good feel for my impact position again. Once I felt I had a pretty good grasp of my swing, I grabbed my pitching wedge and tried to mimic the guidelines set by Dave Pelz in his Short Game Bible: neutral grip, use the big muscles to take the club back, and check your ball position for consistency prior to the shot.

Chunk. Super chunk.

Guess I’m not really ready to dive into this…So I just took normal half-swings, hoping my strong grip would still suffice, and I started making solid contact again. After 15 balls, I got a good sense of an average distance, and zeroed in using my laser: 115. Now, I’m taking that as an average. My balls ranged from 108 to 125, all with what I thought were half-swings. Now remember, I had a fairly constant wind at my back, and so my 115 average is probably about 10 yards too far. But at least I was consistent throughout and didn’t deviate too much from my intended target line. Although, that’s pretty hard to screw up with a pitching wedge in your hand. I could understand a 3 or 4 iron spraying quite a bit, but a pitching wedge? Alright, 115. I can work with that.

Then I moved onto my sand wedge. For whatever reason, I play with a 54-degree wedge. I know back in the day I had a good reason for this. Maybe it was because I feel better about playing a 54-degree from the fairway than a 56-degree. Or something like that. It’s all psychological.

So again, after getting comfortable with the first few shots, and then moving onto my 10-15 balls for an average, I was landing the ball anywhere from 86 to 100 yards. Obviously, I need to keep coming back and practicing, because even if I take an average, and factor in the fact that the wind was at my back, that’s still a large spectrum of possible yardages. So for now, let’s say I was averaging 90 yards. Again, this is probably off due to the wind, but for right now, I can remember that yardage for the course and see how it works out for me.

Now, I still have to laser-in my lob wedge, because right now, I don’t have any of those fun distances from 50-75 yards “dialed in” yet. I just hope the next time I’m at the range I won’t run into so much wind. But with my luck, it’ll probably be right in my face and I’ll be hitting my lob wedge 5-10 yards with a full swing and a Tiger-esque-stinger-flair. Who knows, if I get under it, it might even fly over my head and end up 10 yards behind me. Although, if that happens, I’ll probably have to patent the shot or something because that’s a shot Phil might want to steal and pull out when he’s in one of his “going for broke” moods on any given Sunday.


Anonymous said...

Goddamnit, I wrote a really long comment and just went off to find a link to Phil Mickelson hitting a lob shot back over his head and my fucking Internet crashed and I lost it all. it was really fucking funny, too. Well, I laughed ... screw you!

Anyway, the general gist of it was all one long build up to me calling you a gay retard, so consider that to have been done, at least. I'm really pissed off. Stupid internet - they shouldn't put in all online until it works properly.

Anyway, you're a gay retard and such. Isn't it about time you stopped pissing around on the range and actually went out and, you know, played some golf? See how you're getting on in a real world type situation? Don't give me all that crap about it being winter - I know you're down there in some tropical paradise, playing in a pair of Bermuda shorts with topless waitresses in grass skirts bringing you exotic cocktails, then bending over and showing you their growlers.

And lastly ... putting practice? You pansy.


Tom Collins said...

Dave, I was just thinking the same thing. I've sort of run out of things to do at the range at this point, and I'm finally feeling good about my swing again. Last weekend was Thanksgiving weekend, so I had to spend time with my family instead of golf. Stupid traditions. But this coming weekend I'm looking forward to putting my game to the test know, shooting that 94 I've been dreaming about and losing 10 balls along the way.

And I'll take your word for it: I'm sure you were incredibly witty and made a crapload of sense right up until the Internet stepped in and ruined it for you. Oh well. Guess I'll just have to wait until next time.

And yes, putting practice is great. It'll help me win all those skins off of you when I finally get over in your neck of the woods. But for right now I need to keep allowing these topless cocktail waitresses to bring me drinks.

Kiwi said...

You Range rat. Your always there man.

I have the attention span of a goldfish so going to the range lasts for about 20 balls, then I'm bored out of my skull.
Apart from the short game area. I hit little wedges, chips, flops all day with just me and my iPod. Putting... well blahhhhh i'd rather slam a 7 iron into my skull.

If I'm trying to tune my game I just get my ugly ass out on the course as much as possible

Anonymous said...

Ah, long anticipated 94's. Aren't they great? I fricking hate losing balls - that's just about the only thing about the game that really pisses me off. I'm always ridiculously happy if/when I complete a round with the same ball with which I started.

I wasn't really very witty - neither did I make, in all honesty, hardly any sense at all. I was really nerdy and squealed with glee like a schoolgirl when I discovered that you use a 54 degree wedge (the same as me! Ooh, how wonderful!) rather than 56. That's like what I do!

But I did wax lyrical about my reminiscences of the magical times down the range when the little dweeb in the ball-gathering cart came out and, naturally, everyone took dead aim at him. I'm smiling, hell I'm pissing myself just thinking about it. The time when one Dad was instructing his son in the etiquette of the game and telling him not to aim at the cart when you had three grown men in the booths next to them smacking balls at it as hard as they could and leaping up and down and cheering when they made square contact? Oh, happiest of happy days. God, life was easier then. I still maintain aiming at range ball-cart guy is the most fun that any guy can have fully-clothed and, to be honest, I'd take it over some unclothed activities, too. It certainly lasts longer.

You'll never beat me if you ever come over. New rule: English hosts (named Dave) automatically play off 18. At least. And get lots of free practice shots. That's the way to play, son.

Keep on keeping on. Order a nice cup of tea from busty topless waitress no. 3 for me!

Take care, old pal.