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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Master Plan

Adam Scott has finally given me a very workable strategy for dealing with my dratted grip problem.  (For my non-golfing readers, Adam Scott is a terrifically good Australian golfer who won the Masters this spring, lost the British Open to Ernie Els, another terrifically good golfer, and is on track to win the US Open this week.  He doesn't get as much press as Tiger, but he doesn't do outrageous things either. He just plays very good golf.  And he's not hard to look at, either.)

Adam Scott works at his golf game with a long-range plan.  Rather than focusing on the apparent technical problem (my grip, for example) or immediate contest and going all-out to fix the problem or win the tournament, Scott looks to the overall quality of his game.  His approach is grounded in an underlying assumption that, in the end, a high quality game will result in tournament wins.  Specific tournaments simply don't require a specific game plan, that's adjusted from one event to the next.

Hummmm.  Interesting approach.  Would it work for me and my dratted grip problem?  I gave Scott's approach a test run yesterday during my regular round with the Star Fort Ladies Golf Association and realized that this is approach to my grip problem requires a tremendous amount of mental discipline and a not-so-subtle shift in thinking.

I had gotten no further than the first tee box when I realized that the way I grip my golf club is only one element of my golf game, but it certainly isn't the only one.  Even if I narrowed down to how I swing my club,  as I was doing while I set up my first tee shot, my grip still isn't the only component.  I needed to mentally integrate the elements into a master plan for my game.

I want long, straight tee shots.  Sigh.  All golfers want long, straight tee shots, unless they're good enough to think about cuts and fades.  I'm not that good.  I just want them to end up about 200 yards from the tee box in the center of the short grass.  That's an outcome.  That's putting the focus on getting better at tee shots, not on developing a better game.

Huh?  It's like this: I can have the most technically perfect grip in the world, but that's not all it takes to advance the ball and keep it in the short grass.  Balance, shift in body weight, control of my head during the swing, follow through -- more I need in my equation.  Other matters to be resolved:  How high to tee the ball? Where to put the ball in my stance?  Off my forward foot?  About midway between my forward foot and the middle of my stance?  How to position my feet?  Then, of course, there's the part about not over-thinking my swing, not getting so focused on the technique that I forget to take a good whack at the little white ball, a phenomenon Greg used to describe as playing swing when you should be playing golf.

I was ruminating about all these concerns and had taken my 2nd practice swing when Barb said, "So, do you intend to hit your ball any time soon?"

Oh, the agony of indecision.  The pain of over-complicating.  This probably isn't a mental exercise I should have been practicing while trying to play a round of golf with other people.  I was still focused on making a better tee shot, on a single outcome.  Urged on by Barb (well, actually, badgered and bullied) I stopped ruminating about this and that detail of my tee shot, got myself comfortable, addressed the ball, and let go.  And when I looked up I was thrilled to see my ball flying in a gorgeous arc, straight down the middle of the fairway.  I decided that being comfortable on the tee box might be more important than whether or not I can see 2 knuckles, have my ball teed to the correct height, and have my feet positioned exactly at 45 degrees so I won't add more damage to my already worn, torn, and repaired menisci.  I tested my theory on the 2nd hole and it worked again, and again on the 3rd hole.  I was hitting fairways again, and the ball was flying, now bumping along in the wet grass.  I experienced Golf Joy!

This business of formulating a master plan for a better golf game may actually work.  Of course there are pitfalls and, within my game, there are those moments of unexpected opportunity and unanticipated disaster.  But I learned yesterday that the foundation of my master plan is a feeling of comfort, not an adjustment of technique.  To be sure, I will have to make adjustments in technique, but what I need to focus on is that extraordinarily sweet, synchronous feeling that comes when I have all the pieces in place.

Just in case you're struggling with your grip, this is a useful video link: how to properly grip a golf club