Two Steps Forward

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As you know if you’ve been reading this summer, I have been struggling with the inconsistency in my golf game.  Specifically, the inconsistency with my driver.  I wrote about how I feel I’m taking one step forward and two steps back.  

Turning the Corner

One thing I have learned over the years, and had reinforced in spades this summer, is that if I can play from the fairway, I am a much better golfer than if I’m playing from the rough or out of the trees.  This is a self-evident statement, I know.  Yet, more than any other aspect of the game, I am a better golfer when I am driving it (at least relatively) straight.

Part of that comes from the fact that if I am hitting the driver straight, it adds a high level of confidence when I stand on any tee box.  And playing with confidence, as all of you know, is a big part of the game.

Driving Range Trial and Error

I’ve hit thousands, literally, of range balls this summer, trying to figure out something that would work for me and would stick as a swing thought.  Something I could take from the range to the course and have it still work.

The last five rounds of golf have included four that were in the 80s, and three of those were 80-81-82.  And in each case, I was driving it pretty well.  Really well, if I’m being objective.

After about six dozen different swing thoughts that didn’t work, I found one that did.  Thanks to one of my favorite golfers:  Miguel Angel Jimenez.

I had noticed Jimenez has a very flat swing, but it had never occurred to me to emulate it.  In fact, much of what I had read advised to not emulate it.  “Take the club back long and down the target line, then drop it to the inside on the downswing…”

Well, that wasn’t working.  I could take it back long and down the line, but my mind would say, in that split second of transition, that I needed to retrace the path, which meant coming over the top.  And that was causing the slice I’d been fighting all summer.

Miguel’s Swing

I had noticed when I was experimenting on the practice range that if I thought of a baseball swing, with a really flat backswing, I usually would hit it straight, although an occasional duck hook would be in there, too.  Then I was watching a tour event and they showed a couple of MAJ’s swings, and I realized how flat he swung.

If you notice in the video, his backswing plane shaft almost is halfway between his shoulder and elbow, much flatter than the typical top of the shoulder you see from a PGA tour player.  He has immense turn and is past parallel, probably due to his unique stretching regimen (which we won’t dissect here!).

And, to be perfectly fair, he certainly doesn’t drop it inside on the downswing.  It’s neutral at best.

So, I thought to myself, copy that swing.  Bring it back flat, bring it back to the inside, forget about a long, down the line backswing.  Think like the baseball and softball player I used to be until I was in my 40’s.

And that has worked.  I set up, look to “second base,” or about two o’clock on a clock face as I am standing on the tee, and think of hitting the ball there.  Then I backswing to the inside, and everything else just happens.  And I’ve started pounding it.  Sometimes it’s a pull, but it’s a straight pull.  Sometimes there is a slight fade at the end, but rarely over the past month have I sliced a driver.

And, not coincidentally, my scores are starting to reflect that.  Yesterday we played Monroe Country Club, a Donald Ross design, and although my putting was customarily average, I shot 81 including parring the last five holes in a row, all of which were par-4’s and par-5’s.

Because I was playing from the fairway.

A Hidden Benefit

I’m not just hitting from the fairway, although that’s been a lot of fun recently.  I’m also hitting from about twenty yards closer to the hole than I have been, because straight shots go further than sliced shots go.

Bottom Line:  There isn’t a “right” way to swing.  As Arnie said, “Swing your swing.”  Bobby Jones, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus are three of the greatest ever, and all had fundamentally different swings.  Add Miguel Angel Jimenez to that list.  And Bryson DeChambeau.  And countless others.

Find what works for you, regardless of how it “looks” or if it’s textbook correct.

Thanks for reading, and enjoy Shooting Your Age!

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