There has been an interesting phenomenon developing as I’ve been practicing after my first lesson with a PGA pro. I’ll go out one day and hit the ball very well, think I’m really starting to get this new swing, but then the next day I set out for some ball striking and the shots just don’t flow. They get ugly in fact.
Yesterday I went out for a nice long practice session. The weather was clear, calm and in the fifties. I found a baseball diamond that was completely overgrown with very low lying, scrubby ground cover. The vines actually grew lower than the grass in the surrounding area and I knew if I hit short shots from the corner behind home plate out past second base, the balls would stick up like easter eggs and be easy to locate.
It was my best practice day yet. I hit 57 total shots from wedge through seven-iron, and only 12 of them were bad, which means 45 were awesome shots! Percentage wise this comes to 78% very good ball strikes. That is a percentage that sent me home elated and feeling like things are finally starting to gel after two solid weeks of very concerted effort but little to show for it.
All evening at home I kept thinking about going out to practice the next day and maybe I could get a string of good days started. Well, meanwhile, cold arctic air along with 40 mile per hour wind gusts moved into our area.
I headed out today to the same field but instead chose to hit from under a tree, thinking the wind would be slightly less cold there. Temperatures were in the low forties but with the sustained winds and occasional more potent gusts, it felt like the low thirties.
Well, it didn’t go so well today. I struggled with hitting it thin and fat, my usual two nemeses. I am still hitting off a tee and about half way through my 10 nine-iron hits, I grew tired of the damn tee and just started hitting off the grass. For a reason I can only guess at, this made a huge difference and I started to hit good ones again. It was a relief and felt more like real golf. I checked my divots and they looked right.
One explanation for the sudden improvement could be that when I retrieve my poorly hit balls, the routine is to chip them back to my hitting area. I take aim at different things – a leaf here, a patch of discolored grass there. I chip over big sticks or other random obstacles and these chips of varying lengths have been going very well. I’m getting a lot of good practice punching the ball out of six-inch high, thick grass! Maybe my golf alter ego was craving more grass. Who knows?
So, at that point I alternated between half swing shots and long chips. (By half swing, I mean that I do the one piece takeaway, cock my wrists enough so the club handle points to the target line in back of my ball and the club face angles steeply up toward the sky – and I put more than 50% of my weight on the inside of my right foot before I transition to the downswing.)
No one was around because the wind was pretty powerful and made things feel cold, so I started having a lot of fun prancing around this big field, playing shots like I was on a course. I got to my eight-iron even and hit a few successful shots with that club. I never got the seven-iron out today.
The silver lining from today is that I’m getting very confident with my short iron chipping and I have graduated from that damn tee. It was messing with my head. Maybe something inside just knew it was unnatural hitting a nine-iron from a tee! But it served it’s purpose. I’m on to the next step. And I should also mention that even my poorly hit shots are on target. That has been the biggest area of improvement so far – that everything I hit is dead on. I can just walk out toward target and pick up ball after ball with just a side step or two. Sometimes I’ll find a pile of four or five balls all within 18 inches of one another. Always a satisfying discovery!
My instructor, Pete Black, has been out of town so I have not been able to schedule my second lesson. I had the lofty goal of being super consistent with my wedge through seven iron by the time I take the next lesson.
Well, I guess that consistency depends on which day it is.