Golf Brain Pollution

Carlsbad Crossings is a reality check on golf driving capability.  If you can’t drive a golf ball consistently, you’ll lose 6 golf balls like I did yesterday.

How can you miss this fairway? I did…

My companion and I really enjoyed golf yesterday, but we both tend to feel like there’s just one little thing we need to know that will fix our game.  That “perfect” swing thought that will make us consistent.  I recently read Rocking the Fairways by Richard Fish.  Some wonderful ideas about flushing away all the turmoil by on-course tips and the dangers of “swing thoughts”.

That book is very compelling and talks about the consequences of positional/mechanical golf and the consciously directed golf swing.  There’s an idea in there about “Mr. Sensitive” and the “computer” and the “programmer” that’s not very clear, but the idea is to keep golf execution to your subconscious and keep shot selection, course management, and green reading to the conscious.

Until now, I’d hear one reasonable sounding “tip” from a knowledgeable source that makes sense and resonates with some “problem” I’ve been experiencing, and I’m on the range, or worse yet on the course, trying to consciously change my swing.

I went on the range, and hit a great drive, followed by a big slice, followed by a good drive, followed by a slight fade, followed by a duck hook.  What I believe happens is you “try” one little change, and the next swing happens to go well, and you think “aha” that’s it.  Sort of like the Dr. Skinner random pellet dropping pigeon experiment.

I’ve read many golf books, and many of them focus almost exclusively on body positions called “fundamentals”.  Several books come at golf from another perspective with a general consensus that conscious thought (or steering) during the swing leads to disaster.  That said, why do 90% of the “tips” and “articles” talk about keeping your hips still in the sand, or bow the wrist on the downswing, or flatten the wrist at the top, or shift your weight like this?  Those are NOT things I find I can consciously do during a 1 second physical endeavor.  Sure, if you’re a new golfer and you’re swing is a mess, get a professional PGA teacher and get the basics.  For me having played for decades, those little “tips” have the opposite effect of the intention of the articles.

I read a great article yesterday about “slicing” and parallax.  Really a well thought out idea that resonates with my engineering background.  Because it’s about alignment and target, that should not be a problem.  Get aligned, get a better grip, get myself a club that gives me more confidence, but worrying about my elbow, wrist, or the angle of my club face at the top of my swing has typically been a problem, not a cure.

Here’s what I think the issue is for me.  The golf swing is about 1 second long, 0.75 seconds back and 0.25 seconds through.  It’s very difficult for me to consciously get some useful physical/muscular/positional change successfully integrated at exactly the right point during that 1 second action.  Obviously, if you’re a pro golfer, and there’s a kink in your swing, and you can spend 8 hours a day for weeks with high tech monitors and expensive coach and make a swing change, fine.  Perhaps the struggle for Pro’s is similar to us hacks.  They likely need to integrate a change AND make it be subconscious.  For me having played for decades, it’s probably not possible.  I think I need to work with what I’ve got.  I can par or birdie any hole, I just tend to lose focus and create a golden-gate-bridge scorecard.  (a long low flat good scoring section with two tall tower blowup holes somewhere in there)

When I simply didn’t know how to hit a particular shot, like green-side bunkers, I got a lesson.  When I wasn’t sure how to hit a good bump & run shot from the fringe, I found a great old book by Phil Rodgers that was very useful.  There’s no way I was going to be able to practice and execute bump and run shots with every iron in my bag, but use the PW for flat or downhill pitches, and an 8 iron for longer or uphill bump and run shots.  I don’t think I have a major swing flaw, like bending my left arm or the dreaded “inverse C”.  I think my swing is reasonable, and reasonably consistent, so what do I need?  How about a goal, a plan, and a due date as a framework for accountability as outlined here by Todd Elliott.

As far as “tip of the day“, I’m going to try to get rid of all that brain pollution!  Interesting reading, sure, but it’s not going to help me.  If anything, it will make things worse.  I want to stop over thinking, stop inhibiting my swing, and stop trying to “steer” the ball.  All that happens is my swing gets MORE erratic.  When I rely on “feel” and imagine a free-flowing powerful swing AND don’t stop watching the ball, good things happen.  As a couple of pros told me recently on linkedin, “it’s all about feel”.  Now I need to keep that going for 79 shots in a row by June 12th.  Let’s see how it goes!

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