It is widely known that a vast number of golfers battle a fade that often turns in to a slice and occasionally becomes a pull hook. The worst is high right. Second worst is low left. Often the root of the problem is the same. Their set up at address is open to the target. For a right handed golfer this is aiming left and for a left handed golfer this is aiming right. Alignment and the relationship of the entire body to the target is at the core of any chance of hitting a ball on line. There is a saying in golf that to a novice seems very contradicting. "If you want to hit the ball left, aim right. And if you want to hit the ball right, aim left." Alignment affects the curve of the ball. Because the golf swing is so dynamic and we are forced to stand to the side of our target line, the chances are high that the ball is going to curve.
To align the body requires that we understand the relationship between our upper body and lower body. Adjusting such a large portion of our body (the shoulders) requires that our lower body (mainly the hips) make some adjustment as well. In order to square up the shoulders requires that the hips move with the adjustment. By realigning the shoulders, in effect moving the right shoulder back away from the ball and ensuring that it is down relative to the left shoulder, has the affect of slightly tilting the spine away from the target. In turn, the right hip is also slightly lower which forces pressure into the left side. The face on view reveals a sort of reverse "K" as the right side of the golfer is indented while the left is solid and straight.
Wednesday, April 25, 2012
Can a practice session at the driving range resemble a round of golf? It did yesterday. This post is not about creating a practice session by hitting different shots into the range with various clubs. Or envisioning your favorite course and difficult holes at your home club. This is about emotions and adrenalin. I was at the driving range yesterday hitting balls. I had gone there with a few simple points that I felt were good swing thoughts for me. So a practice session was in order.
I picked my spot to hit balls and began like I do every practice session. I began with my 60 deg lob wedge and slowly worked up to the mid irons. Once I was into my groove I was hitting the ball well. Hard. That is my M.O. It always has been. Ball after ball rocketed at the flag. It was an even day, wedge, 8 iron then 6 iron. The smash factor was way up. I was so in my zone I could feel the compression of the rock hard yellow range balls. My head felt like there was a pin directly through my forehead into a wall behind me as my arms and body ripped through impact.
Then it happened. A voice from behind called out from the middle of the range and said, “Hey Chris.” I turned toward the voice and was greeted by a member of the club who asked with obvious sarcasm, “Are you hitting it good?” I said it was feeling good but I played it off. And he followed with, “It sounds like you are smashing every shot.” His emphasis was on “every”. At that moment standing on the range I realized that everyone was listening to the brief conversation. And because of my position on the far right side of the range, they had probably been watching me hit balls, and at the very least listening to the pattern of my shots. My mind bolted to a vivid memory of when I was 10 years old.
As a youth I excelled at golf. I was a strong kid and able to rip 7 irons over 150 yards with a small fade. I would stand on the practice range while a group of members gathered to watch. I enjoyed it. When I was 10 I had no fear. I didn’t really know what failure was. The group watching would talk about my future. My potential. I would play out thoughts of being on tour in my head. I would then give them the big show as I pulled out my ladies Titleitte driver and begin smashing it over 200 yards with the same fade. The small crowd would disperse and I would continue to live the dream in my head hitting every shot perfect.
Fast forward 33 years. When I turned back to the large bucket of balls I pulled one forward to resume my practice session. Except now my mind was racing with 50 unrelated thoughts. I tried to focus on the three simple ideas that I came to the range with. But I was frazzled. Throughout my golf career I have had moments of greatness. Stringing together three or four birdies. Ripping my driver down the center of the fairway for the first 14 holes. Putting myself in contention to win or place in the top 10. The details to those situations are irrelevant. The fact is they are all small pieces to a bigger puzzle. I have never finished the puzzle. My emotions and adrenalin have not allowed me to continue the overall pace and focus that would make me succeed at golf.
The feeling that I had before hitting that first ball was exactly the experience I have on the course when beginning to play well. I realized it. I even tried to breath and clear my head. I was simply hitting range balls. It should have been easy. But I could not get over the fact that 15 people were probably watching me from behind. There was an expectation (albeit mine) to create the rocketing pattern that I so easily put together just 5 minutes before. I was afraid. I had fear of failure. In that moment I was putting extra pressure on myself to hit a great golf shot.
For the next 20 minutes I struggled. I hit a few good shots but not one was as good as any of the previous string of shots. What has happened to me in 33 years? I want to hit it like I am 10 years old. I want to be comfortable with success. Not afraid that I might fail. I finally pulled out my driver and put six maddening swings on the ball. One left. Two right. And the final three were ripped down the center. I felt better.