The Golf Lessons Are Going Great

We’re on the last day of my grandson’s group lessons. His swing has improved tremendously, and he likes putting! When we were driving over for the first lesson, he commented that he didn’t like putting, but that was probably because he wasn’t that good at it. Things like aiming the putter and keeping the putter aligned during the stroke were escaping him.

The pro who is running the session is a good with the kids, and gives them marvelous demonstrations. He used to play on satellite tours. I would watch him demonstrate a particular stroke in an almost off-hand manner and he would hit the ball like I would have to go through a whole bucket to maybe duplicate. He makes it look real easy, which is a good thought to put into a kid’s head.
I had a lesson yesterday, too, partly because I was already out there, so I might as well use the time wisely, and partly because I had two glaring problems that needed fixing.
The first problem was that while I have been hitting the ball well, I don’t know why, and don’t have confidence standing over the ball that this shot is going to come off. The second problem is that out of nowhere, I can hit the Shot That Cannot Be Named when I’m pitching. This is a very scary place to be in.
So fortunately, the cure for #2, which we worked on first, led right into the solution to #1. It’s a good teacher who can solve two problems at once.
It will be off to the range again this afternoon, and both of us will leave happy, and a better golfer.
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How to Break 100, 90, 80

Every golfer’s goal is to pass a benchmark score. Those three are the major ones, and when we do it for the first time, break out the champagne!

What golfers approaching those benchmark scores don’t realize is, they had the game all along to do it. They just weren’t planning for it in the right way.
Here’s the wrong way to plan for it: go out to the course, play 18 holes, and see what score you get. With this plan, eventually you’ll have a good day but that can be a long time coming, with lots of frustration along the way.
If you want to take charge of your scoring, rather than leaving it to chance, prepare yourself by accepting The Realization and making The Plan.
The Realization is that good scores are not made by making great shots. They are made by getting the ball in the hole in the fewest number of strokes. In other words, stop playing to impress your buddies, or even yourself. Play to get the ball in the hole.
The Plan is to separate the eighteen holes into two groups — the ones you can take an extra stroke on, and the ones you can’t.
For example: you want to break 100. That means you can get bogey on nine holes, and double bogey on nine holes. Identify the nine holes that are hardest for you, and play them deliberately for double bogey. Play safe off the tee, safe up the fairway, safe onto the green, and safe into the hole. The other nine holes are bogey holes. Play to get onto the green in one extra stroke, then take your two putts. That’s 99.
Now you don’t have to hit lots of great shots to do that. Passable shots with a handful of good ones will do. You’ll keep the ball in play and avoid the blowup holes that you can’t recover from.
Meet the other benchmark scores the same way. Play every hole for bogey except the easiest one, and you play that for par, and that’s 89. Play the hardest nine holes for bogey and the rest for par, and there’s your 79.
The point is to stop trying to be a hero on every hole. Pick your spots and play within yourself the rest of the time. That’s how professionals play, that’s how you should play.

Raising the Grandchild Right

I tried to raise my two sons right. Honestly, I did everything I could, but to no avail. It was Michael Jordan’s heyday, and they both wanted to play basketball instead of golf. Liking Michael Jordan was cool. Liking David Toms wasn’t. So they played the sport of their cultural hero instead of listening to their Dad. (Sigh …).

They both play golf now, but it’s the game of someone who took it up when they were 30. I think the best golf tip I could give anybody is to take up golf when you’re ten years old. They didn’t, but that’s what grandkids are for.

So I’m taking my grandson, who just turned eleven, to the range tomorrow for his second series of lessons. We’ve been playing an executive course for about three summers now, and two years ago he had his first series of lessons.

He does everything right-handed except play golf. When he was four, we had this set of plastic golf clubs with big heads and a big golf ball and he just couldn’t get it. So one day in a moment of inspiration I turned him around to the port side and there it all was.

He lives a long way out of town, so its about a half-hour drive to get him and another half hour to get back in town to the course, but I don’t mind. He’s only going to be eleven once, and it’s not like I have more important things to do than to put golf into someone’s childhood.

We all want to leave something behind, a world that’s different because we were in it. I’m going to do for him what my father did for me. And my two sons? Well, now we have something we can always talk about, and there’s no better family outing than a day on the course. Maybe I did have some influence after all.

Sign Up to The Recreational Golfer

If you visit this blog every so often, or just stumbled across it, go over to the right and click that RSS feed button. That’s the easy way to keep up with The Recreational Golfer.

That’s how you’ll get new posts delivered to you, and notice of my video tips that are being developed, all of which are meant to get you thinking about how to play better, to show you a few things you can do to play better and enjoy the game more.
Why get the feeds? See for yourself. Go to the Labels section, click on a topic of your choice, and read the posts. You won’t find someone’s daily rant, but rather solid talk about the game you’ve made your hobby, your recreation, your release from the daily grind.
There are other golf blogs that have a lot of fun stuff in them. They’re great playgrounds to go to. I visit several of them regularly.
TRG, though, is the blog for players. Let’s get better together. Click that RSS button to read, comment, and build a community of golfers helping each other advance.

Play a Difficult Golf Course

Today I played a difficult course. I play it every year to see how I’m really doing. My home course is fairly forgiving, but this one isn’t. It’s carved out of the Pacific NW forest and if you’re off the fairway, don’t even bother looking for your ball. It puts a premium on hitting every shot as well as you can.

Now I have all the shots I need to score well on this course. It’s just, like I say, there’s no room for clinkers.

Take the first hole, Hugely wide fairway, doglegs right slightly uphill to a medium-sized green that is fronted by a creek. Any shot that hits short of the green will bounce back into it. So if you catch your first iron of the day a little fat, like I did, into the creek it goes.

I found out today which shots I can’t get away with hitting like I do. When my club selection isn’t good. When my decision-making isn’t up to par. A tough course will expose all these faults, and that’s why you should play one very now and then to find out what you still need to improve on.

When I got home, I wrote down my score by hole, then wrote down what I would have shot if I had played steady golf. Not especially spectacular golf, but if I had hit all the shots I can hit without straining the limits of my ability. I won’t tell you what the result of that analysis was, but I’ll tell you I would have turned in a very good score. I even took away a birdie. If you take away the shots you don’t expect to hit, irons that park themselves next to the pin get tossed out along with snap hooks.

About a month ago, I wrote about being positive about your golf. This is my positive spin for today’s drubbing. I have the game right now to shoot a good score in this course. I know which errors to correct, and which shots I have to firm up by the next time I play up there. I can’t wait.

See also Play a Difficult Golf Course – 2

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Hit the Ball and Go Find It

You know, that’s about all there is to golf. Hit the ball, go find it, and hit it again. Keep doing that until you’ve played 18 holes (or 9).

If we make golf any harder than that, it stops being fun, and we don’t play as well as we should. Most of aren’t that good that we can worry about anything other than hitting the ball straight. So trying to plan your shot down to the gnat’s eyelash, like the touring pros do, just isn’t for us.
Trying to hit a shot that is too fine or too difficult is a waste of your time if right here on the 12th fairway is the first time you’ve ever tried it. Believe me, a pro rarely hits a shot he hasn’t practiced hundreds of time. What looks like improvisation is the shot he practiced last week for a solid hour.
I have a friend who disagrees with me on this point. Once or twice a round he likes to try a ridiculous shot just for the fun of it. Sometimes he pulls it off, most of the time, not. Golf wouldn’t be fun, he says, if he didn’t allow himself that breakout every so often. But after the round is over, he totals up his score and wonders why he isn’t getting any better.
I got a little off track, didn’t I? Back to the main point that if you play golf to relax, play relaxing golf. Don’t put any more pressure on yourself other than to just take a swing at the ball. No expectations. If you can do that for 18 holes, you might be surprised at how much better you play, and it will be more enjoyable.

British Open, New Grip, Big Break Sandals

Well, my favorite tournament just ended. I love the British. All year we see guys play lawn darts, but on links golf, we get to see them roll the ball up to the hole as often as not. It’s a completely different kind of golf, one I love to play.

The way no one made a run at Louis Oosthuizen (WUHST-hay-zen), they might as well have called it good after the third round. But it was good to see him close the deal by hitting one good shot after another. No limping home and barely winning. This was a win, and I was glad to see it.
I changed my grip recently. I read Hogan’s Five Lessons quite a bit, and always find something in it I had previously overlooked or misunderstood. This time it was where the club lies in the right hand.
I was not holding it quite enough in the fingers. When I made the adjustment, and it was a tiny one, my feel for the club changed dramatically, especially when coming through the ball. The next round I had consistently good impact, long shots, and short shots.
Just goes to show you, a little change can make a big difference.
The Golf Channel’s Big Break series has lost its way. The early shows had personalities that came through the TV set. You tuned in to see what they would say or do next. Remember the Pam/Danielle thing on BB III? Remember Donatello from BB II — love him or hate him, you had to watch! BB IV — great competition, on a great golf course, Carnoustie. BB V — the last good one. Lots of players you could get behind, including Kristina Tucker, the Swedish dish whose behind they kept filming, and Julie Wells baiting Ashley Prange at every turn. Nikki DiSanto, who had an epiphany when she made an eight-foot putt and the rest of the golfers are trying so hard not to laugh, like the legionnaire in Life of Brian during the Incontinentia Buttocks scene, as she goes on and on about it. You just can’t make up people like this.
Now, it’s just resort golf, bikinis, and lip gloss. Borrrring. I love BB, but I can’t come up with a reason to watch this edition. And I’m sure all the contestants are nice people, but they have the personalities of a dishrag.
Oh, well, at least there’s Golf Fix. That’s something you can count on.

Sun Protection

I am quite fair-skinned. I stay covered from head to toe on the course. Big hat, long sleeves, long pants. Only my hands are exposed, but they have sunscreen on them, and one hand is generally in my pocket as I walk down the fairway.

I wonder about the rest of you. The sun is hard on you, and even though you’re not getting burned, damage is getting done. Have you taken a close look at Tom Kite recently? The skin on his face and neck is blotchy from the exposure over the years.

Have you ever seen an LPGA Tour Tan? Bronze legs up to the shorts line, then fish-belly white above that. Those legs are going to be leather in twenty years, and there are some older women on the tour who provide an example.

If you must wear a ball cap, cover your face and neck with sunscreen, one that blocks both UVA and UVB rays. Apply before you get into the sun, and once again at the turn. Don’t neglect your legs and arms, either.

Really. Protect yourself.

And don’t think because it’s not a sunny day that you don’t have to worry. If you can see kind of a brightish place in the sky, then the burning rays are penetrating.

Play well, have fun, and look out for yourself.

My new book, The Golfing Self, is now available at www.therecreationalgolfer.com. It will change everything about the way you play.

Players I Like in the British Open

These are some guys I would like to see win it:
Dustin Johnson – redemption.
Alviro Quiros – the Road Hole as a driveable par 4.
Lee Westwood – it’s really his turn.
Paul Casey – I get behind nice guys.
Tim Clark – to show that he really belongs.
Angel Cabrera – he was my fave before his US Open win, still is.
Gregory Havret – it would be a wonderful story.
Colin Montgomerie – it would be an even better story.

Back From Oakmont

When the U.S. Open was played at Oakmont in 2007, Tiger Woods said that a 10-handicapper wouldn’t break 100. He was being too kind. More like 120. Maybe.

This course is so hard I don’t know where to begin. Natalie Gulbis said she played it five times before Women’s Open week and never came close to breaking par. I completely understand why.

The fairways are not that wide, and if you don’t hit into the rough that looks innocent but grabs your club instead of letting it slide through, there are the bunkers. These things are big, and they are surrounded by a high mound on the side toward the hole. Chip out. Between these two, you can use up par just getting to the green.

The course is quite hilly. A level lie is rare. There are blind shots into greens. There are shots downhill into greens that slope away from you. Fairway slopes feed the ball toward the bunkers. I saw one golfer hit 7-iron off the tee of a 558-yard hole to avoid the bunkers.

Then there are the greens. The ones on which Sam Snead said he marked his ball and the coin slid off. Fast, slopy, have you ever seen someone go tink! on a 20-foot putt and have it go five feet by the hole?

If I were allowed to play here, I would take a double bogey and not be disturbed, a bogey and be very happy, a par and faint.

But let me tell you as well, this course is beautiful, and it manicured in every sense of the word. I have putted on greens shaggier than the fairway grass.

And it’s big. You can see almost the whole thing from the clubhouse. It looks like no other golf course you’ve ever seen. Pictures do not do it justice.

The men play there again in 2016. Make your travel plans.