Last Week’s Round

Last week I posted my thoughts on a rather disappointing round. I played that badly because I had drifted away from the things that I know work. So I have spent the week going back to my principles and being very strict about them.

This is my report.

For the umpteenth time, the two most important swing principles for any golfer, in my opinion, are rhythm and tempo, and the hands leading the clubhead through impact.

Rhythm I have down pretty well. The hands leading I have down pretty well. It’s tempo that will always be a problem, and poor tempo was the source of my bad shots last week.

I have said this in several ways. Swing only so fast that you hit the ball on the center of the clubface consistently. Don’t swing so fast that you outswing your technique.

A few months ago I posted a reference to an instructional article by Daniel Berger about slowing down your swing to find the center of the clubface. It would pay you to read that post before you go on.

The big problem with tempo is that we get to swinging too fast. This is a mental problem, not a physical one. We have to find a way to keep our mind from asking more from our body than it can deliver.

I hit two outstanding shots that round, only two, so I thought about them and asked myself how I had done that. Let me describe them to you and see if you can figure out what they had in common.

The first one was with a 6-iron from 152 yards. The tee shot had finished on a bare patch of dirt, an old divot, but not a deep one. Getting the club on the ball presented no problem, but the bare lie meant I had to contact the ball just right or I would end up with an 80-yard dribbler.

I didn’t care how far away the green was now, all I wanted was clean contact and I would take what distance that gave me. In fact, I expected to come up twenty yards short.

I slowed down my swing, but not to the point of being delicately careful. I got great contact, and beautiful ball flight, the best I can do. The ball ended up on the green twelve feet from the pin. Missed the birdie putt, though (darn).

The second shot was from a fairway bunker. I’m pretty good at these shots. You have to keep the lower body quiet and swing so you just nip the ball off the surface of the sand. To do that, you have to slow down your swing somewhat.

All I wanted was to get the ball out and maybe 100 yards down the fairway. Again, I made perfect contact and the ball sailed out perfectly, about 100 yards down the fairway.

What did those two shots have in common? I interpret them this way. In neither case was I trying to hit the ball 6,000 yards. I was not trying to hit an heroic shot or a perfect shot. All I wanted to do was get the ball in the air and have it go straight for a reasonable distance. That’s a pretty low bar, but believe me, that’s all you need to achieve to play good golf.

By dialing back my expectations, I dialed back my swing and as a result advanced my shot-making. That sentence needs to make sense to you, because every brilliant shot you have ever hit had that frame of mind attached to it.

You don’t have to hit brilliant shots to shoot a good score. All you need to hit are decent shots. Your task is to find a way to internalize that truth, trust it, and use it, the shots you get will be truly brilliant.

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