I booked my trip to St. Louis;
(5/15) Forest Park Golf Course
(5/16) Railwood Golf Club
And I waited...
Like most everyone during these crazy times I have been looking for any signs of the self isolations being lifted, but at the same time trying to figure out when is the right time to head to the links. I respect everyone’s effort to not jump the gun too soon so we all can protect ourselves from the virus. There have been glimpses of improvement; The Governor’s talk of different phases to reach a more normal life, local boutique shops are opening for curbside service, and even golf courses are starting to open. It does appear I can go to St. Louis, as scheduled, however I decided to control my own destiny this time and change plans, and in doing that I changed the rules on myself.
I decided to stay socially distant until June 1st, and if everything keeps moving on its current trajectory I feel like the rush of people heading out of their houses will have eased a bit, making travel, golf, and socializing even better by June. I plan to start playing golf at my home course and then widening the course radius keeping my eye on the health reports. With all that said, and thank you for hanging in there, I have pushed my St. Louis trip to the end of June. Hopefully by then people all over the country will be much more confident that travel and social interaction is safe again.
In the meantime
With nothing much to do these days I have taken full advantage of the down time and have been putting in a lot of time into my wedge work. I can take full swings in the Golf Dojo, and when I say dojo I mean my garage.
I set up a chipping range in my backyard and I have been hitting wiffle balls around the “course”. With chairs as my holes, this “course” is sandlot all the way and I love it. I just wish my neighbors were a little bit more in the game and would start throwing back the balls I fire over the fences. I have a mat at one end of our yard and I have three “holes” at 10, 15, and 20 yards apart. At 10 and 15 yards I have chairs in place, and at 20 yards out is our outdoor dining area with a tin vase in the middle of the table. You start by teeing off from the mat and “simply” hit the first chair and then you can move the next chair. When you hit the second chair you can move onto trying to hitting the table. At any time you can go for the “kill” and try for a hole in one by hitting the ball into the tin vase at the center of the table to win the game.
I have come to realize a few things while playing this little chipping game. I can block out many distractions and hazards like the narrow fairway created by the neighbor’s fences. This type of consideration can only help out on the course especially when your shot is over a small pond, there are bunkers protecting the hole, and a few trees nearby.
Block it out, think about backyard pitching, and only see the target you want to land your ball on. The last time I played a “round” I was able to work a progression from closest to furthest by hitting only 12 balls. While sitting and reflecting on my accomplishment I suddenly realized, unless my Son has the same “course” at his home, what are the odds of that...I believe, and I know it will be brief, I have now regained competitive dominance over my Son. I need to get that progression ball count down to 6 before he comes over for a visit!
The boring game plan
When I’m practicing on the backyard “course” I try to practice like it’s a real round. I want to go through all the phases of my golf swing: club selection, pre-shot routine, execute the swing. I even play with only one ball so after each swing I have to walk to get the ball and walk back to the mat and go through this process again and again. While doing this I began to wonder how long it takes to take a shot, and how much time this one shot accumulates over an average round of golf.
I began to time my pre-shot routine from the moment I selected my club; I pull my club from the bag, find my line, take a practice swing or two, and swing. After about 7 shots it looks like it takes on average 35 seconds for me to take a shot. Over a 90 shot round that comes out to be 3,150 seconds, divide by 60, and if my math is correct I end up with a total of 52 minutes and 50 seconds of actual swing focus and effort. I then began to wonder what will I do with all that other time in between swings?
That got me thinking about the rest of my game. Just the other day I read the difference between a low handicapper and a high handicapper is the folks who shoot low all have this in common; they rarely go for that spectacular shot.
They keep it simple and play the percentages. Rarely do they go pin hunting, and when in trouble they look for the safest way to the green. Scoring is not my main goal when playing golf, having a stress free round is my goal, and I have been coming up a little short on that goal. I thought, what if I take some of these low handicapper’s approaches and play more boring golf. By that I mean stop trying to thread the needle on shots out of the woods, reduce the urge from 120 out to try and “drop” the ball between two green side bunkers, have it roll just over the short side fringe, and have the ball nuzzle 18 inches form the cup.
I was told that all you need to do to shoot a 79 is card 11 pars and 7 bogeys. I card about 6 pars 7 bogeys and the rest are doubles and a blow up hole or two per round. What if, I bogey or even double bogey the blow up holes, fight harder to bogey a few of those doubles, and do it all with way less “pressure”shots to try and save the hole.
What if I when I tee off my second shot is in the fairway, and from the fairway I’m looking to get the ball in center of the green and never pin hunt. When I’m in the woods I consider what the lie is giving me and play to that versus trying to force the ball to the green. Imagine at the end of the round you are not mentally exhausted, but refreshed, and maybe your score drops a stroke or two.
You have to have goals in life and this year it is to be more boring. Not more boring all the time, but more boring on the golf course, but not all the time on the golf course. I’ll be more boring only when it’s my time to swing, and based on my previous calculations I will be boring for only 52 minutes and 50 seconds.
Over a 4 hour round this leaves a lot of time to enjoy the walk and feel the game.