Saturday, 15 December 2012

Such A Simple Game (When You Do It Right)

It's been a while. Apologies for the lack of posts but I've been suffering a bout of seasonal coughs and colds which have refused to shift and left me too ill to play or practise much. We reached Defcom 1 on the man flu scale at one point. My overall mood hasn't been helped by another dose of the shanks.

I'd hit the practise ground at Royal Ascot last Saturday and had a great ball striking session working hard on everything my coach Rhys ap Iolo had given me in our last lesson. The ball position had moved forward as it wasn't at the bottom of the swing arc and we'd worked on feeling the right shoulder coming up, as though I wanted to top it, which had got the club on a much better plane. All fine and dandy. I was forced to pull out of the competition on the Sunday as my flu left me feeling decidedly under par and so I hit the range on Monday night determined to make up for lost time.

What happened left me in a very dark and lonely place. I had the range to myself as it was bitterly cold. Just as well really as what followed was a XXX session. The dastardly socket rockets were back with avengence. I left confused and very annoyed. The weather in deepest Berkshire then took an Arctic turn and there was no way I was going to stand there in sub-zero temperatures not knowing why I was hitting badly and ingraining faults.

Help was at hand though as I had a lesson with Rhys last night. The warm up wasn't an exercise in confidence boosting. The rights were back again and the quality of the strike was rubbish. It took Rhys a matter of moments to see the problem. I was moving ahead of the ball on the down swing and the club simply couldn't get back to the ball. So easy when someone qualified can watch you but virtually impossible to diagnose standing alone on a freezing range. I have always been a advocate of having regular lessons and if you are struggling on the course, I urge you to seek out your local PGA qualified pro and get him to look at your swing. He can cure what ails you in moments.

Having diagnosed the fault we needed a cure. The answer as always was so simple. We tweaked the set up. I have an age old problem (yet another) with the left shoulder being raised at address. This compromises the ability to turn. I spoke before of a discus thrower analogy and necessity to have a flatter shoulder line to turn onto the ball or hurl the discus.

A flatter shoulder set up = a better ability to turn properly
It felt very strange and almost as though I was lopsided with the left shoulder feeling much lower than the right. However a simple glance in the mirror on the wall confirmed that this wasn't the case. As is often the case in golf, feel and reality aren't necessarily the same thing. I need to do a lot of work in the mirror to get this into the memory bank.

The next thing to do was straighten the line of the spine. Setting up at address. Rhys pointed out how the high shoulder, akin to the weight having shifted to the left, made it inevitable I'd be in front of the ball at impact with the soul destroying outcome. Using the mirror, he got me to address the ball again, lower the left shoulder, close my eyes and feel where the weight was. It still felt towards the left side. I balanced it out and he showed how there was a defined straight line from my head position, down my spine, and with me settled nicely on the ball.

It is simply then a matter of geometry and a question of turning around the spine. I'd put the hard yards in over the last few months in terms of the takeaway and so I wasn't even thinking about swing mechanics. Just set up correctly and turn. Again, I had spoken about the club exiting correctly to the left. It was the biggest change I need to make. It had always gone out down or even right of the target line after impact which was caused by a throng of errors and in itself was a big issue.

It is amazing what a domino effect the correct set up can have. Get it right and holy grails like the correct exit left falls into place without manipulation or thought. The quality of the strike has moved onto a higher level and ball flight is much more neutral. The ball is telling me the club is much squarer and there are simply fewer moving parts.

Get it right at the beginning and life is so much easier. Stand there and turn around the spine
I need to go away, consolidate and work on the changes. I seem to have developed a habit of coming out of these lessons swinging well, having several practise sessions that reinforce and boost confidence and then a chink will appear. I know I have so many old faults that perhaps it is inevitable that some of these are still lurking. We are making it a simpler process and stripping the layers away. I have to play tribute to Rhys who is simply the best teacher I've had (and there have been a few over the years!) and if you are within travelling distance of Bracknell I urge you to give him a call.

He has said that I need to start making the transition from conscious practise where you are thinking about the nuts and bolts to a more sub conscious and realistic approach replicating the challenge of playing on the course. As a result he has given me a link to a site which has dedicated practise routines and more importantly challenges you to set a score and then try and create a personal best each time. You MUST repeat your pre-shot routine each time and it is a very good way of making each shot count.

On the plus side, there is a dedicated short game section which is where it's at for me in 2013. We touched on set up briefly last night but it isn't happening for me yet. I've parked any short game changes until my next lesson. It is a brilliant tool to reinforce the work and will stop me hitting ball after ball, either thinking too much about what I'm doing or getting lazy with my set up and routine.

I hadn't downloaded the app before I hit the practise ground back at Royal Ascot today so it was the same old routine for me. The wind was a factor and blowing in the worse possible direction, left to right. It meant that some balls trailed to the right and it was hard to tell which were poor swings and which were just buffeted by the breeze. However it was all about the set up and address and making sure the geometry was right and turning around the spine. The quality of the strike for the majority were very positive. There were some bad ones but I am happy to accept these at this stage. You can't make the proverbial omelette without breaking an egg.

It just goes to prove that golf is a simple game made difficult.

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