I played about 40 rounds of golf last summer, my personal best and probably the most I can reasonably squeeze in for our short Canadian summers. Things are starting to look up but I figure to really improve, I need to be brutally honest with myself and evaluate where I stand right now.
How the 2012 Season Ended
My Ugly Summer of 2012 (the year prior) consisted mostly of lingering in the mid 90s. With my handicap, you can imagine there were some crazy swings. My worst round was a 107 but guess what? I shot my personal best of 85 at the same course one month later. I managed to break 80 four times total at 85, 89, and 89, and 86. Those 80s round are usually followed by a back-down-to-earth 93-96.
- Driver was a horrendous mess. I started the year fine, but once I started adapting to a strong grip, it started to slowly kill my driver. It’s one thing to slice it to another fairway but I was fighting between short 20 yard pop ups and low diving, 40 yard hooks into the bushes. I still remember finally giving up during the last round that year putting away the driver, not trusting my woods and hybrids, and going all the way down to a 6 iron to tee off just so balls are in play. On the occasional good drives, I could hit it 210 on average and maybe 235 if I connect perfectly.
- Irons were starting to improve. I figured out my PW as my go to club from 100 yards out and started to lay everything up to the red stick marking 100y out for anything I couldn’t reach (around 180 at that point).
- Chipping was more reasonable- infrequent scalding and chunking but still too far from the hole
- Sandplay was inconsistent- some good shots but plenty of second shots from the bunker
- Putting was terrible- let’s face it, no matter how you are supposed to be confident, putting up 38-42 putts a round is a ugly confidence killer
My gear were also old, basically 10 years behind. I had a banged up Taylormade R580XD (which I learned golf with.)
I also had some older game improvement irons and I’m not even sure where my sand wedge came from. Everything could be considered “modern” but they were beginning to show their age.
Off Season Changes
I did 3 things between the winter of 2012 and 2013.
1. New Gear
First, I finally updated my equipment at the end of the season. Golftown generally clear all their “older” inventory from the season at a demo sale in the fall. The irons were actually still wrapped and I finally joined the adjustable driver era inline with my buddies with their fancy white crowned TM R11S. I had a lot of problem hitting the R11S with the 46″ shafts in the Golftown simulators but I think it was really the white crown that made me uncomfortable over the ball. I had no real problems with the Callaway with the equally long shafts but they have a much more traditional and less distracting black crowns.
2. Indoor Putting
Second, I knew I needed to work on putting and got myself a putting matt to work on during the winter. I might do a short review on this in the future.
3. Quick Lesson
Finally, I took a quick 30 mins lesson from a local pro and he did one single thing- changed my weak grip into a four knuckles strong grip. The change was terrible at first- I had no choice but to aim right because everything was a gigantic hook. On the occasions where it didn’t hook, it might push or fade way right and left me with a messy 2 way miss that’s impossible to trust.
My 2013 started slowly. The same bad driver and even worse irons. It took me about most of May and June of playing and lots of range work to get used to all the changes but it was worth it in the end.
- Driver. First, I think I figured out my short pop ups were simply because I gotten lazy in my setup and stood a touch too far away from the ball. When I began to be more careful with the setup again, and stood a shuffle-step over where I felt I was crowding myself a little, I can finally make decent face contact again.
Seoncd- Wow! I really didn’t believe in all the claims about driver technology and the super adjustable head. But I have to admit, it did help. Because I was battling a hook, I adjusted the face to open and by mid summer, I was able to go after it with a little more confidence and began to average around 235y instead of the occasional 230. My mis-hits and fades ended up at a playable 200-210. By late summer, I had the driver adjusted back to square and on good strikes in ideal conditions, I was able to reach 250 and 260 comfortably . For the first time in my life, I can honestly say I’ve hit one measured 300y* drive!Because of the drastic differences off the tee, I was actually able to go for some par 5s in 2 for the first time. By the end of the summer, the drives fell back to around 240 maybe because it got a bit colder at the end of the season. Also, I have a high ball flights that presents some problem playing into the wind. The ball would hang and get “stuck” mid air before a straight descent to 180y.
- *um, 300y with a little help from a perfect 30 MPH tailwind on a downhill hole with some roll.
- Irons. These new game improvement irons were long- both in distance and in literal physical length. The added length and stronger lofts really messes up my distances. I had to eventually cut these clubs down 1/2″ to get it closer to match my older set but I still was able to hit one club longer due to the stronger loft and hotter face. That, combined with my now stronger grip took away my best consistency of 2012 which was the 100yard shot. Now, the PW is 130y, the gap wedge is 105-110 and my SW is 90. I quickly became comfortable with a 150y 8i (a shot I never had the previous year without a massive slice) and was starting to get comfy with the longer 4 and 5 irons which replaced hybrids from before. I feel that the new irons are greatly affected by temperature. I can gain a full club in 30+C and was overshooting greens in the middle of summer. Also, the new distances gave me some confidence to stop over swinging and improved my long iron play greatly. I can trust my 7iron to go 160-165 and not give it a little “extra” unneeded oomph that throws off sequencing. By mid summer, I was having some problems with hooks and missing everything left and spent a full week hitting with a more neutral grip. With a more neutral grip, I feel like my hooks were less likely but my distances aren’t that strong anymore. Currently, my 7i is about 155 and my 8i remains my favourite club at 150.
- Chipping and Sandplay- Chipping stayed consistent but my bunker play was horrible. The times where I actually take sand out of the bunker usually end up okay but I’d think and pick the ball clean half the time. Consequently, I became very good with fairway bunkers but definitely need to work on the greenside ones.
- Putting- my putting stats were still so-so. Much fewer 3 putts and have the occasionally 33 or 34 putts now. The big thing with the big moss putting green is improvement in confidence. I kind of have a way to bang home the 4 footers now that I never did before. And now I feel like most of my misses were bad reads and burning the edges or having problem with the speed of the green as opposed to questioning my own movements which is a big improvement.
By the end of the season, I’ve come back down to earth a little- maybe it was the cold weather but I started to lose some distance and consistency again. Overall though, I was thrilled. I’m starting to shoot low 90s more consistently. I was in the 80s 9 times this year and did it back to back with an 89 and 87. I still have wild swings going from an 86 from one round to 100 the next round within a week. My personal best is still 85- maybe there’s a mental block breaking through to the low 80s. I got my first eagle in 2013, holing out from 87 yards. I also got a lot more birdie chances and was able to capitalize on it more often with more confident putting. Overall, 2013 was very productive and ended on a much higher note than 2012.
Goals for 2014
I’m very excited for this upcoming season. From my 2013 numbers, I know I need improvements in all areas of my game right now. Here’s my tentative plan to improve for 2014…
- Putting. There were lots of lip outs and misreads that were costly.
- Driver. I don’t work on my driver too much on the range because it’s always just kind of okay but looking back at shots I’ve tracked, it’s almost a perfect 2 way miss.
- Irons and ball striking. My misses are many. The usual left and right but since switching to these irons, I’ve had some distance control problems that I need to sort out.
- Greenside bunkers, in theory, should be easy. Good thing there’s a range nearby with a practice bunker that I’ve never seen anyone use. Definitely need to spend some time in there.
In the meantime, I’ve taken a series of winter lessons from a local pro. Apparently, my problems are aplenty and I’ll be sharing them in the near future.