I only got one chance to play this weekend, so I had to make the most of it. Fewer opportunities at good scores adds pressure to each round’s importance. 90 days is going to go by fast, but I need to feel less like I’m holding on and more like I’m steering.
Sunday was a big confidence builder.
Last week I made some adjustments to my practice program. Instead of using a bucket of balls to troubleshoot problems from the weekend before, I made a plan with specific drills before going to the range. That slight adjustment to focus on deliberate skills seems to have accelerated some progress.
Full transparency, I have not yet succeeded in accomplishing even one practice drill. That struggle to reach those goals is the reason why I’m getting better. I wanted to make practice harder than the game itself and so far it is.
The front nine was very steady. A couple of poor shots didn’t end up costing me more than a couple bogies. Putting was fairly average considering all the reasonable opportunities at birdie, a direct result of relaxing my putting practice.
My mind was pretty easy until I drifted a drive into the water hazard with a wrong wind on a par 5. I struggled getting out of the greenside rough and rushed to forget the hole after finally getting down with a double.
From the tee box, I hooked my next drive into a tricky flyer lie. 96 yards to the pin, over a bunker, to a front pin pulled all of my attention. Something in my mind told me I read the lie right and all I had to do was execute. The lob wedge carried the bunker, took one hop and, to my surprise, I watched the ball disappear into the cup. A hole-out eagle!
The day ended with a nemesis hole stealing one back, but I won’t be disappointed shooting 75 at this point.
GAME GOLF confirms I’ve improved every category since starting this challenge. I’ve taken almost 3 strokes off my game in three weeks, and my game is categorically scratch in two areas: approach and short game.
The trends are favorable with plenty of time and work to do. With steady practice I’m hoping to take one stroke off driving and a stroke and a half off putting by the end of the second month. That would put me within two and half strokes from scratch and also be my lowest handicap since taking up the game.
Odds are I’ll be facing a regression period soon. Since learning isn’t linear, I need to make sure I keep moving the needle in the right direction. Pushing through the barriers of skills I haven’t encountered yet is going to require me to stay focused and adaptive. Much like the game of golf.
During one of my recent practices, I measured my swing speed again and I’ve gained 4 mph from my original assessment. I still swing faster lefthanded (and even got asked if I’m ambidextrous on the range by a friendly stranger) but getting back to where I was two years ago will make a huge difference.
The physical toll from weeks of working out and constantly moving forward finally caught up with me. Last Friday mandated a full rest day: no workout, no practice, just recovery. I felt loose enough to get to the range later Saturday morning and took it easy leading into my Sunday round. I’m starting to get my energy back with less soreness, which is a great sign to reapply myself.
So far it seems like things are working. My handicap is now a 6.7, and my game feels manageable and more consistent.
Learning about the golf swing has taken a backseat while I focus on skill development and all of my energy on building my body and movements. I started to feel guilty that I am neglecting that aspect of this challenge, but the wealth of information available makes it nearly impossible to separate fact from fiction. Instead of mulling over the validity of instruction, I’ve diverted my attention to other sources of entertainment.
Cyrgalis’s investigative book tackles the wave of golf science in a world of feel. It’s been an enjoyable read, particularly in how it relates to my own personal journey to better. The rise of golfers like Bryson DeChambeau seem to disrupt the artistic soul of the game, often to the dismay and scolding tone of the old guard.
And McGonigal offers a unique approach to problem solving for the future with the power of games. She is a game designer with an interest in an insightful “new” movement and unexplored application to genuine human needs.
Both books have their place in my challenge as I try to flip the script.
A few other books on motor learning are on their way to help me expand my understanding of skill acquisition. While I eagerly await their potential benefits of knowledge, I’ll keep working.