Saturday, December 29, 2012

Lots of GREAT Stuff

That is certainly the most generic title you will ever see me give to a post. If you notice my last post (which was way too long ago), you'll see that the title would lead one to believe that this edition should be titled "The Future". Well, that post is coming, but for now, I just want to give an extremely quick overview of the past couple weeks.

My practice has been scattered and scarce for the past 15 days. I am still working on some great things and am determined to reach my ball-striking goals during this brief winter off-season, but I haven't been able to stick to a solid practice routine lately. Weather has been a reasonable excuse for my shortcomings, but more importantly, I have been soaking up time with the people that I love most in the whole world. I am so thankful for my family and for Alicia. I have had a fantastic Holiday Season thus far, and I know that there is more to come as I still have my favorite crew with me for the New Year's weekend.

With that said, I spent a couple hours with my golf clubs down in the basement today getting re-fired up for the super-productive winter that I am going to have. I still feel like the stuff on which I am working is going to make me a tremendously better ball-striker, and I am determined to start the year in mid-season form when tournament time rolls around in early February. I have a lot of work to do to achieve that goal, but I can do it and am excited to really bare down very soon!

I have some good news to share regarding my 2013 schedule and will also be publishing my 2013 process goals very soon. Monday, January 7, 2013, will be the start of my work year, and I am already pumped up for it. For now, I am keeping myself in great physical shape and soaking up the last few days of a great Holiday Season with my favorite people. I'll get after my golf again very soon!

Thank you for keeping up with me! I hope you all have had a warm Holiday Season and I wish every one a very Happy New Year! I will be back with more updates and news very soon. I am as excited as ever. Please keep it here to enjoy this continuing journey with me!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Past, Present, And...

I am definitely in what can only be described as my offseason. I usually am very absorbed in the present. I rarely think much about the past, and I don't like to spend too much time worrying about hypothetical situations in the future. Right now, however, I am doing quite a bit of both. I have analyzed my practice logs and am doing some reflecting on the past year. At the same time, I am starting to put a lot of thought into the route I will to take to advance my game and my career in 2013. In this post, however, I want to share my findings after looking back over my 2012 season, and talk a little bit more about the exciting things that are going on right now. I am wrapping up my thoughts about the future, and I will share exciting news in that regard soon.

I apologize to those of you who are stat junkies and want me to regale you with my greens in regulation percentage and average putts per round, but I don't keep track of that. To me, a lot of stats of that nature are very misleading. As I look back on 2012, I am concerned with two main areas: my work towards my weekly process goals and my par-5 performance.

I was shocked by my findings in the first of those areas. I felt like I had a great year of work. I know that I failed to prioritize my practice the way I should have some weeks, but I thought that I had established a great work routine throughout the year. I was displeased to find that in the 44 weeks from when I published my "process goals" in early January through the last week of my season in mid-November, I failed to complete all of my process goals 15 times. That means I successfully completed all of my work goals just 65.9 percent of my work weeks this year. Often it was just one putting drill or a workout that kept me from completing my goals, but that shows a shortcoming. All-in-all, I am still very pleased with the work that I put in this year, but it was eye-opening to see how many times I came up short of my goals. I did some deeper analysis to see how my weeks looked during and immediately preceding some of my best tournament results of the year. There were no strong correlations at all as I found that some of my best tournament results followed great weeks of practice whereas a couple of very strong performances followed weeks during which I had come up very short of my practice goals. A noticeable trend from which I will learn moving forward did appear, however. On three occasions when I spent a weekend away from golf to enjoy special occasions or just fun times with special people, I performed well in the weeks that followed. I am not good enough to make a habit of taking time off, but I think I will plan three to four weekends per season to do non-golf activities moving forward. My look back at the work that I did each week this year certainly doesn't leave me disappointed, but it does show that I have a lot of room for improvement. My weekly goals this year were challenging but very reasonable. I will have a similar set of process goals next year, and you can bet that I will do a better job of completing them.

The one performance stat that I do track is par-5 scoring. Great players and tournament winners play the par 5s well, and it is not just the long hitters to whom this statement applies. At the beginning of the year, I proclaimed that I wanted to have a scoring average of 4.33 on par 5s for the year. Some of my buddies told me that was not a realistic goal. I tried to use their doubts as motivation and set out to prove them wrong. They weren't. I am disappointed with my performance on the par 5s this year, but 4.33 was not a realistic goal. I played 409 par 5s this year in tournament play and was 151 under par on them. That works out to an average of 4.63. I am now convinced that 4.33 is an unrealistic expectation, but 4.5 is a lofty yet very reasonable goal. To achieve a 4.5 average, I would have needed to shave 54 shots off of my total for the 409 par 5s I played. That means I have a lot of work to do in this area. To play the par 5s better, I need to develop more confidence in my ball-striking and continue to hone my wedge play. You can bet that par-5 scoring will be on my list of goals again for 2013, and I am going to improve dramatically in that area.

The only other process goal I made that deserves a year-end mention is my "friendly match" winnings. I need to nurture a more competitive instinct in myself, so I wrote down a goal to profit $500 in friendly matches and practice round bets this year. I did keep up with this throughout the year, and I liked having this goal, but I don't play enough matches or play for enough money to reach $500 in friendly match winnings. I had a rough stretch in early-year practice rounds, but I was still finished the year up near $200 in this category. I will have a goal along these lines again next year.

That details my year-end findings regarding my process goals. I know that stuff might not seem like the most relevant information, but to me it is quite informative and useful. I will use it to shape my process goals for next year and as motivation to improve.

As for my 2012 outcome goals, I think most of you know I came up short on all three counts. I expected to have multiple wins on the eGolf Professional Tour. I won once. I expected to finish the year first on the eGolf Professional Tour's Money List. I finished fourth. I expected to end the season with full status for 2013 on at least Web.com Tour. I did not. This is disappointing news, but it was a GREAT year! All of my goals were very doable, and I made a great run at them. The fact that I came up short will motivate me to work harder and smarter than ever. I will have bigger and better goals for 2013, and I'm ready to start achieving them!

That is enough looking backwards. I have a lot going on right now. I am entrenched in some swing changes that are going to increase my competence as a ball-striker. I have never liked the idea of making changes to my golf swing, but my ball-striking is the only area of my game that hasn't improved significantly in the past three years, so I am committing to a change this winter. I am confident that I will improve and become much more consistent as a ball-striker. I am already seeing positive signs, and can't wait until things start feeling comfortable. While I am working hard on my golf swing, I am continuing to sharpen my short game and putting. I feel that these areas of my game are strong, but I have plenty of room to keep improving. When my swing changes become fully engrained, I want to feel like I am tournament-ready. My current work definitely has me on track to make that a reality. In addition to putting good work into my golf game, I have ramped up my fitness work over the past two weeks as well. I am feeling strong, fit, and flexible. As I said in the opening of this post, it is definitely my off season right now, but I am doing a lot of exciting and important work.

So there is a look and the past and the present. I still have a little bit more information to gather and thinking to do before I go to in-depth about plans for the future, but the wheels are turning in that direction. Keep it here for practice reports and an exciting look towards what is coming next year. Thank you so much for following me and for your support. Here's to a warm winter--literally and figuratively!


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Major Progress

In the week that followed my disappointing exit from this year's PGA Tour Q-school, I did some some serious thinking about my golf game. My year as a whole had been quite good. My results were very good and quite consistent, and I further confirmed that my career is on a good trajectory. Something just wasn't right about the way my season ended, though. It wasn't just that I played poorly at the Second Stage of Q-school; it was more a realization of the fact that no amount of positive thinking could have helped me overcome the poor ball-striking week that I had that final week of my season. To take that thought a step farther, I came to the realization that every single aspect of my game has improved greatly over the past three years except for the consistency of my ball-striking. My chipping, putting, wedge play, course management, and tournament mentality have all improved steadily and significantly over the past three years, but my ball-striking is still inconsistent at best and downright troubling at times. While I certainly have weeks where I hit the ball well enough to succeed, I would still say that I am successful in spite of, rather than because of, my ball-striking. Therefore, I decided it is time to make some changes.

I still don't believe there is such a thing as a perfect golf swing, but I do believe there are things I can do with my golf swing to improve the quality and consistency of my ball-striking. I had a meeting with Bobbo to see if he was on board to help me make some changes over the winter months, and he sure was. He had some ideas right away, and after a good talk to make sure we were on the same page, we got to work last Sunday. The changes felt dramatic at first, and the task seemed daunting, but after just nine days of really hard work (and, thankfully, beautiful weather!), I am already starting to see signs that we are on the right track. I don't know the golf swing very well, and I don't like to get too technical, but I will try to share with you my understanding of the changes that I am making.

I am happy to say that I do have a firm understanding of what I am doing and the reasons that the changes will help me improve. The first thing that I am doing is increasing the amount of forward shaft lean that I have at impact. I have always struggled with releasing the club a little bit too early on the downswing, which allows the club head to pass my hands at or even before impact resulting in a weak and inconsistent strike. To fix this problem, I am working hard to quiet my hands and let my body turn pull the club through the hitting area. The other change that I am making is my first move in the downswing. I have spent years hitting three-quarter, controlled shots. While that sounds like a good thing, I have become very content just to make a controlled "all-arms" swing with no lower-body drive at all. If I want to make a strong body turn into and through impact, I need to initiate my downswing with a strong leg drive toward the target. When I start my downswing with my lower-body, it allows my body turn to deliver the club squarely and consistently to the ball. Incorporating these two changes into to golf swing will greatly increase my competence as a ball-striker.

Just nine days into this process, I am already starting to see results. When Bobbo and I talked before we started working, I gave him a list of four things I was looking to accomplish with any changes we would make: 1.) Deveolop the belief that I always hit the ball solidly. 2.) Improve the sound of my iron shots--go from a "wipey, clicky" sound to a crisp, flush one. 3.) Learn what it means and feels like to "compress" the golf ball. 3.) Add ten yards per iron and at least ten yards of carry with my driver. I am not comfortable enough with the changes yet to say that I have accomplished any of these goals, but I am starting to hit some shots that definitely meet the middle two goals and hint that the first and fourth are very possible. I have a lot more work to do, but things are feeling great and I am very excited!

While I'm working on these improvements to my swing, I am also taking time to keep my short game and putting sharp. My goal is to hit the ground running in 2013 without the warm-up period that I have seemed to need in the first couple months of my previous competitive years. Like I said, I still have a lot of work to do before I will feel fully ready to unveil my swing changes, but I am confident that this winter will go down as the most productive time in my golfing life to date.

I have finally reviewed my practice logs from 2012 and do have some pretty relevant information to share, but I'll cut off this post for now before it turns into a novel. I'm going to keep making great strides as a ball-striker, so come back soon for an update on that and to hear some more in-depth analysis of my 2012 season. I have so much to accomplish moving forward, but I am heading in a great direction.

Thank you for following me and for your continued support and encouragement!

Catching Up on a Positive Last Month

I've been too busy playing golf tournaments and working on my game to update my blog! That's really not true, but I have been keepin...