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.
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