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Well, we made it. March 1st. Ash Wednesday. Day 1 of that 40-day sacrificial marathon known as Lent. Most of you who are participating will probably give up your standard vices like fast food or nicotine. A few among us are secretly sadists and are going to say goodbye to alcohol, and to you, I say, “Good luck, you’re going to need it.” Unfortunately, I’m neither a three cups of coffee nor a two pack a day kind of guy, so my choice of sacrifice doesn’t just jump right out. I could try to give up alcohol, but I could also try to climb Mt. Everest in the next 40 days too. The more I thought about it, my option probably wasn’t going to come from the first page of the sacrificial menu.
After some soul searching (and by “soul searching,” I mean 18 holes), I realized the worst element of my life right now is my game. I’m supposed to take an instructor’s playing test at the end of May and I’ve been treating it like a senior paper announced in September but due in December. I practice maybe twice a week, and even then, “practice” has consisted of firing off range balls at the goat track of a driving range a mile from my house like I’m in a long drive contest. Yep, the best thing I could get out of Lent is to sacrifice all the excuses and bad habits that have been holding back my progress and use these 40 days to really gear up for the coming golf season. So if you’re like me and wanting to use this time to turn your game around, here are five habits to sacrifice for Lent.
We’re going to start off with the one that’s going to be the hardest to cut. I get it. Office backswings satisfy your course withdrawals when you’re stuck inside on a perfect day, and they let everyone around you know that, “Hey, this guy plays.” But while you’re peacocking around the water cooler with your backswing poses, talking about your last round and “that shot on 7,” you’re also ingraining a slice. Office backswings encourage you to leave weight on your back foot through the downswing, and anytime you don’t clear your weight to your front foot you’re going to hit a slice.
If you can’t resist and have to make some sort of swing around the cubicle, swing from hip to hip, or just go all out and make a full swing. It’s the transition from the takeaway to the downswing and how you get through the ball that’s important, so practice that in front of your office window instead of the backswing.
Hour-Long Pre-Shot Routines
People forget golf is a sport, because unlike your pick-up basketball games, you can haul a 30-rack around while you play. But, as I said, golf is still a sport. Just like any other sport, success in golf comes from timely decisiveness. Yeah, the guys on Tour might be taking a while to hit their ball, but that’s because they have a lot to decide. You don’t. You have alignment and swing. Standing to the side of the ball for 47 seconds while you pan back and forth from it to your target isn’t encouraging results, it’s encouraging indecision and an uncoordinated swing. Rather than try to imitate Day or Keegan’s pre-shot routines, try to imitate Steve Nash’s free throw routine. Be quick, confident, and consistent.
This is another one that people do mostly because they see the Tour pros do it. Your swing is going to have some sort of little tick to it. Everyone’s does. But waggling over the ball ten or so times tells your brain to swing from your hands, which makes it much harder to create consistency. Try to create a new tick that isn’t small muscle oriented, meaning it doesn’t come from the feet or hands. A deep breath, a trigger word you repeat before you begin your swing, something that keeps your swing starting from your body and not your joints is a good replacement for the waggle.
The first time I take a client out on the course for a lesson, I usually won’t do anything but ask questions. One I always ask is, “What was your target on that shot,” and the answer never ceases to amaze me when time after time a guy who came to me because he wants to start consistently breaking 90 says, “Oh I was going for that little ridge about twenty feet short of the flag.”
We’re all guilty of overselling our talents, but if you’re less than 50% on fairways and greens-in-regulation from round to round, it’s time to simplify what you’re aiming at. Give yourself a target that requires a controllable swing and quiets your thoughts. No more than two words like, “left fairway, or, front green,” so that you’re not standing over the ball trying to envision the blade of grass you picked out from 185 to fire at.
Swinging for the Fences:
Thanks to all his recent success, DJ has been in quite a few publications giving insight into what he uses to be so consistently long and accurate. When asked about his drives, he revealed his grip pressure is probably a “5 out of 10” and he rarely swings more than 75 to 80%. Disregard that the longest guy on tour has gas left in the tank to crank it even further and focus on the fact that he got to be the longest guy on tour by not swinging out of his ass off every tee. Distance comes from swinging as fast as you can control, not as fast as you can.
If you hit it squarely at 80 miles per hour, you’re going to go further than a mis-hit at 85 miles per hour, and you’re going to be a lot more accurate too. Quiet that little voice inside your head telling you the only way to reclaim your former glory/athleticism/masculinity is by driving every par 4 and back off a little. You’ll find more fairways and you’ll find your swing speed gradually climbing rather than rollercoastering.
With this year’s Lent finishing one week after The Masters and global warming bringing us more days than we deserve to make it out to the course, these next 40 days are the perfect opportunity to try these or any other tip for shaving some strokes off your handicap before the season hits. Take this time to hold your game accountable and put in some real effort for better rounds and lower scores. See you on the tee. .
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