"Hit the shot you know you can hit, not the one you think you should." - Bob Rotella
As there was a match on at Enfield today I rolled up to Trent Park for a quick 9 holes. It ended up being 13 as I was playing well and wanted to complete a round. I couldn't quite, as I ran into a three-ball and didn't really want to hang around behind them in the rain and probably not finish before it got dark anyway. But it was a round of three thirds :
- Holes 1-4, +9, thanks mostly to a couple of errant tee shots on 2 and 4
- Holes 5-8, +5, much steadier
- Holes 9-13, level par, ZOMG !
9-13 I went par, par, birdie, double bogey, birdie ! By the 13th I was really in the zone, that's a 450 yard par five, driver and 3-wood to 15 yards short of the green, up and down, ship it. It's probably been 4 months since I played a round at Trent Park, and while my scores at Enfield haven't come down as much as I'd like, Trent Park felt so much easier today that I'm much more confident that progress is being made. Here's what I'm thinking about on each kind of shot :
Driving : Every drive is a lay-up. This is a tip from Zen Golf. Instead of trying to smack the cover off it, just think of the tee shot as a lay-up to roughly where you'd like to be. 210 yards up the middle >>> 240 yards in the rough (never mind the bushes). And in fact, when I sometimes play a second shot and try to hit it harder just to see what happens, even if it comes off I usually only gain about 15 yards. Just hold the tee shots back a little bit and lay them up into the middle of the fairway. Every par 4/5 is so much easier when you play your second shot from a nice central position.
Fairway Woods : Hit down on the ball to make it go up. Especially with the 3-wood, the temptation is to try to scoop the ball up, when instead you just play a normal swing and hit (very slightly) down on it. Let the club do the rest. That worked much better today.
Fairway Irons : Hit the shot you know you can hit, not the shot you should hit. If I'm 130 yards from the green and I think I need a 5-iron to get there, I'll take a 5-iron. You're more than welcome to laugh at me, take out your 9-iron, launch it, not quite get it right, and play your next shot from the bunker on the front. Especially now it's wet, I know I don't hit the ball hard, any turf I take cuts down the power even more and of course the ball won't run on after bouncing. I can't remember which book this was in but you should play the club that gets you to the back of the green if you catch it perfectly, not the middle. Because unless you're playing off like 6, you don't catch it perfectly often enough. As and when I start going through the back of greens, I can rethink this, but it's not happening yet.
Chips and Pitches : Get them up to the pin. It's the same concept as above really ; generally I find that if I do go past the flag, it's not by as much as I tend to leave it short when I don't think about getting it there. And it's surprising how often you think you've pulled one quite badly, but if you get the length right, it ends up much closer than you think.
Putting : Hit the ball, don't roll it. For a long time I was too intent on keeping the putter head moving at a constant speed, and kind of rolling it through the ball. That makes it too difficult to get the pace right. You have to let your natural touch come in by just sort of "clipping" the ball and I find my distance control is much better.
So putting all that together, after the first four holes I played 9 holes in 39 which must be my best so far ! I almost forgot as well, that was with 8 clubs. It was just (meant to be) a quick 9 holes and Trent Park's two miles on the bus so I didn't want to cart a full set around. I just played Driver, 3-wood, 5, 7, 8, P-wedge, S-wedge, putter. You'd be amazed how often that's enough. I certainly don't recall thinking "damn, I really need a 6-iron here" or anything like that.
In the interests of fairness, I did play like an utter (&*% yesterday with Lovejoy, so it's not there every day. But concentrating on the above, just one thing for whichever shot I was playing, put me in a great zone today and the more often I can do that, the more often it will happen on its own.