I‘m on holidays. I’ve taken a week off and I’m visiting Port Fairy. It’s time to do some reading, writing and get my mind off “real” work.
Today I took a look at the Port Fairy golf course. It’s well worth a visit. It’s a true links course that will test any golfer – especially with a strong wind. Best of all it offers all level of golfers the opportunity for a great day.
I took this solo game to try some new things. In particular I’m keen to improve my finesse game. I’ve got plenty of power – but my game gets a bit ordinary from inside 120 metres. Mike Clayton laughs at me when I can smash a drive 320 metres but then leave myself a long birdie putt. It’s not uncommon for me to out drive him by 70 metres but watch him nestle a 5 iron inside my wedge. Funny game really.
My motivation to keep improving got an injection when I read an article about Tiger Woods. It basically went on to say that his biggest strength is finessing shots closer to the hole than everyone else. His power game is not what makes him so good. Although I sort of knew this already, it was a “kick in the bum” to get me going in the right direction.
But this is going cause some problems.
I’m going to get worse before I get better. On the ninth hole (a fantastic 129 metre par three) I knew I could smash my sand iron somewhere onto the green. It might not end up close to the hole but I’d be pretty confident I’d be able to make three. So this is the dilemma I face. Do I hit the shot that I know I can secure par, or do I attempt to finesse a shot close to the pin and make more birdies? My mind is made up that I’m going to learn more of a controlled and accurate game. I want to keep getting better and add another gear to my game.
The big problem is that a smooth and controlled swing is not automatic for me – I’ve got to think about it and the results can be fairly ordinary. On this occasion I took my pitching wedge and tried to make a smooth swing. The ball came off straight left and missed the green. This new swing feels terrible and can make me look like a hacker.
The hard part for me will be committing to these softer shots during practice and then using them during play. It will take some time for them to become automatic and the chances are I’ll get worse before I get better.
This is exactly what newbies experience when they first try and play automatic golf. It feels awful and uncomfortable. You’re unlikely to get the results you want and quite possibly, your current play can be better than what automatic golf will give. So it’s easier not to commit and keep doing what you’ve always done.
But if you can climb the small mountain something magic happens.
It begins to feel normal and bit by bit you see positive results. Most never persevere and give up long before real improvement happens. This is why improvement can be so difficult. We want it both ways – to play good golf and to have it feel comfortable. But it’s not possible to have both.
After stuffing up half a dozen shots the sixteenth hole gave me some encouragement. After a long drive I had 125 metres to a front left pin. The temptation was to hit something hard. Sticking to my guns I took the eight iron and made the softest swing I could. The ball came out low and straight for the pin. It felt easy, like a big chip shot. It landed next to the hole and stopped quickly. For me this was the best shot I’ve played in a long time. I got a little rush and was able to bomb some long drives on the remaining two downwind holes.
I enjoyed today. The self-reflection has fired me up to keep improving my game. I didn’t play that great – how can you when wedge shots keep missing greens? But I know that if I keep practising and then learn to automate these finesse shots that my game will improve a notch or two.
Ultimately, I’m prepared to get worse before I get better. It might get ugly but I’m sure it will be worth the effort. Are you prepared to do the same with your golf game? I’d like to hear your thoughts.