Mid-Season Progress Report: Doom and Gloom or Starting the Climb?

Progress and improvement is portrayed like a math equation. Add a little work here, do a few drills there, and lower scores result.  Incremental progress is the goal, and every ounce of work should get us closer to the goal.  If that is the case, results should follow the same incremental approach, even if the results are slow.  My experience is the progress is more asynchronous.

I planned to improve by spending 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week on different aspects of golf. Check out my Current Handicap Page to see where my handicap started.  I set 2 goals.  The first was to lower my handicap from the 15.8 to 14 by the end of the season.  The close to 2 strokes seemed possible with the work on each aspect of my game.  I believe extra work should lower scores.

Unfortunately, my handicap is not dropping right now. As you see, my handicap is now at 17.  17!

HCP 7-22 2

Not only is it not going down 2 strokes, it is actually up 1.2 strokes. My mind raced when I saw my trend up.  Is it possible that my effort is making me worse?  Would I be better off not practicing?  Should I change my plan?  What should I do?

After thinking all those thoughts, I remembered the important goal of completing the progress. Most research indicates focusing on the result doesn’t normally lead to success.  Focusing on the process is what matters.  My current situation is the exact reason why process is the most important.  If I succumb to the idea that practice isn’t working or my effort is in vain, I will stop practicing or drastically change my plan.  Revisiting a plan is periodically necessary, but continual refocusing diminishes results.

The real question should be whether I completed my 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. The honest answer is the majority of the time I did.  I have weeks with 3 to 4 days, but over half the time, I get to 5 days a week.  The practice time and completion isn’t the problem.  If true, then maybe I am not doomed.

The bright side begins to light up. Comparing the score lists on my Current Handicap Page, I realize why my handicap rose this year.  My oldest 7 scores were calculated in my original handicap, and all those rounds happened in 2014.  Unless I played at a similar level, then my handicap would rise.  My handicap at the beginning of my process was not an accurate reflection of my current performance level.  The handicap was artificially low due to good scores from over 2 years ago.  I breathe a little easier.

I also notice my handicap differentials for this year. Since starting the process, my differentials are decreasing.  From the beginning of the year through June, my differentials ranged from 19-22.3.  My last 2 differentials in July dropped below 18.  Looking closer at the numbers, I am improving.

I also feel like I am improving. My contact is much better.  I am focusing on shifting my weight correctly to compress the ball.  My trajectory is up.  I hit my 5 wood and hybrid better than ever the last couple rounds, and my ball flight is much straighter.  My GIRs are slightly up over the last 5 rounds, and I am still hitting a similar number of fairways.  I am showing improvement.  This is exactly what I am looking for.

My handicap is up at the mid-point, but I believe the numbers indicate improvement. My handicap started artificially lower, and my last 5 rounds are showing improvement in all areas.  14 may not be realistic by the end of the season, but I should be able to get back in the 15 range.  However, I am not focused on that number.  My goal is to practice 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week.  Share my story on facebook and twitter to help others continue the journey to improvement.

My Experience on a Different Kind of Tour Course

Walking in the footsteps of current major champions is awesome. Being humbled by major tour courses provides context and generates even more respect for tour players.  My destinations only followed the PGA Tour though.  I wondered if I would have the same emotions walking in the footsteps of slightly older champions at a Champions Tour stop.  I was not disappointed.

I took a trip to Branson, Missouri over the 4th of July holiday.  My family planned to enjoy Branson’s many attractions, but my main goal was to play Buffalo Ridge and Top of the Rock.  The 2 courses host the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf Champions Tour event.  Buffalo Ridge is ranked on Golf Digest’s most recent top 100 public course list.  Top of the Rock is the only 9 hole par 3 course to host an event from any of the major tours.  My sights were set on taking my progressing swing to another tour stop.

We had tee times on July 4th at Buffalo Ridge for 9am and Top of the Rock at 3pm.  As we pull in to Buffalo Ridge at 8, lighting illuminates the sky and surrounding Ozark Mountains like a bad 1980s thriller.  When we made it in the pro shop, they pulled everyone off the course.  The lightning delay began.

For the next 3 hours, the sky opened and torrential rain came down. The clubhouse designer did an outstanding job.  The entire back wall is a series of glass doors and windows looking out over the range and first hole.  The first hole is a downhill par 5.  When the rain let up, the fairway had no fewer than 3 independent streams of water running to the drain.  I thought the course would be water logged for days.  I just hoped we could still play both rounds.

The great staff at Buffalo Ridge moved our tee times around for both rounds. They let us warm up at Buffalo Ridge at 12 to begin play quickly thereafter.  They moved our Top of the Rock time to 6.  The courses are a few miles apart, so we built in enough time to pack up, get quick food, and still make it by 6.   The timing ended up being perfect.

After warming up, we headed to #1.

Hole 1

I noted a couple things. First, the rivers down the fairway were gone.  The drainage system worked great.  The course was definitely wet from the multiple inches of rain in the short period of time.  However, I never felt water logged or that it affected my play.  The course was in great shape even with all the rain.

The second thing I noticed on 1, and throughout the course, was the size. The tour courses possess huge brawny fairways and greens.  Buffalo Ridge’s fairways weren’t as big.  The greens didn’t look as huge.  However, players must still possess every shot in the bag.  The bunkering is great tournament bunkering.  Generous landing areas in spots, but if you take a risk to go long, bunkers protect everything.

My swing felt pretty good. I need to be able to repeat it more, but I am confident focusing on weight shift right now.  My contact is improving.  I hit my drive slightly left.  I hit a solid 5 wood to wedge distance.  Wedge on the green and 2 putt for par.  Great way to start.

I hit the fairway on 2 & 3. Green in regulation on 3, so 1 over through 3.  Double on the par 3 4th wasn’t ideal, but still on a good pace.  I then walk to the par 4 5th.  The view is outstanding.

Hole 4

Playing through the terrain is interesting. My vision of mountain golf includes the desert with manufactured greens.  These are lush mountains with great vegetation. The golf course seems to just naturally flow through the landscape.

The elevated tee looks down to a hard to judge fairway going left. Water on the right.  The miss is clearly left, but the large drop makes aiming difficult.  I hit a good drive that missed left, but still playable.  Hit it around a little to need a 1 putt for bogey, and it dropped.  Other than a snowman on 8, the front 9 was on track with a 45.

Hole 14 is a nice par 5. The length felt like a medium par 5.  However, most people can’t reach in 2.  A creek crosses directly in front of the green.  Carrying the creek and staying on the green is tough.  Rock formations border the right with bunkers protecting short and long.  The approach must be perfect.  Mine was not.  Beautiful hole.  Sloppy bogey.

Hole 15 is another elevated tee with a great view. Small waterfalls from a creek are right.  I aimed left to a generous landing area.  I crushed a drive, but it was straight right.  The line was unintentionally aggressive.  My ball barely cleared the creek and ended up in the first cut on the right.  Miss the green and bogey.

Hole 15

The rest of my round followed the same pattern, which I believe is a huge success. We then rushed to Top of the Rock.  I don’t have a hole-by-hole because we were doing our best to get everything in before dark.  While it is a par 3 course, the holes had great variety.  Numerous water holes and an island green.  The bunkering is insane for a par 3, but the Champions Tour can play this course for a reason.  The course feels like a collection of great par 3s from around the country.  Great experience.

Top of the Rock

While my score isn’t what it needs to be, I can see the consistency. On a Champions Tour course, I had 2 doubles and a quad.  The rest were pars and bogeys.  I can handle that for now.  I shot an 89, hit 4 GIRs, and 7/13 fairways.  The GIRs and fairways are gradual improvements.  The process is moving in the right direction, and I am playing great golf courses.  I would definitely recommend Buffalo Creek and Top of the Rock.