3 Easy Drills I Implemented to Crush My Slice

The joy and beauty of a finely struck golf shot is immeasurable. If you are like me, you strive for the shot to gently curve towards the target as a draw.  The most coveted shot in golf is the draw, and most amateurs struggle to hit it.  I fell into that category for a long time, but now, I consistently draw the ball.

Hitting a draw is similar to breaking a bad habit. It is difficult the first few times, but after a while, it is second nature.  I drink Dr. Pepper daily.  I know if I tried to cut that caffeine out of my system it would be a struggle, but after a few weeks, I would be fine.  I had the same experience learning to draw the ball.

After playing golf a few years, I finally took a lesson. My instructor painted a great picture for me related to swing plane.  He used the baseball analogy and taught me to hit the ball to “1st base”.  I worked on that move for a while, and it seemed to work.  I found a similar youtube video online from Brian Crowell that is a great refresher:

Unfortunately, I got busy and stopped working on drawing the ball. I didn’t play much golf for a few years, and I ended up coming from the outside again.  During a winter right after I started playing significantly, I went for a driver fitting.  An instructor in our area guarantees increased distance from either better fit club or better swing.  He bluntly told me I lose distance because the club comes from the outside.  Without a formal lesson, he told me I had to come from the inside to get better.

I began the next season determined to hit a draw. I spent a full day on the range hitting half punch shots to the right.  I remembered the baseball analogy and forced myself to start the ball extremely right.  After a few range sessions, it worked.  I could start the ball way right.  I then worked on squaring the clubface to get the draw, and that worked.  In less than 2 months, I consistently hit draws.  I use draw loosely because they were more like planned duck hooks, but the ball rarely crossed the target line.  Video of my swing showed the club came from the extreme inside.  Hank Haney has a good video illustrating a technique to get that path:

The best golf of my life followed. I hit longer shots and more GIRs.  I was on Cloud 9.  However, reality started to set in that my shot shape was extreme and my distance wasn’t consistent.  I believe drawing the ball is the best shot shape for amateurs, but watch out for quick fixes without more instruction.  After another session with the pro who fit me, he loved the swing plane, but he noticed huge flaws produced my draw.  I cupped the left wrist throughout, so my clubface was closed at the top.  He joked that I could serve drinks from the clubface it was so flat.  To compensate, I didn’t release the club through impact.  I held on hoping it didn’t turn over more and go too far left.

I loved the golf I played, but a problem arose when I didn’t play as often.  My timing got too far off and I missed both directions. I worked to try to flatten my wrist and release, but I became inconsistent.  I signed up for GolfTec, but you can read my previous post about how poorly that went.  I continued to drift farther and farther away from the draw.

I hit the breaking point this summer. I am focusing on weight shift, but I have a difficult time moving my hips independent of my shoulders.  As I got better shifting my weight, my club progressively moved more outside the target line in the downswing.  Since my weight shift is good, I am now working on adding the proper inside-out plane with the weight shift.  The focus reintroduced the closed club face in my backswing.  The continued dance of reacting to the new flaws brings me back around to near where I began.  Just like riding a bike, I have the draw back.  The goal now is a happy medium between 30 yard hooks to the target with lower trajectory and no stopping power and a high, short, stopping fade.  The following video is a great tool to force the inside-out swing:

Comment on the best tips or videos you use to create the gentle draw of your dreams.

Is It Possible to Improve Fairways and Be Disappointed?

Golf is a wonderful game with breathtaking views and fun with friends. Spending quality time outside and being more active is outstanding.  While beautiful, the golf swing is maddening.  Have you spent time making a change that causes other parts of the swing to go wrong?  It happens to me all the time, but the continual working generally leads to improvement.

My most recent round illustrated both the glimmer of hope and disappointment. I feel like my swing changes are creeping over to the golf course.  My fairways are showing improvement.  I played 9 holes and hit 4/7 fairways.  Over the last 7 rounds, I hit less than 50% of fairways only once, and in one round, I stuck over 70% of the fairways.

I am playing the majority of my approach shots from the short stuff. One key to success is in the bag.  Unfortunately, 1 key does not make a 9.9 handicap golfer, or right now, a 15 handicap golfer.  I am struggling to hit greens.  I haven’t hit more than 20% of GIR yet this season.  My approach shots must get better.  To drop my handicap, I need better iron play.

All of the sports psychologist information I read will now be put to the test. I know I can hit greens.  I know the swing is getting better each practice session.  I know the improvement is creeping into my game.  Every round with 3 or fewer GIRs is a little more frustrating though.  Honestly, it is easy to either scrap the current swing change and try to find a quick fix and/or lose hope in the process.

I resolve now to not abandon the current focus. The definition of insanity is to continually do the same thing hoping for different results.  The same thing for me is to try a new swing change when things don’t work.  I read about a new theory or think a different move will be better for me.  I then try to implement it the next range session.  The constant changing prevents lasting change.  I originally focused on my weight shift this summer.  The weight shift is getting much better, and I resolve to continue that progress.  I am now adding in a few repetitions focusing on swing plane with the weight shift.  Focusing on the small pieces will add up to a better swing in the long term.

I also know hope is not lost. Changes are hard to integrate and take more than a few rounds.  I played mid to low 80s 5-6 years ago.  I know how those scores feel, and I will stay confident those scores are in my near future.  The good news is I do see some good swings on the course.  My scores are decreasing over the last few months.  I plan to keep up all the positive self-talk and believe success is right around the corner.

While the old saying “fairways and greens” is more like “fairways and rough” for me right now, I can see a slight glimmer of light in the distance. I will keep going forward to get to that light.

Share my struggles on social media with others to get us all on the track to improvement.

No Club, No Problem!! 2 Easy Techniques to Improve at Work

Is working getting in the way of golf? It always does for me, but paying the bills and feeding the kids makes abandoning a job impossible.  I am finding ways to be at work and still get in practice time, sometimes even the 30 minutes for the day.

Practice at work? How is that possible?  No, I don’t work at a golf course, nor do I work near a golf course.  My first inclination would be to hit a bucket during lunch, but I don’t have that option.  However, I found a couple techniques could help me improve at work without losing my job.

The first technique I like is mental reps. I know it sounds crazy, but numerous authors and researchers say mental reps, which is imagining every detail of playing, can improve a swing.  Craig Sigl in his product Break 80 Without Practice discusses mental reps.  He tells a story of a POW held overseas for a significant amount of time.  When the soldier came back, he played amazing golf.  When asked, he said he imagined himself playing rounds every day.  The intricate details of playing allowed his mind to ingrain his swing without actual practice.  His brain went to the same place and made the same swings when he put the clubs back in his hands.

We can all do mental reps. As a disclaimer, I am not saying to do these instead of working.  I do them during breaks, lunch, etc.  Spend time imagining every aspect of playing a round of golf.  Go through the pre-shot routine, the swing, watching the ball fly, and walking to the next shot.  The more detail in the mental rep, the better.  I have also done this right before going to sleep.

The second technique I use at work is swinging without a club. Dave Pelz discusses this approach in one of his books.  He tells the story of one of the instructors he knows having a group of students practice certain moves without a club, many times at work.  The instructor didn’t do it intentionally.  It was his suggestion for busy clients who couldn’t get to the range.  They could also do it during the winter.  He found students doing reps without clubs made swing changes quicker.

I try focusing on 1 move during a week. I spend 10-30 minutes during lunch doing the swing without a club.  I am deliberate and not going quickly.  Once I get to the range, I sometimes do the same move without the club during my warmup.  Feeling the movements can help transition to the club.

Most of us have to work, but we can use small breaks to make big improvements. Every little bit helps and can lower scores.  Share this on Facebook and Twitter to help others improve while working!

Discover Some of Golf’s Emerging Technology

Golf Channel cuts away and on the TV someone screams “BOOM!” The next 30 seconds make you feel like your golf game couldn’t live without the product on the screen.  Every famous golf instructor sells something during the commercials.  Are any of the products worth it?  I have no idea, but I did find some interesting newer products to check out that could help your game.

 

IOFIT Golf Shoes:

This is an interesting product. Shoes that measure lower body movement to help become more efficient.  Sean Foley, among many others, states the golf swing starts from the ground up.  These shoes look like they could help immensely.  Information overload may happen, but I always want more info.  They already hit their funding goal on kickstarter.  You can check them out here:  https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1325722173/iofit-the-first-smart-shoes-to-improve-your-golf-g

 

Copy Me Golf:

Sports psychologists talk about visualizing shots and success. The more the subconscious sees an action, the easier the action is to repeat.  Copy Me Golf created a FREE iPhone app using that theory.  You download the app and either use one of the golf models in their library or load in your own video.  The instructions have you watch a swing repeated 30 times to music.  They encourage using a VR box to focus better.  The designers indicate watching the correct movements will subconsciously transition our swings to the model.  Copy Me Golf says Olympic Swimmers use similar technology.  For free, I definitely plan on trying it.  I will even splurge for the $10 VR box from Amazon.  Here is the info:  http://www.copymegolf.com/

 

Ultra Base Systems:

Do you want a backyard putting green without excavating everything? I want a backyard green, but I have unique access issues.  I scoured the internet for ideas to build my own putting green, and UBS looks like a great option.  The system is a series of interlocking base units that turf attaches to.  They manufacture artificial turf with a few premade designs under pro putt systems and tour links.  However, you can use any turf with the bases.  This looks like a reasonable DIY project.  Check it out:  http://ultrabasesystems.com/

 

Pocket Bunker:

Everyone wants to get up and down from the sand. However, most people don’t have the means to practice often.  Pocket Bunker attempts to solve that problem.  The designers are fully funded on Indiegogo, and the product is intriguing.  More practice would be helpful, and this looks like it could help.  Info is here:  https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/pocket-bunker-portable-golf-bunker-training-aid-sport-home#/

 

If you see any good technology or infomercials, add them to the comments. Enjoy a great round this weekend!

My Next Swing Challenge: Tackling Tobacco Road

My new swing traveled to extreme destinations again last week, and much of the sand hills of North Carolina traveled back with me in my golf shoes. However, my last planned golf travel of the year resulted in a huge SUCCESS!

I played Tobacco Road Golf Club in Sanford, North Carolina last week. Tobacco Road’s reviews and terrain looked interesting, so I choose to take my progressing swing to Sanford.  In 2010, ESPN ranked it the #10 hardest course in America.  Many call it Pine Valley on steroids.  I wanted the challenge, and happily endured the humidity to experience it.

The starter provided the best piece of advice for my round. He said most of the holes and greens have collection areas.  The collection areas are conservative targets, but they provide the best path to stress free golf.  I decided to follow the philosophy of conservative target with aggressive swing.

Hole #1
Hole #1

The par 5 1st hole lays the blueprint for the rest of the course.  Not overly long, but constant sand with small windows to hit through.  The visual intimidation alone could persuade golfers to turn their carts around.  The fairway is large, if you want to hit a short drive.  However, a tiny sliver of fairway guarded by natural sand and wire grass right in everyone’s landing area tempts the aggressive.  Going for it could be disastrous or setup a good second shot.  The second shot has the same dilemma.  Great wide fairway in layup area or try a narrow pass to get near the green.  I hit a beautiful drive in the narrow fairway, put my second in some reasonable sand, and hit my third near the green.  Up and down for par.  Great start!

 

Hole #2 illustrates the risk/reward philosophy of Tobacco Road. Straight ahead is nothing but waste area.  Carry is anywhere between 190 and 220 depending on the tee, or the fairway to the right provides an easy target but longer 2nd shot.  The conservative approach provides a blind shot over a hill to the green.  I played conservative right and hit the fairway.  I then struggle through a few approaches in waste areas for a double.  I am sticking to the game plan.  Play to conservative spots.

Hole #5
Hole #5

 

 

My progress is apparent on holes 3-5. I played to the large parts of the fairway and greens.  I hit both fairways (#3 is a par 3) and hit all 3 GIRs.  That is my best stretch of the summer.  My iron shots weren’t perfect, but I shifted my weight well which resulted in decent trajectory.  However, Tobacco Road’s next line of defense crushed me, the greens.  I 3 putted all of them for bogey. The greens’ could only reasonably be described as an Olympic mogul course and blazing fast.  My conservative play led me to 30-50 ft. lag putts that weren’t close.  I thought my plan was perfect.  I failed to anticipate the trickiness of long putting on these greens.

Hole #8
Hole #8

Holes 6-9 continued the onslaught. The fairways were in immaculate condition.  They just aren’t level.  Every approach required stance adjustments and strategic thinking.  However, my ball striking stayed reasonably steady.  I doubled 2 holes and bogeyed the other 2.  Front 9 – 46.  For the difficulty, I loved it.  Not only that, I hit 5/6 fairways and 3 GIRs.  I couldn’t hope for better.

 

 

The back 9 brought more pain. I continued to hit fairways through #14, but I failed to hit any greens on the back 9.  I played from more waste areas than I knew could exist.  As the starter told us, every waste area was different.  I tried unsuccessfully to hit 20 ft. high flop shots from hard sand onto greens, carry gargantuan cliffs to small greens, and hit out of random native grasses.  I left more sand in my shoes than on the course, but I had a blast.  I tired the last couple holes but ended with a 94.

Hole #13
Hole #13

 

The course is amazing. The shots are visually intimidating, but successfully completing the shot feels that much better.  You need every club and shot in the bag, but the course is very fair.  Most holes provide both aggressive and conservative targets.  The greens roll true and are fast.  I completely agree with Golf Digest putting this in the top 100 and ESPN ranking it tough.  Truly amazing experience.   I also finished with a reasonable score on a tough course.  SUCCESS!

Hole #18
Hole #18

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.

4 Easy Putting Drills to Save Strokes

The old saying is “Drive for show, Putt for dough.” While a few researchers disagree that short game is the most important part of golf, putting is clearly important because that is when the ball goes in the hole.  Yes, everyone needs to get closer to the green or closer to the hole on approaches, but golfers can make up for many mistakes with a great short game.

Improving the short game is a little more of a challenge at home. Most of us don’t have putting greens in our backyards.  My next DIY project is an artificial green, but until then, my 30 minutes of putting work is at home most weeks.  I have a 4 drills/tools I enjoy that helped me improve the last couple years to where I normally average less than 2 putts a round.

Dime Drill

Putts roll in the hole if they are on the right line and are the right speed. While speed is extremely important, carpets at most homes prevent speed work.  Reading through different magazines over the years helped me develop a drill for putting line using a dime.

My goal is to start the putt on my intended line and keep it on the correct line to the hole. To focus on the line, I grab a dime.  I put the dime on the ground about 1 ft. in front of my ball.  I line the ball up to roll over the dime and stroke the putt.  If I strike the putt correctly, the ball will roll over the middle of the dime.  I practice soft and hard putts over the dime about 4-6 times.  I then move back to 2 feet and try to roll it over the dime.  I will keep moving back until I get to 8-10 feet.  The idea is to keep the ball on line as long as possible.

I vary the 1 coin drill with a 2 coin drill. I will put the dime a foot in front of my ball and a nickel about 4-5 feet in front of the dime.  I try to stroke a putt over both coins.  The 2 coin drill forces me to line up correctly over both coins and keep the ball on line.  Adds to the difficulty.

Face Tape

Distance on the carpet won’t be the same as a golf course, but you can still work on distance at home. Consistent distance comes from hitting the ball in the same spot of the club with every stroke.  I use putter face tape to check my strikes.  I put on the face tape and hit a couple putts.  I check the tape to see if the strikes were consistent.  Even if you aren’t hitting in the middle, hitting consistently will make the distance consistent.  You can always play shots that are consistent.

 

Yard Stick

The putting sword training aid that many, including Michael Breed, advocate using can be replaced with a simple yard stick. The idea is the same as the coin drill.  Try to keep the ball rolling down the yard stick as long as possible.  You can also use the yard stick as a stroke and alignment check.  Place the stick on the ground.  Place the club with the toe just inside the stick.  Putt balls trying to keep the putter moving along the stick.  It promotes the straight back and straight through stroke.  It won’t help those who have an arc stroke as much.

 

Drills on the carpet are good for practice, but I know everyone loves hearing the ball fall in the cup. I bought the accelerator putting green below to putt the ball in the hole.  It isn’t perfect, but I find it forces me to hit a putt hard enough to roll about a foot past the hole.


Putting is definitely an art form. Many ignore putting because they think a green is necessary for improvement.  I think you can significantly improve by keeping the putt on the intended line for as long as possible.  You can do that in your house.  If you have a great drill you do at home, put it in the comments.  Cheers for less putts!

Swing Changes on a Tour Course – Exhilarating and Futile

The US Open at Oakmont started today. Oakmont Opens live in infamy for not only who wins, but also the brutal nature of the course.  Tiger once said a 10-handicapper couldn’t break 100 on the course.  I believe this is a hard course, but this is still golf.  The course can’t be that tough, can it?  I love playing tour courses to experience the difficulty to bring me back to reality.  I had that experience again last weekend.

In a twitter interview, Zach Johnson listed TPC San Antonio as one of the hardest courses on tour. The Oaks course at the TPC is rated tough, but I was surprised he listed it as one of the hardest.  After last weekend, I definitely agree the Oaks is a beast.

The JW Marriott and TPC facility are fantastic. If you make it to San Antonio, I highly recommend the resort.  The resort includes a waterpark for kids, numerous outdoor options, and 2 great golf courses.  My kids loved it, and I played a round at the Oaks.

I am blessed to have played multiple great courses over the years, including Whistling Straits and Torrey Pines South right before the 2008 open. TPC San Antonio includes similar challenges.  The only thing it lacked was the ocean/lake views.  You need every shot in your bag, and then some you don’t have.

TPC San Antonio – Oaks Course

The course begins with a reasonable par 4. Drive the ball in the fairway.  Approach a green with a couple bunkers.  One thing I notice at tour courses is everything is bigger.  The fairways are larger.  The greens are bigger.  TPC San Antonio follows that model.  I feel like I can hit every fairway.  I proceed to hit it left into the rough.  The rough isn’t Valero Texas Open length now, but the grass isn’t muni short either.  The ball nestles down with at least half an inch of grass blades above the ball.  Thick rough means tough shot, but I pull out a bogey.

Hole #2 is a reasonable par 5. I pull it left again.  Hack away through some rough a few times.  Tough chips and end with a double.  Hole #3 is a long par 3 over water with a huge bunker right.  You can’t miss short or right.  My first shot, short and right.  I hit again from the tee thinking I just mishit the shot.  I smash a beautiful 5 iron perfectly on line.  I am looking at the ball and the hole, and then is splashes just short in the water.

All my tee shots draw left, so I aim down the right side. I proceed to hit 3 straight fairways on 6, 8, and 9.  I got up and down on 5 and 8, so I am playing reasonably.  As I finish the front 9, I notice something odd about #9.  The hole flyover on the GPS carts (which are great) explains #9 is the only hole without a bunker.  Thinking about it, nearly every landing zone and every green is surrounded by large bunkers.  Bunkers large enough to build sand fortresses to live in.  It would be nearly impossible to play a round on the Oaks without being in at least 1 bunker.

Hole #11 is an outstanding risk-reward hole. A short par 4 with a 50 yard bunker in the middle of the fairway.  The fairway also stops with rough between it and the green to prevent running the ball all the way onto the green.  The left side of the fairway gives a great angle to the green.  The entire right side of the green is protected by sand.  Strategy is a must.  I failed to play strategically.  Double bogey.

TPC11

I was able to get the vast majority of my daily steps on hole # 14. The reasonable par 5 has a long bunker down the entire right side near the green rivaling the sand on the left of 18 at Pebble.  I miss my approach right of the bunker.  I helped my son setup for his shot, and then I walked backwards for what seemed like a mile to get around the bunker to get to my ball.  I should have walked right through the middle.  Exercise is good though.  I pitched it well enough to walk away with bogey.

Hole #16 is fun and nightmarish in the same breath. Great medium par 3.  Grab a 6 iron and go for it.  However, try to stay on the correct side of the green because there is a bunker in the middle of the putting surface.  I pull extra clubs and miss the bunker.  I also miss the green long.  Chip and 2 putt for bogey.

TPC13

The nice par 5 finish is also a great risk-reward. Hitting down the right side will setup for a good 3 shot par.  However, the hole has a creek down the left side with another fairway to go at the green.  Long hitters can challenge the water and go for broke.  I played it down the right, stayed dry, and took a bogey.  Conservative, but decent, finish.

TPC14

Zach definitely knows what he is talking about. TPC San Antonio’s Oaks course is tough.  Tons of bunkers with speedy greens.  Having a good strategy and playing to the right spots gives great options.  However, slight misses are penalized.  I loved playing the course.  My iPhone pics don’t come near doing it justice.  I will take my 95 and tip my cap to the pros.

Struggle and Joy of My Last 2 Golf Rounds

Pure joy, frustration, exhilaration, anger, fist-pumping, despair, and anticipation for the next round can all describe my last 2 rounds on the golf course. Golf evokes the widest range of emotions in a short 3-4 hours.  I experienced all those emotions twice in the last few days.  I can’t wait to go back.

April and May are busy months for me, so I wasn’t able to play rounds. I stayed on track with my plan, but optishot simulation is as close to the course as I came.  Optishot is nice, but it isn’t the same as the course.

 

Round 1 – Choctaw Creek 

I played a round at Choctaw Creek on Day 1. Choctaw Creek isn’t the best maintained course, but I found a great deal on Golfnow.  Our region received significant rain the last couple weeks, so the fairways weren’t mowed low (or at all) and shots wouldn’t roll out.  It played much longer than the 6000 yards on the scorecard.

The round started exactly as planned. I scored well on the optishot recently, so my expectations are high.  I placed my first drive in the middle of the fairway.  Great start.  I hit the second shot poorly and left it short of the green.  Chipped it past the hole.  2 putt bogey.  Not terrible.

The second hole started a poor stretch. I pulled the drive way left.  I didn’t get close enough for a chip, so I pitched it over the green.  Couldn’t get up and down for bogey, so double.  Third hole is an uphill par 3.  I pulled an extra club because I wasn’t hitting the ball pure.  The shot landed short.  Chip up.  2 putt. Bogey.

The frustration begins bubbling. Every mishit or off target shot brings me closer to screaming.  I double 5 and 9.  Front 9 47.  Choctaw Creek is not a difficult course.  I take a deep breath and decide to make a swing change.  I know changing the swing mid-round is a terrible decision, but this swing is not working.

As my Golftec post indicated, I have multiple different instructors’ swing philosophies duct taped together for my swing. I can tell I am out of sync and trying to manipulate the club with my hands.  My lower body and shoulders turn faster than my hands move, so I get stuck.  My shots are either wide right or hooks left.  2 way misses are unplayable.  I decided I would swing what felt like only halfway back to keep everything in sync.

In the age of instant gratification, the change tested my patience. Hole 11 and 12 were terrible.  I tripled both holes.  However, I struck the ball more solid.  My short game contributed a few of those strokes.  My swing was more in sync.  Pure strikes built confidence and my short game touch came back.  I played the next 6 holes in 3 over par with 3 one-putts.  I didn’t hit any GIRs, but I placed the ball close enough to get up and down.  I strolled to 18 tee box planning to hit my last fairway, and I did.  I still missed the green with an iron, but an up and down finished off the round with a par!  92 isn’t what I wanted, but only 3 over on the last 7 holes is exactly what I needed.

 

Round 2 – Guthrie Country Club

I found another good deal on Golfnow for Guthrie Country Club for the following day. The course is only a 9 hole course, but the slope is 133.  The greens are tiny.  The fairways are tree lined.  The course is better maintained than Choctaw Creek, but the recent rain still meant the grass wasn’t short.

I finished strong yesterday, so I walked to the first tee knowing today would be better. The first hole is a long par 3.  I struck a 5 wood reasonably well, but it landed short.  Chipped up and 2 putted for bogey.  The greens are moving a little slow, and my putter must be open at impact.  All my putts fall right at the hole.

The 2nd hole is a short par 4.  I crush a driver down the middle of the fairway.  I flush a wedge to 30 feet.  2 putts and a par.  My first GIR in 2 days.  The joy is growing.  The feeling of halfway back still works.  Hitting it solid also means I am not losing distance.

Everything feels and looks better after an easy par. Then the 3rd hole happened.  Crushed driver, but it faded too far right.  I proceeded to hit every tree on the right of the fairway before finally taking my double.  I proceeded with bogey, bogey, double, double, double.  The exhilaration is gone.

I am on 9 with despair. My fix isn’t working.  All my shots are pull hooks.  I finally realize on 8 that I am significantly closing the clubface in the downswing while also pulling left, so I hit numerous pull hooks.  Something must change.  Again, I uncharacteristically make a slight tweek on 9.  I focus on the club exiting right.  I can handle the draw or hook as long as it starts enough right.  I hit a pure 4 hybrid with a baby draw.  The gentle breeze brought it back towards the pin to 20 feet.  2 putt par to finish the firsts 9 at 46.  Not ideal, but progress is possible.

I played another 9 to get my 18 holes in. The back 9 got better, but I struggle with consistency.  The reason making swing changes doesn’t work on the course is because the changes won’t happen every swing.  My swing and emotions flipped back and forth with nearly every shot.  I had great drives down the middle but mishit the approach.  I had 3 doubles on the back, but also managed 2 pars going into 9.

My confidence rose walking to the 9 tee box. Water lines the right, but I hit such a beautiful shot the first time.  I knew I could do it again. I pull the same hybrid, make the same smooth swing exiting right, and the shot came off the club even better.  My ProV1 starts just right of the flag.  A small curve left and lands 15 feet short and right.  The ball rolls towards the hole and stops 3 feet short.  Great Shot!  I loved it.  I sped to the green.  I line up the 3 footer and sink the birdie!  Great finish.  2nd 9 43 for an 89.

Immediate results with huge score drops don’t happen. I am happy I scored better my second round.  I know my focus now.  Feel like half swing to stay in sync.  Club exits right, and I should focus on club hitting ground after ball.  Improving those areas will consistently give me a chance to score well.

 

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