Practicing Golf v. Playing Golf #Chasing350

I spent two weeks fairly ill, tested twice for Covid-19. Fortunately, both tests were negative. Even though wasn’t the corona virus, it was enough like it to be really unpleasant and just a bit scary. It also weakened me. I was never bad enough to have to stay in bed, and I was able to do some swing practice, but it got harder to do and I became sloppy.

Last Sunday, I did feel strong enough to get out and play. It was a lovely, grey and drizzly day, much like those days I played golf in the Willamette Valley of Oregon. Unfortunately, it was raining buckets in Spotsylvania where my playing partner lives and he bailed out, assuming the worst. Out at the course, the forecast was for 0.02 inches per hour – at most a heavy drizzle.

When I arrived at the course, there was one group out on the front nine and another that started while I was on the range. Being a single, and not wanting to put pressure on any group, nor wanting to have a four-hour round or longer, I started on the back nine. Visibility was low and I lost track of my drive quickly. All I knew was that it was heading down the left. So I teed up another ball and swung away. Same result. Started walking, and found both balls, only about a foot apart. in the left rough.

The golf balls of my first two drives when I thought I had lost the first, little more than a foot apart.

I wish I could be this consistent with my swing on an ongoing basis. I am so wild, no matter how many lessons, no matter how much practice, I just do not really better. However, it is something that these were at 238 yards and pure carry, maybe a foot of bounce. The round itself was up and down, short game was really freaking good, long game not so much. Longest drive was only 245 and thus disappointing. To be fair, I had been sick and was still recovering.

I finished my round, cold and wet, in about three and a half hours, never seeing anyone else. It was lovely. The drizzle had stopped by the 11th or 12th hole. On the last par three I didn’t wait long enough for the GPS in my watch to catch up. I also forgot everything I knew about the hole. I took that 187 yard reading and thought, “well, I’ve been hitting a little short, let’s go with a 6 iron.” From the blacks, this is normally a 7 iron for me…at a 178 yards. Anyhow, I hit that ball so pure, so straight at the flag, I thought for sure that it was going to drop into the hole. I was of course disappointed when it dropped 20 yards behind the hole into the woods…and I never found that bright orange ball.

I played yesterday, after a very wet week. Course was generally soft and marshy and my swing was shit. Absolute shit. After looking at my swing speeds in practice and looking at my actual distances and what the estimated swing speeds were, I became convinced that I wasn’t making the same effort on the course. This was about the same time I ran across an article or video lesson that suggested that this was not only common, but often a result the misplaced belief that swinging slower provided more consistent results, when it generally results only in shorter results.

I swung harder and faster yesterday, trying to manage this 48″ driver in wet, mucky, windy conditions. It was not pretty. The only drive worth reporting was 259 yard carry that had incredible hang time. if the course had been hot and dry, I believe it would have been easily 300 yards plus on that particular hole. Temperatures in the low 50s don’t provide optimal results.

Another good thing that happened is that I played three of the par fives in par, with two putts each (yes, always missing the birdie putt). They felt easy and natural to play that way, not as if I had played them really really well.

Bottom line, while there is a lot of left yardage between 259 and 335 yards (my goal) of carry, I’m not expecting huge distances in off-season weather. Golf this time of year does provide a good check on actual carry distances, especially when the ball plugs, as mine often do. Yesterday’s long drive was gorgeous, high with incredible hang time. That alone made the day worthwhile.

Side note one: I’ve been encouraging my playing partner to swing harder, because distance really matters. I’ve told him numerous times that I think he can hit farther than he does. Yesterday he was doing that. He was hitting carry distances that equaled his total distances this past summer. Also, by pushing him back to the blues, from 5,800 yards to 6,400 yards, that has also forced him to swing faster and better. It is good to see, even though he continues to beat me on scores. As long as I hit it the farthest, I don’t really care.

Side note two: I’m taking notes from the long drive champions, like Kyle Berkshire. I may be more than twice his age, but there is no reason I can’t try to swing like he does with these four easy steps.

Be nice. It won't hurt either of us.

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