Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Seek Professional Help

My previous blog post described my first swing analysis at GolfTec during the 2009 U.S. Open. It was extremely helpful. After that first one-swing video lesson, I received a promotional, in-person swing analysis with a GolfTec instructor in Lake Grove. She broke down every element of my swing and corrected my atrocious posture, alignment and swing plane.

A few months later I took advantage of another promotion at GolfTec in White Plains. On that day, the instructor was able to help me refine my set-up and improve my takeaway and swing plane. Following these two sessions my game continued to improve, but I was still plagued with inconsistency.

That's when a Groupon offer found its way into my inbox. Two 45 minute lessons with highly respected golf coach Walter Ostroske for just $45.

It was an offer I couldn't refuse.

I immediately clicked accept and print, then called Mr. Ostroske to schedule my first lesson. By the time I took four swings with my 6 iron, Walter had identified my problem.

"Your set up is perfect. Good posture, although you could use a bit more knee flex. Nice take-away. Good swing plane."

Walter was very positive and encouraging, so why was every third ball squirting out to the right?

He placed the butt end of my driver four inches outside of my left temple and told me to take another swing.

Before my clubhead made contact with the ball... BAM! My skull whacked the grip.

"You're swaying forward during your downswing," said Walter.

We spent the remaining forty mnutes hitting balls, trying some drills and analyzing how the swing felt.

By the end of the lesson I was fairly confident that I could feel where my body position should be at impact. Walter then told me to practice the drills he recommended and come back after a week or so.

Two weeks later, after a few practice sessions and a nine-hole round at Eisenhower, I returned for my second lesson. My swing had improved. My impact position was better, but my follow through was still ugly. Walter showed me how my right side was outracing the rest of my body which caused my arms to collapse at impact.

The result was that horrendous "Chicken Wing" finish we all see at our local municipal course.

More swings. More advice. And a terrific two-club drill that helps keep the body in sync from takeaway to follow through.

My shots became more consistent and more powerful. As a result, I can now feel where the clubhead should be at every stage of the swing.

I thanked Walter and told him I would continue my practice routine and call in a few weeks to schedule another lesson.

Now let's see if there's any effect on my scorecard.

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Inlier

In Outliers, author Malcolm Gladwell contends that the most important common factor among great achievers is the 10,000 hour rule. Deliberate practice, conducted over long periods with professional feedback is more important than inborn talent.

Great news for all of us inliers—average folks with average talents—right?

Not so fast.

Dan McLaughlin, a 32 year old former photographer, decided to test the theory using golf as the experiment.

To make a very long story short, Dan quit his job and committed to putting in 10,000 hours of deliberate practice with professional coaching and feedback. His goal: To qualify for the PGA Tour in six years.

Dan is 3,000 hours into his quest and has his handicap down to 6. Pretty cool.

But who has the resources to walk away from job and family responsibilities for six years and spend six hours a day six days a week pounding golf balls? Not I.

So being a man of modest desires, I offer a modest proposal. Over the next four months I will put in 100 hours of deliberate practice, with a small amount of professional coaching and feedback—I can’t afford a full-time professional coach—and break 80 from the white tees on a reasonably challenging course.

First, a little history. I began playing golf in my mid-forties and fell in love with the game immediately. My first efforts were pretty dismal, although not untypical.

I shot 114 on my first attempt at a real golf course, Turnberry Isle in Avventura, Florida.

However, I broke 100 only a few weeks later and was consistently shooting in the high 80s and low 90s within three months.

I’m reasonably fit and fairly athletic so I was able to model my swing after the professional golfers that most resembled me in height, weight and build.

After a moderate amount of practice my swing became the envy of all my playing partners and I routinely outdrove friends 10-to-15 years my junior. My scores, however, still hovered around 90.

In a do-it-yourself attempt to improve, I started tinkering and compensating. By 2007 my swing had degenerated into an ugly, un-athletic atrocity. Worse, I started hitting fat shots, skinny shots, shanks and even, on occasion, total whiffs. I came very close to giving up the game.

It was painful.

Then, during the 2009 U.S. Open at Bethpage I stepped into the American Express exhibit where GolfTec had set up a swing analyzer. I got strapped into their electronic harness and took my best 5-iron swing.

A few weeks later I got my results along with some tips on how to improve posture, alignment, take-away and follow through.

With a little practice my game came back to its familar mediocre state.

Then, I stumbled upon the Dan Plan which has inspired The Joe Plan which is designed to help players fulfill the modest desire to improve their game and get more enjoyment out of every round.

Today is my first day. I’ll start my practice routine, which I’ll describe in subsequent posts, and play nine holes later this afternoon to get a baseline score. I have never kept a USGA handicap index, but my intuition tells me it’s between 18 and 22.

Wish me luck.

Next installment: Professional feedback.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Joe Girardi Cites Global Warming in Yankee Loss

During his post-game press conference, Joe Girardi blamed anthropogenic global warming for his team's improbable loss to the Mets. "There's no other exlanation. The only way a Mets player can hit a homerun is through the use of illegal performance enhancing temperatures."

When asked to explain, Girardi ranted that Ike Davis couldn't hit a ball over a Little League fence without climatic juice.

"That ball barely made it into the first row. And it went off of Swisher's glove, so it should have been a grounds-rule double."

When a reporter from the NY Post suggested that a ball bouncing off a player's glove and over the wall is indeed a homer, Girardi accused him of being a right-wing climate change denier.

"SHUT UP!" he explained, then stormed out of the pressroom without answering any further questions.