Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Reaching the Ultimate Goal

On Saturday July 26th, I bogeyed the 18th hole to shoot a fine 73 (+1) from the tips at St. Catharines, a score that brought my handicap index down to a 0.3.

For the first time, I've officially reached a scratch handicap!

I really didn't know if it was possible for me to reach this goal - I play about twice a week on average and I maybe hit 200 balls per year on the driving range. I just don't have the time or patience to practice when that time can be spent on the golf course or doing more important things.

It's not all roses though. I followed up with an ugly round of 77 (+5) on Sunday and hit some really poor shots, especially off the tee with the driver and didn't make one putt of consequence in a birdie-less round.

That being said, I have gotten into quite a groove with my swing over the past twenty rounds, especially with my iron play. It's at the point right now where I just aim right at the pin with anything from a 6-iron down to my wedges and pretty much expect the ball to go right at it.

There are a few slight adjustments I've made at setup and during the swing this year that have helped me get where I am and I want to note them here for the future when my game goes back into the gutter ;)

  • DRIVER: Setup in athletic position with about 60% of weight on back foot and left shoulder up. Hands should be as low as possible. At the beginning of the backswing, I pull the club back outside the target line (more of a perception thing...I'm sure I'm just pulling it straight back) and then up over right shoulder to complete the backswing. Finish with weight fully transfered to front foot.

  • HYBRIDS: Setup in athletic position with about 60% of weight on back foot and left shoulder up. Hands should be as low as possible. If I want to cut the ball or hit it straight, weaken the grip, with my left and right hands turned much more to the left. On hybrids off the ground, I want to stand a bit closer to the ball than I do with hybrids off the tee, which will promote more of a downward blow. Use a three-quarter swing going back and finish with weight fully transfered to front foot.

  • IRONS: Setup with weight evenly distributed and hands as low as possible. Grip down an inch or two. Bring club straight back from target line, using what feels like a half swing but is more likely a three-quarter swing. Swing back and through right down the target line and finish with weight fully transfered to the front foot.

  • CHIPPING (GOOD LIES): Setup with a narrow, slightly open stance in athletic position. Ball position should be slightly behind center and about 90% of weight placed on front foot to promote downward strike. Follow through should be low to ground.

  • CHIPPING (POOR LIES): Setup with wider, slightly open stance in athletic position. Ball position depends on severity of lie with majority of weight placed on front foot to promote downward strike. Break wrists early on backswing and either splash down slightly behind the ball or hit the ball off the toe of the clubface for a softer blow out of the rough. Follow through should be short and low to ground.

  • PUTTING: Set stance first to stabilize body then set putterface square. Trust your line and speed, complete the stroke with head down and keep it there until well after the ball leaves the putterface. Don't be scared - try to make EVERY putt - don't think about the consequences of a missed putt. Good putting is almost 100% psychological. Crouch lower for shorter, important putts.


  • At this point, I have no personal tips for bunker shots. It's been a huge weakness in my game this year and I still haven't figured out what's best for me. I definitely need new wedges soon, as the grooves on my lob and sand wedges have almost worn down to nothing. I imagine that will help a bit with my sand play!

    The timing of my solid play couldn't be better, as Club Championship weekend is approaching in four days. It's my favourite tournament of the year.

    I'm excited and actually a bit nervous about it and my expectations are just a bit higher than usual. I'm going to try to tell myself to play just like any normal round and most importantly, I can't be afraid to succeed. Sometimes, when you start out on fire with a birdie or two, you start trying to protect your score - I want to have the feeling that I can swing free and just try to make as many birdies as possible.

    My goal for the weekend is that I put myself in a position to win after two rounds. That's it...I just want a shot at it.

    As usual, I'll have daily reports during the championship. I'll be back on Saturday afternoon or Sunday morning with my first round recap.

    7 comments:

    1. Way to go matt.

      But, why even say you hit 200 practice balls a year?

      ReplyDelete
    2. Hey Matt

      Way to go with reaching scratch. That's fantastic. I would be severely tempted to just give the game up right now - say "I've done it! I've conquered golf! It's easy now. What's next?"

      Playing twice a week is still pretty good. I try to play 9 holes once a week in the evening after work in the summer, but other than that, I only play once on a Saturday a week. In the winter, I'll go and share 100 balls down at the range with my buddy during the week but that's more social than practice. We have competitions to see who can hit the biggest hook/slice or worst shank. I use it more as an opportunity to have a chat and a laugh than worry about contact.

      I don't know whether new grooves in the wedges will necessarily help with your bunker shots, as the clubface doesn't really make contact with the ball. It's all about getting the right amount of sand coming out of the bunker at the right angle. Practice is the only thing that really helps with that. I always aim at a spot about an inch behind the ball and hit down through it firmly, varying the length of the swing to how far you want the ball to go. Be positive! Grooves help channel mad, water and grass away from the contact zone and, when you hit it clean, grip the ball and impart spin on normal shots.

      Sorry to waffle on so. Do you want me to talk you through my 68 at the weekend? No, thought not.

      Keep it going, Matt.

      David

      ReplyDelete
    3. ED:

      You shot 68? If so, you need to start a blog of your own so I can read about it!

      Plus, I'm sure Harry would love to read it too and harrass you!

      ReplyDelete
    4. Hey Matt

      It was a lucky 68. All the 4 par 5's were relatively short and certainly all reachable in two - I think the longest was about 530 uphill - and I made my score on those - two eagles and two birdies. The rest of the round was just making pars for the most part. It was one of those days where your body obeys your mind's desire ... I barely thought about a swing all day.

      I can't start a blog, old pal. I have nothing interesting to say in it. My life is pretty tedious. I don't do much more than golf. Harry gets plenty of opportunity to harangue me both on his own site and here. I don't want to give him any more ammunition.

      Plus I can really be a jerkwad arsehole sometimes if I don't think hard about what I write 'cos my tone doesn't come over very well and I'm sure everyone would hate me. Particularly Harry.

      ReplyDelete
    5. Ha. Well, don't worry about Harry. The only people in life he doesn't hate are his family, his girlfriend (he's in loooooove) and his dog Harper.

      He tolerates Toast (Golf + Poker blog) and myself but secretly hates us for being better at everything then he is. Including squash, which I've never even played.

      So don't worry about him - you should write a blog. He won't have time to read anything after this weekend anyway. Club championships start Saturday and he'll quit golf for the year on Monday to focus on Fantasy Football.

      ReplyDelete
    6. Harry might quit golf half way through Saturday's round after he finds out he's playing with me in the first round.

      Brush

      ReplyDelete
    7. Not sure how I should feel about being the hottest topic on the matts blog right now.

      ReplyDelete