When the calendar flipped from 2019 to 2020 I had a lot of optimism for my golf game. After having a stroke in 2018, 2019 was a strange year. Strange in the fact that even though I had lost a lot of clubhead speed because the left side no longer really “fires” I had my best scoring year ever. Instead of trying to establish power, my swing was all tempo-based. So, I couldn’t wait until 2020 to see what this year would bring.
Yeah, that thought didn’t age well. At all!!
Our golf season here started late due to the ongoing headline that is COVID-19. When this “thing” is all said and done, if I never saw that moniker again, it’d be too soon. So, my season started out on the very modest “Until The Next Tee Practice Centre for Deprived Golfers”. One way or another, I was going to hit the ground running when golf courses were given the green light to open. A prediction that I accurately made, golf courses opened on our May “Long Weekend” (Victoria Day… God Save the Queen). So armed with a backyard hitting net (that I no longer have because we now live in a small 2-BR apartment with no outside yard), some shoddy golf balls, and an even more shoddy piece of carpet remnant I went to work.
My main focal point was just to work on a couple of small things. Handle through the golf ball first (delay the release) and just worrying about the quality of the strike. Nothing major, I was comfortable with my swing and where I was headed. I had played as recently as January while I was in Orlando for the 2020 PGA Show and my scoring carried over from 2019. But, us golfers, we’re certainly a fickle bunch aren’t we? Always looking to tinker and find… Dare I say it (insert gulp here), more.
So golf courses and driving ranges got the go ahead to open in May. I was pumped and excited. Heck, I was returning for my third season working for GolfNorth Properties at Scenic Woods Golf Club. A position that I would resign from at the end of May for a multitude of reasons. Including but not limited to multiple angina episodes, a mini-stroke (or T.I.A), and the safety for us staff members was certainly not up to par in my eyes (For more details please see this article). Initially, I regretted that decision but, looking back at it now, I have no regrets.
As I found my way back onto the golf course or a driving range I noticed that a scary trend was developing. For the first time in my life, I was fighting the blocks or a slice. I’ve always had a natural draw. So this was a bewildering situation for me. It didn’t take long for me to figure out the reason why this “fault” had occurred. All of that time on the “UTNT Practice Centre for Deprived Golfers” developed a bad habit. I was now delaying my release so much, that I wasn’t even releasing the golf club. So, I sought out the solution. An easy fix. Just release the golf club. Little did I know, now I was in trouble.
Mechanically speaking, all Hell broke loose. The good news was that I had killed the right for the most part. The bad news was that my new miss and fault was way worse. Now, I was consistently thinning the golf ball and I even managed to top the golf ball with my driver. Honestly, if it wasn’t for the forgiveness of the Tour Edge Exotics EXS 220 metalwoods that I was reviewing, all of my consequent sessions would have been disastrous. Looking back at that sentence, I have to laugh, because my sessions – save for a couple – wreaked of stench. My rounds played were even worse, except for “flashes of brilliance” on a few occasions.
Every time that I teed it up, I hurt. I don’t know what was so different about this season or this year, but, the arthritis that I was experiencing all season long was brutal. On most days I couldn’t make a fist. My shoulders were always sore. In general, every stinking joint in my body hurt. Literally. I hated being inside of my own body, the temple that it is.
If it wasn’t for CBD oils from Asheville Botanicals and Hempcy Active and a derivative called CB5 from Boomer Naturals which all managed the pain to a near tolerable level, I wouldn’t have had any season. All of my swings were maxed out at a liberal 3/4. I couldn’t get through the golf ball (my glutes weren’t firing), and I was experiencing the early release. I averaged 83 this season compared to 68 in 2019. Yeah, it was a real “shit-show”. Thinking about it, it wasn’t so much swing mechanics from the backyard practice as much as it was my physiological issues. Which also included yet another fight with a diabetic foot ulcer, which prompted me to start learning how to play left-handed. So, this resulted in changes number 1 and 2.
- Full send on graphite shafts in all clubs. I still need to switch my wedges to graphite. But when compared to steel the year before, even though I struggled with arthritis I was still able to swing a club. The prior few seasons on more than one occasion it actually hurt to make a swing with steel shafts. It might be placebo, but the graphite was more gentle on my wrists and elbows.
- Even though my hand size puts me into a standard grip with 2 wraps. The time has come to go to jumbo or at least a mid-size grip with two wraps. A brand like JumboMax grips comes to mind. If you can’t clench a fist, you might need to re-evaluate your grip size.
The struggles continued through August, September and the beginning of October. It was frustrating, so frustrating in fact, that I thought about walking away from golf. For at least the rest of the season. I had never quit anything in my life until I resigned from my position and I was worried that a habit had formed. I stayed the course and soldiered on, with thanks going to my friend Randy. But then, something happened on October 20th. I had a range session at Brock Golf Course with a couple of thoughts put in place. Actually there were three.
- Get the ball position back more in my stance. Cheating towards the trail leg. My right. Because of eye dominance, my ball position at set-up was way too far downrange at address. From the left side, it was perfect every… single… time.
- More lift, force it if need be.
- “Think like a linebacker”. Be really freaking aggressive and get through the golf ball. At all costs.
These basic things resulted in me having the best range session that I had all season. So, I thought that I would play their executive-length golf course the same day. Iron striking is the key to their very small greens. I failed to miss a GIR, carding a few birdies along the way, and just like that there was a light at the end of the tunnel. (Brock Golf Course pictured below taken October 20th. The turning point. I started to fling darts in to the small greens.)
The vibe and flow continued through any rounds played thereafter. I was posting scores of E or better (-3). My ball-striking was on, I was taking crisp divots, and my accuracy was there. I was driving the ball well and my putting rounded into form as well. I played a few rounds with my former caddie and he said that he had never seen me play the way that I was when I was playing Min-Tours. Even after golf courses closed, when there is no snow on the ground, I’ll take my pup for a run over to a closed city-run golf course down the street. We play fetch and I’ll hit balls to targets (trees, bunkers, etc) from the rough. I never strike a ball from the fairway or teeing ground nor do I step foot on the greens. I only take one club and one golf ball.
I’ve worked a little bit on a couple of things while I’ve been out there. I’ve worked on my wrist hinge as opposed to wrist set. I’ve tidied up my connection, staying a little more connected too. Also, I’ve worked on width too. My striking is where it needs to be. Hitting from the rough has had its perks too. I’ll be a heck of a player from the rough in 2021 when I miss a fairway.
Even though, I don’t want the season to end, I am ready to close the chapter known as 2020 and move on to 2021. Moving forward and employing the changes in equipment and swing philosophy has me really excited for the 2021 golf season. 2020 sucked, but it served a purpose. Always #fightandgrind.
Until The Next Tee!!