I forget sometimes that my iPhone 6 has a camera and thought I would video one of my playing partners today who likes to work his drives from left to right, and see how he would adjust for the howling northerly that was coming off his left. I then noticed the slo-mo option which I had never tried, and took footage of our whole group on the last tee. My friend Ian kindly filmed mine and it is amazing that my swing is still very long (not the shot, the swing!) even though I am rapidly approaching my half century.
My club has been out of bounds to members wanting a game of golf over the past fortnight due to the Australian Women’s Open being held there. However, a bunch of clubs around Adelaide opened up tee times for desperadoes who would rather play than watch golf, so the opportunity came to get my usual Sunday foursome onto a new course. I had my phone open for the opening of these limited tee times and managed to snag Kooyonga on the first Sunday and then Glenelg last Sunday. This earnt much praise from my playing partners and it was cool to be playing two courses ranked 26 and 25 in Australia by Golf Australia magazine.
Both courses were wonderful to play, Kooyonga having one of its normal holes out of play and a temporary hole 19 in action, a par three better than most. I felt a bit anxious wanting to play well at both courses but at Kooyonga, that meant me getting too uptight and topping a ball off the second tee, and then getting more and more wound up as each follow up shot on that hole and the next seemed to get me in bigger trouble. A par on the fourth settled me down and it was steady golf for the remainder of the round until I hacked my way down the 18th on route to a 92. At first, I wasn’t as wrapped in Kooyonga as I thought I would be. It is tighter than Grange, and a lot of overgrowth meant that golf balls were much more easily lost. But towards the last six holes, I started wishing that I could come back and play the next week, which I think is a sign that the course already had its claws into my brain.
I vowed that I would just relax at Glenelg the next week and enjoy myself to avoid the early hole disasters from the previous week, and it worked for the first hole, although a three putt bogey was a missed opportunity. I have only played Glenelg once before, twenty years ago in a Country golf week round where I remembered taking an 11 on the second. Maybe that ghost came out to haunt me as I pushed my drive out to the right into a area of open rough but then could not find it anywhere. We had to keep moving with the field on our tail so I ended up wiping the hole and then butchered the following par three with a series of dodgy sandy lies on the right that fluffed chances well and truly. Still, the resolution to enjoy myself was still there (and after a start like that, what else was left?) and I ripped a beautiful drive on the short par 4 that ended past the greenside bunker. Again, the round ended with me wishing that I could have another round there very soon but as I don’t really know any Glenelg members, that could be a while.
As for the Women’s Open, it is really an odd feeling watching pros playing on your home course (or one of them) on TV. I did notice that the cameras tend to flatten out some of the contours on the course. And when the eventual winner Haru Nomura holed a long putt from the back of the 17th green on the West, I knew exactly how hard that putt is under normal conditions. Her effort never looked like missing and just shows how amazingly talented these players are.
It says something for the addictive nature of golf, or the eternal optimism of the player that whenever I finish a round, I am already looking forward to the next round. If I have just had a good round, then I want to play soon so that I can continue my good form. If I have played below expectations, then I want to get out there and make amends.
There’s plugged lies and there are unplayable lies – but sometimes at my home club, the trees and bushes swallow the golf ball whole and it is never seen again. (Until the next time gale force winds shake it loose.) A couple of examples of lies I have encountered ….
Between Christmas and New Year, I figured it was time to re-read my very favourite golf book. I cannot remember when I first got this book or even how I cam to know about it but it has had a profound effect on my thining about the game of golf but sadly, it hasn’t really helped to show in an improved golf game. That is not the fault of the book itself, but on my own lack of application of the book’s principles.
It is not an instruction book but a book on the psychology of golf – one of the first that I had ever encountered. It is a book that is as much about learning as it is about golf, and how the human mind can get in the way of itself when trying to achieve goals. I know I used a quote from this book way back in 1997 when I was presenting to my panel when I was going through the process to become an Advanced Skills Teacher 1. When re-reading this book, I tried to find the quote I used again, and I pushed some key quotes out to Twitter but could not find the one I was looking for. I found it in the very last chapter.
“To perpetrate doubt in the educational system or in parent-child or manager-employee relationships is one of the most debilitating though – unconscious crimes against human potential.”
The basic premise of the book is that doubt is the undoer of our potential when playing golf. If we can learn to keep doubt at bay, then we free our unconscious minds to play shots that open up our potential. Gallwey talks about two parts of consciousness, Self 1 and Self 2. Self 1 is the little voice inside your brain that has a running commentary about your game and I could recognise that concept straight away. It is the idea that pops into your head about avoiding the water on the right but then swinging in such a way that creates a big slice that dumps your ball in the wetlands. It is the angry name calling under your breath (or out loud) when you duff a shot or misjudge a break or hit a shot straight towards trouble. And then keeps you brewing over it long enough to ruin the next shot, or the next hole, or even the entire rest of the round. It is that voice that tells me I am in a slump, or that I can’t possibly keep a run of good holes going. None of this is helpful to an improving golf game.
Gallwey’s other Self 2 is the state of mind when you just swing and the shot happens well or as required without any mental forcing. Some athletes call it the zone, and everyone who has played golf has experienced, even fleetingly. The Inner Game is about trying to find that sweet spot more often.
It really is a complex read and I have not put everything he suggests to the test, or as a routine. But it is about increasing awareness of your surroundings, of your body, of your tempo and letting that be your reality rather than letting your inner Self 1 start over analysing or talking down your possibilities. I have a recent example from two rounds ago where I found the zone in a round of golf, and then got in my own way.
I was playing the East course at Grange for the first time in nearly two months after experiencing a steady run of results on the West.I wasn’t sure how that would translate to the East, and it was only the second time that my new Callaway driver would see action on this course. So mentally, all sorts of things were racing through my mind. Would the Callaway give me extra distance and get me using shorter irons into the greens? Would my steady form follow me from the West? I was about to lose a “flagged” round from my rolling handicap and I wanted a decent round to maintain my current handicap. But I had been reading this book, and I was conscious in trying to keep these Self 1 thoughts at bay, focussing on the swing, accepting results as they came and letting things flow. I was also playing with a friend who is still a novice golfer (his own description) who was feeling a bit edgy about the East course being a tough course for his own perceived standard, so I wanted him to enjoy the day.
I succeeded on the first drive, sending a nice long shot down the centre much further than normal. I only had a wedge for my second when normally I am hitting 7 iron, but I hit it thin and sent it through to the back of the green through the light rough and onto the soil surrounds. I was pleased that the shot didn’t bother me so decided that a putter would work best as the next shot was downhill and through a large swale. I focussed on awareness of my putter and picked a place to put to that I thought would release to the hole and it worked out pretty well, settling down four feet from the hole. I sank that – par – not a bad start.
The second hole was another nice drive that worked from left to right up closer that normal to the green. My next shot was a 7 iron that felt a bit pushed but climbed over the right hand bunkers and lobbed softly on the green. Easy two putt territory and there was my second par.The third is a par 3, and again I reached for a club shorter than normal as I was focussing on a routine that had been working over the last month with my address. It was keeping the Self 1 stuff out of my mind and this one also found the green, although it hit a down slope and ran away from the hole settling eight or so metres away. My putting seemed to be well paced and I lagged it up for another par. Things were going well – I noticed the trend but didn’t get too excited which was a good sign.
The fourth is a short but challenging hole that doglegs around to the right past a wetlands water hazard. I usually take a three wood here because a pulled driver will go deep into the trees on the left hand side and a slice will surely drown the golf ball. This three wood came out a little low but arrow straight and was longer than my partner’s drive. I was only 60 metres away and I could feel myself tensing over the shot – the mind tried to stay focussed but tightness produced the worst shot of all a topped slice (almost shank) straight across the corner of the green and into the reeds. That hole did not amount to a score (playing stableford and no stroke being an index 17 hole) and then I got my focus back. I hit the next par 3 in regulation and parred. The next par four also had water down the right but no way was I making the same mistake twice! Or so I thought. This time instead of tension and tightness, I over relaxed and topped the ball to the left barely a hundred metres. It was the swing away from focus to another opposing detrimental state of mind and body. My next hybrid iron advanced me down the fairway to the left not too badly and I thought I could still easily get bogey if I got back to the balanced state of mind. The approach wedge was a slightly longer replica of the push/topped slice from hole 4 and I drowned my second golf ball. Another scratch on the card.
Funnily enough, I managed to birdie the next hole after the longest drive of the day, a hybrid that ended up in the right hand bunker, a nicely played bunker shot down to about six feet and a putt that never looked like missing. The next hole was a Self 1 fiesta where I pulled my drive, chipped out from a bush, played up , chipped on and two putted. I thought I was self sabotaging in a major way especially when my drive on nine was a pull, extra low that ended up in the left hand hazard two or three metres from the embankment joining it to the fairway. I had to play the shot with a wedge to ensure that I cleared the lip of the embankment but didn’t want to hit it too high and catch the overhanging branches. A good situation to focus, and trust that my Self 2 would manufacture a shot that would work. It did, catching it just right – high enough to clear, low enough to dodge and with a lot of forward momentum that carried it up to around 150 metres from the pin of this par 5. Suddenly I had my trust back and hit a beautiful 5 iron onto the green for another par. I was pleased that I hadn’t let a few serious lapses stop me from bouncing back and recording a score below my handicap for the nine, but of course my Self 1 voice couldn’t help but mentally calculate the amazing score I would have if “I hadn’t stuffed those couple of shots”.
I won’t analyse the second nine because the focus wasn’t as sharp, and the day was really hot so I did feel a bit like I was forcing shots heading back to the clubhouse. But it was a timely reminder to feel the potential of Self 2 and to really aim to do the things that need to be done to allow that state of mind to happen more often. Thank you, Inner Game Of Golf.
Just a really quick post here seeing it is New Year’s Day and I’ve been busy doing nothing all day. We have had some seriously hot days of late – I think that 3 out of the last 4 rounds that I have played have been on days when the forecast has been 39 degrees C (102 F) or higher. The key to feeling good all the way round on those days is pretty simple – fluid and lots of it.
I also try to wear lighter coloured clothing and wear a white cap (although finding a decent bucket hat would be a better option) but it’s making sure that liquid is on hand that is key. This summer I have been getting two 750 ml bottles and an extra 1 litre bottle and freezing them half full overnight. I top them up with spring water in the morning just before I leave for the course, and I add in a Powerade just to break things up.
I found out yesterday that the Powerade is a pretty crucial factor for me, as I started to feel a bit heat affected on the seventeenth green. I could really feel the blood pounding in my head as I crouched down to read my putt and all of a sudden, the sunlight seemed to be extra glarey. Because it was only forecast to be 38 (100 F), I thought that two and half litres of cold water would be enough but in hindsight, I think I was wrong. I would normally drink the Powerade towards the end of the front nine as it was not semi-frozen and the cooler bag only keeps things cold for so long. Whatever a sports drink has in it, it obviously gets absorbed pretty fast by the body in a extreme heat situation but it makes the rest of the water last perfectly for the remainder of the round.
Luckily, Grange is not that far from the ocean so usually there is some form of breeze helping to make things more comfortable. I certainly prefer a dry heat to excess humidity and dry is more common here in Adelaide. And keeping the fluids up is going to be a smart idea as I get older as well.
I put an asterisk next to the title because any round that I’ve shot under 80 in the past twenty years has some qualifying circumstances that made that score easier to achieve. I’m just an average golfer so breaking 80 is a nirvanic barrier to try and achieve. On a full blown metropolitan course without any asterisks, the best I have been able to must is 81. Every time I have broken 80, it has been on a shortened course undergoing renovations, or a sand greens course.
I used to play a bit of sand greens golf prior to my kids being born. These courses are all through rural South Australia and I’ve played a number of these in my single life as a beginning teacher. My lowest round was a 76, one day at Wirrabara Golf Club (back when my father and I were on speaking terms). Sand greens or “scrapes” as they are known are quite a bit easier to play on than actual green greens. In fact, there really isn’t much call for a short game besides knowing how to chip and run a seven iron, and there are no bunkers to speak of. Add in the fact that you have year round preferred lies, and the fact that they ran sheep on the course so that the grass was even throughout (sheep don’t discriminate between fairway or rough) means that my 76 isn’t really that amazing. anyway, it is the best score I have had thus far – and I don’t play those country courses any more.