A range of options: Don’t spare the changes when you’re practicing

“Doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results is the definition of insanity.”

There is debate over who first said words to that effect. Most people attribute it to Albert Einstein. Some say Mark Twain. Others say Benjamin Franklin.

But I say it had to have been a golfer.

The only constant in our great game is change. Jack Nicklaus called it “a game of constant compensation.” You never know from day to day what kind of results you’re going to get in the game’s many facets.

I had that in mind the other day as I went to the driving range with a friend to try to figure out why I’ve been playing so poorly. I was coming off three of the worst outings I can recall, punctuated by a nine-hole, just-for-fun excursion to an executive course where I failed to hit a green in regulation – even though the par-3s were 90-120 yards and the par-4s were in the low 300s.

Talk about a great time to go to the range.

And this is why I call it Range … as in Change.

I didn’t even know what I wanted to change. More than anything, I just wanted to feel good over the ball. I wanted to see the ball fly the way I’m accustomed to seeing it flying.

So we started hitting, and I was getting the same results I’ve been getting – shots hit chunky and off target. But then my friend asked me to take a look at his stance, which was preposterous considering how I was hitting the ball.

Funny thing: It was exactly what I needed to get out of my own doldrums. It was as if a light bulb went on for me.

He’s been trying to cure a slice, so I showed him the proper setup and emphasized not swinging flatfooted – getting your left heel off the ground on takeaway and then lowering it to the ground as you finish nice and high.

The stance I showed him was NOT what I had been doing. I had opened my stance a year or two ago because I was hooking the ball too much, and I had been hesitant to go back to the squared-up stance for fear the hook would return.

But then in those miserable recent rounds, I didn’t know where the ball was going. Sometimes I still would hook. Sometimes I would come out of it and hit the ball to the right. Rarely did I get a good result.

So I hit a shot with a squared-up stance to demonstrate for him what I was talking about – and hit it dead solid perfect. Then another. And another.

He went back to practicing (and started getting much better results, by the way). And I kept hitting balls with the squared-up stance and kept hitting shot after shot that was crushed and was going exactly where I wanted it to go. I was aiming at those signs on the range and hitting it right over them.

More important, I suddenly felt right again. Looking down at the ball, I just felt good. No more anxiety. No more uncertainty.

I kept going through the bag with excellent results until I got to the driver. This would be the big test – I tend to hook the driver more than any other club.

Omigosh! My distance was back! I was hitting drives that were staying hit a long time. I couldn’t believe how far they were carrying, and I couldn’t wait to put another ball on the tee and do it again.

It made me realize that, by opening my stance, I had lost about 10-20 yards per club because I wasn’t turning properly and my balance was all messed up. Not only was it not curing the hooking problem I was trying to fix, it was creating new problems.

But it also made me realize, one more time, why the driving range is so important. I should have gone there with a plan. I should have gone there with something specific I wanted to work on. I got lucky, though – I stumbled into it.

There’s a reason why the pros go to the range every day. There’s a reason why they spend hours out there. And that’s a big reason why they’re so good at what they do.

Don’t just practice shots that are comfortable. Don’t just keep doing the same thing, especially when you’re playing poorly. Change your grip. Change your stance. Change your swing. Take a lesson. Try new clubs.

But the main thing is to keep trying – and to keep going to the range.

Range … as in Change.

It’s what the smart people say. You don’t have to be an Einstein to figure it out.


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