Don’t be afraid to try new things on the golf course — it’s part of the fun

Who says you can’t change your game?

Besides you?

A few weeks ago, I committed to a monumental change in my approach: I switched to the power fade.

This is akin to a Hatfield joining the McCoys. I had hooked the ball for 40 years. It was part of who I was on the golf course.

Whenever I had a driver in hand, my first thought was to go to the left side of the tee box. Now I stay on the right side. It’s like a staunch Democrat joining the Republicans.

Frankly, I don’t know why I stuck with the right-to-left shot shape for so long. It wasn’t reliable, and I needed way too much room on the right if I was going to get the ball in the fairway. If I came out of it and didn’t hook the ball, I was in the next fairway or in all kinds of trouble.

But once I decided to switch, I was all in. It’s the same idea as switching to the left-hand-low putting style, which I did five years ago – you can’t just try it for a round or two and switch back if it’s not working perfectly. You’ve got to give it time if you know it’s the right thing to do.

My first test of the power fade at the range was so good, I couldn’t wait to try it out on the course. Yesterday, I finally got that opportunity.

Wow. What a difference.

It didn’t start out well. I overcooked the first two drives into the trees on the right. I was coming out of it a little early.

The thing about the power fade is that it’s really a whole different swing. After years of taking the club on an inside path in the backswing, I’m concentrating on taking it straight back and coming inside on the follow-through. Exactly the opposite of my old mechanics.

But then, on my third driving hole of the day, I was faced with the type of challenge that would be the supreme test: The trouble was on the left, and the hill sloped in that direction. I was going to need to aim down the left side and trust that I was going to fade the ball away from the hazard.

It didn’t fade and actually dove into the rough on the left, but at least I had kept it dry. OK, not bad.

And then I figured it out. I got back to doing what I had done on the range – get a little more upright, open the clubface just a hair and make sure I don’t turn my wrists over at impact.

The result: The next drive was crushed. And then another one. And another. And another. I almost drove the green on a par-4. I was hitting the ball off the tee as well as I ever have.

I’ve always said that I can score when I put the ball in good position off the tee, and that’s exactly what happened. I started making a lot of routine pars and didn’t have to hit the ball out of trouble the rest of the day.

The biggest test of all came on the 18th tee. It’s a 359-yard par-4, and I had chosen a 5-wood to just keep it in play and make sure I didn’t go in the water down the left.

And then it hit me. What was I doing? I had hit the driver so well. I was so confident. There was no reason to hit anything else.

Now keep in mind that, for years, I’ve had playing partners who practically tackled me when I took the big dog out of the bag on a hole where I really didn’t need it. I was the classic hit-driver-only-if-absolutely-necessary player … and maybe not even then.

But this time I got up there and ripped one right down the middle. Once again, there was no hint of a hook. I’m a power fader now. Boy, it feels good.

I’m sure there will be days when it doesn’t behave as well, but this is my game from now on. I’ve used the same approach with my putting style, and now I can’t imagine going back to the conventional grip. I’m a much better putter than I was five years ago.

And here’s the funny thing about yesterday’s round: I would have shot 2-under on the back nine if I hadn’t lipped out a trio of 3-footers. Yes, I didn’t putt well. It was as if the golf gods were reminding me that you never get our great game all figured out.

But that should never stop you from trying new techniques. What do you have to lose? Maybe, just maybe, you can make years of frustration fade into a distant memory.



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