Yes, golf is a game of inches, but it doesn’t always involve that little white ball skittering into that little cup.
Sometimes, the answer is right at your feet.
I was reminded of this simple and yet complex adjustment in my last round. It’s yet another example of how our great game is one of constant compensation.
For the first few holes, I couldn’t hit a drive more than 10 or 20 feet off the ground. Try as I might to get the ball up in the air, it just wouldn’t cooperate. It was costing me a lot of distance, especially when the ball landed in the rough.
One of my playing partners, meanwhile, couldn’t get any distance out of his drives for a different reason. He was catching the ball on the upswing, and it was swerving to the right without much on it.
Since we were playing a scramble, it behooved us to get some yardage off the tee. That’s one of the beauties but also one of the curses of a scramble: Assuming someone in the group has gotten a ball in play, you can swing away without worrying too much about where it’s going.
But you also have to get some distance out of your drives or they’re never going to be used by the group. Yes, you’ve got to get the ball in the fairway, but it’s not the time to be overly careful.
So after seeing that the driver was being a little persnickety on this day, I had to make an adjustment. It doesn’t take an Einstein to figure out that trying the same thing and getting the same bad results is the definition of insanity.
I didn’t overthink it. I simply moved the ball a few inches forward in my stance, positioning it slightly ahead of my left foot instead of in line with the inside of my left heel.
I had never tried this before. Usually, I have to play the ball back in my stance to keep it from soaring too high. This was unprecedented.
Nevertheless, it worked beautifully. It loosened my arms to swing freely, it got my shoulders turning more and I suddenly started moving the ball about as far as I have in a long time. I nearly drove a short par-4 and hit a few other bombs that put us in good position.
It also showed me that, with my swing, I’m better off trying to hit a power fade from that ball position. I’m catching the ball on more of an upswing rather than cutting across it.
My friend, meanwhile, took heed of my suggestion to move the ball back in his stance a little, off the inside of his left heel rather than in front of his toe. In other words, exactly the opposite of what I did.
Just like that, he started catching the ball at a better impact point and gained at least 40 yards. It did wonders for him. His swing is flatter than mine, and he needs to make impact at a more level position rather than on the upswing.
Two guys, two different swings, two different ball positions, but the same good results. Boy, we play a weird game.
But that’s why it’s so interesting. The next time I play, I might find that my new ball position isn’t working the same way. My swing might be different that day. I might have to make yet another adjustment.
This has the feeling of something that will stick, however. Maybe I found something. And that’s what we’re all looking for every time we play – that magic adjustment that will get us going.
So as you contemplate how to inch your game forward, don’t be afraid to try new things. You never know what you might discover. Einstein would be proud.