I prefer predictability.
I crave consistency.
I put things in the same place … every time.
I call up websites I need for work in the same order … every time.
If I find that a particular hiking route works best, I stick with it … every time.
It means knowing where things are. Knowing where you’re going.
So why do I find it so fascinating that golf is anything but predictable and consistent? A recent experience out on the links showed once again that playing our great game is like never knowing where your car keys are.
In my previous round and backed up by a session on the range, I had discovered when hitting the driver that moving the ball position forward in relation to my stance – off my left toe rather than my left heel – had earned me a few extra yards and a lot more consistency.
I was trying to hit a “baby cut” – aim for the left side of the fairway, swing a little more outside-in and extend your arms, making sure you’re following through.
It was working great. People who have seen me play a lot were amazed by the pop I was getting, but I was even more excited about the predictability. I was getting my tee shots in play – and way out there – a lot more often.
I was eager to take it out to a course that’s more unforgiving than most, the kind of place where being a little offline means being in trouble. I need to be able to hit driver on most of those holes, I thought, and have shorter shots to the green.
I got on the range before the round, and the baby cut was working great. Every drive was crushed and had the correct ball flight.
I was ready.
So what happens? Sure enough, I step on the first tee, aim down the left side and rather than do the same thing I was doing on the range, I fail to stay down and top one into the junk in front of the tee.
Shaken, I tee up again and this time hit it left of the target, into more junk off the fairway. We found the first ball but never found the second.
Now what do I do? Do I continue to try hit the baby cut? Do I aim for the middle of the fairway and figure my drives are going to go a little left today? Or do I just abandon it altogether and go back to my normal hook?
“Why don’t you try to hit it straight?” one of my playing partners asked with a grin.
What a silly idea. Who would try to do that?
I was determined to stick with my new “system,” and I paid for it over the next 10 holes. There were a couple of well-struck drives in there, but I failed to hit a single fairway. I was all over the place, especially when I actually tried to hit a hook on a dogleg left – and hit a terrible duck hook.
Once again, I was Officially Messed Up.
But a funny thing happened on the way to total collapse: I found the swing I was seeking.
I didn’t get it going until the 12th hole, but the baby cut started working and instilled confidence in my iron game as well. Particularly noteworthy was a 3-iron through the wind to a tough par-3 that stopped 8 feet from the hole.
And the drives finally started doing exactly what I wanted. When I got up on the 18th tee and hit it dead solid perfect down the left side, cutting a lot of yardage off the dogleg, I once again felt as if I’ve found something. It was a classic case of the last hole providing good muscle memory for your next round.
I’ll bet you’ve had similar experiences out there. Jack Nicklaus had it right when he said golf is a game of constant compensation, but you’ve got to be able to depend on your swing. You’ve got to know where the ball is going.
So if you tried something that was working and then lost the feel for it temporarily, stick with it if you think it’s still a winning strategy. It could be with any club, on any shot.
It will make the game even more enjoyable if you can establish some consistency. Golf is always fun, but just imagine how you’ll feel if you play better … every time.