Wednesday was a great day on the practice range. Everything clicked and my swing found its slot. My legs were strong and my arms and wrists were relaxed.
My four golf lessons culled together and culminated to produce a tension-free, repeating golf swing. I wanted to hit every club in my bag, because even the 3-iron was doing what it was supposed to do.
A little, but not too much, thought and focus mixed with a few periodic practice swings, and I’d found the magic. One after the other, striped. From the very first ball, with each successive swing producing an improved result and unveiling a little more of the muscle-memory magic.
The ball was making a beautiful sound. Consistently. I was standing with balance at the conclusion of each swing. I was even able to experiment with loosening, cocking and setting my wrists earlier and earlier with exciting results. It was heaven.
Except…that it was happening at the practice range…on a very flat rubber and Astroturf mat…in a heated stall. No elevation change, no thin or heavy lies. No consequences for the bad miss. No one besides me really watching or caring how each shot unfolded.
I’d been here before, I’d lived this range session before. I had a blood-brother relationship with my alter ego, Ranger Rick.
By the end of each session with the pro, I’d been into a groove, a routine. My good shots were relatively great and my bad shots would be serviceable on a golf course. Each successive practice session revealed something new and allowed my new golf swing to mature and positive muscle memory to take root.
However, taking all this positive range experience and new swing thoughts to the first tee of the golf course successfully is proving elusive. Last Monday evening’s lesson was encouraging. By the end of the hour, I was hitting high, soft draws with ease and regularity.
Then I went out to play last Wednesday afternoon and it was like I’d never played before. I was hyper-conscious of every muscle twitch, and convinced that I looked like a lunatic let loose on the golf course. The fear and the not knowing what would happen next were almost crippling.
Whether it is physical inexperience with the new swing mechanics or lack of trust and comfort with the new swing thoughts, right now, the first tee is whole other world from the practice range.
The physical failures of the new swing will eventually replaced by new muscle memories resulting in new habits and a new normal. Intellectually, I know that.
But for the first time in my golf history, I’m a mental basket case. It’s not that my swing overhaul is too physically demanding or requires too much mental focus. It’s that I’ve never really had to think with a golf club in my hand.
I supposed I’ve never really been serious about golf before the past year. Sure, I’ve erupted in fits of anger and frustration over my swing and lack or results before. But never having had a lesson, my homemade swing was just an eclectic collection of what felt correct and got me from the tee to the green.
The concept of “golf psychology” might as well have been “Organic Chemistry.” Now, I’m finding that it takes a great deal of mental energy to try to make the ball do what I want it to do, and I have no experience joining those two ideas together. And going against my Protestant work ethic, the harder I try, the less successful I am.
If it’s true that “the secret is in the dirt,” then the only way I’ll gain any real confidence in my golf swing is to practice. And practice. Followed by more practice. I don’t know any other way.
Right now, I feel like I’m leasing someone else’s swing, with an option to buy, and trying not to wreck the thing before it’s paid off. But at least I’m continuing to enjoy the ride.