You can’t be just a little bit pregnant.
Forgive the terrible colloquialism, but I find this is the best way to describe the dichotomy that is my golf swing. Either I’m consistently compressing the ball with a good swing. Or I’m not. There is not any middle ground, really.
When I’m putting good swings on the ball and compressing it at impact, I barely feel the ball make contact with the club face. The ball is just kind of in the way of the swing and dispensed with quickly without affecting the club or my swing through impact.
On all the other swings, I can feel the ball. Which is a terrible feeling because my brain instantly knows what will happen as a consequence. The ball will not go where I intended it to go, in terms of direction, trajectory, or distance.
Starting about this time last year, beginning with small compensations for a relatively minor shoulder injury, that miss that I could feel throughout my body was consistently and violently to the left. Not a gentle draw that runs a little too far left but that dreaded low bullet snap pull-hook.
It’s a mental gut punch. It’s deflating and awful. And when it rears its ugly head, it has to be eliminated immediately.
When I need to “find” my swing, when I really need to make great contact, I turn to a cut shot. Yes, it costs me distance when compared to my normal slight draw or even the rare straight shot. But it’s the most predictable swing I’ve got.
The mechanics of a little baby-fade swing that my pro taught me, with its quiet hands and wrists and a simple dropping of the club head onto the ball, consistently produces the purest contact of any swing I make.
I’m not qualified to try to convey, in written form or otherwise, how to perform the gentle pulled-cut shot to anyone. Golf libraries and the Internet are full of articles to teach eager hackers how to hit different shots.
Personally, I recommend Ben Hogan’s Five Lessons or Jack Nicklaus’s collection of articles he penned for Golf Digest back in the 1970’s for a beginner’s guide to hitting a strong fade.
Once I hit one of those gentle fades, it’s as if my body has reset and all the anxiety about my next swing has dissipated. It’s my golf palate cleanser. It is, of all things, my go-to shot.
I’m sure every Tour Pro has a go to shot that he or she reverts to when the pressure is really on, the one shot they trust when everything is on the line.
For almost the entire 2016 season, the only time I knew that I was going to feel that effortless smash of the club face against an almost weightless golf ball as it compressed and sprung out and up was when I tried to hit a gentle fade.
I don’t even have to hit the ball with it. I can regain that elusive feeling of correct timing and swing sequence with just a few dedicated fade practice swings. Unfortunately, the corrective effect has a relatively short half-life, needing to be repeated a couple of times per side.
Amazingly, it works regardless of whatever club I need to hit; after a year or so of practice, I have enough confidence in the motion to hit the driver with it when a fade is the only option that doesn’t involve laying up.
I wish I could hit that fade further. I’m not ashamed to admit that I chase those elusive extra yards at every turn. I primarily hit a draw because I want that lower, more penetrating ball flight and those extra yards of roll.
However, when I correctly execute my soft cut, the shot is a full club to one-and-a-half clubs shorter than my standard shot, and I don’t have enough natural talent or distance to overcome that sort of sacrifice.
But at least it’s an improvement over my most recent other go-to, compress the ball golf swing, which was essentially the three-quarter punch shot that I’d gotten really good at from beneath or behind a tree.
It has occurred to me that perhaps the reason that I can compress the ball so well and make such great contact with a cut swing is that it’s a shot that I can’t try to hit hard.
The mechanics of shot require a smooth, tension-less, flowing motion on essentially a three-quarters swing, taking a little something off of my normal backswing, which, of course, is instructive of my remaining mental shortcomings.
I know that to swing faster I don’t need to swing “harder,” meaning that tension in my arms and hands are the enemies of increased swing speed and perfect contact with the golf ball.
So I live and I learn and I tinker. That’s nothing new. Sometimes I try to extrapolate the little pulled fade out to it’s maximum distance, with mixed results.But at least now I have the confidence that I can get myself out of a funk with a reliable swing I can revert to when I need to get back on track.