I hope your wifi signal is strong in your bunker fort constructed of highly sought after toilet paper rolls, or where-ever you’re held up, to read this week’s blog. Maybe you’re standing in a 45-minute line at the grocery store, watching your 6th straight episode of “Narcos: Mexico” covered in Cheetos dust, or sitting at your desk in a cloud of Lysol waiting for your employer or governor to close up shop. All joking aside, I hope you and the ones around you are in good health, as we share this strange and wild time together. This last seven days have been different, to say the least. Each hour seemed to bring worse news than the last. While our wives were frantically bouncing from store to store in Ohio and Pennsylvania, my buddies and I were in St. Augustine on a golf trip. It was 85 degrees, and once The Players’ Championship was cancelled in nearby Ponte Vedra, the courses became packed. The golf was great (especially at the World Golf Village), the meals were incredible, and the 5 days spent with my boys of 25 years was much needed. But the world seemed to be folding around us with every text and alert on our phones.
When all the travel bans are lifted and the world returns to normal, because it will eventually…..I insist you finally plan that buddies’ golf trip you’ve been talking about for years. Even if it’s a small group that’s fine. It’s easier to manage and you have to start somewhere. One thing that is a certain, if the first year doesn’t happen, then it never happens and the tradition never starts. Get it done and they will come. My grandfather took an annual golf trip to South Carolina every March with a group of around 20 guys. When I used to book stay & play packages at the course in Kentucky, we had group-sizes anywhere from 4 to 44 players. 44 is insanity and kudos to the person who had to round up and organize those yahoos. Our group started with about ten interested persons, then dropped to eight, and then at the time of booking became six. No worries. All best friends, avid players, and a small even number for bets each day. Well under our special case of circumstances thanks to a global pandemic, our group became a foursome the week of. Easier for dinner reservations, more room in the condo, and you knew who you were playing with each day. But we still busted their chops, and rightfully so, even though we understood. But that’s my crew. All love, but outsiders have a hard time believing we even like each other based on the way we talk to one another.
Life is incredibly strange right now, but it hasn’t stopped. We are just going to live differently for the next few weeks. Every sport is postponed and we may be watching the Masters in October. I could probably get down with that. No hoops brackets this year but this is a whole new version of “March Madness.” Your kids are home from school, and all gyms, movie theaters, malls, and churches are shut down. If your weather is sub-par, that means a lot of video games and streaming apps are on the docket. But if your weather is pleasant, take advantage of it….because outside is not closed. Get a jump start on spring cleaning and organize the garage. Dust the bikes off, put air in the tires, and take a ride. Golf courses are one of the safest facilities you can attend right now, and hopefully they remain open. Many courses are requiring that you ride in a cart separately and leave the flag in. But other than that, it’s business as usual. Oh, there’s also this old pastime called walking and carrying your bag that is an available option. But if the kids are home or the courses do close up shop, I’m going to give you some tips and drills you can do on your own around the house and in the yard.
Stay short game sharp The first thing that always comes to mind to practice in the yard when you are insufficient on space is chipping. You know that huge golf umbrella you bought but hate to use? Open it up and turn it upside-down. A lot of them even have a pointed tip at the top. Stick it in the ground to secure it if the wind is blowing. No umbrella? Use a cardboard box or a hula-hoop. Step off different yardages and work on your distance control, trying to carry the ball into the object you set-up. Feel comes from repetition. The wedge loft you select, ball position, and size of your swing are all determining factors in not only the trajectory of the shot, but the distance it carries. The hole is always your goal, but it’s not your target when pitching and chipping. You need to pick out a spot where you think the ball needs to land in order to finish around the hole. That spot is your umbrella, or box. This will help you feel what carrying the ball 12 yards feels like, and what 20 yards feels like, and will eliminate the guesswork next time you are on the course.
Mirror, mirror on the wall Feeling something and seeing something are two different things. You may be sliding but feel like you’re turning, or you may be taking the club way inside but feel like you’re on plane. Seeing your swing on video is an eye-opening experience, and an educational one. Without setting up the camera or taking a full swing, get in front of a full-length mirror, if you have one, and work on some different segments of the swing; the takeaway, release, etc. Make sure you face is square, that you are not laid off, or anything else you have been working on. Rehearse that impact position and try to look like the image below. When the club meets the ball your hands should be in front of your lead thigh. Your belt buckle has begun to turn to the target but your head remains behind the ball. Do it smooth, and over and over again, then next time you hit balls try and replicate it.
Doorway to heaven I am sure you have heard swing gurus and coaches say “keep the club outside of your hands.” Stand in a doorway with your shoulders parallel to the frame. On your takeaway you should hit the doorframe somewhere in the middle of the shaft. If the toe of your club head hit the wall first, you are too inside and flippy. If you get to about waist-high and don’t hit the wall yet, you are too outside. Simple drill and instant feedback.
Turn baby turn Stand with your back against a wall as close as you can get without actually touching it. Cross your arms in front of your chest and get into your address posture. When you rotate back, your right butt cheek should touch the wall (right handed player). When you rotate on your downswing, your left butt cheek should now touch the wall. Keep doing this in sequence and feel the proper weight transfer.
Just swing If you don’t have a hitting net, that’s ok….you don’t have to hit balls to improve. Just take 10 – 15 minutes each day and swing a club. Nice, rhythmic, methodical practice swings. 50 – 75 swings with a club, or better yet a weighted swing trainer, will do wonders for your timing and those “golf muscles.”
Hopefully this situation just lasts a few weeks, and not months. Take the time to love your family and love thy neighbor. Help those in need. Read a good book. Play a game. Watch that Oscar winning movie you always wanted to see but never got around to it. Be kind. Be courteous. Work on your golf game and quit hoarding all the toilet paper.
Enjoy the game and each other,
Written by Seth Zipay – Head Golf Professional