I Freaking Love This Game. My Approach to the Sport of Golf
In deciding to commit to this blog somewhat hastily, I realize that there may be some people reading who know very little about me and my approach to the game of golf. Since golf has become the main focus of my blog to start, I thought for this week’s post I would dive in a little more about my approach to the game.
If you want the shorthand version you already read it in the title.
“I [freaking] love this game.”
-As quoted from Richard, whom I once randomly shared a tee time with at Twin Oaks.
I removed the exploitive to not offend anyone, but wow do I wish everyone who golfs was so lucky as to golf a round with Richard whom I once randomly shared a tee time with at Twin Oaks. This guy played a decent game, was hilarious, and didn’t mind the smack talk but also wasn’t a jerk. Basically, this guy had it all figured out.
The number one thing about golf for me has always been to have fun. Nothing beats being outside in the fresh air, usually with some pretty beautiful views, and a few good friends with a fellow appreciation for the game. Clearly Richard understood these things as well, which is why you will now hear my golf partner and I constantly repeating this famous quote normally multiple times per round. The beauty of the line is that you can change the way you emphasize it when you are happy, angry, sad, or any other emotion the golf course might make you feel, but no matter what, it remains to be true.
I effing love this game.
Oh and usually there is beer involved too!
When I first began playing golf however, there was no beer ☹. This is because it was a long time ago back when I was just a young lad, definitely under the age of 10. I remember my dad taking me to the local par 3 course near my parents house back in Massachusetts. Most of the holes were less then 100 yards, but I was so young I remember thinking that my dad was a superhero for being able to hit it that far.
Combined with being introduced to swinging a golf club at such a young age, also playing hockey my entire life and baseball for a few years I have the ability to generate a decent amount of force when swinging my trunk and arms. This meant I was better at golf then most of my friends who played until after college. That is when a lot of my friends began to take golf more seriously (lessons and or golfing multiple times per week). Although I have golfed most of my life, until recently I had never golfed more then a few times a year, and I have never taken a formal lesson. As a result my golf game remained about the same for the better part of a decade after college.
Now fast forward to summer 2020, and the entire world is on lockdown, like many others I found myself with some extra time on my hands and not a lot of options of things to do. I also had not skated or played any kind of hockey in months (important to note that if I am not playing hockey, I just don’t genuinely feel like myself, it is part of who I am).
But what do hockey players do in the offseason? They golf. If it wasn’t for golf, I would quite literally be going insane right now.
I decided that now was finally the time to make the investment in a new set of golf clubs and committed to a year of golf. As part of this venture, I also signed up for the JC players card. If you live in North County San Diego, and especially you are new to golf, then this is the deal for you. You pay a discounted rate for 6 rounds of golf upfront, but also get a discount any time you play at one of the JC-affiliated courses. You also get a booklet full of other perks and deals for being a JC member including free buckets of balls at the range, discounted rates for friends who golf with you at JC courses, and more. If you do go JC, make sure you go the signature card route so that you can get in your rounds in at the Carlsbad Crossings (see last week's post), and Encinitas Ranch. The extra price is definitely worth it.
After making the investment, and committing to a year to golf, for the first time in my life my focus has shifted away from the beer on the course (mostly) and learning more about the game itself, and actually trying to swing the club properly with consistency.
My approach from the beginning had never been about having the best overall score, but like I mentioned to have fun. The goal was to come out and get at least 1 par every time I play, MAYBE a bird, and a couple highlight-reel shots along the way. Did it take me a couple mullies to get that bird par sometimes? Yeah, it sure did, but hey golf is THE HARDEST sport to learn.
Even though that was the goal, getting even 1 par did not always happen when I played. That is where I noticed the correlation between drinking more beer the worse you play helps maintain the curve for desired fun to be had when playing. Sometimes beer can even help performance! But be warned that this, not an exact science so please proceed with caution before reading too much into that statement
So where is Cory at now?
I am about 2/3 way through my year dedicated to golf and wow it has been quite the amazing ride. I have made a new best friend because of golf. I have had the opportunity to play some great courses in southern California and there are MANY more to visit. I have had a lot of great times and memories, and I now know I have another passion to get me through whatever craziness the world throws at me next.
As a physical therapist I have worked with plenty of golfers and been able to help them eliminate pain and increase efficiency in their swings, but I am now trying to take that to the next level as I am working towards obtaining certification through the Titleist Performance Institute to help increase my understanding of the finer mechanics of the golf swing so I can not only develop a better swing myself, but also be more efficient in helping my golf clients.
I have seen first hand with myself how different my game plays out on days my body feels mobile and strong, and on the days it feels tight and stiff. The differences can be quite drastic as I have shot abour a 20 stroke difference in back to back golf outings, with the biggest difference being my body just felt that different.
In order to avoid these massive swings, and build consistency here are a couple tips/reminders I have for the golfer of any level.
#1: Eye on the ball through the full swing.
What I have been seeing a lot of recently, as well as doing myself, is lifting of the head to see where the ball is going before finishing the swing. I know, I know, I also am just so anxious to view the gorgeous flight pattern of my soon to be perfectly laced ball... But the result is making inconsistent contact with the ball, and usually losing the gorgeous flight pattern you were so anxious to see. Now I am left looking anxiously for what direction my ball flew off of my club because I didn’t make good contact.
What can help with this problem? Besides your own mental focus and trusting that driving through the ball and making good contact will reward you with a good shot, having a good reliable spotter to help you track your balls is a great way to eliminate the subconscious need to see where your ball is going to go. If you don’t have a reliable golf buddy then you are likely relying on the kindness of strangers to help track your ball. Sometimes this works out for you, and sometimes it doesn’t, so don’t be shy go out and make a friend. If you need some help, start by joining the San Diego Golf page on Facebook. There are plenty of friendly golfers on there looking for someone to share tee times with, and a good resource for any golf knowledge you desire.
Tip #2- Mental visualization
It doesn’t matter if you are walking up to the tee about to swing, or lying in your bed wide awake at 2 am. Mentally visualize yourself making the smoothest contact with the ball that you have ever felt… Whenever possible.
Research in motor learning shows that mental visualization of yourself performing a task has a direct correlation to increasing motor learning and performance of that task. You will be able to reproduce the desired outcome for that task more consistently.
As I mentioned before, golf is the HARDEST sport to learn. It requires perfection of every muscle in the body firing in the correct pattern to swing a long object with a high velocity to smack a tiny ball into 3” hole which is quite often hundreds of yards away.
There are about a billion little things to focus on in your body when you are setting up for your golf swing. The best way I can sum it up is that I know when my body feels good and mobile that number drops to about a million little that I have to focus on, and that my brain can actually manage. That is because also, after doing it so many times, that one million things your body is responsible for, five hundred thousand of them are now relatively performed on auto pilot.
When the body feels tight the brain is not only trying to process the correct and desired motor pattern of the swing, but it also has all of this additional input coming through like sirens warning the body that something is wrong and the desired plan is not occurring. This causes muscles to fire incorrectly, results in a poor movement pattern, and again poor contact with the ball.
Morale of the story, visualize yourself making good contact whenever possible, make good contact more frequently. Yes, I just helped you justify your golf obsession even more.
Tip #3- Remember at the end of day, it is just meant to be fun.
I have certainly developed my obsession for golf, and I can be prone to displaying competitive tendencies, however at the end of the day I leave it all on the course. In golf some times to be successful you even need to leave whatever happened just on the previous hole. My golf game goes so bad sometimes I fill in sad faces instead of a number on occasion. I also leave myself little notes reminding myself even though I shot a 127 on a par 3 today, I did make that 80ft putt for a triple boge on hole 11 and it was epic. Those are the little things I need to do to keep me going sometimes.
Thank you for reading, I would love to hear what keeps you guys going and focused in your golf games!
Good luck on your next round!
***No I have never sunk a 80 foot putt, nor have a shot a 127 on a par 3***