Today was a day focused on control, mainly with putting.
For the longest time, I eschewed the idea of lining up a putt. I was so bad with it that I decided to abandon it altogether, and it worked very well for a while. During that time, I learned how to see break and “feel” the putt.
However, in the last couple of months, I have focused rigorously on improving my putting stroke so that it is more consistent. Consistent in the ball coming off the putter face, putter face being square at impact and making sure the putter stays parallel both on the backstroke and through the ball.
I decided today that I would start lining up putts again, and wow it was like night and day – I was actually hitting a bunch of putts from 8-12ft! When I read stats like Brooks Koepka being 64 out of 67 from 10ft and in, in my mind there is no way to do this but to be good at reading and lining up putts and then being able to strike consistently.
I spent over an hour on the putting green practicing 4ft, 8ft and 12 ft putts. I would line up each putt, step back and adjust as necessary and then concentrate on a smooth, consistent stroke. At first it was very awkward and I missed a bunch of putts simply because I didn't trust the line, but as I became more comfortable, more putts began to fall. The real test will be doing this out on the course, but deliberate practice like this will definitely help settle the nerves when playing.
I also hit some balls with long irons. I focused on my 6, 5 and 4-irons, hitting 10 balls with each all at a specific target. I made sure to use alignment sticks to groove that feel of where to align my body, and I took deliberate practice swings along with stepping back to preview each shot. Sure, this takes longer than just mindlessly hitting balls on the range, but I don't want to be mindless. I've only got a couple hours each day to dedicate to improving my game, so I need to be as focused and diligent as I can with the shots I am able to take.
With the 6-iron, I hit 7 out of 10 inside the target area. With the 5-iron, 4 out of 10 and the same with my 4-iron. I was still not pleased with my consistency on the long irons, so I went back to hit another set of 10 balls each again with each iron. This time, I was 7 out of 10 again with the 6-iron but 5 out of 10 with both my 5-iron and 4-iron.
I also dedicated time to hitting my 3-wood and driver, hitting 20 balls each at a target. Both I hit 14 out of 20 in what I would consider an “acceptable” target area.
The key today was consistency in a smooth stroke, making sure I start my backswing with my hips, start the downswing with my hips and keep my hands in front of the ball at impact. Ball striking was very good. I hit many 5-irons 200+ back into the wind.
I finished off the practice session with putting 12 footers again, lining up each putt. This time, I found a straight slightly downhill line to really practice my aim. This was actually tough and I didn't make as many as I expected, but old habits are hard to break. Trusting your line and putting stroke is tough, and I know I am going to have to continue to work hard at this to get it to the point where it is comfortable.
18 Hole Play
I also got to play 18 today as a practice round for the NC Amateur Qualifier next Thursday at The Club at Irish Creek. I went with my dad so he could help study the holes. The course was 7,100 yards from the back tees and proved to be very tough. A member tournament had just finished up before we teed off, so the pins were stuck in some very difficult locations. It was also windy which made approach shots difficult as well.
I played well on the front 9, shooting 1 over par with 2 bogeys and 1 birdie. The first 4 holes we basically zoomed through because the group behind us (4 old men, each in their own cart) was like an army besieging the gates of the enemy. Yes, we were the enemy. This caused us to rush shots and I was 2 over par through the first 4. After we got a little bit of distance, things calmed down.
I was 2 over through 16 when I came to the long 470 yard par 4 back into the wind. I hit a great drive and had about 185 in, but I pulled the approach shot into the rough. I couldn't find the ball so I had to take a lost ball penalty and ended up shooting 76 on the day. Frustrating to say the least, but I believe that would have made the cut.
I putted well, but missed 2 putts inside of 10 ft that hurt. One was a 4ft birdie putt that I simply looked up on and left short.
All in all, I was pleased with how I played, but again I struggled with my long irons. I really need to get some sort of consistency down with them so that my misses aren't as pronounced.
Golf is a grind, and I plan to continue to work hard every day to improve!