When it comes to golf there are advantages and disadvantages to living in Michigan. Michigan has some of the most beautiful golf courses in the country. On the other hand, the golf season realistically runs for about seven months. If you don’t practice over the winter, it usually takes a few weeks to get back into form after the season starts. Over the winter of 2009-2010 I decided to put considerable time into practicing so that I would be ready by spring. Although I thought I was ready, when spring arrived I soon discovered that my game was not showing much improvement. I did a lot of work on my swing over that winter, but at the same time I neglected just about all aspects of my short game. So, this winter I made a commitment to work harder and to make sure that I did not leave anything out. My goal was to develop good habits from the pre-shot routine all the way through to the finish of my swing.
I started with the grip and setup, then the takeaway and worked on making a good transition at the top of my swing. I worked on hand position, developing good lag, impact and making sure that I turned all the way through to the end of my swing. I devised a set of drills that allowed me to start with the shorter chip shots and to work up through pitch shots, half-swings, three-quarter swings and full swings. I spent a considerable time on timing, tempo and rhythm. I bought a new putter and practiced with it everyday. I did all this while incorporating an acceptable pre-shot routine. Almost all of my practice took place in the makeshift range in my basement using practice balls. Although, I did get to the indoor ranges a few times and was happy with what I was seeing. By the end of February most of the aforementioned had become habit. Then something happened.
One day while practicing I hit a few errant shots. I did not think much about them because most of my hits were solid. The next day I hit a few more. I got a little concerned, but still did not give it much thought. After four days went by, I was having trouble getting my club on the ball and I did not have a clue as to what was wrong. My habitual swing was preventing me from finding a solution to my dilemma. I cut practice short that day and started determining in my mind as to what was causing the problem. This should not have been a big deal. After all I have written two golf books, but I ended up thinking that I was going to have to start from the beginning and check all aspects of my swing. It must have been weighing heavily on my mind because I woke up in the middle of that night and it came to me as to what was wrong. The next day I checked out my theory and it was correct. I was straightening out my left leg just before impact which resulted in hitting shots thin and some times to the right. I fixed the problem and it has been fine ever since.
So, what can be learned from this. I would guess that every golfer wants to “groove” a good swing so that they can concentrate on their game and not have to think about swing fundamentals when playing. The problem is that habits can get out of sorts over time. As golfers we are always changing something, even if it is minor, to get more out of the ball. Sometimes when we do, it throws something else off without us knowing it. The solution is to know your swing tendencies and to learn the causes of errant shots. You might be able to fix things on the course when it is a minor problem, but it would be best to take some time on the practice range to work things out. If your swing fundamental are basically sound and you know the causes of bad shots, then it won’t take much time to get your swing back in the groove.