Golf is an easy game when everything is going well. We seem to be able to put the ball in play and find our way around the course with relative ease. Then, out of nowhere, we hit the wall. Nothing seems to work: our driving leaves us, our dependable 7-wood disappears, and the hole becomes the size of a thimble. How do we recover and finish the round as we started? We pull the ripcord and allow our parachute to open and guide us safely to the 18th green.
All golfers should carry a parachute because no matter how well we play there are times when we lose control and begin a spin of bad swings. The good golfers recognize the "bad spins" early enough to pull the ripcords and save the rounds. Most average golfers wait too long and subsequently ruin their rounds because they don't know when or how to pull their ripcords and open their parachutes.
Our parachute is basically a set-up and posture position we can go to when things start to get away from us. Once in this secure set-up, we should be able to gently guide our ball around the course and finish our round intact. Focus then turns to a solid pre-shot routine, less tension in the grip, proper alignment and ball positions, followed by a simple yet powerful swing.
When things go bad we usually tense up, which reduces our ability to freely swing the club and fire the hips through impact. We tend to lift the club instead of turning away, which causes us to chop down on the forward swing instead of rotating and firing through the impact zone. Needless to say our ball striking is then non-existent and our confidence level is even lower.
The next time the downward spiral begins, try making the following adjustments in your set-up:
Allow the lower body (feet, knees and hips) to be slightly open to the target, for right hand golfers aim left, for left hand golfers aim right. It is just a little open, enough to simulate some semblance of an impact position. This is critical because when the bad swings occur we usually quit firing the hips so we need to set up in a better impact position to eliminate this problem. The shoulders, though, should remain parallel or square to the target line. Narrow the stance slightly and grip down on the shaft to produce a shorter, more compact swing.
Prior to beginning the swing take a deep breath and let go of all the tension in your body (especially the tension in your hands, wrists and arms). Make sure the face of the club is aimed at your target and your arms are hanging freely from your shoulders.
Once set-up is complete, simply grip down on the shaft and swing the club. If the tension level is reduced your arms will swing the club and your body will rotate. Because the hips are slightly open and the stance a little less wide, the club will have a better chance of staying on path producing a more solid shot that flies towards the target. Once you've hit several solid shots you will regain some of that lost confidence and start enjoying the round once again. As the confidence returns widen the base and increase the arc to generate a bigger turn and more distance.
All great golfers carry a parachute and use it often. Don't be afraid to reach for the ripcord occasionally, it might be the difference between a record low round or total loss of confidence over the course of many rounds.
December 21, 2005
Walsh is a past champion of the Southwest Chapter, North Florida Section and two-time recipient of the Bill Strausbaugh Award. From 1993 through 2000 he played in the Callaway-Pebble Beach Invitational, featuring a limited number of invited Club Professionals, PGA Tour Professionals, Champion Tour Professionals and LPGA members. Past champions include Johnny Miller, Kirk Triplett, Jim Furyk and Robert Gamez.