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Senior Golfer - On The Green

Taking "it" from the range to the course

The Putting Green

It happens to the best of golfers, including Phil Mickelson. Playing in the final round of the WGC Bridgestone Championship at Firestone Country Club in Akron, OH, Mickelson shot a 78.

Although the score is what everyone remembers, I was most interested in the comments of TV golf analysts and teacher Peter Kostis. Talking about what happened to Mickelson, Kostis said something to the effect that he was quite surprised by the high score. He had visited Mickelson on the driving range prior to his teeing off that day, and he was hitting everything great. His drives were long and straight, his irons were crisp, and Kostis thought he was ready to attack the course and shoot a good round.

I am sure that I am not alone when I say this, but taking "it" from the range to the course has been one of my biggest problems in recent years. If you do not know what the "it" refers to, then you have not been playing golf for very long.

When you go to the practice range to limber up before going to the golf course, the main reason is to get your muscles in golf shape and find out what type of shots you are hitting today. You find on the practice range that you may be pulling the ball, hitting slices instead of hooks or duck hooks instead of slight draws.

Every once in a while, you find that you are in the zone at the range. You are hitting your wedges to within five feet of the pin. Your five, six and seven irons are going straight at the practice greens, and your drives are going 250 yards straight as an arrow toward the intended target. In short, you are confident that you will shoot your best round ever.

Then comes the dreaded move to the first tee, where you play for that slight draw and hit the dreaded straight ball. Instead of hitting your eight iron from 140 yards straight at the pin, you have pulled into a bunker left of the green. You blast out, and miss the 10-foot par putt. This routine continues for the next 17 holes.

At the end of the round, you lament that the "swing" you had on the practice disappeared from the range to the first tee. Moreover, you cannot figure out why this occurred, especially to a golfer with my love of the game and passion for practicing. If I knew the answer to the "it" that suddenly comes up missing in action when we get to the golf course, I would patent the answer and make myself millions of dollars. Unfortunately, there is no definitive answer to managing our golf swings. On the other hand, there are some things we can do to successfully manage your swings.

The first thing you should learn is to relax. Tension is the single biggest obstacle to making a smooth swing that is on-balance. When we are on the driving range, we are relaxed because there is no pressure hitting these shots. As a result, we swing slower, smoother, and do not worry about the results. That all changes on the course, where we are concerned with results.

Second, we start thinking about swing mechanics as soon as we get on the course because we hit the ball either offline or the wrong distance. On the course is NOT the time to start thinking about the mechanical aspects of the swing. On the course is when you adapt the John Daly motto: "Grip it and rip it!"

Third, go with the flow. If you are pulling your shots, aim further to the right. If you are hitting your shots fat, take one more club, swing shorter, and watch the results.

All this is to say that sometimes there is a direct connection between how we practice and how we play, but not all the time.

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