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Golf Update (for golf geeks only…seriously.)

28 March 2011

Back in November, Jenn bought me a fabulous set of classic, forged irons, custom fit for length, lie, grip size, and shaft flex.  They are Titleist MB 710 irons (3-9) with X100 Dynamic Gold steel shafts (stiff), and they replace a massive set of 20-yr-old Tommy Armour 845 Silver Scot cast irons (1-PW) with stiff graphite shafts.  I hit a very high ball with the 845s, and although I had never golfed enough to play very well, I had learned to shape the ball OK.  Still, my scores were almost always in the 90s, and I was nearly always good for at least two snowmen (or worse!) per 18 holes.

In July of 2010, however, we decided that the consolidation of Tascosa Country Club and La Paloma Golf Club, together with a master plan for a really family-oriented renovation at Tascosa and reasonable dues, we’d take the plunge.  Summertime sunshine gives us time for a full 18 after work if we want, and now we have 36 holes available to us.  So I’ve hit a lot of balls, both on the range and on the La Paloma track, and it has made a world of difference in my game.  So when November rolled around, it seemed reasonable to go with a custom-fitted set of irons.

(In case you haven’t heard, the transition from cast/cavity-back irons to forged/muscle-back irons is a circus, a comic tragedy, a devastatingly difficult transition.  What “they” say is true:  the forged iron is unforgiving and brutal on off-center hits.  And nearly everything is off center.)

It also made sense to use some of that Christmas money for the first golf lesson.  I figured, as long as the new irons are totally destroying my game, I might as well let someone who knows what he’s talking about deconstruct everything I’m doing and remake the swing from the ground up.  So I girded my loins for the humiliation and scheduled the session.

I should also piont out that along with the MB 710s, if I was going to go top-of-the-line I might as well go all the way and get an array of Vokey Spin Milled wedges in those gorgeous finishes.  I got a 48 degree PW in standard silver, a 52 degree in Oil Can, and a 56 degree in Black Chrome.  All of these clubs are 2010 models, so they feature the latest PGA-“legal” V-grooves with rounded groove edges, designed to reduce the amount of spin the Tour players are able to generate.  After about two months of noodling around with those three wedges, it is clear that the PGA has achieved its goal, at least with qb.  I love playing Balata-covered balls, and I had learned with my 845s and my two 855 wedges (SW and LW) how to check the ball up with just about everything shorter than a 6-iron, as long as I was playing Balata.  The harder urethane covers…not so much.  And so much the worse with the 2010 Vokey wedges, at least in the early going; everything around the green was chip-and-run.

You remember the prophecy of Joel?  Everything that the grasshopper left, the locust would eat, and so forth?  That’s the way it felt as Perry completely broke my swing apart with these dastardly but tantalizing blades.  As if the forged irons hadn’t humiliated me enough!  Perry turned my left hand clockwise to “strengthen” it, which reduced my range of motion; he moved my hands back from their earlier position well ahead of the ball; we closed the face of my club at address; he dropped my hands several inches so that the butt of the shaft was now pionting at my belt buckle; he reduced the length of my backswing; and he refused to let me take the club back inside, a device I had devised to ensure I could draw the ball (R-L) at any time.  And my beloved Taylor Made R9 Burner driver?  A total wreck.  I was miserable, hitting driver about 200 or less with an utterly unpredictable shape.

But I stayed with it, and I hit hundreds and hundreds of range balls from January to March this year, not spending a lot of time over each ball but just trying to hit as many as possible while obeying Perry’s instructions and trying to figure it all out.

—–

We now have breakthrough.  Three straight days on the practice range in late March, plus a nine-hole excursion with Silas yesterday, and the light is going on big-time.  The swing is getting grooved.  The old distance has returned; it’s not unusual to hit 285 off the tee, and my irons are 3 (205-215), 4 (195-205), 5 (185-195), 6 (170-185), 7 (160-170), 8 (150-160), and 9 (135-145).  Tempo is slower.  Trajectories are starting to repeat themselves 3, 4, 5, even 6 times in a row on the range.  Sure, I have the odd series of fat swings that blast divot pieces into my neighbors’ faces, and I have the occasional thin, worm-burning fade/slice when I chicken out and don’t commit to the swing.  But the Eureka moment has arrived.  And sweet-spot contact is the rule now, not the exception.  Oh, how sweetly those blades sing when we make contact!  The ball just seems to rocket off the clubface.

What made the difference?  Well, no doubt Perry knew what he was talking about.  What he was doing was making my swing more mechanical, and therefore (as the logic goes) more repeatable.  But I also learned something about those damnable blades:  you hafta hit the ball with a descending blow and take about a 6-8″ long divot from in FRONT of the ball.  With those cast irons, I could shave grass and sweep the ball off the turf, and still get a solid strike on the ball.  Not with the muscle-backs!  So in order to achieve the descending blow, I had to move the ball back in my stance, toward my right foot…for every single iron.  The 3-iron placement is at the midpoint, and every subsequent iron is a tiny bit further back than the last one.  The left arm is rigid with a tight grip; the backswing of my hands is much shorter (and slower); and I now have to cock my wrists at the top of the backswing to get the shaft parallel to the ground and generate enough power.  I’m anxious to get another video lesson to see how things have changed since my first one.  How embarrassing!  I looked like Craig Stadler over the ball, a two-bit amateur on the takeaway, and a grossly distorted Jim Furyk pretzelmania to get the club back in the hitting zone.  It was UGLY.  It might still be ugly.  But the hard work (!) is paying off.

—–

One last thing.  La Paloma’s golf shop had some clearance items this winter, including a bunch of brand-new, pre-2010 Vokey wedges with the older, square grooves.  I figured I’d buy one and see if I could get it to wrap those grooves around a ball and check it up.  So I bought a 60 degree, did some research on ball technology, and went to the practice green.  Aaaaaaahhhhhhhhhh….yessssssss!

So here’s the secret.  Do what it takes to learn to hit your irons with that steeper, descending attack angle, whether you use cast or forged irons.  If you have a mixture of Pro V1 and Pro V1x balls, get rid of the V1x balls and replace them with V1s – they’re softer, and they spin a LOT more.  I can finally let go of my Balata addiction, which was getting harder to fill and more expensive to underwrite; they’re not even manufactured any more.  And see if you can find one of those pre-2010 Vokey Spin Milled wedges with the square grooves.  At least one.  It WORKS!

qb

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. 28 March 2011 10:07 pm

    qb,

    Always remember: a shank looks tremendous for the first three yards.

  2. Still Listening permalink
    28 March 2011 10:48 pm

    Wow!

    I’ve prided myself on my ability to follow the vocabulary on all of your posts.

    But I’m afraid this golf story has gone completely over my head!

    :^)

    • 29 March 2011 7:01 pm

      Guilty as charged. But don’t say I didn’t warn you. Cheers, qb

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