I have been playing golf for as long as I can remember. I started playing golf when I was little, and kept improving the closer I got to high school. Then, when faced with the decision to play baseball or golf, I chose golf. I went to tryouts, did well, and ended up playing four years of varsity golf at Northview High School in Brazil, Indiana.
I ended up playing quite well through my years in high school, and when it came time to choose a college, I picked based on golf. I went to Marian College, now Marian University, and hated every second of it. Sure, I had some good memories there, met some good people and made some lifelong friends. But I hated the golf program. I hated the way the coach handled practice sessions, and basically ended up hating the entire way collegiate golf was run.
I left Marian and went to IUPUI to study engineering at the Purdue School of Engineering and Technology\. I tried to walk onto the team at IUPUI, but after about a half an hour of watching these guys hit balls I knew that college golf was not for me. I accepted this decision, quit the team, and ended up working at a practice facility for the next two years, working on my game the entire time.
I actually got down to a 1 handicap. For those of you who do not know what a handicap is in golf, or how one is calculated, basically I mean that I average one strike over par on any given course on any given day. To show you the different between me, and say Tiger Woods, he caries a +6 handicap on average. That means he shoots six shots under par every time he tees it up. That is a huge difference when you are talking strokes. Especially considering the courses he plays.
Playing golf has taught me a ton about patience. From missed shots off the tee to missed greens from the fairway or rough, golf can be a very aggravating sport. Some people play golf to relax and get out of the house. And while it does that for me too, it can still be quite the nerve-wracking experience.
Part of what makes my golf game so consistent is my preshot routine. Every player on tour, even amateur players, will tell you that this is the most important part of your golf game. Having a solid preshot routine will allow you something to focus on, something to back off and get your head on straight when flustered, and something to keep you sane when you’re having a bad golf day.
My preshot routine started when I was in high school. I played for years without one and then one day, while watching the Golf Channel, I saw a special about them. I decided to go out into the yard right then and there, and develop a preshot routine.
My preshot routine is different for nearly every club in my bag. Allow me to break this down into my driver, my irons, my wedges, and my putter. Let’s start with the driver.
When I grab the big dog out of the bag and stand on the tee looking at my shot, I usually am looking right down the middle. I have the tendency to hit the ball very straight from the tee. Don’t ask me why, but I hit the ball straight. Now, I never said I hit it far. if you look at guys on the PGA Tour, they are hitting the ball three hundred yards or more off the tee time and time again. I might hit the ball two hundred and eighty or ninety on a good day. But again, I am hitting fairways. I actually, through my four years of school, led the team in fairways hit and greens hit in regulation. Apparently, hitting the fairway means you hit a lot of greens.
With the driver in my hand, I look down the middle of the fairway and picture the drive in my head. I see the ball leaving the tee box and I see where it lands, how it bounces, and where it ends up. With that in mind, I look left and right and decide where, if I mis-hit it, where I want it to go. Recently I played a golf course up in Roscommon, Michigan. I had no choice. Hit it in the fairway or chop out of the trees. It was a very tight and strict golf course.
After picturing the ball flight, I take two smooth and full swings parallel to the ball. Not sure why I do it this way, but I just want to get a feel for my swing. I check where my hands are and where I am leading with my hips. Then I step up to the ball. I actually stand behind it to get a good placement in my stance. Once I do that, I grab the club and line it up on the line I had just envisioned in my head.
Then, I take a couple of waggles, look down the line, repeat, and am ready to swing. Once I take the club back, a million things run through my head. I worry about not making contact, about hitting it right, about hitting it left, or missing the ball all together. Lucky enough for me, I usually hit it. Not always in the fairway, but I always hit it.
Long irons are the same as my mid and short irons, and it is a similar pattern as on the tee. Let’s say that I hit the ball down the middle and I have about one hundred and sixty yards into the green. I grab my seven iron. I do the same by taking the two smooth and consistent swings, then I think out loud where the ball will go. I say, “Left to right ten yards.” I say that, spin the club in my hands, and repeat the same pattern of ball positioning and line of sight. I take only one look now, and focus on making solid contact and taking a heavy and solid divot.
After I hit my irons, I worry more about my follow-through than anything. I have to make sure I get through the ball, that I make solid contact with the ball and the ground, and that I picked the right club. You might hear me yell, “Be the right club…” or “Get down ball, get down!”
Anytime I have a wedge in my hand, it means I missed the green. Or, I have hit a huge tee ball. But most of the time, it is because I missed the green. So, on the way to the hole (I always walk, I hate to ride) I am thinking about the green, the way the green slopes, and the possible position my ball is in. With golf, a lot of things can come into play. You can have greens sloping away from you, tons of green to work with, or no green to work with at all. It all depends on where you miss.
Now, I said earlier that I think about where my miss will come while on the tee. I hardly ever think about that with my second shot. I guess I just assume that I am going to hit the green. But when I don’t, that leaves it in the hands of my fifty-six degree wedge, or my sixty degree sand wedge. More than likely I will hit the fifty-six, but that is just a personal choice.
I will take an almost immediate stance, because I have been thinking about this show all the way to the ball. When I think about it, I just want to see what happens next. So I step up, stand behind the ball, and take three practice swings exactly the power and speed I want to hit the shot. If I can perfect that one of the three times, making perfect contact with the ground and the grass, then chances are I will hit a decent shot from the rough or the fringe.
Once I hit the shot, I watch and hope for it to check, to roll out, or to just go in the hole. I have been known for having pretty soft hands around the greens. That means that I have a lot of touch and can hit a ton of great short shots close.
Oh boy, the putter. This is the worst club in my bag. I wish I could make putts. I have incredible judge of speed, don’t get me wrong. I can get the ball there, and get it close, but it rarely goes in. Even when I was paying with the head professional up at Forest Dunes Golf Club in Michigan, he nearly raved on my speed. I had never played the course before, and I didn’t even get the chance to make some putts on the practice green before we went out and played. The first putt, a thirty-five footer, I left within inches. I didn’t make a birdie all day.
When I have a putt, whether short or long, I walk around it. I look at all the options and take in all the chances of where it might break. Depending on fast the greens are, and how smooth they are, I will stand behind it and line it up from the stereotypical catcher’s position behind the ball. Then I bring out the plum bob. Yep, I use the age-old technique of the plumb bob. The concept behind this is to stand half of the distance back behind the ball as it is to the hole. You then hold the putter up at eye level, leaving the tip of the putter on the top of the ball. Then, close your dominant eye. This shows you the break of the green from left to right. Does it work? Who knows? Must not, given the way I putt.
As you can see, a lot goes into making a single swing on the golf course. This does not take into consideration balance, swing speed, wind, hip rotations, or any one of the other million thoughts going through my head on the golf course. They say golf is easy, just put a little ball in the hole. I dare you try it and tell me its easy. It might be the hardest sport in the world to learn how to play by the rules and to be competitive in. I have been playing my whole life, and there are tons of guys out there better than me.
Golf is a game that we can play forever. Some of the best golfers in the world are older and retired. It is a great way to get some exercise, and there are literally courses everywhere. From the hills of northern Michigan to the deserts of Arizona, there are courses around every corner. I just hope this gives you a better idea on implementing a preshot routine and shows you a little bit more about my swing. Golf is tough, there’s no doubt about it. Fore!