I Can't hit graphite shafted irons!!!!

Several months ago I took a set of King Cobra graphite shaft irons to the driving range to try them out. I had been on a relative hot steak for me, flirting with the low 90's and even breaking through to the 80's a few times. So I strode out to the practice tee full of confidence and pulled a graphite shafted 7 iron from the bag. After a brief stretch and warm-up a stepped up to the first ball and swung away. Topped badly, the ball bounded across the range coming to a rest about 75 yards from the tee. "Wow". I thought , "I missed that one badly!"

Then over next 15 minutes I watched in bewilderment as shot after shot squirted from me tee. Some duck-hooking badly left, others loopety-looped off to the right and many bounced nastily straight ahead rolling to a stop well short of the 100 yard marker.

I tried everything. Slow down...down rush the backswing...pause at the top...stengthen the grip...waken the grip...close the stance...focus on the ball...CONCENTRATE!!! Smack, clunk, clink, pop, the balls continued to scrample away from my trainwreck of a practice session until my bucket was empty and I slunk away, drained of my last ounce of confidence and feeling like I'd never played the game in my life.

A few weeks later, for some unknown reason, I took these same King Cobras out for a round and actually played pretty well. I suspect I was hitting the ball well of the tee and putting well, leaving myself with a minimal number of 7 and 5 iron shots that I managed to get reasonably close to the green then jumped into the comfort zone of one of my old blade-style pitching wedges. By the time I walked off the course that day, I felt that I had easily solved my graphite shaft woes (although I could not tell you how) and all was right in my world of golf again.

Then, last night, as I was walking through a local department store, I spotted a set of Wilson ProStaff 360's on the clearance rack. Naturally, having way too much money in my possession and still having a couple of square feet in my garage not occupied by golf clubs, the Wilsons ended up in the back seat of my car and , this afternoon, in my bag on the driving range. Did I mention that these Wilson ProStaff 360's also have graphite shafts?

It took about 3 swings for Deja Vu to come crashing down. I was once again a novice golfer who had never swung a club in anger. To my left, my 11 year old son was smacking beautiful fairway woods right down the center of the range. My 4 year old son was whacking tight little irons toward the flag about 50 yards away. Even my wife, who says she hates golf, or at least finds nothing interesting about it, cracked a couple of sharp 7-irons about 125 yards and straight. But here stood dad, flailing away at the stationary balls and watching them as the bounced crazily off in a variety of directions. Again, I tired everything, and again nothing worked. There must be a secret to hitting these things and I suspect my inability to do so reveals a flaw in my swing that the stiffer steel shafts covers up. If anyone knows any graphite shaft secrets and would like to share them, I'm all ears. In the meantime I guess I'll have to hit the range tomorrow with a set of trusty steel shafts to restore my wounded manhood.

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No-look putting

I've always been fascinated in listening to someone try to explain to a new golfer how hard he should hit a particular put, as if there is some scientific formula to it. There is not. I remember reading an article more than thirty years ago that talked about using one inch of backswing and one inch of follow through for each foot between you and the hole. In other words, the article said, for a five foot put, try 5 inches of backswing and 5 inches of follow through. This is probably an excellent starting point (that's how I started to learn "feel" on the putting green) but is by no means the end of the story.

I've always believed that you can't put this thought process into words any more than baseball player can tell you how he differentiates between a short toss from second to first base and a longer, harder throw to home plate. How does Eli Manning know how hard to throw a "touch" screen pass to his running back versus a long bomb to over the middle to David Tyree (sorry Patriots fans). They don't really know how they do it, they just do it!

I think this kind of applies to putting as well which is why a recent "tip" article in Golf Magazine caught my eye. The gist of the piece was that a baseball pitcher doesn't look at the ball when he's pitching, he looks at his catcher, or target. A quarterback focuses on his receiver, not the ball. So why shouldn't a golfer look at his target, the hole, when he's putting?

I immediately went to the putting green and tried it out with amazing results, especially on long putts. I'd look at the putt, look at the cup, judge the break, line up my putter's head to what I judged to be the line, then focused back on the cup and held my eyes on it as I stroked the ball. On long putts of 20 to 30 feet, the ball was stopping inside a 3-foot radius from the hole almost every time, with several putts dropping in! I was astounded.

During my next round I tried putting a couple of long putts in this "no-look" manner with disappointing results. I wasn't even close. So now I've adopted the method as a good drill on the putting green, but continue to look at the ball when putting during an actual round. I have, however, made one change to my on course putting game: now, just before I actually stroke the ball, I consciously think to myself, "toss it in the hole". This seems to force my mind and body to make that pitcher-catcher, quarterback-receiver correlation and makes me putt the way my mind and body already subconsciously know how to putt! So far the results have been great, but I assume that that too, like everything else in golf, will change soon enough.

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Consistently inconsistent or vice-versa

Another round into 2008 and again no big breakthroughs in my ongoing chase to go below 80 on the links.

This this time out we played Cypress Head in Port Orange, Florida, the site of my personal best 85 in September '07. My strategy for thhis round involved using a starter set of Ram 3,5,7 and 9 XS-1000 irons, thereby leaving me more room in my bag to carry some extra fairway woods and wedges. for the task at hand I brought along a Prosimmon 2-wood, my Top-Flite 3 and 5 woods and a Golfsmith 7 wood to supplement my Callaway FT3 driver. With so much water adjoining the fairways at Cypress Head, and accuracy off the tee at a premium, I felt like it would be smart to hit some 2 and 3 wood tee shots. I also carried my current favorite "Line-up 305R" putter.

Actually, the plan was working quite well, although I don't think that I was en route to a below-80 round, I was playing fairly good, for me, even bogey golf. A pair of snowmen, however, did me. Ironically, one was on the difficult, long, over-the-water, par 4 14th. After staring down the lake and putting my drive in decent position in the fairway, I proceeded to pull the Persimmon 2 wood from my bag, determined to hit the long approach shot to the green and make a run at a decent round. What I actually did, of course, was badly top my second shot, hopping it about 75 yards back toward the water. Thankfully it stopped just short.

I breathed a sigh of relief as I pulled my 7 iron out, resigning myself to the fact that I could still save a bogey if I made a decent shot here. Rushing the shot, as I often do after a dissapointing effort, I yanked the 7 iron hard left into the lake. After a double bogey on 15 (following a perfect tee shot with my 2 wood) I birdied the short par 3 #16, puting myself back on target for a sub 90 round heading to the final two holes, both par 5's. On 17 I hit a long drive down the left side of the fairway, which parallels water. One big, slightly left bounce, and I was wet again. A harrowing, train wreck of an approach to the green left me scrambling for another 8. On 18 my drive went right . . . . Right into the woods!

I dropped a ball, hit a good second shot and a short approach to about 10 feet in front of the green. Then I rolled in the chip shot with my 9 iron to finish with a 92.

All in all I guess it's hard to be too disappointed with that score considering that I tallied 7 penalty strokes on the day! Also, using my ugly little Line-up putter , a putted only 24 times for the round, a new personal low, so I also had that to hang my hopes on. But it's hard to be really satisfied after a round in which half the time it came easily , and the other half I felt like I'd never seen a golf club in my life.

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Heavy on the wedges

This was only my third round of 2008, and so far there has been no indication that this will be a breakthrough year in my quest to break 80. For this round, Friday, February 1, I decided to forego my usual habit of carrying an extra driver with me and loaded up on wedges, hoping that my short game would carry me to glory.

We played at Riverbend Golf Club in Ormond Beach, FL and I threw the following clubs in my bag:

Driver: Callaway Big Bertha Fushion FT3
Fairway Wood: Taylormade Burner 3, 5, 7
Irons: Ram FX 5-PW
Wedges: Blades: 52 degree Approach, 56 degree Sand and 60 degree Lob
Putter: Ping O-Blade

My strategy seemed to be working early, as I was one-under bogey golf through the first 5 holes. Then, on the sixth hole, I suddenly lost me touch off the tee. Over the next 5 holes I had a triple-bogey, par, quadruple-bogey, triple-bogey and double-bogey. Just as suddenly, my tee problems cleared up as I hit the next five fairways and parred the next five holes! (There was actually a birdie mixed in for good measure. It was even beginning to look like I had a chance to break 90 despite my front nine 50. Sadly though, my tee-off magic once again faded away and I limped home with a double-bogey, triple-bogey and double-bogey, for a round of 94.

I would still have to consider my short game strategy a success, though, as I had 32 putts in the round, below my average. I also one-putted 6 holes, which indicates to me that I was pitching and chipping up close to the hole. On # 17 my 7-iron chip shot ran across the green and clanked off the flagstick on a shot that I almost sank from the fringe. (Of course I two putted from 3 feet following that shot.)

Anyway, once again an inconsistent round brought me home with a score that I had a hard time getting excited about. Still, glimmers of hope and promise for for the next round keep me hoping that that elusive sub-80 round is in my future!

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