Exercising My Golfing Demons

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Not everyone has a golf demon in their bag. Mine, however, made its presence known recently during the last round I played out at Reflection Bay Golf Club.

How often do you have a round of golf that goes so bad you tell yourself “That’s it, I’m done.”?

For as long as I’ve been playing this game those demon-ic thoughts had never entered my mind. Unfortunately, I can’t say that anymore. The last time I tee’d it up, a few weekends ago, went so bad it sent me tumbling on a downward spiral towards a complete mental meltdown which has taken me literally ten days to get over it.

The birth of my demon

So what went wrong? Pretty much everything that could have.

Well, if I’m honest, that’s not entirely true. In a weird twist of fate my abilities on the golf course made a U-Turn and my driver, along with my fairways woods, actually showed up. I even impressed my playing partner with some of the shots I was making with the long clubs. It was nice to see when considering how “off” I was from the tee boxes the round before this one.

The unusually great play off the tee with my long clubs was refreshing, but when the rest of my game went south on the 3rd hole, I started to panic and never has that benefited a golfer let alone one who’s trying to overcome some swing flaws that had come into play as of late. With that panicked state, my golfing demon was born and started tormenting me with every swing.

The first hole started how I had hoped it would.

I hit an excellent drive to the right side of the fairway that left me a 160 yard shot to a back pin location. I had a ton of green to work with, and as I stood over the shot, I felt in my gut, I had this shot in my bag. Sadly I didn’t catch the ball flush and my out to in path had the ball fading to the rough, short of the hole and on the hillside.

It was a tricky shot. There was a tree in my line, and I had no choice but to play under its branches. Luckily, for me, I had the entire green to use. With the ball sitting way above my feet and a 48° wedge in my hands I hit a fantastic low pitch/chip shot that landed on the front of the green and released all the way to back leaving me a four-footer for par.

The greens a Reflection Bay were rolling at an 11.5 on the stimp and because of the speed this simple little four footer, that I practice nightly, suddenly became the putt from hell. I read too much break and as the ball passed by the hole on the right side by a few inches and picked up some speed. I was now looking at an 8’ putt back to the cup to make a bogey. The return putt came up a quarter rotation short, and I went from a makeable putt and a fantastic scrambling par to a double with a three-jack.

Not the way I wanted to start.

The next hole I was able to right the ship by nailing the fairway, hitting the center of the green on my approach and lagging a beautiful double breaker putt to within a foot for a tap-in par.

Those are my highlights of the day. The shit storm that was in front of me was so elusive I had no idea it was coming until it was too late!

One of only two fairways I missed the entire round came on the third hole, a Par 5, where my tee shot got plugged in the lip of a fairway bunker. I was able to make it back to the short grass, and with a crushing blow to the ball with my 3wood, I was just a tad off the fairway near the left front of the green.

Tucking a simple pitch shot over the greenside bunker to an upfront pin location was all I needed to do to escape with a par. After the nasty lie, I had with my second shot. I was pleased where I was sitting about to hit my fourth; it could have been much worse. As I addressed the ball my right foot was partially in one of the drainage grates and with my playing partners permission I took relief.

I often hear the term “flier” when watching the PGA on the weekends.

Mainly coming out of the rough you’ll often hear the announcers talk about how this could potentially become a “flier.” I never really understood what they meant by that until after I hit this shot.

It was at maximum a 20-yard shot. I had a decent size bunker to carry and not much room to work with on the other side, but it was undoubtedly a makeable shot. I took my 56° wedge, laid it wide open and took a 25% swing. The ball jumped off the face of the club and traveled way further than expected. My first real-world experience with a “flier” was over, and I sat there stunned at what had just happened.

I now was looking at an 80-foot putt and virtually no chance at par. Three ugly putts later and I had logged my second 3-putt double in the first three holes.

The ugly golf just snowballed from there.

I pulled my next tee shot on the short Par 3 4th. It careened off the cart path and sent my ball OB, and I took a triple.

The beautiful Par 5 5th is where the floodgates of poor golf came raining down on me, and I knew I was toast. This is the last hole I’ll bore you with tales of retched golf so bear with me, in my defense the play by play solidifies the anxiety of my mental state.

Again off the tee, I was perfect. I hit a beautiful high baby fade that I couldn’t have dropped from the cart more centered in the fairway. From there I smashed my fairway wood again leaving a short 50-yard pitch shot to the green.

I bladed the hell out of the ball on my next swing and sent it on a beeline to the greenside bunker. That shot sent me over the edge, had there been a cliff present I probably would have jumped. One of the easiest shot in the game and I completely butchered it.

Visualize a monkey fornicating with a football.

The bunker shot was a disaster. I was in such a bad place mentally to try and execute that shot. The ball flew the green and came to rest on the 75° embankment behind the hole. I had no swing at the ball at all and had to stand in front of the ball facing it even to get the club to make any contact. The ball went about 3 feet with the makeshift swing I attempted. Still in the rough and still on a severely downhill lie I managed to get the ball on the green, but the false front made sure it didn’t stay. From there I rolled it up to the cup within a couple of feet and tapped in for fancy eight.

To recap the first five holes, Double, Par, Double, Triple & Triple. Five holes into the round and I was already 10 over par. It was arguably the worst golf I’ve played in a very long time.

The 6th I had a penalty and scored a Double (+12).

The 7th I hit the green in regulation and 3-putted for bogey (+13).

Exercising my demon

The Par 3 8th I hit my first shot in the water and scored a triple (+16).

The ninth I three-putted again after missing the green to end the front with another double (+18).

Yuup kids that’s how you shot a 54 over nine holes of golf.

The back nine wasn’t much better so I’ll spare you from the sad tales.

This awful outing came in place after some nightly putting session where I’m refining my stroke to be more consistent. And also some valuable phone sessions with Wade. I’m in the middle of my reviews for a new Cobra Driver and a putter from Ricky Johnson Custom Putters, and so far I’m happy with both products, so they had little to do with my performance. I say all this mainly because my confidence going into this last round due to those practice session and the new gear was at an all-time high.

Before this outing, I had just shot an 89 at a pretty tricky Las Vegas National and the practice sessions that took place after that round was on point in my opinion.

All the work and time I put into to improving my game since coming back from my flu illness and injury left my mind in 40 minutes. I mean completely demolished. So much that I haven’t even looked at my clubs in the last ten days, except for my putter of course, and the feeling I get when I pass by my bag is “blah.” Completely uninterested is the best way I can describe it and for me, showing signs of disinterest in the game is very disturbing.

There are a few key points I left out of my play by play.

Even though I was hitting fairways my distance off the tee was rather lackluster. I’m typically in the 250-260 range when I play my SLDR driver, but for the round at Reflection, I was hitting it to only 225-230 yards, a big difference for sure. My 3wood was still in the 220 range so I figured something was amiss when I was analyzing the round.

The driver wasn’t the only issue though; my irons were a train wreck. To go along with the offensive short iron play my long irons were anything but. Here’s an example. On the par 3 17th, which was playing 145 yards, I was having a difficult time getting the ball to the green with my 6iron! My 6 IRON!!

The last hole of the day the Golf Gods shined their heavenly light down upon me, and for no apparent reason their actions cleared my mind, and in my moment of clarity I had a revelation of my ill-fated round and saw the errors of my ways.

I made par on the 18th hole and left the course with a little presence of hope; it also kept me from tossing my entire setup into Lake Las Vegas!

Bye, Bye Mr. Demon!

Fast forward nine days.

Tuesday afternoon I was scrolling through my twitter feed when I stumbled upon this tweet from Brandel Chamblee:

I watched the video, and it felt like Sean O’Hair was talking directly to me. His words resonated with me and I started thinking maybe I was doing the same thing, over analyzing, over practicing, over thinking everything instead of just hitting the damn ball.

After watching the video, the thought of my clubs put a smile on my face, and I was eager as ever Tuesday night to spend some time in the garage hitting balls.

After the kids were all tucked in for the night, I headed out to the garage and started a session with a clear mind a full belly and an ear full of Tiesto playing on my phone.

I tried my best not to think about positioning, setup, arm angles, swing path, weight transfer and instead just started smacking some old abused Titleist DT solos into my Rukk Net.

I would have been excellent had my swing been perfect and flawless, that would be an epic tale, not the case though. It was rough, I was hitting the ball better than during the round I played, but according to my Ernest ES12, the carry from my 5iron was only 150 yards. Nowhere near the 175 yards I’m used to getting on the fly with that club.

A Lack Of Coil

What I had come to realize on the 18th tee at Reflection Bay was my coil was weak and very far from an actual, full coil. The weeks leading up to the round at Reflection I had developed a nasty shank with my wedges, and after talking about it with Wade, we both agreed that I was taking the club too far to the inside and not getting the club up quick enough leading to the club getting too far behind me. Mix in my over the top tendencies, and you have a recipe for Shankers Pot Pie or a nifty pull if I happened to get the face closed.

Too Much Practice Can Be Bad

In my session before playing this is where I concentrated most of my work, keeping the club from turning too much to the inside, elevating it up sooner and preventing it from getting too far behind me. Concentrating so heavily in those areas I didn’t realize until it was too late, I had stopped implementing some new elements Wade and I had been working on that had shown a dramatic improvement in my ball striking, consistency and carry distances.

Instead of adding to what we had been working on I reverted to my old swing, stopped coiling correctly, and I was coming across the ball from out to in, a big no-no. The lack of a proper coil was all it took to decrease my clubhead speed, and because of the positioning of my arms in a coil-less backswing, it was easier than ever to come across the ball. There was no way possible for me to hit the ball like I was before.

To put it short I was overthinking EVERYTHING!

In Tuesday night’s session with my mind clear and a simple swing thought of “hit the damn ball,”  I started hitting some very decent shots once I had gotten fully warmed up. The ES12 readings were a bit disturbing but I was happy, I was hitting the ball well, there were NO shanks, and it felt good.

Then for some unknown reason, I remembered to relax.

That’s something my swing has been missing this year. From the address, I looked down at the ball and took in a nice, deep, relaxing breath of air, exhaled and then swung. That deep breath and exhale was a huge reset for me. It’s a habit I have gotten away from, but it was evident from the success I was having after repeating it over and over again that it’s something I need to start doing again.

After about a good 20-30 swings I felt like the little old creepy lady from Poltergeist

“This house is clean.”

Exercsing my demon

The relaxing breath was so crucial. Utilizing it combined with the proper techniques Wade and I had worked on along with eliminating those bad swing flaws from before painted a perfect picture of practice, and I was pounding the ball. The proverbial “groove” was upon me, and I had a 20 ball run of 182 yards of carry average. If it was at all possible, the center of my 5iron could have been bleeding from the abuse I was giving it.

Without a doubt, it was the best session I’ve had in weeks, and I’m eager as ever to get back at it.

I am only human so that 54 front nine will haunt me for a while.

From my vantage point, it’s going to be referred to as a mental scar. Not a recurring demon to annoy me forever! I don’t want that scar to heal anytime soon, and I want those memories of the struggle and the awful taste it left in my mouth. I don’t ever want to play golf like that again and the only way I’m going to allow myself to forget it ever happened to go out and play golf like I know I can.


Follow Mathew Wangrycht:

Writer and founder of the golf blog The Breakfast Ball. My wife will tell you I'm obsessed with the game, she's right! It's that obsession which drives me to become a better player and make this site enjoyable for everyone.

6 Responses

  1. FatGuy
    | Reply

    My golf demon has become such a staple in my game, I had to give him a name. His name is Raul (don’t ask). He lives in my brain, wears only a bathrobe, and has an autolink to my smartphone calendar, so his arrival is usually simultaneous to my tee time. He starts with his usual first tee shot of overswing adreniline, then happily begins his evil tinkering with my swing thoughts and subconscious from there, simultaneously elevating my expectations to unreasonable levels while pickpocketing my patience before using cartoon scissors to cut my fuse in half. I’ve found the best and only antidotes for Raul (outside of rare on-course personal favors from the wife) are the beer cart, halfway house, and the flask of swing oil in my bag. Even those only seem to keep him at bay for a span of 6 or 7 holes. Thanks to Raul, I quit the game forever in embarrassment and frustration at least 3 times a season. It’s rare that I can play an 18th hole without envisioning stabbing myself in the brain with a fork repeatedly, trying to kill Raul.

    And you thought you had issues.

  2. Patrick Harden
    | Reply

    Bro! Whenever you think your having a melt down…remember mine! That took serious therapy to recover from. You’ll be fine

    • Mathew Wangrycht
      | Reply

      HaHaHa. You’re right! That meltdown was of epic proportions!

  3. Matt Murley
    | Reply

    Great post dude. I’ve been in all of those places but can never take 9 days off. ‘Relax’ is key for me too, elusive on course

    • Mathew Wangrycht
      | Reply

      Thanks Matt. Been a mental struggle for me lately. Think I just need to pay more!

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