November 11, 2021 7:25 pm
Pre-Tom-Baileozoic Era: Progressing My Golf Game Without A Prolific Coach
I started working with Tom Bailey in February 2021, and have contracted him to coach my swing and general game for more than half of the months since then.
At the time my handicap was an 8, and after the past 9 months of work it is now a 3. According to the handicap system that is roughly the rate I was progressing before I hired him, as I was in the 14-15 range early in the 2020 season. This is not AT ALL to say Tom's influence has been meaningless, because I think the 7-8 handicap range is an easy range to be stuck in for eternity without some big overhauls to your game. It is much harder to go from an 8 to a 3 than it is to go from a 15 to a 8.
The reasons why I have gone from an 8 to a 3 are very very different from why I went from a 15 to an 8. The 2020 golf improvement campaign mainly consisted more so of understanding how to take my current physical ability and dispersion cone (which was wide AF) and become more efficient at scoring within my limitations. Basic things that I did not necessarily need a golf coach to get better at, that were instead accomplished through pure hours of repetition:
- Practicing 7 foot straight putts at nauseam in my basement to learn how to hit my start line at a much higher percentage. Playing several rounds a week also reduced the amount of 3 and 4 putts by quite a bit.
- Learning how to at a minimum be on the green from any short game scenario- not necessarily close to the hole but reducing the duffs and blades drastically.
- Not taking stupid lines knowing what misses I was capable of. This just came through being on the course enough to realize without changing my technique, certain misses where highly likely to occur even when I'm "playing well." I stopped caring about hitting fairways in order to stay in play. In scenarios where there was OB right, but another hole on the left, I would literally aim at the tree line dividing the fairways.
- Being super consistent about going to the range or playing golf. I made sure that I almost never missed a day of swinging a club and making contact with a ball. So the percentage of full swing shots that went my way certainly did go up, but the bad misses were still very present in every round.
The process of just blunt repetition was able to take me down to roughly about a 10-12 by the end of summer 2020. In the fall of 2020, I started working at Blue Bell Country Club and had access to the practice facilities after my shift. It was then that I started to really hone in my short game by practicing at the very tough short range for several hours a week. My rounds started looking like hitting maybe 3/4 greens a round, but I was saving miraculous pars from all over the map with my new short game prowess. This is what I needed for my handicap to eclipse single digit status even though the misses with full swing shots were still obnoxious.
The number one thing that has kept me dedicated to the game of golf in the past 2 years, is that I had what I thought was a profound understanding of swing mechanics from my profession as a hitting coach. I figured I was more equipped than anyone else I knew to improve at this game with my background.
But if you did not notice, the number one thing that improved my game during the first year of my absolutely grinding at this sport, was my short game (with a hint of improved course management) and not my full swing shots. My rounds at the end of 2020 were very stressful and required my full attention to execute a positive mindset after each shot. After slicing a drive into the trees, punching one under some branches to 40 yds left of the green (probably short sided), I had to believe deep in my soul that I could still make par.
I spent an inordinate amount of time at the range in 2020 filming nearly every swing trying to improve my technique. The only thing I was able to accomplish was to increase my club head speed quite a bit. I had a really solid understanding of how to stretch all the fascia in my body, head to toe, and release it to whip the club at high speeds. My peak club head speed a the beginning of 2020 was around 117-119. By 2021 I could get my CHS into the 130s if I really got after it. All this did was make my misses more drastic.
Even if I had Jordan Spieth's game within 100 yds with my 2020 full swing, I still wouldn't be able to sniff breaking par.
Enter Tom Bailey.