Elephantosis Fechterosis

By Michael FechterJuly 4, 2008, 4:00 pm
It's been said that developing a good golf swing is like eating an elephant -- you can't do it all at once. And, you don't want to try.
After my video and computer analysis, I could clearly see half a dozen glaring faults, all of them needing immediate attention. But, as in life, you can only work on one disaster at a time. If I try to do 2 things at once, my mind, and my golf game, gets all screwed up.
So, what to work on when there are so many problems to choose from? It's like being President, 'OK, which of the 15,000 dilemmas do I focus on today? Screw it. I'm clearing brush in Texas.'
Upon careful consideration, I decided to go with widening my arc and shortening my swing. That collapse at the top that was starting to pain me at night as I went to bed.
Sean Petrone from GolfTEC suggested that I feel as if I was hitting nothing but punch shots for awhile. He suggested I feel my thumbs be pointed straight up on both the backswing and the follow-through. All I kept thinking was 'wider arc,' 'shorter backswing' and 'hands lag at the bottom.' It was too many thoughts and I knew it.
We were getting some windy, rainy weather and, since I am not a native Scotsman, I was not getting to the links, or even outside, to put any of these thoughts to practice. It was mostly just thinking about my game in the house.
Years ago, when I got unhappy with my putting, I started fooling around with different types of strokes. I tried long putters and belly putters. I tried open and closed stances. I tried very short and very heavy putters. I became a regular at the Goodwill and estate sales as I picked through piles of old, dead men's putters.
This stench of putter desperation would have shocked my father, because he thought of me as his 'natural-born putter' winning local 'Putt-Putt' tournaments long before I played true golf.
As a kid, on the course, I felt sure that I would make any putt 15 feet or under and I could not even imagine a three-putt. I probably went whole summers without a three-putt. Putting was the only easy part of the game.
And now, somehow, even putting was not easy.
It's not as if I had the yips. I just didn't make as many putts as I thought I should.
Then one day, I took a new approach. I kept my left hand at the top of the shaft, and really bent over and put my right hand only 5 or 6 inches from the head of the putter. I made the solid strokes time after time, and 'scared the hole on most anything 20 feet and under.
From what I could see, on hundreds of courses, no one else putts like this, probably because it looks ridiculous.
Watching me putt, it must look like I am analyzing rodent droppings on the ground. But there's no way for the putter to go off-line and I rarely see a better putter even with almost no practice.
I know it worked because people I played with started to copy me.
So, during these days of dreary weather, I wondered, 'What if I spread my hands on full shots?'
Hands spread would force my backswing to be shorter. And if I really concentrated on extending my backswing 'wide' on the takeaway, really exaggerated that take away with a wide base, while standing closer to the ball then maybe, just maybe, I could create a simple repeatable golf swing.
Yeah, and maybe, Cameron Diaz would be calling me in the next 10 minutes to take me surfing.
But I thought about it more.
The swing I was thinking of is not that much different from the Moe Norman philosophy of hitting a golf ball which is a wide base, big extension and shallow divots and as repeatable as a stamp drill. And, who doesn't want to follow in the footsteps of golfs greatest savant and very sexy, Moe Norman?
This split-hands thing seems about right for my personality. I've never been a person afraid to be unconventional. Heck, I sleep on an inflatable mattress and work for free for Orphans. A really weird golf grip won't keep me out of Heaven.
There used to be a teaching philosophy that you should use a baseball grip to get more power and better extend down the line. I had certainly tried that before and it worked pretty well.
And I have recently started to really spread my hands on short chips from beside the green. Could it carry over to full shots? Or would I at best just hit the ball very straight and very short? It's hard to get shorter than 200 yards off the tee but 'anything's possible' when it comes to stinking at golf.
Finally, on the first break in the weather, I drove out to the local college's soccer fields. A few wedges would test my split-hands theory.
When I'm making changes to my golf swing, I really exaggerate them because, like Tiger, what I feel is very often not what I'm actually doing. So, if I think I'm taking the club 6 inches outside the ball on the take away, in reality I may be just taking it straight back.
I could feel with my hands spread by almost 6 inches that my swing was definitely shorter. There is simply no way for the arms to break down with the right hand locked so low.
What I liked was that I was starting to take very long, shallow divots the size of a dollar bill ' the kind of divots that Sam Snead talked about.
With this swing, I could really get aggressive and the ball flew an extra 10 or 15 yards with my pitching wedge ' or maybe even farther, because soccer fields are measured in something called 'meters.'
Was I really on to something with this spread hands grip, shorter backswing and hands last through the ball???
There were a few swings where I even felt my hands lagging behind the drive of my legs. I'd hit half a dozen balls to one target and then switch it up. I would try different winds and different lies but I kept getting good results.
I NEVER hit the ball well. Could this really be me? Could this actually be a break-through? Might I one day actually hit the ball solid and no longer be mocked by those with skill?
OK, that's asking a lot since, to the traditional golfer, this new swing looks even more ridiculous than my old swing. But, a mans got to dream. It's dreams that keep us going.
It has been years since I left a golf course feeling this good.
OK, technically, the college soccer field is not a golf course. But, maybe it was something better. It was my soccer field of dreams -- a place where just maybe my dream of recapturing the game of my youth is turning into reality.
Golf IS like eating an elephant. And I am starting to enjoy the taste.
Tom Werner contributed to this column.
Email your thoughts to Michael Fecheter
Editor's note: Michael Fechter, orphan worker and humorist, has the best job in golf: he's paid to be the Ambassador of Fun for golf courses across America. His 'job' is to make the courses he represents across America more interesting, unique and fun. Enjoy his humorous series on getting back into the game as he struggles to get his game into the shape it was nearly 30 years ago when he won his only personal junior 'major,' the Al Esposito, on America's easiest muni with rounds of 71-71-75.
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