While down in LA visiting a friend last week I met a Dan Plan blog reader for a round of golf. I hadn’t been able to get through a full 18 since mid-April, but have been feeling better every week and was cautiously optimistic heading into the first tee.
The course was Coto de Caza down near Newport Beach and it was a fun place to see if the back would hold up for 18 holes. Going into the round I decided to show up about 2 hours early to make sure the warmup was slow and thorough. The last thing I wanted to do was rush to a tee and make a cold swing.
I started with putts and worked up to chips and then through all of the clubs. It was similar to how I started this entire journey, one foot from the hole and slowly working my way through all the distances. This time it took about an hour, though, instead of the initial year of The Dan Plan.
Everything seemed in place through my half and three quarter swings and full swings with wedges up to 7 iron wasn’t locking the back up or causing any unnecessary pain, which is a great sign. The long irons and woods were still slightly uncomfortable, but as long as I hit an armsie fade I could move the ball decently. What I couldn’t do is try to clear the hips and drop the club in the slot for a draw swing. Not sure why this is, but that movement is the one that is causing the pain to come back. So, for the time being I will work on the fade and allow the stretches and core strength buildup to assist in my ability to eventually hit a draw, or hit with power for that matter.
My club speed is well down as I am not really trying to go after it and have been focussing on contact and tempo on the range and course. I figure this is a good thing to focus on and when the strength returns to the back I will be able to amp it up and build on a tempo focussed base. For now, though, I have lost three clubs of distance. A lot of that is club speed, but some of it is also from coming over the top and hitting a glancing blow instead of solid inside-to-out contact. After all my time on FlightScope and TrackMan over the years I can pretty easily tell what I am doing based on the ball flight, which is a good thing as it helps one to adjust during a round.
I met my golfing companion for the day and had a little lunch and then we were off. It’s funny how you can meet someone for the first time on a golf course and by the end of the round you have become friends. That’s one of the best things about this sport. I’ve mentioned that before, but it always blows my mind at how much you can learn about someone over 18 holes.
We had a good time on an interesting desert-esque course. There were a handful of blind shots and seeing as neither of us had ever been on the track it was an interesting experience hitting to where you thought was safe just to find a tucked away bunker. The course was designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr and in some ways it reminded me of the first course I ever played, which was Heron Lakes here in Portland and also designed by Jones.
There were definitely some differences, though, between Portland and Southern California. A lot less trees and more valleys. Here is the view from the first tee. Not knowing the course or where to aim made it a tricky hole to start on… There was way more room on the other side of the chasm than appears.
For the most part the back held up just fine. As long as I didn’t separate my lower and upper body there wasn’t any pain and it was so much fun to be back out and playing a new course. It can be easy to take this game for granted when you are out as much as I was over the past 5 years, but having a few months away has definitely helped me appreciate the beauty of the sport as well as the elegance of golf course design. Just to be out in the sun on a long walk never knowing what the next shot might entail was thrilling.
Around the 14th hole I started to feel a little weakness in the lower back, but if I kept that fade shot up I was completely able to finish the round.
The next day my body told me that I had definitely hit a lot of shots, but it didn’t hurt to stand up or bend over, so lots of improvement there. I think the best bet is to do a little every 2 or 3 days right now and focus on rehab in between.
When I got back to Portland I went out a couple times these past few days and messed around with the short game. I’m not at a point where I can actually “practice” but rather I can get back into it slowly. For example, I can’t work on my full or even half swing and also can’t putt for a long period of time, but I can chip balls at targets and work on distance control with the short game shots; mixing in some putting drills too.
On Tuesday I decided to join some guys and play 9 holes. I tried a couple normal swings, but I could tell it wasn’t time for that yet, so stuck with the fade shot. For the most part I could work the ball towards the hole, but if I was in a situation where I couldn’t move the ball right to left (trees down my right side blocking the green) I was stuck with having to layup. This is kind of teaching me course management in a different light as most of the time I still got a par, or bogey at worse, with an up and down. There is always a silver lining, just a matter of finding it out there.
The next day I knew I shouldn’t try and go to the course as I felt stiff. But, every other day right now is a heck of a lot better than not at all just a few weeks ago.