When talent takes a holiday and hits a slump, what should a golfer do?
When it comes to a golf slump, I’m not really the right person for making comments. My game, compared to some, looks like a slump in its default position, one that occasionally gets better, then settles back into the same old familiar ennui. However, I’m going to try anyway. I’ve watched so many pros go through this, players I thought would always be at the top of their game, men and women. It has all taught me just how fragile the whole myriad of interacting brain and muscle cells really is.
The internet is filled with possible fixes for a slump, but no one guarantees it outright. A slump can last through the day, or through the season. It can disappear as quickly as it appeared, and the smallest, oddest thing can set it off. I’ve read paper after paper on Lydia Ko’s recent difficulties as she alternates back and forth between a fade coach and a draw coach, ending up in the middle. I’ve heard about her putting, and how a medium hitter can’t afford to not putt brilliantly if she wants to win. I’ve followed the psychological world’s best thoughts on Yani Tseng’s trials. Too zen, too this, too that? Perhaps, but the ball doesn’t care. It comes down to how you’re hitting the ball, and whether all of your game’s aspects are hitting at the same time. I can’t imagine what pressures Michelle Wie experienced from the teen sensation years on. I don’t know why Rory isn’t sitting at the top of the world right now with all that talent. And Tiger? There aren’t enough years for me to become educated on that one.
All muni players know about slumps. They’re just…slumpier than a pro slump. Ko went from a sub 70 scoring average to just above it. Suddenly, she doesn’t win. Suddenly, she does the unthinkable, and misses the cut. Amateurs like most of us can’t work with those fine gradations, but there are helpful sources that try to reach out for us. One says that there are basically three roads – the back to basics idea, which is a personal favorite, the deep search for the underlying fatal flaw, and the take a break philosophy. Pros work with new equipment from time to time, and so do the rest of us, but we’re probably lucky not to be able to feel the finesse there, either. The problem can be conceptual. I knew a big-hitting amateur in Baltimore who cured it by going to the blue logo MacGregor ball from the red logo MacGregor ball. Never mind that the blue ball was designed for women – it worked.
Others in the slump business suggest that we check for hand, forearm, and shoulder tension in the swing. Some say, just add a waggle, and don’t listen to the voices in your head. More Zen-like characters try to hold the flaw up to the light, calling a slump a golfing counterpart to depression. Playing golf as a metaphor for life, the game should be embraced, not just held up as another thing to conquer. The spiritual teacher Krishnamurti was apparently a fair golfer – I don’t know, give it a try. Some slump-breakers tend more toward compensation. Since you’re going to be in the trees a lot until the slump breaks, perfect a low punch shot out of the tall stuff. Get the swing set on the range, not on the course, and remember that almost all problems are in the takeaway…or so they say. Adjust the grip for putting, and walk around the putt for a 360 degree look.
Fear of traps isn’t a slump. It’s a fear of traps. Learn to do it, or seek out a fine therapist. Try hitting everything at 75%. One says not to compensate. If you’re hitting a big slice, work with it. Don’t just point it 45 degrees left in hopes of reaching the center of the fairway. And, finally, we must remember that practice doesn’t make perfect. It makes permanent.
Did you get all of that? Good. Now, I’ll say the only thing I’m really qualified to say. It’s a beautiful day, and it’s a beautiful game. The worst thing that can happen as the result of a golf club is better than the best thing almost anywhere else. So, go out take your best swing at it, and enjoy yourself.