Ask the Top 100: Why do I fall apart on the back nine?
During a round, I always start off the first nine holes playing well, but play the last nine holes rather mediocre. Are there any exercises/drills that I can do to keep up my "swing stamina"?
Michael G., McAllen, Texas
Michael, it sounds like you're listening to the wrong CD.
The flip side of success is "cumulative disreward" (CD). As your round progresses, you make a bunch of good swings but nothing works out, and your best efforts go unrewarded. CD usually strikes around the 14th hole of an otherwise so-so round. It causes those head-shaking, after-round autopsies that start with, "I was playing OK until 14…"
Actually, it wasn't sudden; it was incremental. You were swinging well, and making decent plans, but the rub of the green had it out for you — that’s the nature of the game. You made a great swing on the second hole, but the ball buried in the lip of the bunker thanks to a random gust of wind (disreward No. 1). On the sixth hole, you rolled a seemingly perfect 10-footer that circled the inner edge of the cup before it lipped out — there was no way it could stay out, but it did (disreward No. 2). On the eighth hole, you hit it pure off the tee, but the ball hit a sprinkler head in the middle of the fairway and kicked into the rough (disreward No. 3). By the 14th-hole, the disrewards are stacking up and your brain starts to get the idea that no matter how well you play, it isn't good enough.
So, you decide to make something happen. You attack a pin you should avoid, and, though you hit a solid shot, you come up a few yards short and the ball rolls down the shaved bank and into the greenside water hazard. At this point, a full-blown case of CD kicks in and you stop trying. The statement, "It's not my day" usually accompanies the CDs and if you think it isn't your day, it won’t ever be.
The Rumpelstiltskin Solution
In the Grimms’ fairy tale Rumpelstiltskin, the greedy king orders the beautiful maiden to spin flax into gold. The maiden promises the evil dwarf her first born if he will help her, which he does. The dwarf tells her that he won't hold her to her promise if she can guess his name. She does, and Rumpelstiltskin, furious, destroys himself.
It is the same with Cumulative Disreward. You can combat it by being able to name it (recognize it) each time it appears. If you label each disreward accurately, the insidious process never takes hold of you.
Is it best to choose one wedge to "perfect" or will my scores see the most benefit from working with multiple scenarios... the bump-and-run, the lob and maybe chipping?
Eric M., via email
This is a matter of much debate. Here's my take on it. The most accurate way to move a ball from Point A to Point B is to roll it. Sidespin is the enemy of roll, because with sidespin you can never be sure whether the ball is going to run, check up or slow down and then skid.
Thus the most accurate golfing stroke around the greens is one that is as level as possible to the ground. The major cause of inaccurate shot-making occurs when your club swings vertically upward, opening the clubface and imparting sidespin to your ball.
Use the least-lofted club that gets the job done and remember the Hierarchy of Short-Game Shots:
If you can putt it, putt it
If you can't putt it, chip it
If you can't chip it, pitch it
If you can't pitch it, lob it
And if you can't lob it, the hell with it!
Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher TJ Tomasi, Ph.D., a Class A PGA professional, teaches at the Nantucket Golf Club in Massachusetts. You can learn more about TJ at www.tjtomasi.com