The Dreaded Third Plane, and other midwinter golf lessons
February 2, 2007
With only occasionally favorable weather conditions for golf during the mid-winter, Cape Region golfers don’t have a lot of opportunities to keep up their skills on their favorite local courses.
In recent interviews, Cape Region golf professionals provided a wide range of advice about how best to prepare for the upcoming season over the next couple months.
The Rookery’s Butch Holtzclaw had the pithiest response, when asked for tips for Cape Region golfers interesting in improving their game during February and March—”Go south—that’s the best solution I could come up with.”
Holtzclaw wasn’t entirely serious, but he wasn’t exactly kidding, either. The snowbirds among us who migrate to Florida or other warmer climates obviously have an advantage, but that’s not possible for everybody. “Otherwise, when it’s this cold out, there’s not much you can do playing-wise, but you have a lot more time to think about your game, and that should help,” Holtzclaw said.
“You can go through your thoughts about last season, and try to identify your game flaws. Then you can start setting some goals and plan on how to achieve them,” Holtzclaw said. “You can also stay in shape, or if you’re not in shape, then get in shape. It’s easier for me to do that now than during the season, when I’m so busy,” he said.
Devon Peterson of Shawnee Country Club had several suggestions. “I see a lot of players with weak left-hand grips. If their left hands are not moved more to the right on the club, they have trouble making a good turn, and it leads to a out-to-in swing that slices. I’d like to see players work over the winter on their grip, their stance, and their posture.”
“Many of them would also be helped if they practiced with a heavy club, like the Momentus. The heavy club will help them learn to take the club back with their shoulders until their wrist cocks, and help keep them on a single plane. Too many of them don’t do that, and end up taking the club back on a second plane. Then they re-direct the club on the way down on the dreaded third plane, and that’s where all the trouble starts,” Peterson said.
“So if they work with a heavy club, and work on moving their left hand more to the right on their grip, they’ll start the season with a different shot shape that should help,” he concluded.
John Wallett, assistant professional at Rehoboth Beach Country Club, said that from his perspective, the biggest problem most amateurs should work on is their game management skills. “They don’t take enough club for their approach shots,” he said. “If they’re between a 6-iron and a 7-iron for their shot, they’ll go with the 7 when they should go with the 6. That would give them a better chance to reach the green, instead of always coming up short.”
Tim Mumford, the club professional at Sussex Pines, also stressed working on the mental side of the game when the winter keeps players off the course. “I’d like to see players work on thinking about where can they miss a shot and still make par. Where do I make my mistakes on my home course, and can I figure out how to recover better?
Mumford suggested that golfers should go through their home course hole by hole, and think about how they play each hole. “They should think like, ‘Do I usually hit my approach shot to the right, or into the right bunker, and what do I have to do to keep that from happening when the wind is running from left to right?’”
In addition, of course, scheduling some golf lessons with your local professional for the start of the season would certainly help most of us play better golf when the weather warms up.
Your club pro won’t mind at all.