The Zone

We often hear the term… and most of us have felt the game at some kind of a deeper level from time to time.
You get into some kind of flow of hitting one quality shot after another. Putts seem to go in, not lip out. The good break happens when you need it. Golf seems easier than usual regardless of your skill level. The “Zone” seems to happen when you are not consciously thinking about it. Sometimes as soon as you start thinking… “I’m playing great… I must be in the Zone” suddenly you are not in the Zone anymore and you find yourself switching from the birdie train to the bogey train.

I played today and thought it might be interesting to reflect upon as it was an unusual round. I haven’t played much golf recently, I think this was my second round this month. The last few times out have not been anything special as far as scoring for me… 72, 74, 73. My parents came out to SF for a visit this week, and I took dad out to Lincoln Park GC in San Francisco for a game. We teed off around 2PM with a cool stiff Pacific Ocean breeze whipping through the Pines and funneling through the Golden Gate Bridge. The course didn’t seem too busy, but oddly enough there were 3 groups going off the first tee. The starter asked us if we were ok teeing off on the back nine. Actually we would start on the 9th tee which is not far from the clubhouse.

Dad doesn’t see real well, so on a strange course, I had to basically caddy for him… aim and club all his shots and pay close attention to where the ball is going. My mind was probably more on his game than mine. He would hit first and then I would play my shot almost as an afterthought.

#9, #10, #11, just fairways and greens. Missed birdie putts from 20, 30, and 8 feet. The 12th is a long par 3 uphill and dead into the wind. I hit a five yard fade with a 2 wood 6 feet from the pin. Just one of those perfect shots, just as you saw and felt it in your mind. Made the putt. Not a hole you make a 2 on very often. Two more pars and then on #15 I hit 1 iron - wedge a foot from the hole for a kick in bird.

#16 and #17 might be the toughest back to back par 3’s on the planet. 239 and 240 yards respectively. Made a good 10 foot comeback putt for par on 16.


#17 is one of the great postcard holes in golf. From high up the cliffs, a sweeping view of the Golden Gate Bridge and a brutal three par down the hill to a postage stamp green. Tourists are everywhere taking pictures. Sometimes people are getting married there. It’s a public course, and it is not uncommon for pedestrians to be walking around oblivious to the golf. Two Japanese tourists asked if they could take my picture while I played my tee shot on 17. Sure, no problem. I smiled, pulled out my 62 Dyna Turfrider 1 iron and just ripped one up into the wind… the ball drew toward the left side of the green but the wind off the bay pushed it back right and it landed on and rolled up 6 feet from the pin after traveling 240 yards down the hill. I have never made a 2 on this hole and didn’t want to think about the putt too much… so I just stepped up, took one look and hit the putt into the cup. Pretty amazing to make a 2 on that hole.

The 18th is another beautiful 4 par playing right back to the old while clubhouse which sits right behind the green. I waited as two bums crossed the fairway on their way to Golden Gate Park and hit one right down the center. It’s a very tight tee shot. The second is blind from the swale, and I hit an 8 iron nicely… but while it was in the air, it seemed to loose steam and I figured it would be lucky to get on the front edge. When I arrived at the green it was sitting perfectly about 12 feet below the hole. My putt lacked the proper speed, but rolled right to the front right lip and then fell in for another birdie.

Now back on the front nine, the wind was really picking up even more and starting to get cold in the late afternoon.
While I am going back through this round in hindsight, at the time I was still focusing mostly on Dad’s game, and getting him aimed and clubbed correctly. I had no thought really of how I was playing or how many under par I was or that I had just shot 30 on the back nine. I hit more fairways and greens on the next six holes just playing good solid golf tee to green.

On the 7th hole, which was our 17th of the day, after a well struck 1 iron off the tee, I hit a wedge in about a foot from the hole for a kick in birdie. As we got to the tee on #8, our last hole of the day, we finally had to wait for the group in front of us having caught up with them. It’s a tough little 3 par down the hill to a small well bunkered green. Usually I hit a 6 iron, but today was downwind and cross from the left. When the group finally cleared the green, I pulled an 8 iron. Just before I was ready to hit, Dad mention that it seemed like I had really made a lot of birdies. It was the first time during the round I stopped to think about it. “Yeah, I guess you are right”, I thought back a bit, and realized I had not had a bogey either. Now thinking if I can birdie here it would be a 62 today. With that thought I really seemed to try a bit harder and hit a beautiful iron right at the pin, but this time it hit a hard spot right near the pin and kicked over the green.
I really had not had any kind of a bad bounce all day. I felt something change. The effortlessness was gone in some way because it was the first time during the round I was trying to do something. I hit what I thought was a good chip but the ball just grabbed as it was also dead into the wind, and left me a 10 foot putt. I really felt that I was going to miss the putt, spoil a bogey free round on the last… and leave with just a slight bittersweet ending to the round. My best round there had been a 65 so either way it would be a personal best. I think once I had conceded defeat, I just stepped up to the putt and took a quick look, and with a firm grip and a little pop stroke, just focused on striking firm into the back of the ball. I was pretty shocked to see it track right into the cup. 63 and a new personal best at the historic Lincoln Park.

It really was one of those rare Zone days. Dad just missed shooting his age, and the pizza was great after the round as well.

Fun stuff.

That was a great read, Lag, and congratulations on the 63.

Great round, congrats on your low round, and playing with ya dad to boot. Great stuff


Enjoyable read Lag, and what an awesome picture of #17.

What a place to have back to back long par 3’s. Just when you are attempting to bring the pony back to the stable, one has to first stare down back to backs. A pretty good test I reckon of stamina and skill.

What a great day with Dad that must have been, but as a stenciled phrase says upon the wall of Mall Rats room:

Moments…we do not remember days, we remember moments.

Good stuff :sunglasses:

Great read about a round you will remember the rest of your life. And making it more special, with your father. Thanks for sharing.

Love the “zone” too. However rare and random they are. Have had them occur in all walks of interest.

Just hate when I have one at the driving range though as you can’t help but think a) I know what I am doing right now won’t stick fully come tomorrow and b) man, if only I was playing today instead of practicing…

The point here is really about The Zone, and possibly examining the mindset or a patchwork of situations or circumstances that could give rise to such a happening or event. What are the factors that need to come together. Is this something we can create or maybe just increase the probability of these events? On one end, you have things like

  1. My body feels great today.
  2. I received good news this morning.
  3. What I had for breakfast.
  4. The feeling of my surroundings.
  5. How I have been playing coming into the day.
  6. Putting, particularly my feel for speed on the greens.
  7. Expectations or lack of.
  8. Who or whom I am paired with.
  9. How much or how well did I or didn’t I sleep the night before.
  10. The weather.
  11. How many times have I played this course or past memories?
  12. Confidence or lack of.
  13. Biorhythms
  14. What book or books have I been reading
  15. Home life or road life, fatigue or feeling fresh and rejuvenated.
  16. Where am I going after my round or tomorrow.
  17. Feeling of preparedness or lack of. I forgot my _________
  18. A new swing thought, putter or lack of thoughts.

This list could go on and on, and we could subjectively go through such a list and label each thing as ideal or not, good or bad. Certainly everything could be to our liking, and still go out and play awful.

How often do we see a pro shoot low and follow up the next day with an over par round, often really bad? What does that do to the psyche? Fortunately for me I probably won’t play again for another week or two. The greens at Lincoln are slow, grainy and far from perfect surfaces. I sure liked the way I putted. I’m usually pretty happy to make three putts outside of 6 feet in a round even on good greens. Yesterday I made six putts from outside six feet… but nothing longer than 15 but on horrible greens by most peoples standards. I hit 15 greens and never once looked at a yardage marker. With the winds so high, yardages felt irrelevant. My concern was always trajectory. One hole I hit a 4 iron from 140 yards just to keep the ball under the tree line and out of the howling winds.

It’s a lot to think about… or not think about. :sunglasses:

We don’t tolerate “bums” at my club. The last time I saw one - I “rolled” him and was able to buy a few rounds at the turn! Now that I think about it…the bum might have been a kid selling lemonade and used golf balls. :wink:

Captain Chaos

What a wonderful story. What a memory. That is so neat, I love it.
The Zone…it must be real.
Congratulations. Thanks for sharing that, hopefully we all have some moments awaiting us in the Zone.

Not to oversimplify this, but you mentioned that you were very focused on caddying for your Dad. You wanted to make sure he was comfortable with the clubbing, could get around, enjoy the day. Your energy was there mostly, not on your game. From reading your story, it seemed you allowed your mindset to attend to your Dad, the tourists that wanted to snap your picture (you weren’t put off, you happily obliged.) The last thing on your mind was your game…no expectations, hadn’t played in awhile, just happy to be with Dad.

Golf is such a self-centered, narcissistic endeavor. Maybe you were anything but, that day. Maybe that’s the secret to getting in the zone.

To echo Paul about your Dad it’s like the old saying, “When you seek happiness for others, you find happiness in yourself”

Great round Lag. 63 Wow!

Were you SS most of the way or were you doing some mod 6 too?

I think that could be a part of it… but just helping your playing partners is no guarantee to enter the zone. Helping others is also against the USGA rules right? :confused:

The Super Slotting has been improving my golf swing on several levels. It’s not completely in my swing DNA yet, but getting there. Maybe a year from now. I can certainly do it in a grand way if I think about it… and at times I do, especially if I am demonstrating to a student or working on a concept. What I am talking about is not knowing how NOT to do it. I don’t think I am there yet. I have been working on it now for about a year and the progress is significant for sure.

One thing I am noticing is that I am very very rarely missing long and left. The SS action is such an anti OTT move. Very powerful stuff along with flat heavy gear which certainly tips things in your favor… but you really have to up the module 3 stuff big time to handle the load. It’s the ultimate in opposing force application within the golf swing.

I still have plenty of days I don’t putt all that well, but what is encouraging is the I can get hot now and then with virtually no practicing. With the more conventional putting stoke I had before, I simply would have to practice a ton to have a chance of putting well… and since I don’t practice putting, I would not putt well very often. But now I really do believe in these more traditional putting concepts. I just get the ball online so much better and get it rolling nicely off the face.
It really comes down to if I can feel the speed on the greens. Some days you just have it better than others… and no doubt, a bit of practice putting working on just pace is going to be helpful. If I could spent 20 minutes on a real putting green once a week, that would do very good things for my pace. Dad loves to practice and we did visit a local course and putted for half an hour a couple days before we played Lincoln. Totally different greens and speed, but it must have been one of the factors.

great story and nice round…my dad’s never touched a club although sometimes i wished he did for days like that.

everyone has a low round story so i’ll share mine because it kinda fits the theme of this thread…

i don’t break 70 much but my low round came on a day i was playing with a 14 year old and his granddad at a local muni. the kid had been playing for about a year and was hitting it 20 yards past me. he was 6’2" and still growing, just tons of potential for any sport. he told us he loved golf and practiced all as much as he could and you could tell he was serious about his game, good pre shot routine, played the ball down, putted everything out etc. he was going to try out for his high school team that fall although they wanted him to play football. my buddy and i were just excited to watch raw natural talent at work. we were just transfixed on watching him swing, just a beautiful natural move and the ball flight was already near perfect. his granddad was a golf nut and a nice player and encouraging but knew to stay out of his way. the kid was supernice, well mannered and I’m pretty sure the kids dad was out of the picture, so we really wanted this kid to play well. normally a round at this course with this buddy involves a fews beers and they are VERY casual, but for whatever reason and no matter how hard i was rooting for the kid, on the second tee i told myself there is no way i’m losing to a 14 year old. we got to 15 or 16 tee and my buddy looks at me and said, “dude? your like 4 under”, i looked at him like “really?”. i birdied 18 for a 67. the granddad and the kid shook my hand and congratulated me on a nice round and asked my buddy if i always shot scores like that, my buddy laughed out loud shaking his head “No!” it was only a couple of years ago but i couldn’t tell you about one shot or putt i hit that day…

This is a great thread. I don’t have a remarkable score to post about, but the posts I just read inspired me to share a limitless nine hole round I played yesterday. I am in Nashville helping a family member fix up her condo. I brought my clubs along just in case the opportunity presented itself, and it did yesterday evening. I just went out to the closest course, McCabe, a city owned facility. I expected to just hit balls. The course had three nines ranging in distance from 2900 to 3200, so I just didn’t think it would be very interesting to play. However, when I arrived I noticed the driving range was very level with nice grass. I got a small bucket, and made note that the golf balls coming out of the machine were brand new. I hit the balls fairly well, and decided to give it a go.

I ask the guy in the shop which nine as the most challenging, and he said the north course, the 3200 harder. It was fairly new, maybe ten years old. He said the downside was that the first tee was a 400 yard walk away. I put down my $13 bucks and started the long walk to the first tee. When I got there I was surprised to see the tee box full of grass, and a nice green fairway mowed with care. The greens keeper had allowed some rough to grow, and he didn’t start mowing the fairway until 180 yards out. So the hole was framed beautifully. I hit a nice drive down the right side of the fairway on the 392 yard hole, and followed that up with a 100 yard gap wedge to 20 feet. When I got to the green I was very surprised to find bent grass greens in remarkable condition. They were not cut low, so the greens were a bit slow. The green, however, had interesting contour.

I won’t givea shot by shot account. That isn’t the point of this post. I played fine, I under (birdied the two 5 pars and bogeyed the first par 3). The course had more challenge than I expected. It had three par 3s, so it was sneaky long, including a 460 yard par 5. No this post is more about enjoying a solitary nine at sunset on a little course that does it right. The game doesn’t have to be $50’,000 entry fees and forced carry’s over artificial hazards. This wasn’t a great course, but it was a “perfect” course. The fairways moved a little bit to the right, and the trees just told you what to do. I found myself not thinking at all about ABS at all. My drives bent right to left or left to right as the hole dictated.

There were a couple of golfing lightbulbs. The first was on the second par five. I had pulled my drive into the left rough. I was faced with a shot with ob right and left, and because I was in the left rough I needed to move it right to left if I wanted to advance the ball far enough down the fairway to have a wedge in and a good shot at birdie(the hole was a double dogleg, and move back to the left at about 140 yards). The lie was pretty good in the rough so I chose a 4 iron. The shot came off perfectly, but how it. Happened is what is interesting. I just felt this surge in my right shoulder post impact, high and stronger. As I watched the shot gently draw down the right center of the fairway, those images of Chi Chi came to mind. Never hit a draw that way before. I hit my wedge to 18 inches for my only kick in birdie. The second moment came after my nine. The ninth hole of one of the other nines was right by the ninth green of the north course. No one was playing the 8th so I teed off. A simple hole, 325 slight dogleg left. I hit a good drive and was left with 50 yards. But it was a difficult shot. Being one of the older nines, the green was elevated, and the pin was just 10 feet off the front. Now I play an original R20 with punch dots. I love it, but let’s face it it doesn’t spin it like the Cleveland’s and vokeys I now have in my garage. Just giving in to my instincts, however, I felt a shot I had not tried before. Open it up going back with No wristcock. Basically hit it stiff wristed, with some speed. The shot came off nicely to 6 feet past the hole. It didn’t stop on a dime or anything, but it had sufficient spin and a " soft" look to its flight, even though the swing felt aggressive.

that’s a cool story bandon, sounded like a perfect way to spend an afternoon.

as i’ve posted many times i’m partial to municipal golf.

i like nothing more than traveling to a new town and finding a great muni.
it’s like finding a set of old hogan’s at a garage sale for $8…

Yeah, there are little gems all around if we pay attention. Retread my post. Correction…that 460 harder was a par four. Hope to get over to San Francisco sometime this year and check out Mare. Maybe find a fellow ABSer to play with.

let me know if you and/or some other abs’ers make it up there. the company i work for is in sf. i don’t
go very often and i never bring sticks but i could maybe make it work.

Plenty of flat heavy sticks out in the garage. No need to pay airport baggage fees for golf clubs if you fly into SFO or OAK.

finally, a borrowed set of clubs that will feel just like home. fwiw, i usually fly into oak, the office is on montgomery st/financial district. where is
the mare?

Just found these clips I had on another hard drive from late March out at Mare. Started striking the ball pretty good around this time.
It’s interesting to see how things change over time when working on the later modules, particularly the Superslotting stuff. No conscious thoughts or
trying to key on anything… just trying to aim and feel the shot out toward the target. Still some things to work on… but gaining ever so incrementally.

How novel, a teacher who can demonstrate.

Great stuff Lag, awesome