Warning: this post will be of zero interest to non-golfers.

Here in the Northwest, the winter conditions largely make our courses unplayable (ex: losing your ball in the middle of the fairway). We can’t post our scores either-doing so might border on sandbagging. So we sit around thinking about our games. We sit in front of our TVs holding our clubs, checking and re-checking our grips. We stand in front of a mirror looking at our posture. We make club-less ghost swings at parties with fellow golfers and comment on the swings. (“No, no. You’re yanking it too far inside on the back swing. That’s why you’re hooking.” “Flatter at the top…” “I’m working on X.”) If we’re lucky, we get to go to California or Arizona for a few days of glorious golf release. The results are usually less than stellar, but we don’t care. We’re like Tim Robbins escaping Shawshank Prison crawling to “freedom through five hundred yards of shit smelling foulness I can’t even imagine.” to play golf on courses where the ball actually bounces and has run. Other than that, it’s golf hibernation time in the northwest.

During the winter, and in spite of my busy work schedule, I get to the range about 1-2 times a week to stay sharp. The rest of the time I wander into the laundry room and pull a club out to stand in the mirror and commit the aforementioned ghost golf antics.

Now I’ve taken my golf quite seriously over the past 3 years—getting lessons, devoutly hitting the range and working on the things I’ve learned in those sessions. I joined the men’s club at West Seattle GC, made a couple of new friends, plus I met a terrific group of equally passionate golfers who have an annual Ryder Cup-style format tournament, which, if I’m fortunate enough, I’ll get the opportunity to play in come 2012.

As I’ve said before, my short game—putting and chipping—is a giant ball of suck the last 2 years. I went from being a very good putter to being an Al Cerviak, If there were an opposite video to “Phil Mickelson’s—Secrets of the Short Game”, I would be the star—sculling pitches over the green, “popping up” long putts, chunking short pitches, blading bunker shots, missing 18″ putts, you name it. I am the anti-Phil of the short game. And I even have Tits’ video too. So much for that.

Know what else? All that stops this winter. I don’t care how many chunks I take out of our Brazilian tiger-wood floors or how many episodes of “Real Housewives” I block my wife from seeing while I practice on the lone piece of carpeting in the den, by God, I’m going to improve my short game in 2012.

First order of business? Clearly my putting woes are solely the fault of my putter, so naturally it needed to be replaced by something shiny and big and that resembles a medieval torture device. (Maybe I can scare the ball into the hole.) Say hello to this center-shafted beauty. After 3 official trips to the putting green and playing in a par-3, one-club tournament with it, I’m officially digging the new wand. I’m starting the ball on line better, I’m able to square up the face at impact better and I have a better feel for speed with it. Maybe I’m just in the honeymoon phase, but there’s more to this new relationship than infatuation and looks, Dear 2.5 Readers.

The other thing I did was pluck the Aug. 2011 issue of Golf magazine out of my stack of golf magazines stacked on my nightstand and in the shitter. It features the PGA Tour’s Lucas Glover and is titled “Cut Your Putts in Half.” Considering I’m averaging a hair-pulling, teeth-grinding 33.4 putts a round anything that might get me to stop throwing up all over myself on the green—or, just cut 3-4 strokes off that average—would be out-freaking-standing. The article also features the newest putting guru, Marius Filmater.

Now I’m hesitant to take these ‘change your putting stroke forever!’ articles seriously, but I’m a desperate man in search of saving strokes, so my ears and mind are open. And in the article Filmater keeps in simple:

1. Ball position. Always a biggie, but play the ball one putter head length from inside your left foot and 2.5-3 putter heads out from your toe line.
2. ‘Celerating through the ball at impact. Not decelerating or accelerating (which I noticed myself doing with my heel-shafted putter), just maintain one constant speed.
3. Align the forearms. This was a new one to me. Filmater says, “Set your body how you want (open, square or closed). it’s far more important to align your forearms to the line.” To do this, he provides a little drill that I’ll not bother describing here, but he notes that “good putters bring their right elbow in close to the right side of their torso at address” to get the forearms in alignment.
4. Deliver the putter from inside the line. Another new one on me, and it’s simple: Arc going back to the inside but then putt straight down the line through impact. Not a ton, just a bit.
5. Add loft at impact by letting your left wrist flex slightly to properly release the putter head. Something I already seem to naturally do, anyway, so not much work required here, I think.

Like I said, I’ve taken those teachings to the putting green and a par-3 course—I even drained a few nice ones and had several great long lag putts at the tourney. And I’m feeling better about my stroke already. We’ll see what happens when it warms up and the rains stop.