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70 Year Old Gravity Golf Founder Hits 75 3-Irons 185 Days In a Row

Why Is This 3 Iron In My Bag?

by David Lee

Teaching golf has not only been my profession for the better part of fifty years, it is also a vocational passion.  Any time since 1954, if someone had asked me which clubs were the most important in the bag, I would have quickly answered the driver, the putter, the sand wedge, the three wood, then all the rest, in that order.  If someone asked me the same question today – I would without hesitation answer – the #3 iron.  Really????  Yep, even though very few people carry one these days, in my opinion, they should dig it out of the closet, or buy one that matches their irons (I promise that this is leading someplace good where few people have ever been).  Next, go to the practice tee for only twenty minutes a day, and hit 75 balls, as hard as you can swing, from your normal swing mode.

Okay David – you’ve always been out there in left field somewhere, but this is a little far off the page, even for you!

I totally agree – but hear me out.  About seven years ago, I managed to trip over my big red dog one night in the pitch black dark and tear the medial meniscus in my left knee.  It has never been quite the same since.  Then last year, right before moving back to Florida, I managed to tear the medial collateral tendon in my right knee, which stopped me from playing golf for about five months.  Even after I healed, every time I would try to play or even swing the club, there was a significant ache, either in my lower back or one of my knees.  At seventy years of age, my range of motion in my backswing had shrunk to practically nothing, and needless to say, I was not having any fun. It felt like the right time to put my clubs in the closet or on Ebay.  Then a large miracle happened!  One day just over six months ago, totally exasperated with the way my body was feeling, and with a sense of desperation hanging over me, I grabbed my 3 iron from my bag and headed for the practice tee.  In retrospect, I’m not exactly sure what I intended to accomplish, but it was something along the lines of punishing myself for getting old.  I took a basket of 75 balls (75 was a totally arbitrary number, but 50 seemed like too few and 100, too many) and began swinging at them with all the core-speed I could muster.  That first day I hit about five solid shots, and all seventy-five of them hurt, in one part of my body or another!  It was like the scene in the movie Liar Liar where Jim Carrey was in the men’s room at the courthouse “kicking his own ass.”  For some weird reason, the pain of day one notwithstanding, I was obsessed with doing it again and came back the following day to torture myself some more.  The second day I hit a few more good ones, but was encouraged, and each successive day saw the number of good shots grow.  For the first sixty days, the improvement each day was very noticeable.  By that time, I was hitting the ball so well that the progress seemed to slow, yet the shot quality and distance continued to improve.  Today was my 185th session in a row without missing a day, and during each and every week, with no exceptions, I’ve had at least one or more best days ever!  Because of the continued improvement, I’ve delayed in writing about this, because truthfully, I don’t yet know where the “end point” in shot quality development and consistency lie. Here’s the really amazing part and why I am compelled to keep doing this, as well as sharing it with you.  Bear in mind that the only full-swing practice that I’ve done during this period has been the 75 daily balls with the 3 iron, yet when I play golf, every club in my bag has improved significantly, from the driver to the wedges.  Yesterday, I made the second hole-in-one of my life (the last was in 1965) and had two other shots on par threes stop within a foot.
 
My conclusions thus far are as follows:
    •    Most players go to the practice tee and hit a number of shots with different clubs. Each of the clubs has a different shaft length, a different lie, some variation in vibration frequency, swing weight, and requires a different ball position and spine angle.  Practicing with what is arguably the most difficult club in the bag to hit (since almost no one carries a 1 or 2 iron), allows the brain to avoid the confusion of club variability, and concentrate totally on the sequence of the physiological motor program (which is very demanding if you wish to hit good shots with a 3 iron).  Moving your body parts correctly and consistently is paramount if you wish to know where your ball is going.  A great pianist preparing for a show or recital would not practice on thirteen different pianos, but that is exactly what we do when practicing golf.  If the motor program in your body is good enough to hit consistent shots with a 3 iron, hitting a wedge requires only minute changes and is a snap cinch.  My thinking is leaning very strongly toward the opinion that removing the equipment variable, allows the player to highly improve the quality of his/her mechanics – especially when practicing with the 3 iron (the most difficult club in the bag).
   
      •    Swinging at maximum core-speed is very important.  There is a right way to hit a golf ball hard, and countless wrong ways.  By practicing at maximum possible swing speed, the brain is forced to deal with countless physiological details that need to be dealt with at a subconscious level, in order to establish perfect equilibrium at impact.  Learning to slow a swing down is far easier than making it go faster (the right way).
   
      •    If you wish to play at the highest level, it is my belief that doing this every day is very important.  The great Russian pianist Vladimir Horowitz, said that if he missed a day of practice, he could hear it.  If he missed two days of practice, his wife could hear it.  And, if he missed three days of practice, the world could hear it.  Ben Hogan said that if he missed a day of practice, his golf swing backed up three days.  I fully realize that not everyone can hit 75 balls a day, but remember that it only takes twenty minutes.
 
Please keep in mind that this is a “road map,” not an order.  Many people out there are interested in becoming as good as they can be.  This is something I have never seen another golf professional do, nor have I done it in my own personal history (although I wish I had).  Although Tom Watson is said to have warmed up with a 2 iron, I don’t know that he hit it exclusively in his practice sessions, nor do I know how many 2 irons he hit each day.   Most pros that have worn a spot the size of a dime in the middle of their seven-iron, have a three iron that looks like it just came out of the pro shop.  I am telling you that doing this every day is making me feel as if my age is reversing, and my golf game is improving faster than at any point in my life.  If you are inclined to give this a try, I am inviting feedback and the experience of others.