Vail Daily column: A matter of a few degrees |

Vail Daily column: A matter of a few degrees

Benjamin A. Gochberg
Valley Voices

I’ve developed a unique love/hate relationship with golf. There is absolutely nothing that frustrates me more than my driver. Like most novice golfers, I’ve spent hours upon hours during the past four years listening to advice from anyone who will give it and throwing copious amounts of discretionary income at providing myself with a steady supply of sacrificial golf balls.

You may ask why. Frankly, I ask myself why pretty frequently too and usually after I put a dozen balls into the woods. But then I get one of those shots. Any golfer will know what I’m talking about. It’s the shot that happens when everything goes perfectly. I get one in about every hundred or so, and over the years, I’d like to believe that ratio has improved.

When a golfer addresses the ball, a number of complexities in the swing come into play. Stance, shoulder levels, grip, speed of swing, location of the ball in the stance and just about a million other things can determine if your shot flies to its intended location. My personal weakness is the angle of the club face as it strikes the ball. With the face of the club tilted by only a few degrees in any direction, the ball flies out of control. For me, as the club passes through the ball, my hands tend to pass through before the club face, causing the face to turn outward by a few degrees and creating what is called a slice. Severely slicing the ball with a driver can result in the ball trajectory curving drastically to my right.

It has always amazed me that a mistake of only a few degrees at the point of contact can result in an even more significant miss in distance downfield — sometimes as much as 30 yards for me.


This happens in the world of business as well. A minor cost control issue or a minor cash flow shortfall can result in serious consequences down the road. What may have begun as a simple growing pain for a business quickly turns into a systemic problem, and usually by the time a banker gets asked for lending or a consultation, it’s too late. Fortunately, there is a way to correct your slice before your shots travel too far downfield.

I’ve been told that doing well on the golf course has a great deal to do with developing good golf habits. A consistent swing does more to improve your game than learning how to hit the ball hard, for instance. If you are moving to correct your slice, you have two basic options for how to ensure that your shots end up exactly where you want them.

First, you could simply compensate for the few degrees of error by aligning your body, your hands or your feet in the opposite direction by a few degrees. Golfers who choose this method can learn over time how to use their mistakes to create consistency, and will often end up in the short grass with a little practice. There is an unintended consequence for choosing this route however. By accepting a few degrees of error and practicing to compensate, the error becomes a permanent part of the player’s game. In addition, because the slice is still present in the shot, the ball will travel less distance and typically strike the turf with a less than favorable spin.

The second option is the preferred route for folks who haven’t yet allowed their habits to become a part of their game. To fix your slice, learn how to correct your error of a few degrees at the point of contact with the ball. A few lessons, a consultation with a pro and some accountability to hold yourself to your own ideal shot will eventually correct the error of a few degrees. Your ball will also travel further and more favorably.

On the course during a live round, it can be difficult to hold yourself to “perfect practice.” You may have had that slice for so long, like me, that you would rather play your slice than try and hit a correctly struck ball. Be brave, even when your peers and friends are watching, and choose to compete only with yourself. Maybe a few years down the road, you’ll straighten that shot out.

Ben Gochberg is a commercial lender and business finance consultant. He plays, lives, works and is trying to do a little good in Eagle County. He can be reached for business inquiries or free consultation at 970-471-3546. Ben will donate a quarter to a charity of choice for each unique social media share originated from this article online during the seven-day period following publication. Calls to Ben to match, participate or suggest a cause will be well received.

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