It’s December of last year. Christmas is creeping up on me, and I haven’t bought many presents for my lovely wife. So I did what I normally do and hit Target, because that way, I can browse as many of her potential interests in one stop. Out of the corner of my eye, I see that there is an updated edition of “Wii Fit,” titled, simply enough, “Wii Fit Plus.” It’s a no-brainer of a gift. It’s also very much of a Homer Simpson kind of gift (as in buying Marge a bowling ball with his name on it), as I probably spent more time on the original “Wii Fit” than she did. And as it turned out, I ran the “Wii Fit Plus” Island Bicycle game’s beach ball course nearly to the point of contracting plantar fasciitis, but that’s another story.
There are several new games on “Wii Fit Plus,” and ironically, the one I avoided playing at first was the Driving Range game, thinking it would be like hitting off of indoor Astroturf tees and give you false confidence. Eventually, curiosity got the best of me, and so I set it up to hit 20 mid-range shots. Now, the thing with most interactive golf games is that you don’t really need to swing like you do on the golf course, but for the sake of authenticity, I went at it from the approach that if they’re going to get the balance board involved, I probably shouldn’t goof off.
And, wouldn’t you know it, my mind was subsequently blown.
Quite possibly the straightest drive, virtual or otherwise, that we’ve hit in years. We heart Wii.
I hit the Wii balls just like I hit real balls – to the left (I’m a lefty), slicing nearly every ball into what they consider out of play (which it would be, on most golf courses). It said I was swinging too hard, even though I’m not a masher. It said I wasn’t rotating my upper body enough, and that was definitely true. I began to incorporate their suggestions into my Wii swing, and subsequently began crushing straight, long drives. Would it transfer to the real game?
Well, that part is still a work in progress. After all, golf takes lots, and lots, and lots of practice to perfect any single aspect of the game. However, based on my first experience at the driving range (it’s rained a lot here; I have kids, blah blah blah), the results were eye-opening, to say the least.
I started off like I always do, with my 7-iron. It’s a good warm-up club and if memory serves, “Tin Cup” anti-hero Roy McAvoy said is the only club you really need. I rotated my shoulders, and tried not to swing too hard. Pow, straight as an arrow and uncommonly long. Huh. Do it a few more times, and see if this is a pattern and not a fluke. Again and again (mostly), the balls were flying farther and straighter. All right, time to switch to the most important club in the bag: the pitching wedge.
The first two balls I hit were two of the highest, straightest pitching wedge shots I’ve hit in my entire life. Holy shit, I’ve cracked the code!
Not so fast. I went to my 5-iron from there, and all hell broke loose. Didn’t really hit a single ball flush with that club (my apologies to the local worms), so I went to the 5-wood. The results weren’t much better, but in swinging the much longer club, I noticed something that proved valuable: As I worked on rotating my upper body, I was inadvertently swinging around the ball, not through it, on my follow-through, and as a result began hooking shot after shot. The exact opposite problem that I was hoping “Wii Fit Plus” to fix, yes? Yes, and once I processed it all, everything came together.
I moved up to my 3-wood, and continued the swing that I had been using before. Sure enough, I was hooking the ball, something I had never done before. At that point, I was conscious of two things: slowing down my swing, and following straight through the ball. (Any golfer will tell you that it’s best if you don’t think about your swing, but they’re all lying to themselves. They are always thinking about their swing, especially when they’re swinging.) And just like that, the problem corrected itself. With a slower yet straighter follow-through, I was suddenly hitting some of the longest, straightest drives of my life. You think that silly balance board is just measuring how much you’re leaning toward or away from the ball, but let me be the first to tell you that it measures much, much more. You also burn a surprising number of calories swinging a golf club. Isn’t the joke about golf that it’s a sport for people who don’t play sports?
The obvious next test is to see how I fare on a course, going from one club to the next on each shot. Based on what I’ve witnessed so far, though, and with a little more practice on the virtual range, “Wii Fit Plus” has managed to fix a flaw in my swing that had been plaguing me my entire life, and it did so in about 10 minutes. Used copies go for less than nine bucks on Amazon. What on earth are you waiting for?