THE LES­SON THAT RE­VIVED MY GAME

Golf Digest (South Africa) - - The Locker Room -

I was in self-de­nial about the faults in my game, and it took a les­son with a PGA pro to put me back on track. By Stu­art McLean Golfers have a stub­born streak in them, much like the guy who re­fuses to stop his car and ask for di­rec­tions while his wife sits fum­ing in the pas­sen­ger seat be­side him.

No one likes to play golf badly, yet sur­pris­ingly many of us seem pre­pared to put up with it, in­clud­ing my­self, as I have dis­cov­ered. I had a rosy pic­ture of what my swing looked like, and was in de­nial of my bad shots.

Could golfers be scared to seek help, wor­ried about what a visit to a golf pro might turn up? I was de­luded in imag­in­ing that I could fix my own swing, un­til I came to my senses, hav­ing be­lat­edly re­alised that what­ever I was do­ing wasn’t work­ing.

I booked a les­son with a teach­ing pro I know well. Wayne Bradley has his own academy at the Mo­men­tum Golf Vil­lage in Ke­nil­worth, Cape Town, and he’s built an ex­cel­lent rep­u­ta­tion as some­one who works well with golfers of dif­fer­ing abil­i­ties.

I thought he would point out some mi­nor flaw I had over­looked, and have me hit­ting good shots again within 10 min­utes. How wrong I proved to be. My golf didn’t need an oil change, but a ma­jor re­fit. “Your pos­ture is ter­ri­ble, you’re slouched over the ball at ad­dress, you’re stand­ing too far from the ball, and you’re com­ing over the top. And, by the way, your grip isn’t help­ing.”

Teach­ing pros cer­tainly don’t mince their words! They tell you straight out that your game is dis­in­te­grat­ing. I weath­ered the ini­tial shock, and Wayne started work­ing on my cat­a­logue of faults. Lis­ten­ing to him I re­alised I had been fool­ish to avoid reg­u­lar check­ups. Bad habits creep in­sid­i­ously into your game, and the longer you ig­nore them, the worse they get. Book­ing a les­son ev­ery two or three months with a pro who knows your game is a no-brainer if you wish to im­prove.

Wayne had me stand­ing taller, closer to the ball, and grip­ping the club with the fin­gers of my left hand, not the palm. He also gave me a drill to hold the club at the head, and ac­cel­er­ate the shaft through im­pact. But the key point of his les­son was that I must stay in my ad­dress pos­ture while swing­ing through the ball. This is a com­mon er­ror among older golfers, those who have a weak core, and those who don’t know any bet­ter. As you swing down to im­pact, your body be­gins mov­ing to­wards the ball, un­less you re­sist it. Your back­side doesn’t nat­u­rally stay where it was while you were over the ball at ad­dress. It’s a fa­tal move, and leads to a myr­iad of prob­lems. If you push your butt up against a wall at ad­dress, you can mon­i­tor this by tak­ing prac­tice swings. Most of the time your butt will move com­pletely off the wall, in­stead of touch­ing it as you swing through. Get it right, and cen­tre-face con­tact re­turns to your golf swing.

Now I had some­thing to work on. And the range was the place to do it. I needed to get com­fort­able with the changes be­fore returning to the course. Once I had the proper setup in place, I started swing­ing away. Early re­sults were not good, be­cause I still tended to swing ag­gres­sively at the ball. This is what golfers tend to do when their swing isn’t work­ing. They try to gen­er­ate more power with the big mus­cles of the up­per half of their body, and the ef­fect is the op­po­site. By try­ing to swing softer, my hips started to do the work, and sud­denly the power re-emerged.

Wayne’s les­son had re­built the way I ad­dressed the ball, and only from that struc­tural change was I able to ad­vance and get bet­ter. My game is still a work in progress, but be­ing sen­si­ble about hav­ing a les­son had made all the dif­fer­ence.

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