THE LESSON THAT REVIVED MY GAME
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.