So, I just had my first lesson with a new (for me) pro. I’ve had a few lessons before, about a year ago, but wasn’t happy with them. In the case of the first person I tried, it was an hour’s drive each way to a Golf Galaxy, and the lessons were indoors and just didn’t feel long enough to get anywhere. I tried someone more local for a “tune-up” but he really didn’t seem interested in going very deeply into my (certainly many) swing flaws, and again the lessons were short. I’m not even sure of his credentials, to be honest, but in this neck of the woods you take what you find.
That was last year. In this latest case I learned of a real, certified PGA pro who set up shop reasonably close to where I work. He was highly recommended to me by two members of my league, and was recognized as the #1 Central New York teaching pro in 2007. He also teaches for a full hour at a time. Why not give it a go, right?
I arrived at the driving range where he holds forth. Besides a couple of main buildings there was a fabric “portable garage” type building set well off to one side where he was finishing with a student. He wrapped up quickly and greeted me, and we were off.
He looked over my clubs, selected a 6 iron, and had me hit a few shots while he watched. Normally he’d have filmed that, as well, but his video gear was on the fritz (he told me that when I booked the lesson, and gave a discount on the fee). I settled in and produced my usual fat chunky shots with divots consistently behind the ball.
Right off he seemed to know what was up, and began with getting me to re-think the entire concept of what a golf swing is. His philosophy? There are only two main parts to the swing. The arms bring the club up and down, the body makes it swing around your spine. And that’s it. The trick is to apply the philosophy. What I was doing, he said, was trying to force the club down and around, tensing my arms and shoulders and pulling the club into the ground instead of letting it swing freely. Other issues were the result of so-helpful advice from various golfing buddies: keep your head still, don’t look up, do this, don’t do that. I was so stiff and afraid to move much it’s a miracle I could even get the club up for a backswing. Your head has to move if your body moves freely, it’s the up-and-down bobbing of the upper body that you need to minimize. At the height of your backswing your head has to be turned somewhat to the side or else you’re not turning your upper body enough. In your follow-through you HAVE to look up, it’s part of your whole body unwinding and facing the direction of the ball flight.
Agree or disagree with his philosophy, he seemed to have my issues nailed.
He introduced several drills to help me visualize what I’m supposed to be doing. One is the “mini medicine ball” where I would hold it about waist high, he’d stand to my left (I’m right-handed) and I’d pivot away from him and then towards him while tossing him the ball. Very good for spine pivot feel, and you can do it with a throw pillow against a couch or something. He said tour pros toss a weighted ball like that sometimes hundreds of times a day to keep their spine pivot smooth.
Then came the two-step swing drills. Main one was to keep my feet together, make sure my grip was loose (and strong, if you know what I mean), and then do repetitions of takeaway, wrist/arm cock (the arms go up), then reversing that: the arms go down, then the body pivots the rest of the way to bring the club down and against the ground. Relaxed and smooth and let gravity bring the club down to the ground instead of trying to help it. I started to get it a little towards the end, where I was making pretty good ball contact. It was only going about 100 yards, but straight and with decent height. He said distance would come later when I was more comfortable in the groove of the swing and could speed up the second, pivot part without forcing it.
The cool thing about this visualization to me is that I know the swing is really a complicated mass of moving parts that all need to mesh together, but by focusing on just those two parts of the swing the rest of the body seems naturally to move to follow suit. By keeping my feet together I had to allow my body to wind/unwind as it’s supposed to–otherwise I’d lose my balance.
When I was starting to get it he had me take a normal stance and swing that way. Right away I started trying to force the club down and around and was hitting fats and toppers. It’s really, really hard to relax and trust gravity to do the work. I have a ton of practicing to do before my next lesson (I’m going to try a weekly pace at first and see where this goes) and my rounds today and tomorrow are certainly going to be very weird as I try to incorporate some of this new stuff on the course.
More to come….