When the tulips and daffodils spring up in my garden, I know it’s time to hit the range with my coach, Ginny Golding, and kick off my golf season the way Jack Nicklaus did every year with his coach, Jack Grout – get back to fundamentals.
So on our first day together this year, Ginny and I started from ground zero. It felt very strange – almost a step backwards. But I knew that if I didn’t get back to the basics, my goal of shaving 2.5 points off my handicap this year would be a pipe dream. Grip, posture, alignment, take away, turn…we worked hard on ingraining the fundamentals back into my swing. Where the ball went during all of this was irrelevant.
Week 2, we worked on my core and balance, and again…paid little attention to what the ball was doing. Later that night my stomach muscles were sore. That had never happened to me before, but I took it as a good sign of things to come. I didn’t have to wait long to discover I was right.
I had my 3rd lesson this week with Ginny – a lesson that I will carry with me on every shot I play for the rest of my life.
After two weeks of focusing on fundamentals, Ginny told me it was time for me to work on shaping the ball right to left. I thought, “Oh dear, it’s only week 3; am I ready for this?” I tend to favor a fade and draws don’t come easy for me. Duck hooks come easy; pulled irons come easy; but a draw…not so much. In fact…never!
While I was battling with my emotions, Ginny put out one of those training rods about 12-15 feet in front of me along my target line. Then she told me to line my club face square to the rod, but visualize the ball starting a bit right of the rod and ending along the target line. Then she simply said, “Now swing.”
I struggled a bit the first time or two, and Ginny stood by watching and encouraging me with positive feedback. Not one word of correction.
A few more shots later and I was hitting draws with my 8 iron. It felt wonderful! And bonus…I was hitting my 8 iron like it was a 7 – at least 10 yards further than normal.
Then Ginny handed me my 6 iron and said, “Do it again”, which I did, over and over again. My confidence was really building and I was feeling great.
So then Ginny said to me, “Choose any club in your bag and do it again.” So I grabbed my 3-wood. Now I like my 3-wood, and am usually pretty solid with it, but I almost always hit a fade or even cut it. I know that and so when I play, I “dance with the one that brung me.” and plan on a fade/cut in my setup. But today I really wanted to see if I could hit a draw with it.
The first couple of times, weren’t that great, but not that bad either. Then I nailed a couple and suddenly I was on top of the world. I could draw my 3-wood! Woohoo!
But like all good things, my jubilation came to an end when suddenly I found myself hitting some horrific slices. I started to panic and turned to Ginny, whining, “What I am doing wrong!?”
All she said was, “Keep hitting.”
So I did and although the shots were not horrific, they weren’t very good. Quietly Ginny asked a simple question, “How tightly are you holding your club?”
I realized that I was squeezing the life out of it because I was so tense from hitting so many bad shots. I shook my arms and re-gripped my club softly.
Then Ginny said, “Now, stop thinking about what you might be doing wrong and remember how it felt to do it right.”
I set up to the ball relaxed, looked at my target and visualized where I wanted the ball to go – starting slightly right and drawing to the centre line. And before I swung my 3-wood, I remembered what it felt like when I drew the ball earlier in the lesson.
Voila! I hit a beautiful draw. Ginny smiled.
As we were walking back to our cars after my lesson, Ginny told me that her job as my coach wasn’t to throw me a lifeline every time I got into trouble with my swing, but to help me discover what a great golf swing feels like so I can repeat it when she’s not there. I felt like a kid who just had the training wheels taken off her bike – a little scared, but mostly liberated.
Golf is a game of feel. Good fundamentals are critical to success, but once you have those, the parts of your game you need to work on the most are your mind and your feelings.
Stockpile your memory banks with a feeling for every great shot you hit. Then as you stand over your ball on the tee, fairway or green, remember what it felt like to hit that great drive, approach shot or putt. And then just swing.
You’ll not only shave strokes off your score, you’ll add a smile to your face and a lot more fun into the greatest game on earth!