I had a golf lesson earlier this week, my first in almost seven years. The catalyst for this wasn’t that I had been playing really well since February 2017 but that my game had gone south over the past three months. Far from that, unfortunately. It was that my shots weren’t so much going south as going almost nowhere. I realise some of this is down to getting older; one’s muscles can’t provide the power they used to be able to. Also, though, I suspect that very few of my shots are leaving the clubhead from where they should be. “Hey, it’s straight down the fairway,” my son will say to be kind and encouraging as some worm-burner of a drive heads out not very far, the ball having been hit out of the heel or the toe rather than anywhere approaching the sweet-spot.
So I decided to take a lesson (in fact, there will be a few) with a view to 2024 producing more pars and some birdies rather than a dollop of double-bogeys with the odd – OK, more than occasional - triple thrown in for bad measure. We didn’t begin with the driver, although I will begin this article with an anecdote about one of my shots with that club.
You will be familiar with the phrase ‘I hit the ceiling’, meaning that I got very angry. Well, during my lesson, I hit the ceiling - meaning that when my driver struck the golf ball, it went pretty much straight upwards rather than into the simulator screen. (I may be pretty crap at golf these days but I am not mad enough to be doing this outside in these temperatures.) My instructor was less than impressed. “If myself or any pro had done that,” he said with a grin, “we would have to get rid of the club immediately. Just chuck it out! You can’t carry on playing with a driver that has the mark of a ball on the top of the clubhead.” I am sure you will understand why I am not providing a photo of my driver to accompany this article.
That was the nadir of the proceedings - that is, if an actual high point can properly be described as a grammatical lowest point - and things did get better, even if there is a very long way to go and I am very sure that at the end of it my shots will not be going a long way at all. But baby steps and all that.
I am, of course, aware of the axiom that the belt buckle should finish the swing facing the target - that one must ‘complete the swing’; that you gather the ball on the way through rather than trying to stop as soon as you’ve hit it. After my lesson we looked briefly at photos of icons such as Ben Hogan in his prime, whose belt buckle wasn’t far off facing the target even just before he reached impact. I suspect I won’t be getting to that bit before the end of January?
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