This is the second of my three part reflective series on improving at golf by taking lessons. I hope you’re playing well and improving. Thank you for reading.
Golf lessons can be akin to getting a physical at your doctor’s office. There’s that moment when you’re sitting in your underwear with the paper-thin robe on and you’re all alone wondering ‘exactly how healthy am I’? For golf, it is the moment when an instructor says, “Ok, let’s look at your swing. Why don’t you just hit a few for me?” This was my first lesson in February 2015 and what resulted was an anxiety-filled experience that saw short, quick and very tight swings. Some were hit well, others were the word in which golfers don’t speak of (shanks) and I quickly escalated into an anxiety-induced sweat. All the while, Brian kept an active gaze on my movements. Poor guy. Amidst the carnage of that 3 minutes which felt like 30 minutes he was able to determine a number of things: restricted flexibility and a rushed tempo to name but a few. I remember looking back that night feeling good that he was able to see me at my worst. The rest of the winter was a battle with which we don’t speak of but I was committed and relentless, I would persevere.
I never used to truly square up my club face. I know now that I played it open, very open. The fact I was able to score at all for almost 25 years was a minor miracle, looking back. The first squared, flush hit I made was a new experience and one I will never forget. Enduring a winter of shots which we will not speak of in an effort to support more body rotation, I was excited to get outside and try my swing, the series of regular lessons which have had me looking to relax my tempo and finally expand my body rotation was now ready for its first test. I love courses which open weeks before others. I love how they show disregard for conditioning and chase golfers like me who are willing to putt on the moon, hit off dormant grey grass and enjoy the expansiveness of the great outdoors. The sense of liberation was something I’ve never appreciated; gone were the hard mats of a dingy golf dome and in its place was real grass (as real as one can get in Ontario in mid-April). I hit the ball surprisingly well.
My friend cautioned me that when embarking on lessons it is a long term journey and that there will be peaks and valleys. I spent the winter in the abyss; my confidence was eroding and I wondered how and why I could take such a large step back to proceed steps forward, as I was hoping to do. Over the course of those three hours the shackles of my winter experience were freed and I felt like I was going to excel, starting that day. The differences from how I usually play were remarkable. I hit the ball better, and different, than ever before. And while I was still putting on the moon (and hence didn’t score as well as I felt I deserved) I left brimming with confidence. I’ve moved to a peak with a great view.
I love the expression, ‘we never own golf, we can only rent it’. I was its poster child. The success of my first round was fleeting but I did not go back to my basement apartment, sort of speak. Instead, as lessons have moved outside, I have settled into a place where there’s improvement – important steps to longer term success – but nothing that resembles a 3 handicapper, consistently, yet. ‘A-ha’ moment number two – golf is hard and success is incremental.
A-Ha Moment Two – Commitment is Key
I can confidently say I would not have been able to start the season so strong had it not been for two simple facts, one: my friend and I made a 10 lesson commitment. The longer commitment allowed Brian the time and space to analyze, assess and support the structural changes needed in my swing. Within my circle, some people I know who play golf are seeking quick fixes and may go for an annual lesson to start the season or maybe commit to a shorter package of lessons. Change can take time and time is what we purchased.
Second, is the management of time; my friend and I started lessons in February, indoors, with a goal of getting to the beginning of the season in Ontario with more of an ability to hit the ground running. The extended set of lessons along with our own practice regime between lessons helped cement changes. Similar to building a home on a solid foundation, with proper technique I’ve been able to instill confidence before adding necessary adjustments / refinement with the next lesson.