I first had golf lessons about ten or more years ago whilst working as a student at Ford in Essex. They had a brilliant scheme whereby any salaried employee could obtain a yearly grant of around £200 to use for pretty much any learning you wanted. Brick laying, snowboarding, you name it (there was a list of approved activities but it was very wide.) I used mine to have six golf lessons. I’d never played before and unfortunately didn’t really start playing after. Thus, over the next few years I maybe played once or twice and lost the memory of everything I’d learnt.
When we moved over to Dublin I started playing with my father in law Bruce. At first we just made visits to the local par three course. It’s 18 holes and most are around 130-150 yards. There are two over 200 yards and four very short <100 yard holes. I would normally shoot about 85-90 for a round. There was obviously lots wrong. Over the last winter (yes, winter!) we progressed to the local pay and play full courses and whilst I could enjoy a round I was still really poor, never getting under 120.
Unfortunately, Bruce broke his wrist recently, so without a partner I’ve been wondering what to do. I don’t feel confident or ready to even think about joining a club and knew I needed to improve.
So, I’ve recently invested in a set of lessons. It was obvious to me that I needed to get the fundamentals right, so this seemed like the best approach. I went with Joe Murray at Hollystown Golf Club mainly because it is near work and it’s also where we’ve played the most. It occurs to me that I should probably be blogging about my progress, so here’s a recap on the first three lessons:
On turning up Joe asked me what my handicap was. I replied Golf 🙂 Actually I didn’t, but I did get a bit embarrassed when saying I was a novice. He looked at my bag, complete with Nike Sumo driver and 3 wood and I said “All the gear and no idea!”
Joe started off just telling me to hit some balls with my 8 iron from the tee. About 20 balls later after watching from various angles he stopped me. He then proceeded to demonstrate my swing as-is and made a rather exaggerated backwards movement with the whole body bending as his hips shifted to the right through the backswing. At least I think it was exaggerated for effect, but then maybe not! The rest of the lesson focussed on position and posture through address – tucking my knees inwards and concentrating on keeping the legs still through a half swing with the aid of an inflatable beach ball.. I was soaking up the advice and put it into practice straight away. A lot of focus was put on getting the right address to the ball for the club length. I’d previously been standing way too close it turns out.
I hadn’t had any chance to put things into practice between the first and second lesson, but I had been doing the posture and swing exercises Joe had left me with.
The initial hit of ten or so balls showed I’d retained the advice given. I was still finding a tendency to slice the ball, but Joe said he knew why and didn’t want to overcomplicate things at this stage. This lesson concentrated on the backswing and getting the correct takeaway, hip and shoulder rotation. Working with a 7 iron and 3 wood mainly. On a few of the balls there was some evidence starting to emerge of a ‘natural draw’ which encouraged me. I could feel a well hit ball, it’s a case of being able to replicate it consistently.
Between lessons 2 and 3 I made a couple of trips to the par 3 course over the weekend. On the first I went round in 74, never hitting more than 5 shots in a hole and getting par on a handfull. No birdies yet, but I hit the green in one a few times, including on the 212 yard 12th with my 3 wood. My shots off the tee were a hundred times better than they used to be, but my achilles heel was chipping around the green and putting. My chips were very inconsistent and either coming short or running off the back of the green as I topped them. They never got any height either. Putting from distance I tended to under-hit them and mis read the green.
Either way with scores of 74 and 76 there was marked improvement.
Lesson 3 started with chipping after I’d told Joe about my scores (I neglected to mention the bit about the course being par 3 at first though 🙂 ) It was immediately apparent where my chipping was going wrong. I was too square in the stance whilst trying to open up the club face. My backswing was stilted and I was trying to force the ball into the air (causing the topping) All classic errors. Joe opened up my stance, put my weight more to the left foot, choked down on the grip and got me to swing more naturally. They were better and with a sand wedge there was some backspin on them as well. The ground was very wet however so it looked better than reality!
We moved back to the full swing for the second part of the lesson and got the driver out for the first time. We worked on getting more of a full shoulder turn and keeping the club on the right plane. To be honest I wasn’t at all happy with the swing and put in this lesson and could feel it going wrong. Whilst it was a bit of a come-down to not feel myself moving on in leaps and bounds it’s a case of keeping practicing and getting the right feel. When I feel it going wrong I have a tendency to over swing and try and force the ball too much, losing the natural swing and rhythm.
So, that’s it so far. Lesson four is tonight and from now on I’ll blog about each of them. If anything it acts as a handy review of what I’ve learnt – helping to keep it fresh in my own mind.