As with any instruction, there are lessons which are effective and lessons which are not. I might be a concert pianist today if I stuck with lessons when I was six, but just didn’t connect with the teacher and his methods. On the other hand, my first golf instructor, though far from a top 100, spent a lot of time with me, even after my initial 10 in the package (for a total of 20 bucks!). I was 14 and am still with the game at 75.
Lately, due to a series of serious and persistent physical maladies, I am struggling mightily with my swing. I’ve covered some of the gory details in previous posts but let’s just say I am lining up the club correctly at address but hitting the ball near the hosel at impact, and have no idea why. I have seriously thought about giving up the actual playing of the game. Not knowing when that half shank is coming is kind of like Russian Roulette!
So I tracked down one of the reputed best teachers in the Pacific Northwest: Jack Young at Vanco Range in Vancouver WA. He’s got all the video equipment but more importantly he has an eye for diagnosing what’s going on with a swing almost instantly. Like me, he really didn’t know why my medical conditions would make me stretch my arms out some at impact, other than their resulting weakness from all my treatments and the less rotation of my hips for the same reason, made my arms compensate by screwing up the swing’s proper sequencing. Something along those lines.
So with the wisdom of Solomon, he says, “Move your feet farther from the ball at address and keep your weight almost entirely on your left side (for an iron) throughout the swing;” which I did and proceeded to hit several more shanks. “No, farther;” which I did and proceeded again to shank the ball. “Even farther and keep that weight on the forward foot,” Jack urged. By now, I was so far from the ball, that my feet were almost off the mat, and my arms were straighter than Mo Norman’s at address. “This feels pretty strange, Jack,” I protested. “Right, ” he replied, hardly hearing me.
Pointing out and showing me on video that my swing was basically OK, he then said, “Now slow your swing coming down.” He explained that the goal was to hit the ball squarely in the middle of the clubface. Sure enough, the next shot felt solid and sailed out straight, high, and true.
“Good hit,” said Jack. “Try another.” And sure enough, to my delight, the same lovely result.
“Now you’re getting it,” he said.
Two more like that and essentially the lesson was over. Without applying any cookie cutter swing fundamentals, Jack Young had deciphered what I, as an individual, needed to correct my faults.
And that, dear readers, is the essence of a good lesson. Jack did not try to fit me into a preconceived notion of what he thought a good golf swing should be. His solution to my problem was much more creative and fluid than that–a solution that he thought another pro would probably try to change if he had the chance.
So, was I cured? Not sure yet. I need more trials, and probably errors, to see if it holds up. And maybe more sessions with Jack Young to have that trained and experienced and creative eye get me back on track. But what I know has been restored is hope–hope that I can once again consistently experience that sound, feel, and sight of a well struck golf shot. That always has been what drew me to this game in the first place…and still does.
With a grand prize of an authentic Philly Italian Water Ice on the line, my brother takes Jordan Spieth and I, Cam Smith, for the PGA. Who you got?