After the third lesson with Randy Peterson, aka “RP,” aka “The Man,” I worked as hard on my game as I have in my life.
And though that statement may seem a little…er…melodramatic (but hey, I’m a communications and media professional, so of course melodrama is going to be in my repertoire!)…I actually had never dedicated a period of time when I practiced golf so frequently and with such deliberate attention.
The key phrase in that last sentence, by the way, is “practice golf.” I have eliminated the phrase “hitting balls” from my vocabulary in an effort to rebrand my range activity to have a more purposeful and outcome orientation. Frank Luntz would be proud.
So not to belabor the point (but again, I am a media and communications professional, so I belabor EVERY point) my major swing flaw is that I can’t consistently get the club up on plane in my backswing. In a particularly troublesome combination of golf swing chamber of horrors, my takeaway is good for about 8 inches, and then swings too far inside and gets too flat and laid off.
From there, I stay back on my right side, come in too far from the inside, and throw my hands at it. Fat shots, thin shots, an occasional top (which my buddies Jamie, HashtagChad, and Brian got to see with an 8-iron on our first hole of the day a few weeks ago).
When I hit it solidly, or seemingly solidly, there’s not a lot of compression and the ball has a gentle draw to it. If a batter was standing in front of me and I hit him with the shot, he wouldn’t even give me the courtesy of a glare down, much less charge the mound. In other words, not a lot of speed or power. Sigh. I hate this game!
Did I mention I also think I have the full swing yips with irons due to a mortal fear of shanking that came about during a traumatic golf trip about 15 years ago with George the Sports Geek? I’m a mess. I’m probably going to see a hypnotherapist a friend of mine told me about, but more on that some other time. I’m still too fragile to share publicly.
But I’ve been working hard on getting the club in a good position. I’ve started doing 100 backswings a night with my back against the wall (no, I don’t mean where failure isn’t an option, I mean that my back is literally against the wall outside of my house).
If I go in too shallow and laid off, I’ll hit the wall and cause some damage to the house. My back is against the wall (this time I mean that figuratively, because if I hit the wall of my house and chip the paint, She Who Must Be Obeyed will kill me).
Wedginald Jackson is also my continuing best friend.
So I was feeling more or less confident when I showed up for my fourth lesson with The Man. Ok, I was honestly less confident.
“Okay, let’s take a look.”
Five dangs. Geez, The Man sure does cut to the chase.
After a few swings, I could tell The Man was troubled. Hmmm, maybe it’s something going on somewhere else, because my swings didn’t seem too bad. Is he distracted by something outside of work? Is his family okay? Did he get into a car accident? Did he fall for the Nigerian Prince email scam? I wonder what the problem is.
“You’re still too laid off and flat. We need to take another track here to get where we need to be.”
Again, five dangs.
So we decided to try something different. And rather than start from the beginning, we decided to start from the end. Or at least the middle.
“Let’s just think about the path into the ball and see if we can fix everything that way. So let’s work on getting that club coming into the ball on a straighter path to the ball and to the left after impact.”
“You’re going to feel like you’re coming way over the top, but that’s because you’ve been coming so far from the inside. So just feel like you’re taking your left shoulder and turning it down to your left through the ball. It’s going to feel steep and slashy, but that’s because you’ve been so shallow.”
And then The Man stuck a tee in the ground about five inches behind my ball and inside the target line.
Okay, that’s weird, but I think I can hit a ball like that.
But then The Man put another tee about five inches ahead of the ball and outside the target line.
“Swing the club that goes outside the back tee but inside the front tee.”
“This is going to feel strange and over the top, but it’s actually going to be the correct path for you. And I’m hoping your athleticism (his words, not mine!) will get you in the right places to do this. So just don’t worry about the top because that’s binding you up. You won’t be able to do this laid off and flat.”
So slowly, I started hitting a few balls. Every now and again, I would turn away from The Man so he couldn’t see me sobbing uncontrollably at the despair of wondering despondently where it had all gone wrong. I’ve been a generally good guy. Treat people with kindness and respect. I’ve always honored the game with the utmost esteem. Never cut corners. Studied it. Honored it.
I’ve dedicated my personal and professional life to this freaking game. And this is how it repays me?!!!! Eff you, Golf. Eff you. I’m done with you…..Okay, I don’t mean that. I love you, Golf! I love you! I’m sorry I said those mean things. You know I didn’t mean them. Come here, Golf. Go ahead and abuse me. It’s okay. You’re the best, Golf.
After a few minutes of doing this drill, I could feel something different with my swing. None of this had to do with the position at the top, by the way.
But I could feel my arms becoming more passive through impact. My body was more controlling the swing. I was having to get more on top of the ball and cover the impact area with my chest as I shifted my weight towards the target. My hips were becoming more active and my body was getting more rotation in order to get the club coming through the ball on a straighter path.
It felt as though my legs and body were controlling the swing, not my arms and hands.
Hmmmm. This is interesting.
“Wow. That looks so much better.”
HOW?! HOW IS THAT BETTER? It feels so much different. Yes, it feels powerful but it almost seems too easy. It can’t be that easy. I don’t believe that’s what it feels like to hit a golf ball properly.
You mean feeling more on top of the ball and actually swinging left through the zone? Really?
So to recap, here’s what has changed in the last 60 days:
- I’m standing taller at address.
- My shoulders are now square to the target.
- My grip is a lot stronger.
- My wrists are trying to hinge earlier in my swing (I used to get very little wrist hinge, if at all).
- My position at the top of the swing is more upright and on plane.
- My downswing is more initiated with lower body versus upper body.
- My upper body feels more on top of the ball and covering it versus behind it and arms and hands oriented.
- My swing path feels more left through impact versus down the line or out to right field.
And of course, I’m not certain I can do any of that.
I hate you, Golf.
I love you, Golf.