August 8, 2008
Sometimes you finally realize you need to stop repeating yourself, and do something about it.
It happened to me recently, during a less than stellar round of over-bogey golf.
My drives were more erratic than usual. Some faded to the right, but most hooked to the left, instead of my usual draw. Putting was fine, and approach shots weren’t too bad, but those errant first strokes put unnecessary stress on the rest of my game.
John Eustis, my frequent playing partner, looked over and said, “You’re over-swinging. That’s typical for you, but there’s even more of it than usual. Plus, your left arm is breaking down on the back swing, so your ball’s going every which way.”
He was right, of course. I’ve always had the habit of over-swinging, as my other playing partners would readily agree. Some golfing friends won’t even look at me while swinging, for fear that it’s catching.
Others compare it to John Daly, or wonder aloud how I haven’t hit my left leg with my driver, or how I haven’t already been put into traction with all the stress I must put on my back.
Actually, I have hit my left leg with my driver during my back swing—they just hadn’t seen it happen. My back hasn’t bothered me, because I’ve remained flexible, but there’s no guarantee that will continue into the later middle ages and beyond.
Even so, I’ve kept my handicap fairly steady, more in spite of my swing than because of it. At the end of the 2006 season, I had a 17.5 handicap index. At the end of the 2007 season, I had a 17.4 index. At this point in the 2008 season, my index is 17.5.
Frankly, however, I’m tired of playing bogey golf on my good days, and worse than that on my bad ones. I’m finally ready to do something about it.
So I signed up for lessons with my club pro, Devon Peterson.
We met at Shawnee Country Club’s practice range. After I warmed up. Peterson had me hit a few drives, and then a few 6-iron shots.
They weren’t pretty.
Peterson then started the lesson.
I have to work on several aspects of my swing. Each change is aimed at convincing me that what feels like a half-swing is actually a full swing for anyone else. Right now I can’t feel that sensation, so the first exercises are designed to help produce that sensation well enough for me to repeat it.
My left hand grip was fine, but my right hand grip put too much club in my palm, and not in my fingers. Peterson had me place my right thumb pad atop my left thumb first, and then wrap the fingers around the grip. Also, the right thumb has to be more centered on the shaft, and not off to the left.
The pro then had me take an 8-iron back to the point where the shaft is parallel to the ground, and then forward into a teed-up ball for a nice short drawing shot.
For the first several attempts, the club shaft pointed skyward instead. This won’t be easy, but after a while I was able to do what he said.
The second exercise required me to swing my 6-iron it back to where the shaft was perpendicular to the ground, and then bring it forward into the back of the teed-up range ball. This is a true half-swing. Again, I had a lot of trouble stopping at that point, but eventually began to get the hang of it.
Before my next lesson, I’m to do these first two exercises at least four to five times, splitting half a large bag of range balls for each one. Then Peterson will check my progress, and we’ll take it from there.
You might also consider giving one of the Cape Region golf pros a call, to schedule yourself for an analysis and some lessons. The middle of the golf season is a good time to seek help in ridding yourself of some old, unwanted golfing habits.