This is the third in a series of game improvement posts.
For once I was glad nobody was playing the forward tees with me this morning at Old Greenwood, a beautiful Jack Nicklaus design in Truckee, just above Lake Tahoe. If they were, they could have seen the tears in my eyes as I set foot on the 11th tee.
On my 78th hole of the Golf the High Sierra Media Tour, I couldn’t get out of a bunker. On my 79th hole of the week, I completely lost my swing. On my 80th hole of the week, with mowers and fertilizers roaring around us, I blasted a drive, then chunked my way down the fairway, chipping my fifth shot into the water and then tossing a Titleist Pro VI in to join it.
And on hole No. 80, the pretty, 211-yard 11th, I had my meltdown. Why oh why did I feel so inept and clueless over this game I’d been playing for about 20 years? Why couldn’t I fix what was wrong? Why didn’t I even know what was wrong? And, doesn’t life just suck?
Yeah, right, how pathetic! But, if you play golf, you know what I’m talking about.
I posted my worst round of the year, 109, and went to see Keith Lyford down at the Golf Academy at Old Greenwood. Locals call him “The Professor” for the way he studies swings and then improves them.
In Lyford’s charming, wood-framed swing lab at the opposite end of the driving range, he guided me through his typical consultation. (There’s more information at www.tahoegolfschool.com.)
First I filled out a questionnaire that asked about my typical swing thoughts, what was weak and strong about my game, and what I hoped to accomplish at the school. I decided I most wanted three thoughts I could reach for whenever those moments came that I felt I had lost it.
Keith said, “Suppose we could narrow that down to one or two?” I was game.
Let’s go to the video
As mentioned in the second post in this series, I am working on taking my swing from outside-in to a more powerful inside-out path. It’s going OK. We talked about that and built on it, using video that included a feature I’d never seen before: an overhead camera.
First — and isn’t this rather unusual in a lesson — we worked on improving my drives. I teed the ball higher, tilted my shoulders, and worked on keeping my head behind the ball to create a more upward launch angle. Instant, dramatic improvement!
Next, I picked up my 7-iron and we worked on moving my hands forward so that I would hit down on the ball. Also instant, dramatic improvement!
“I think it’s up to the teaching pro to have people leave a lesson hitting the ball better than they did when they came in,” Lyford said. “I know some say you have to get worse before you get better, but I don’t believe that.”
Wow, a teaching pro who didn’t suggest I spend hours and hours at the range!
Best of all, I felt less clueless. Lyford recommended a couple of easy drills (the shadow drill, just to make sure my head doesn’t move forward, and a clipping-the-tee drill for my driver) that I could do even on the course. He also praised the parts of my game he doesn’t think need attention (my body motion, especially my finish).
“You have to remember that even the pros can go good or bad,” Lyford said. “Rory McElroy missed three cuts in a row, so you have to expect the good and bad cycles. The problem (is when) people go bad and incorrectly analyze what is wrong and they do the wrong fix.
“When I evaluate a swing, I look at three things: what your body is doing, what the ball is doing and what the club is doing. I want you to have confidence in your body motion — if you are having a problem, it’s more a matter of what the club is doing with the ball.”
I liked this — I can now justifiably blame the club instead of the bozo swinging the club. And, with 36 holes on tap tomorrow at Grizzly Ranch and Plumas Pines, I can’t wait to get back out to the golf course.
The Golf Academy at Old Greenwood offers 2012 school packages of one ($495), two ($895) or three ($1,250) days — and they all include complimentary golf on this gorgeous (but, seasonal) course when the bell rings at 3. There are also three-hour clinics in groups of four for $250 a person.
Part 1 of the series: 5 reasons video makes women golfers miserable – but should it?
Part 2 of the series: Schooling at the Grand Del Mar – No more short game