Thursday, February 17, 2011

Golfgal In Texas: First Golf Lesson at Oak Hollow Golfcourse

Alas, the cold, inclement weather has abated and the quest begins...Oak Hollow was beckoning. Resistance was futile.  My husband and I headed for the driving range to empty a bucket of balls and set up my first lesson with Travis, my pro instructor.

FIRST LESSON: Wed, 2/16/2011

Like a student waiting for the bus on the first day of school, I was excited and full of anticipation as I waited on the driving range for my first golf lesson. Travis seemed like a nice fellow when we chatted and planned our first lesson. I was right. Also, His method of instruction fit just right with my way of learning. We began by talking about my experience with the game thus far. I explained, "Other than driving on the range, playing putt-putt, and limping through my first nine holes a couple weeks ago....(NADA)". He smiled as though thinking....oh my, what have I got myself into. Travis looked into my bag of tricks and selected the 7 and 9 irons and said, "Let's start with these". Knowing that those irons were the particular demons that taunted me the last time I played, my thought was ....oh my... I will likely confirm his fear.

The grip:  I learned a grip from Gordon Bass at GolfSmith. Gordon said, "Never change it".  I was happy I was still doing it right as Travis did not change it a bit. He further elaborated to always begin by gripping the club of choice by my left side as that would give me the proper angle of grip on the club (I am right handed), than proceed to add the right hand to complete the grip. Seemed easy enough to remember. I have always liked the K-I-S-S method...Keep It Simple Sweetheart. That works for me.

7 Iron:  Handing me the 7 iron, Travis asked me to aim for the tree about 100 yards out. He said he wanted to see what I do naturally and he will instruct from there. I liked that concept. I knew at that point I wasn't going to leave the lesson with instruction overload. It made me relax. I approached my position, bent the knees, pretended to know what the blazes I was doing and made the first swing of shame., thank God. OK, not least I hit the ball, let's try that again I thought as Travis patiently and quietly observed. Whoosh ....divot ...air! Ok, not so good...I smile....he worries.....go at it again. Whoosh....slice. Again., about time. I redeemed my self-respect. Ok, he said, let's talk. I want you to stand straighter with knees only slightly bent like you are trying to sit on a tall stool, but barely are able to do so. He said, "You're bending the knees too much, you cannot get your body rotated around and end up overcompensating and off balance. When I thought about it, I actually understood what he meant. Ok, go at it again. I tried to position myself a little straighter....he said...good right there. Ok...swing again..whoosh...air. He said, that is ok you are adjusting to the change...go at it again. Ok...stand straighter; no straighter ...whoosh ....PING ....NICE SHOT!!! YES, I could tell by the look on his face that Travis decided I was worth the pain. I proceeded to practice my new positioning and it was a big difference in the distance and trajectory of the ball in play. Travis was pleased with my progress and decided to switch clubs to the 9 iron.

9 Iron:  New target. He scoped out another tree about the same distance, but a new trajectory. Since the 9 iron has shorter shaft than the 7 iron, I again had to adjust to the length of the shaft and at the same time sit straighter than I did before the lesson learned. Travis explained that when I started my swing in more of a crouched position my body would not rotate as it should. As a result, I would automatically stand taller on my down swing and throw myself off balance. That is exactly what was happening.  I could feel the difference when I did it as instructed. to try to get that feeling swing after swing. We worked on swinging deeper under and behind the ball. Though, sometimes I would slice...for the most part I got a solid connection with the ball. My biggest problem to overcome is trying not to swing like the softball player I once was by subconsciously putting my weight into the swing. I have to train my mind to use my body differently when swinging at my target. It will come with practice. I was amazed at how effective those small simple changes made to the end result. I was very pleased that I even hit the targeted tree a couple times.

My husband was driving his bucket of balls while watching my lesson and stood amazed at my progress. As I ended my first lesson, my husband and I loaded the cart for nine holes to practice my newly learned set of skills. I felt excited at the hint of confidence that surfaced where I felt I could intentionally use my irons for the purposes intended. It was at that moment I realized I started the basis of a valid learning curve. We played nine holes and I was pleased that my game improved from the nine we played a couple weeks ago. I did once again loose a ball in the drink ...but oh well, I will always remember that hole and that I left a part of myself there for eternity. My husband commented that he could definately see a difference in my skill level. That is what it is all about...improvement. Thank God for.... any form.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Old Golfers Never Die: Asking for Forgiveness, They Just Play Through the 19th Hole

All golfers should live so long as to be this kind of old golfer.  He attended Sunday Service on a bad weather day and toward the end of the service, the Minister asked the congregation, "How many of you have forgiven your enemies?" .... 80% of the hands went up.  The Minister repeated his question....after a moment of silence...all responded this time, except Walter Barnes, an old avid golfer who only attended church on bad weather days.  The Minister said, "Mr. Barnes, it's obviously not a good morning for golf; though, it is good to see you this morning. Are you willing to forgive your enemies?"  Mr. Barnes replied gruffly, "I don't have any."  The Minister replied, "Mr Barnes that is very unusual. How old are you?"  "Ninety-eight, Mr Barnes replied."  The congregation at this point stood up and clapped their hands.  "Oh, Mr Barnes, would you please come down in front and tell us all how a person can live ninety-eight years and not have an enemy in the world", the Minister said.  So the old golfer tottered down the aisle, stopped in front of the pulpit, turned around, faced the congregation, and simply said, "I've outlived all the s---s of b-----h's" , and tottered back to his seat.  AMEN.

Speaking of FORGIVENESS.  I have a new understanding to this word.  Golf is so full of surprises. 
Forgiveness....Definition: In golf, "forgiveness" refers to construction and design elements in golf clubs that lessen the effects of bad swings and poor contact with the ball. A golf club that has these features is said to offer a lot of forgiveness (or to "be very forgiving"). Clubs that offer lots of forgiveness are classified as game-improvement clubs. Why use the word "forgiveness"? Because these designs elements forgive the golfer for some of his mistakes. Does forgiveness make bad shots go away? Not hardly. Improving your swing, making better contact with the ball (the sweet spot), is the only way to make bad shots rare. But forgiveness can make a shot struck off-center travel almost as far as one with perfect contact; it can help get a ball a little higher in the air. It reminds me of the day I tried a new Taylormade Driver at Golfsmith.  I asked the pro why this club was so special and he explained the value of forgiveness.  I am all into that.....FORE!!!