If you read my last blog post you know I wrote about a visit to Dick’s Sporting Goods to look at new equipment. As luck would have it, I also got to spend time with Dick’s resident pro Mark, which was very interesting and instruction-wise very helpful!
After having wandered around looking at new golf clubs and talking to a few customers, I decided to fly without a net and engage with Mark!
Being very shy and not very outgoing, I find meeting new people unrealistically difficult! I am woefully fearful of calling people on the phone or introducing myself to them in public. Thus it took awhile to summon up the courage to speak with Mark.
It was busy at Dick’s and a lot of people were milling around and actually I almost decided to leave and put into practice one of my more obvious habits: procrastination! But! I swallowed hard and waited for the moment Mark seemed to be available and I dove in!
After a quick hello and some introductory chatter to settle the nerves, I found Mark to be very affable and extremely helpful!
I inquired about inexpensive golf clubs for seniors (I am 61 years old) with slow swing speeds (25 mph is about what mine is) and he showed me a set of Maxfli Revolution Green Senior Flex golf Clubs! Trying out new golf clubs is like trying out a new car, kind of: the excitement looms large!
The clubs hefted really nice and the grips felt great! The grips on my old set are so bald that the canvas, I mean steel, is starting to come through. I forgot these are grips, not tires. That probably gives you an indication on the condition of my car tires (just kidding).
Anyhoot! I was glad to notice that this set included several hybrid clubs in the place of longer irons. These I really need! I can’t hit an iron longer then a seven iron. God, how will I ever improve?!
The price of the set was $299! Gulp! Well? Really not bad as I am somewhat in the money what with my overtime work at the factory, so I plan to purchase a set of these all in good time!
Next I asked the big question: “May I try out a couple of clubs?”
“Sure!” Mark answered, and he gave me the driver and a four hybrid to try out.
The demonstration area was typical: a hall-like backroom with a driving mat and rubber tee on one end and a net at the other end. There was a laptop on a table, which, I guess, might have tracked my swing action, though unfortunately I never asked about it.
“Go ahead and hit some,” Mark casually said.
Well, one is hardly more vulnerable then when hitting a golf ball in front of anyone, especially a golf pro!
Too many swing thoughts swirled around in my head: swing slow, don’t lift your head, eye on the ball, rotate body, and etc, etc, etc!!!! I swung the hybrid with almost no bodily activity for control and the resultant rigor mortis raged in and I magnificently topped the ball three or four yards dead left and far short of the net! Wow, off to a big start! The chagrin was manifest!
Mark, ever the educator, overlooked my discouragement, and got down to process instead of offering sympathy. “You’re swinging only with your hands and there is no body movement whatsoever,” he observed. He told me to set up and proceed again. He repositioned the grip in my left hand so my hand pad was on top of the grip and the thumb was in a stronger postion toward the right side of the grip. Wow, that felt awful! Change is awful even for the better! It felt like my left hand was almost entirely on the top of the grip and only the fingers underneath! Ugh!
I don’t remember every word of instruction he gave me but here is the gist of it: “grip the club with the left hand pad on top of grip and the club in the fingers of both hands with the right hand closed over the top of the left hand.”
You can find this information in almost any golf instruction manual and I knew this somewhat but until I got the skinny in person with a pro I couldn’t communicate the execution process properly. The fact is I really need lessons!
Next, which really shocked me, Mark had me turn and swing slowly with hands on mine. He then gently pulled my arms back and caused me to extend them further then I ever had done. I then was caused to rotate to my right side. I felt like I was sitting on my right leg! Years of golfing and I never ever felt these movements ever. Ever!!!!
“Now try swinging,” he exhorted! I was terrifically nervous, though exhilarated, when I swung! Focusing on his recommendations, I swung and hit a fairly solid, though somewhat topped, straight shot that hit the net!
I repeated this process for several minutes and the results seemed to be fairly decent.
Mark gave me his card and marked on it some of the things we worked on. They were: Grip-pad on top, chin up, no glasses (my bifocals threw me off), shake hands going back (right hand), hinge right hand, and sit on right knee. These movements felt new and uncomfortable but they helped me produce better results!
We finished up and shook hands and I said I would be back to buy the clubs and book some lessons!
I excitedly left Dick’s with a new lease on my golf life concerning golf instruction and, if my overtime work can end, maybe I have time to put some of these things to practice. Hey, wait a minute! I need the overtime to buy the Maxfli’s and pay for the lessons. What to do? What to do!!!!
Well, as Hannibal Lecter says: “All in good time, Clarice. All in good time.”
“Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man Soweth, that shall he also reap.”
It’s been awhile since I last posted a blog on Golfbackwards.wordpress.com. I could make excuses. Maybe you thought I quit, or truth be known entropy set in slightly, or I was lazily in the unproductive process of procrastination. Anyway!
Well, my beautiful cat Kit has gotten on my notebook and now I don’t have any room to write! She has a habit of doing this everytime I sit down at the table and write in my notebook! Anyhoot she got bored and left so here goes, no more entropy!!
Today I am trying to psyche myself into commitment to process or the metaphorical sowing of the seeds of golf instruction. The bible verse at the top of the post is from Paul’s book to the Galatians chapter six verse seven and it is both an exhortation and a warning to me. Get off your duff and get to work!!!
Well. Okay (sheepishly). Hopefully?!
Actually I have been doing a lot of reading in Don Trahan’s book and trying some things but not with any great gusto. I am really more of a hands on learner then a book learner so really I need to think about lessons. No offense, Don. At $40 a pop and an $8.50 an hour job that will be a challange! Am I up to it? You reap what you sow!
A blessing in disguise is that I have been working a lot of overtime at the bakery so there is a bit more money albeit the Saturday work leaves not much time to play golf or sow golf instructional seeds into my process of practice. Ah money, money, MONEY!!! Hey, I can’t serve God and money! But! I need money for lessons and new clubs. Forgive me Lord!
Armed with the expectation of money from overtime work I jaunted over to Dick’s Sporting Goods to look at the new clubs that, lucky for me, are on sale! And as luck would have it I also happened to be at Dick’s at the same time Mark the resident golf pro salesman was in house. Talk about a divine appointment!
Uh oh, my wife Anne just baked fresh popovers and I must needs take a food and coffee break, and this ain’t no form of entropy!
I am back after having quaffed down two raspberry popovers and a cup of steaming hot coffee (my fourth cup of the day).
Back to sowing. I am very shy when it comes to shopping, especially shopping for anything new and especially new golf equipment! I am slightly agoraphobic. Anyway. I was looking at the different sets of clubs which were, almost without question, out of my price range. Also, and most importantly, I was hoping to talk to Mark!
Well, I didn’t dare to approach him right away so I continued to roam around and check out the cheaper golf stuff.
While I was eyeing a decent looking low priced set ($299!!) and hefting the irons (which I don’t really need and can’t hit for crap), I began to get comfortable and started interfacing with some customers.
I talked to a nice elderly (probably younger then me) couple who were pretty inexperienced golf shoppers and enjoyed some golf talk. Because they were fairly inexperienced I think I impressed them with my knowledge (which excited me). Maybe I should quit LaBree’s and apply to Dick’s golf department and become a successful golf equipment salesman! Back to realilty. I then conversed with a very knowledgeable customer and decided I was better off at LaBree’s!
Anyway. I then struck a few putts with an Odyssey putter that I liked quite well until I saw the $119 price tag! Forget that! Better to go with the putter that goes with the new set I buy. It was then I summoned up the courage to engage with Mark about new equipment and possible golf lessons. Sorry, Don Trahan.
Well, the sowing has started with the trip to Dick’s and I will discuss what happens when I engage with Mark the pro in my next post! It is a cool mini golf lesson! See ya!
Well, today is Easter and it is the holiday celebrating the resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I am a confessing and hopefully practicing Christian (although I swear too much) to whom Easter has immense spiritual significance!
Metaphorically today I am using the Easter theme of resurrection on my golf swing for this particular blog entry, and while I am a professing Christian (albeit with many questions) this is not a religious blog so back to the golf stuff!
In my efforts to resurrect or relearn the golf swing, essentially I am going to crucify my old golf swing, bury it, and hopefully resurrect it to the real thing!
The blog title “Golf Backwards”‘ has a symbolic meaning to me. I believe I swing a golf club backwards from the way I should. Actually I don’t golf, I flog (thanks Ned) and so the result is opposite from what is should be: topped shots not high ones, crooked shots not straight, and high scores not low ones hence flog!
I am going to briefly attempt to explain the correct muscles and actions necessary for executing a golf shot as opposed to a flog shot. This may not be easy for you to accept coming from someone who once putted into a bunker on a par three hole at Carolina National Golf Club on the way to a nine. By the way I shot a 124 on that course and cheated. I actually believe I cheated on my score on that par three hole! Yes, I remember! I putted into the bunker picked up on the hole and told my playing partners to give me a nine!
The problem with making a golf swing is that we tend to use the front muscles when we swing. Muscles such as the biceps (which on me are tiny), chest muscles (again, tiny) and outside leg muscles (need I say more?). These muscles can only produce crappy golf shots or flog shots. I am an expert at using these lousy shot producing muscles!
The back muscles (whatever the heck they are called), the under muscles of the arms, and the inner muscles of the legs are the ones to use when hitting the golf ball properly. Dang they are hard to activate!
Centrifugal force is what you want to produce. You want a turning action which can only be produced by the back and under muscles of the body. Otherwise the other muscles will cause lurching, swaying, and basically off-balance swinging. The correct action with the back muscles is so damned hard to do, but possible I think.
So in order to resurrect my golf swing from the dead I need to replace it with a new swing: back muscles instead of front ones. Golf instead of flog. Sounds like a plan.
“The Truth Is Out There”
I am attempting to discover the true golf swing from Genesis to Revelation. The famous quote from Fox Mulder at the beginning of the fascinating television series “The X Files” says it all: “The truth is out there.”
The truth is out there, and as far as the golf swing is concerned I mean to find it! In my search for the “Holy Grail” of golf swings I need to look beyond the lure of golf with its fun in the sun mentality, beautiful golf courses, exotic locations , and fabulously high tech equipment such as fancy metal drivers with titanium shafts and clubheads the size of loaves of Wonder bread! I need to acquire a paradigm shift to what golf really is to me. It is a very difficult sport in which to learn and perform. But there is hope, the truth is out there!
Learning to play golf requires painstaking effort, insightful study, the patience of Job, and the ability to endure suffering. As M. Scott Peck puts it: taking the Road Less Travelled.
Innate or intrinsic (I love the word intrinsic) talent, normal health, and a fair amount of intelligence are also needed as well. Concerning the talent piece, while it certainly seems significant especiallywhen one wishes to advance to a professional degree of skill, I believe that an average person (like me) could improve with the right understanding and effort! Ben Hogan wrote in his book The Five Lessons: “The average golfer is entirely capable of building a repeating swing and breaking 80.”
Ben Hogan wasn’t blessed with an inordinate well of intrinsic talent yet as his biographers wrote over and over again “he dug it out of the dirt.”
Thus my mantra on my journey for the true golf swing will be “dig it out of the dirt, dig it out of the dirt, dig it out of the dirt!”
Golf instruction stripped down to its basics, especially instruction from a book, can be starkly serious pedagogy! Indeed the excitement and glamour of learning golf, the honeymoon if you will, can come to a crashing end at the first shank, skull, top or chilidip of a poorly struck golf ball! Then reality sets in!
Reality check! Learning the golf swing requires a pragmatic, often undramatic, approach to the aquisition of skill. No more honeymoon! To paraphrase the words of the theologian Rob Bell from his exhilariting book Velvet Elvis, we are always arriving. I’d like to apply that philosophy to my journey of learning the true golf swing!
Truth be known I am more of a golf fan than a golfer. I am a huge fan of the PGA tour. I have been feverishly following the tour for about thirty years, from Arnold Palmer to Tiger Woods.
Rarely a week goes by that I don’t watch a golf tournament on television. Tournament golf is ubiquitous on television. The golf channel is a 24 hour cable channel dedicated to golf nuts like me. This station transmits every golf tournament I want to see from the Masters (the Heavenly Golf tournament) to the obscure Myacoba tournament made up of absolutely no name players whatsoever. Case in point Tiger Woods has won the Masters four times and millions tune in each year to watch it. The Myacoba was won this year by Cameron Beckman (an almost unknown pro to all but the most avid golf fans like me). I looked at the gallery during Beckman’s dramatic win and there must have been six people in it, yet I was watching. I must be bitten by the golf bug for sure!
Ben Hogan is a former tournament golf star who last won in 1955 and is deceased as of 1997, so why did I ever choose him as my instructor? I never saw him on television. Why not choose Tiger Woods? Cameron Beckman?
Ben Hogan happens to be my favorite pro golfer. I consider myself a golf historian of sorts. I have read many books and biographies on golf particularly books on Ben Hogan. I have read Hogan The Man Who Played For Glory by Gene Gregston, Hogan by Curt Sampson, and the only authorized biography Ben Hogan An American Life by James Dodson. These three bios are all excellent and surprisingly different. I feel that with all this reading I am a fairly reliable authority on Ben Hogan and this is why I chose him to be my instructor by way of golf instruction manual and from beyond the grave!
Another significant reason,a big one, is that we are both OCD I believe. From my extensive reading about Ben Hogan I discovered his “Monklike” lifestyle. From his fastidious dress, ie: immaculately pressed pants, pure white linen caps, and spit-polished shoes, to his unparalleled practice regimen, numerous rituals, and his striving for total perfection I can only deduce OCD! Unfortunately, my OCD symptoms are more along the lines of counting and checking which are not necessarily conducive to improvement in golf skill but can be very helpful in totaling up the high scores on my scorecard!
What follows is an attempt of sorts on a blog. Blogs seem to be the in thing in today’s technology. Everybody seems to be doing them, so why not me!
The central theme of this blog will be a documenting of my attempt to learn a correct golf swing which will include all the hopelessness, drama, humor, connflict, frustration, and possibly excitement I will encounter in my efforts to communicate the Intellectual material on the golf swing to my particular learning curve. Sounds impressive, doesn’t it? It really means I am going to attempt to self teach myself the golf swing out of a book and not learn from a teaching Pro.
The source of instructional material will be quite varied and may seem kind of weird but I am going to attempt to use them anyway. They include: Ben Hogan’s concise and difficult to apply instruction book The Five Lessons The Modern Fundamentals of Golf, James Dodson’s fine biography Ben Hogan An American Life, The Road Less Travelled by M. Scott Peck,M.D., Golf Plain and Simple by Don Trahan, and The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right by Atul Gawande. See, I told you they would be weird, and there may be more weirdness as I go along!
You might ask why I chose The Road Less Travelled as it’s certainly not nearly a golf book. Well? Heck! I guess because learning the golf swing correctly would mean taking the road less travelled since so few golfers know how to do it and maybe M. Scott Peck’s book can help me psychologically!
The reasons I choose Ben Hogan’s book for one of my instruction methods is that Ben Hogan was historically the blueprint for the modern golfer and his book, though difficult to process, is probably the bible of golf instruction, at least in my opinion. His picture appears at the top of this blog, it’s one of the greatest golf pictures ever taken!
I must tell you that I am not a beginner at golf. Actually I have been playing for over forty years. I am self-taught, with the exception of one lesson, and play only sporadically due to job restrictions and the fact that living in the state of Maine affords only a miniscule window of golfing weather. Did you know that the average number of days between frosts in the state of Maine is only 122 days a number which probably equals to my average golf score for eighteen holes!
Truth be known I am what I would call a fee golfer as opposed to a membership golfer. Thus, as a rule, I play far less then a membership golfer would play usually 10-15 rounds a year unlike membership types that might play 150 rounds per year
Abilitywise (not sure that is a real word) I would say I am around a 30 handicapper which means I shoot about 50 for 9 holes.
So! I am excited and fearful to begin this journey to find my golf swing. Unlike the hapless golfer in the book Baggar Vance who lost his swing and later found it, I never lost my swing because I never had one!