Today I took my first golf lesson…ever. Sure, I’d received plenty off-the-cuff advice on my golf swing over the years. I’d read Ben Hogan’s Five Lessons and Harvey Penick’s Little Red Book. I’d even gone through a couple club fitting sessions. But this was my first experience intentionally setting aside my pride and reaching out for the help my golf game so desperately needed. My hope was that a professional eye could help shorten the distance between exasperation and serenity on the golf course.
Luckily, Mike Pulliam over at Man O’ War Golf is a friend of mine. It was a balmy 21 degrees outside in the sunshine, so I was relieved to learn today’s lesson would be inside. Man O’ War’s indoor facility is really quite impressive. More than just a rubber mat and indoor net, the instruction area has a fully integrated video system, comprised of several cameras working multiple angles simultaneously, and a couple of easy to follow monitors.
Mike began, as any good professional should, by asking why I was there and what I wanted out of my lessons. After letting me ramble on for a while, he broke it down to a single choice: did I just want him to help me play a little better with the swing as I’d already constructed, or did I want him to help me build a good, solid, repeating golf swing? The former required fewer lessons and maybe some check-ups every few months, repeated each year. The latter would probably take him up to two years of regular lessons to fully implement.
Framed in that way, Mike had given me an out, a way to be cheap and half-ass the journey. But as much as I wanted to believe that there wasn’t that much wrong with my golf swing, I knew otherwise. I’d played the best golf I’d maybe ever played last fall, and the mid-80’s was the best I could expect to shoot on my best day. I was just as likely and capable of shooting well into triple digits on my worst day. So, putting a lot of faith in my friend, I decided to embark upon building a new golf swing that may help me achieve some of my moderately ambitious goals.
Much to my surprise, I learned that I’d entered the first lesson with at least a few sound fundamentals that will translate over into the new swing. Now, by “a few” I mean my grip was darn close to textbook (thanks to repeated reading of Hogan’s Five Lessons) and both my eyes work really well. Pretty much everything else accumulated in my 17 years of amateur hacking is going out the window. Some changes will be drastic, some things will change only a little, but it all is going to feel terribly weird for a while.
Bless his heart, Mike was impressed at how “malleable” I was in approaching and accepting what he was trying to teach me. I won’t bore you with the gory details of what is wrong with my old swing or all the new swing thoughts and training techniques. But know that half an hour into the first lesson, my knees and lower back informed me that all of it felt very wrong, and I was going to have to redouble my efforts on improving my flexibility.
Seeing myself swing on a video monitor for the first time ever was pretty humbling, and I instantly resolved to lose that last 15 pounds I’d stored up this winter. And the new swing felt so awkward enough that my 7-iron committed suicide halfway through the lesson, breaking cleanly in two at the hosel.
For that first lesson, I fought against my instincts and listened hard to what Mike had to say; listening to, much less relying upon, another person’s advice is not a part of my natural make up. But I’d taken the first step by admitting there was a problem and reached out for help, so I figured I might as well give it a fair shot.
I know this swing change is going to be a process, and like anything else, it will take some time and I will have to work hard at it for the results that I want. While I don’t know exactly where this particular adventure will lead, I do know this: It’s going to hurt. A lot. (My ego and my right knee were the early casualties).
Nonetheless, I’m confident I will get where I want to be by the end of the journey. And if nothing else, it’s another item checked off the list of New Year’s Golf Resolutions. Two down with eight to go after five (very cold) weeks:
I will buy a new pair of golf shoes. I will take at least one golf lesson this year.
- I will keep an accurate score every hole, every time.
- I will practice and work on my game at least once a week.
- I will stretch to work on my flexibility three times per week.
- I will invite someone to play golf with me that I have never played with before.
- I will play the five best (public) golf courses in Kentucky.
- I will take each round seriously, but not too seriously.
- I will be active in my local golf club.
- I will play 3 of the Top 100 public golf courses in the United States.
Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the technology….Better than he was before. Better, stronger, faster.