A Cinderella Golf Story
I’m on vacation this week, so I’m purposely trying to stay away from the computer (and anything else with a keyboard for that matter).
However, I figured I should keep my writing chops up with at least a post or two, so long as it’s recreation or vacation-related, which this post is.
So here’s the question: Have you ever done something for 30-something years, only to discover that you’ve been doing it all wrong?
Well, that’s precisely what I learned this past weekend in the aforementioned golf school I had mentioned in a prior post, and though I’ve been doing it all wrong, I’m so glad I was finally made aware of this fact.
You see, for me, and my father, golf is kind of like a religion. If you read the blog regularly, you know I’m a golf fanatic.
I grew up playing, even played on the golf team in junior high and high school, but honestly have never been that great. My handicap in recent times has hovered around a 12-13, and even at that I very much enjoy the game.
But I also knew that I had ceilinged out, and I believed I was capable of doing much better.
So after attending the Academy of Golf Dynamics here in Lakeway just outside of Austin over a three day weekend, I worked to start unlearning thirty years of bad habits, and I have the blisters, and sore muscles, to show for it.
But man, what a blast…and that includes the bunkers!
The Academy says on its Web site FAQs that Golf Magazine has rated it as “one of the top 25 golf schools in the country,” and Money Magazine says “that they are one of the very best in value.”
I can only say this: Old habits die hard, and I’m going to be spending a lot of time over the next year trying to undo these past 30 years…but the Academy was a very well-structured, rigorous, yet palatable method by which to start undoing them, and I can honestly say I highly recommend it for anyone who’s serious about wanting to improve their game.
I was fortunate, as I was in a class of about 10, with three roving instructors, so the personalized attention I received was substantial.
We started the first day working on pitch shots, not realizing that was the time that gave our instructors all the signals they needed to start analyzing our grips, stances, postures, and swings, so that they could then give each of us the guidance we needed to help our respective games.
For me, it all started with a bad grip, too wide a stance, and an over the top swing, which I was able to start correcting the first day, especially after seeing the before and after on video.
In fact, later that afternoon, I went out and played the Academy’s practice holes and hit some iron approaches and 100 yard wedges that any amateur player would be proud of, shots within 10-20 feet of the hole.
On the par 5 practice hole, utilizing the same swing, I hit a rocket ball 3-wood 230 yards just to the left of the green, a shot that, in my prior swing life, would have easily veered right of the green and possibly into the woods.
This was a great start, and as a reminder, this was all on the first day.
Over the rest of the weekend, we got lots of other instruction: On pitch shots just off the green, on improving our putting game (get more over the ball!), on sand shots (both good and bad lies), on hilly lies (up, down and sideways)…even under trees, an area I’ve tended to specialize in over the years, and so much welcomed the assistance.
Since class ended, I’ve played two full rounds, both well over my normal handicap (I usually shoot in the high 80s, and for those two rounds shot 95, and 99, respectively).
I also fully expected this. Changing 30 years of bad habits doesn’t happen overnight.
In today’s round, my dad and I were playing a Robert Trent Jones Jr.-designed course in Salado, Texas, and I spent some time racking up some big numbers, much of it on my short game — which any good golfer knows is as much feel as skill. Relearning how to play those short shots with the new grip/stance/etc. is going to take some getting used to.
But the difference maker, at least for me, and the reason I knew what I had learned was starting to stick, was being able to step up to a 200 yard par 3, or up to a 150 yard approach shot, and be reasonably confident that I would likely put the ball on or near the green, and not instead veer off into the wilderness.
And that, my friends, is exactly what I did.
In fact, on the signature 18th hole, a par 3 that must have dropped nearly 100 feet, I was able to club down to an 8 iron to hit what was yardage wise, 185 yards, and strike the most gorgeous, straight line shot you could imagine into a green, and plant it 20 feet just past the hole. That for a shot that, before the class, would have had me scared into a fetal position off to the side of the teebox, afraid to even hit it.
Of course, then I went on to three putt, so clearly I have much work to do.
But what the Academy of Golf Dynamics three-day workshop gave me, more than anything else, was the tools and self-awareness to understand those things that makes the shot go where it does…or doesn’t.
Yes, the new grip and stance and swing plane are going to take some time to get used to, no question. When I step up to the ball, it feels kind of like someone who’s quit smoking, but refuses to start again. It’s uncomfortable, irritating, and thrilling all at the same time.
But my passion for the game has already increased 100 percent, because I now have an understanding of what my body is doing that makes/made the ball do what it does…and that, I have a feeling, is knowledge that’s going to help me improve my game in ways I had never even imagined.
And as any golfer will tell you, what keeps us coming back is when we hit those sweet, precise, elegant shots that send a warm jolt of endorphins streaming through our bloodstream.
I have no doubt moving forward that I’m going to have many, many more of those shots than I used to…I just have to keep working at it.
So, if you’re looking to improve your own game, and are willing to expose yourself to the blisters and humility three days of such abuse requires, you can find out more about Austin’s Academy of Golf Dynamics here.
And tell them Turbo sent you…they might just give me a discounted rate for when I come back next year!