The Second Lesson (Torture)

  A good swing is a physical pleasure.  A bad swing is tiring drudgery.

– Ben Hogan

Who doesn’t want to be praised?

Who doesn’t want to show up to a lesson, of any kind, and hear your instructor say what a great job you are doing and that clearly you’ve been practicing your butt off?

Well, that didn’t happen.  Pete Black and I loaded up the cart and tuk-tukked off to the practice area.  He asked me how things were going and I said there were good days and bad days and he answered with the oft heard, “that’s golf”.

We got to the site and he inspected my clubs with disdain.

“These clubs are dirty.  If you want consistency right away, you must use clean clubs.”  He pulled out a towel that was half wet and called it a golfer’s crying towel.  I could apparently pick one up at Walmart for $2.49.  Pulling out my sand wedge, he set about to polishing it up with his Walmart crying towel.  Next he removed my putter and put his hands on the grip.

“This grip is slick,” he said.

“You mean slippery?” I asked and he knodded.  At least he didn’t say anything bad about my Arnold Palmer style putter, which I love.

“The putter’s grip feel is very important,” he said.  “We’ve got to get you a new grip for this putter.”

Well so far I need a new set of custom irons and to have my putter regripped.  I think I’ll wait until he critiques my entire bag before I begin shopping.  A package deal might be cheaper!

One thing I appreciate about Pete Black is that he doesn’t sugar coat anything.  There is a curious downtrodden feeling I get from him, like he has experienced some kind of fall from grace and he’s slumming it at our little club.  Every now and then he hints of past glory days, of sub par scores and “chasing the tour”.  But no matter what he says, and this guy talks a LOT, he is all about the business of golf.  He has a no-nonsense view of what it takes to be a good golfer.  He told me rather sternly that a golf game is earned.  Who would disagree?

The one thing my daily practice perfected was a good grip.  That was about the only thing he expressed pure, unadulterated satisfaction with.  Okay so I have one thing down.  Check.

I hit some sand wedge shots 30 yards to the green.  That was the entire lesson.  The focal point was trying to get me to let the club fall and to stop my right hand from taking over at the top.  He also had me rotate my shoulders a full 90 degrees.  He must have forgotten that in the first lesson all he asked of me was to rotate my shoulders 45 degrees and I got used to that.  But that is no more.  Full 90, every swing, every time.

Other than not enough shoulder rotation though, my backswing is, it would appear, not terrible.  It’s getting there.

One time after I took the club back I looked at Pete and said, “Now, you’d tell me if I was doing something wrong, right?”

He knodded and said, “Yeah, you did something wrong.  You divorced the club from the body.”

Ahh, the one piece takeaway.  Yes Pete Black, I read about this all the time and of course, of course I think I’m doing it perfectly on every swing.  I get to the top.  He tells me to let it fall.  Another lousy shot.  Very fat and short.  He says, “that’s okay.  If you’re going to miss, miss straight.  You’ve got to have serviceable errors.”  Well, I am missing straight a lot.

Pete likes to use rhymes and says things like “stand nice and tall, connect the club to the body before the ball”.  This is his way of reminding me about the one piece takeaway.

The one bad habit I have fixed for good it seems is the right side sway.  My right foot is a brace, baby!  I have worked very hard on that.  Along with the much improved grip, these are the two things that are now ingrained.  Yay!

So, when the transition happens, at the top of my backswing, that’s when things still go awry.  I think Pete Black termed it a “violent transition”.  I laughed at that.

So we pretty much worked the entire time on me letting gravity do what gravity does and to not fight it, fighting it in my case means giving into my right hand taking over the whole damn thing.  I am not yet catching onto this.  I understand it intellectually but the body has other plans.  My right hand wants to intervene.  I feel uncoordinated letting my arms fall.  It doesn’t feel right yet and I don’t make solid contact with any kind of consistency – yet.  Of course I did on a few shots, but this is going to take some time and lots and lots of practice.

Like I haven’t been practicing lots and lots – already!  There has been no lack of effort on my part.  My only choice other than to push through these growing pains is to give up the game, which after my practice session today seems very tempting.  But I know it’s out of the question.  I talked to Pete today about how I don’t know what I’m doing.  Truth be known, I’ve never hit the ball as bad as I am after lesson number two.  I can barely hit a sand wedge ten yards.  It’s this damn drop thing.  I’m not getting it.  We will be meeting soon for lesson number three.

There is the possibility that Pete Black is not the right fit for me.   I am coming to suspect this. He spits out a lot of words in rapid fashion and half the time, I either don’t know what he’s talking about or I can’t keep up.  I just zone out.  But I’m prepaid for two more lessons.  Then I can try someone else after that if I still feel the way I do now.

I find myself combing the internet and youtube for articles and videos that address what he talked about during the lesson – because I am not clear. That’s probably not good.  For example, all over the internet I find dropping into the slot and coming over the top but he has never used either of those expressions.  Based on my limited knowledge so far, I am grappling with just how to drop into the slot because my strong tendancy is to come over the top.

Back to the drawing board.  Golf is so not fun right now.  What did Hogan call it?

Tiring drudgery.

Yes, that.

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