Since October 31, 2014 I have taken four lessons from a retired pro named Pete Black. The lessons have been stretched out just enough for me to get quality practice in between and to return to the next lesson having shown progress. I have also consulted many pros online, watched dozens of youtube videos (there are some excellent ones out there), read golf forums, books, anything I could get my hands on. Much of the information about swing mechanics I have stumbled upon has been quite useful and saved me from multiple panicky phone calls to Pete Black.
So it’s been about six months now and there are times I have wondered if I’ve progressed at all, as taking what I accomplish hitting into my nice private backyard net onto the golf course is something akin to navigating the streets of Bangkok, Thailand for real after having only studied a map. Given that I was just in Bangkok this past January, I can say that the two are entirely different tasks!
Two Different Golfers
It has seemed like I embodied two golfers – the relaxed one at home hitting straight beauties, one after the other into my Callaway 6-foot tri ball net versus the tense, out-of-sync golfer panicking on the course – rushing shots, chunking, sculling, over-the-topping, slicing and yipping.
Having completely overhauled my swing, as if I were a first time club-in-hand-beginner, it has been a monumental task just to have the nerve to play a full round, which for me at this time in my life is usually nine holes with an occasional 18. I was too armsy and right hand dominated. I had a wicked sway back onto my trailing side. Pete Black kept telling me I was ‘divorcing’ my arms from my core. Oh I got so sick of hearing that!
I had to learn to let gravity do the work, to literally let my arms fall and pray that somehow club and ball connect. I had to learn how to grip in such a manner as to keep the clubface square, how important it was to rotate my stubborn shoulders to 90 degrees of the target line while holding my left hip back. I had to learn to balance my swing and finish in control, facing and staring down the target. I had to learn that the whole swing is between the feet, that I needed to swing as if in a barrel.
It was a lot to learn.
It still is.
In the comfort of my backyard, I have been succeeding at much of the above. After a 100 ball practice session, when I was feeling good about my swing, I would pack up my clubs and head on down to my home course, excited about what the day would bring – only to have my hopes dashed by the other me hitting slices, sculls, chunks and yet more balls the into the gluttonous water on the seventh hole.
Well, yesterday I bravely golfed yet again and honestly, for the first time, I felt like backyard Jillian and golf course Jillian were starting to be the same golfer. Yes it’s true. For the first time I let gravity do what it does, felt the lag I have worked so, so hard on, ON THE ACTUAL GOLF COURSE.
I even hit a a perfect 55-yard pitch onto the sixth green which is adjacent to where Pete Black teaches and yes, he was giving a lesson at the time. The ball sat and all was well with the world. I hope Pete saw it. I tried to contain my excitement, as I try to never congratulate nor berate myself too much. A steady, even keel works for me.
So, yes, there seems to be a light at the end of this tunnel. I have been waiting for the day when I felt the same changes on the course as I do in practice, when my muscle memory would kick in and do it the new and improved way. That day finally happened. I shall remember it always, April 16, 2015.
In case you are wondering, I don’t talk specific scores here, not yet. Suffice it to say, my score was eight shots lower than last time, and that’s pretty significant for nine holes. Until I am regularly shooting what I shot before lessons, I’m not going to talk actual numbers.
I’ll get there!