It is no secret I struggled on Sunday in my Winter knockout and that recent range sessions haven't warmed the cockles of my heart. Last night was a chance to right the wrongs and I had a lesson booked with Rhys ap Iolo. The warm up session (I use the phrase lightly as it was bitterly cold out there) wasn't great. However under Rhys's critical gaze I hit it much sweeter but there was the odd bad one in there which highlighted the problems I've been having.
The issue I had is I could feel the body moving forward and ahead of the ball and having to make, or try to make, compensations to find the ball and hit it. It is one thing knowing what you are doing wrong but another to fix the fault. The big plus was the problems weren't massive and Rhys wasn't overly surprised I'd made them given the scale of change he'd made in recent lessons. Not only were the issues small in the big scheme of things but they were easily rectified. Ball position and the height of my shoulders were the main culprits. Ball position had crept backwards and so in simple terms the club wasn't getting to the bottom of its arc and therefore it was hard to compress down properly. The right shoulder was dipping instead of turning on a level plane. Rhys asked me to picture the motion of a discus thrower and the way they keep their shoulders level as they release their coil and hurl it into the distance.
The drill he gave me was to move the ball forward and to make a a normal swing but to almost feel the right shoulder rising as though I was going to top it. The new position allowed the club to find the back of the ball at the bottom of its arc and really compress down on it. There was still the odd faux pas where I tried too hard or didn't trust it had edged the body forward again. The good ones though were so good. To keep the shoulders level, Rhys also suggested taking a mid iron and putting the ball on a high tee and picking it off the top.
I mentioned in passing that I felt my tempo was to blame for a lot of the issues. He asked me to explain my pre-shot routine and hit a ball going through the whole process. He then picked a corridor between two flags on the range and challenged me to hit ten balls, going through my pre-shot routine each time. He wanted me to make seven out of ten, landing them between the two flags. I only had a six iron in my hand. What could be simpler?
I got the first three in with ease. Not worrying about keeping the shoulder level or any other swing thought meant I swung with impunity. Contact was perfect and the destination wasn't in doubt. I hit a quick lunge at the next and missed high wide and not very handsome. The fifth was borderline as was the sixth. Rhys pointed out the ball position was creeping back again. The next was perfect. Ball seven wasn't a good stroke but was between the flags and was a good miss if we'd been out on the course but allowable for the purpose of the test. The next was much better but my ninth shot was another miss right. I'd used my three lives and the tenth and final ball was the money shot. I nailed it.
I was surprised as the exercise progressed just how nervous I was getting and wonder if at least one of the misses and the lunge I made was through tension. It highlighted the importance of routine but showed that I need to find a way of checking ball position each time as a part of the tick list before I hit it. I need to find a way to incorporate that and still make the process feel natural and not forced.
We went back to hitting shots (without going through the whole routine) and concentrating on the level shoulder turn. We decided that I needed to put the 6 iron in what I felt would have been a 3 wood position. Of course this meant the longer clubs had to move progressively forward and my driver was almost off my left toe. It look so wrong. Rhys also tweaked my weight distribution for the driver set up and the body position. I didn't hit the first one great but looking down it just seemed alien to everything I knew. However the second was a monster. High long and straight. In the space of two balls I was sold. Granted it is going to need some work, especially trusting the visual aspect but I'm going to have some fun when they start flying.
It was a great lesson. We hadn't made huge changes but the flight and direction were much improved. The interesting thing is, in the beginning and for most of 2012 a lot of the misses were low and left. However in the last few lessons and at the range, the miss has become a miss right. The miss left has almost gone completely. It makes it so much easier if you know where the bad shot is going. When some were left and some were high cuts and fades right it made it so hard. You were under pressure to be "on it" all the time but had no idea where miss was heading. It proves the club face is under much better control and the path itself is improved.
I came into the session a little down in the dumps but came out far happier. It was only small mis-fire and the big end hadn't gone. Rhys never makes the lesson overly technical but there have been some real light bulb moments where it has just clicked and I suddenly understand and can feel what a good swing should be like. I'm sure the road to single figures will continue to have the odd bump along the way but I feel far happier about my game again. We've got a dedicated short game lesson in the diary for a few weeks time which will be fun.
I'm not overly fussed about rushing out onto the course given the state it was in after the rain last week and with the freezing conditions forecast to continue over the weekend. I'd rather keep the swing ticking over, work on better ball placement and get a pre-shot routine I feel comfy with. It seems I am seeing big problems where they don't really exist. My mantra for the next few weeks is no problemo. Bad shots happen but as long as I understand the cause it isn't an issue. I can see big things on the horizon and I'm moving steadily towards them.