They say the darkest hour is the one before the dawn. After my collapse on Bank Holiday Monday I was thankful I'd a lesson already in the diary with Rhys ap Iolo at the Downshire Golf Centre. In the last lesson, we had changed the posture significantly to be far more upright and athletic and tried to get the club moving on a better path and much more in front of me. It had shown some early success and despite being beaten I had hit the ball very well in my singles knockout match and for a few games after. However it has recently felt as though the shots were lacking power especially off the tee and I had lost confidence in what Rhys was trying to achieve.
Rhys had been aware of my trials and tribulations through this blog and via social media and we started off by discussing what was working and more importantly what wasn't and what the bad shot was. In general the bad shot was a weak slice, although there was still the odd one left, usually as a result of getting the club trapped too far inside with no room to come through and getting over active with the hands. The weak one to the right came from the hips and body clearing too early.
I stepped onto the mat and hit several six irons. They were decent in terms of ball strike and included a big miss right just to show Rhys the bad one first hand. He was actually quite pleased with what he saw and the biggest issue was the width of my stance. It was too narrow for all the shots which was causing the lack of power and also meant there wasn't time or room to make a powerful turn onto the ball.
The feeling I had was one of coming over the top. In normal circumstances this would be a killer move and lead to a nasty slice but with my path, it is perfect to turn onto the ball better. Rhys and I are trying to play with a fade and take away the right to left draw. The rationale behind this is a fade is easier to control and gives me more space.
The change was instant and I was hitting the ball with a far better contact and ideal shape. We moved through the bag. It is one thing hitting a mid-iron but another trying to hit a three wood off the deck. We worked on the ball position and by moving it back a fraction, the fade became a more neutral ball flight. It wasn't just a case of the stance being too narrow but the hands at address were too close to the body and so we worked on moving the ball further away as well. I had so much more time and room and felt much more in control.
We moved onto the driver. This was not quite as successful and the big miss right was back. Under Rhys's guidance I stuck at it and it was a case of trial and error to find the optimum ball position with the new address. I was getting the club moving too far down the line and I worked hard on feeling of the club exiting left and ball by ball it improved. There was much more power and a better ball flight. and we'd managed to go through the bag and get every club working.
There was still time to discuss course management, controlling negative thoughts and dealing with a bad shot. It was a productive hour and I left much more engaged about my game. I went out on Friday afternoon and hit the practice ground to work on the new set up. The results were very pleasing and so I took it out onto the course. The back nine at Royal Ascot is arguably the tougher of the two. I hit some good shots, and a few indifferent ones but there was enough to there to indicate that the changes will make a difference. It is still a work in progress and I am trying to get out and play more and practice less and learn how to score with the new swing.
I am prepared to go backwards to move forward again. I want to have the odd range session to groove the feeling and get the position sorted but I don't want to get bogged down on technique. There has to be a balance between working on the game and just getting out there and playing. Rhys wants me to get out and play for fun and with an empty head. I find the concept difficult as I have always come from the old school of working on the swing on the range and then taking it out on the course. The idea of almost finding it as I play doesn't sit right and I think confidence will be an issue. However as I've said before I trust Rhys implicitly and so if he feels that is the way to go, then I'll go with it.
All in all then, I have a few things to work on. It is a work in progress and so if the scores don't reflect any upward movement as long as I can come off the course and feel that I have struck the ball better then the handicap and results will eventually take care of itself. The work we have done since we started in December 2011 has changed the swing beyond recognition. It is now a case of taking what I have and running with it for the rest of the season and seeing where it takes me. The winter will no doubt see some changes as Rhys and I strip off a few more layers and make it more reliable and consistent. Until then though I've come through the darkest hour and the dawn is breaking.