It was lesson time again last night at Downshire Golf Centre in the company of my teaching professional, Rhys ap Iolo. Regular readers will no doubt be aware that my golf last weekend wasn't particularly good and that Sunday in particular had a real mixture of highs and lows but the one thread throughout was a lack of consistency.
I had a practice session at Blue Mountain range on Tuesday night and had felt that I had found a nice tempo and a better technique. The ball striking was much better and the direction was better. Buoyed, I was keen to see what Rhys thought and the warm up process went well. However, when I got the teaching mat, I was surprised by what he had to say. He had watched me set up to ball, and even watched a few of my warm up shots and asked whether I was going through my pre-shot routine. I thought I was setting up to the ball the same each time. He asked if what I did on the range replicates what I did before the shot on the course and vice versa. The truth dawned on me that the answer was a resounding no.
He went on. Did I approach the ball from behind, pick a target and look at the target as I get settled over the ball. Did I pause. Again a resounding no. He said that I was like an excitable kid and seemed to rush to get set over the ball and seemed to want to get the shot over with even quicker. Is this what I do at the range? In truth it probably is and he explained that this really isn't constructive practice and that the work I am putting in is little more than a ball bashing exercise.
Now a lot of you will know that working on my game is a big thing for me. This harsh assessment was a bit of bitter pill but I understand where Rhys was coming from. In fact I had been using a regime called My Grip Zone http://www.mygripzone.com/ and one of the main features is making practice more realistic and not about ball bashing. It is also focuses on repeating and using the pre-shot routine. I haven't used it for a while. My neglect has been due to a focus on mechanics and in hindsight this probably hasn't helped
Rhys got me to start from behind the ball and step in that way, having picked my target. I made my address position, took a couple of waggles of the club, looking at the target, and then taking a few seconds over the ball before pulling the trigger. The first couple were really solid and I felt as though I had a lot of time to make the swing. I put another ball down and thought I had done the same thing but the result was off. Rhys said I was much quicker from getting to address position to making the swing. He suggested I needed a trigger. Something that was a constant. He suggested going through the same process of picking the target, looking at it over address and then as I settle over the ball to exhale. This simple trick meant the process was much more consistent in terms of the length of time taken.
What Rhys doesn't want is to be consciously thinking of it. I should be going through my routine over every shot in practice until it becomes second nature. Not every shot will be perfect, hence why I'm off the handicap I am, but I need to trust the routine and not flinch away from it.
Every ball in the lesson was meticulously addressed. He wasn't that worried about what was going on with the swing itself. We did play around with ball position, both in terms of standing closer or further away and forward and back. Rhys wants me to experiment more in practice and have some fun trying to shape shots more and use the position to influence the club head at impact.
It was a productive session. My driver was more solid as we moved it slightly further away at address to give me more room through the ball. This was the biggest area I wanted to look at as I didn't get it into play often enough at the weekend. The new position coupled with a new regime meant I was in a calm and neutral mind set over the ball. Less technical thoughts and more freedom to stand there and hit it.
I have to be honest and say it wasn't the lesson I thought it would be. I knew my tempo last weekend was supersonic at times and I know in golf speed kills but I had assumed that there was also an inherent fault that had crept in, especially with the snap hook or high rights off the tee. I was pleased to hear that while the swing wasn't perfect, and lets be honest it will always be quirky. I could see that ball was behaving better. It wasn't broken. I was surprised to see just how much difference that small pause just before takeaway can make and how much smoother the process was.
I have known for a long time, especially having read books by Bob Rotella, that the pre-shot routine is the rod and staff and especially in tense situations it is the thing that glues the swing together. Furthermore, I have downloaded the Karl Morris app, "the secrets to consistent golf with the 7 rituals of success. This talks specifically about being in neutral and parking the mind. In addition the "five shots lower programme" adds to that. I haven't listened to these in a while or read the books and I think these will add some focus to what Rhys has worked on.
I thought Rhys was going to tweak the technical aspects and tighten everything up. The fact that we only played with position and not the swing itself was a relief but I am also nervous about the next round. Fortunately, the next game is a social one, either tomorrow afternoon or with the usual roll up crew on Saturday. This means I can focus purely on the pre-shot routine. I need to be able to get to the position where I look at my target, make my waggle, have that all important pause before starting and giving myself time. I need to make sure it is the same each time and to be able to back out and start again if I don't feel it's right and also I need to make sure it takes the same period of time each shot.
Again I need to reiterate that this isn't going to be a routine within a routine and it is more something I need to take into practice and stop it becoming a ball bashing exercise even when I think I'm making progress and working properly on my game. I need every ball I hit, both on the range and especially on the course to have something attached to it and that is knowing that I have stuck to my routine religiously. I have to have acceptance after the shot whether it is good or bad that I have done everything I could over the ball.
I liked the session. I like the fact that Rhys is getting me thinking more about everything but at the same time not thinking at all. It was fun to not be just tweaking the swing but adding something to my game that I can use over every shot, including chips and putts. I have to find the routine that works for me, and this is unique to every golfer. Just look at each pro on telly and see the variances. I want it to be simple efficient and repetitive and that when I'm on a tight driving hole or facing an approach to a small target I can use the pre-shot routine to give me that air of calm.
Thanks once again to Rhys for taking the game forward. Yes we went off on a tangent to a degree but I would like to do more in this area and the thinking side of things. I want Rhys to give me more constructive and productive practice routines so that I am not a ball basher and that the work I put in has an end result. I thought I was working hard but clearly not always on the right things. As always he's given me a lot to take away and work on. As usual I'll put the work in. It is a two way thing and I believe that unless a pupil is prepared to go away and work on swing drills, practice drills or mental drills, then the teacher has an enormously difficult job to push the golfer forward.
I have something new to work on. Gone is the rush over the ball, even though I didn't think I was that bad. I have a new routine to get me to slow down, focus on where I want the ball to go and to basically give myself time and a clear mind set to put the best swing I can on the shot. If it doesn't go well, accept it, find it but ensure I go through the same routine over the next one. I'm getting ready to get ready. As usual I'll give an honest assessment on how it works (or not) and see where it takes my game. It should be fun.