When I began to play golf I did what many beginners do, I found an inexpensive golf clinic and joined in, trying to learn a few things before going out and hitting the course on my own. It was a smart thing to do. I paid very close attention to everything the pro told me or what I overheard him telling each of the other golf students. At least I thought I did. Problem is, the instruction was wrong—or perhaps it’s more fair to say that I heard the instruction inside out. In any event, what I heard, and what I absorbed was information that was not correct. But I believed it was right. And for the next few years I did my best to incorporate this incorrect information into my game. Although the instruction I heard was wrong for me, I believed it to be true. I shouldn’t blame the instructors. It was probably me, hearing one thing, when something else was being said. But I heard the same information from at least three different teachers.
How was I supposed to know that what I was told—what I thought to be sound instruction was bogus?—at least for me. After four years of golf and little improvement a light bulb in my head should have gone off! It didn’t. Not until recently did I learn what was going wrong and how to fix it.
It’s all in my set up. Somewhere along the line I was told to keep my left shoulder higher than my right, and keep my left arm straight, ball off the heel of my forward foot. You can see in the photo to the left that I followed the instructions, in fact I probably exaggerated the instructions to the point that I was actually rigid. And the rigidity caused me to grip the club too tightly. You can guess the results. My golf swing was stiff, tight and the ball never went too far, or if it did, it was deep into the woods or deep into the rough. I was doing everything I was told to do and getting nowhere fast.
Finally, met with Sue Kaffenburgh, LPGA pro here on Cape Cod. It didn’t take her long to see one of my biggest problems. Before doing anything else, she started breaking down my set up. It’s a cause and effect approach. Get the set up wrong and nothing will work correctly. Get it right, and the rest has a much better chance of coming together.
I’m now learning a new approach and it seems to be working. Instead of forcing my shoulders to be on an angle with the left higher than the right, if I simply let my hands drop in front of me, have “soft knees” and allow my grip to close over the club in a natural position, my shoulder rises but without any strain or tension. My arms and hands are much more relaxed and my golf swing is much more natural with results that are far more satisfying. In this “after” photo to the right, you can see the changes.
Why am I telling you this?
If you’ve taken lessons and you continue to play and practice but don’t improve, it might be time to go back to the basics. Find someone who can walk you through your set up step by step. Someone who can watch and observe what you are doing, ask why you are doing each action, and help you determine if, in fact you are actually doing what works. Whether you are just beginning or have been playing for years, getting a fresh look at the basics may be just what you need to keep you on track.
Are you playing as well as you can?