Golf Lesson In A Coffee Shop: Hold The Bagel Please!

Yesterday morning, the most extraordinary thing happened. I had made arrangements to meet with Sue Kaffenburgh, PGA, LPGA instructor and one of the “Top Teachers, New England,” Golf Magazine 2007-08, to talk about the upcoming golf season here on Cape Cod. Sue works at Bayberry Hills Golf Course in West Yarmouth and I thought if I could get to her before the season really gets going, I’d have a chance to meet and greet and get a fresh perspective on this great game.

Sue conducts a variety of clinics and classes at Bayberry Hills and is especially interested in promoting women’s golf. The club’s program offering FREE golf clinics in May and celebrating Women’s Golf Month in June is listed on the Play Golf America website which is where I found Sue’s name and information. (The dates for 2010 should be published soon. Check back to for more information. We will have the calendar in a future post and a banner ad as well, so you can’t miss it.)

Sue and I decided to meet at the local coffee shop. I had a list of what I thought were good questions to ask, but never had to bother with them. Sue’s enthusiasm for the game, and her love of teaching golf, took over and before I knew it, she had me out in the middle of the shop floor, gripping a golf club and learning a whole new approach to the game. I couldn’t swing, of course— customers would certainly complain. But what I learned in those few short minutes could very well change my entire approach to the game of golf.

“It’s all cause and effect,” Sue told me. “Some instructors approach golf as learning one skill, then another, then another, as if they are separate items to learn and master. But it’s  all of a piece. Like a set of dominoes… it’s a sequence of events…cause and effect.”

It took Sue all of about two seconds to realize the key problem with my game is in my grip. For all the years I’ve been playing the game of golf I thought I was holding the club correctly. Any instructor I’ve had in the past has never said anything, so I thought I was doing it right. I’m not. Sue explained a few things, moved a finger or two up or down the grip, and suddenly I realized what my biggest problem has been and a solution to fix it.

When I play golf I usually have a “death grip” on the club. I’ve tried to lighten up, feel like “I’m holding a bird in my hands,” as one instructor told me, but try as I might, when I swing that club back it feels like I’m going to lose it in the clouds, so I grip even tighter and of course that leads to out of control swings and balls in the woods. What Sue taught me in our coffee shop lesson is a different way to grip the club. If I actually follow her instruction I can’t possibly hold it too tightly, and that should mean I will have more control, a smoother swing, and a ball in the fairway.

I can’t explain exactly what she told me to do, I’m not an instructor after all. And Sue promised to send me a copy of her article describing the grip, her “Hammer Method” as she calls it. I will publish it here as soon as I have it. In the meantime, I’m off to the practice range as soon as it stops raining. I’ve got to see what this change in my grip can really do for my game.

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