It recently became clear to me that for the past three years I have been on a plateau, improving in only the smallest steps, having reached the limit of my ability to improve based on my own work and having a lesson every now and then to patch up a hole.
My conception of golf had become used up. There was nowhere I could go because I didn’t know where there was to go, much less how to get there. I told my pro this. He said, I’ll take care of it.
Five weeks ago I had the first of a series of lessons that will change the way I play golf. The first two lessons were swing lessons, on two themes. First, visualize the shot and direct that visualization from the target back to the execution. This is the reverse of deciding the execution and projecting that forward to the target, the way most golfers play.
The second theme, related to the first and a way of realizing the first, is to work on the nine-shots drill: high draw, high straight, high fade; medium draw, medium straight, medium fade; low draw, low straight, low fade. I already hit some of these shots well. Others I couldn’t hit on a bet. But I worked on all of them, with every club in the bag. The only swing advice the pro gave me were hints on how to hit those shots, but he mainly let me figure it out myself.
Here’s what I learned. Some of these shots are easier to hit with short irons, and some are easier with long irons. The adjustments you have to make to turn the ball one way or the other are tiny–a matter of a few degrees. They are minute variations of the shot in the center, the medium straight shot.
What has happened after about a thousand balls is that my overall ball-striking has improved dramatically, and I can hit each of the nine shots on command most of the time. My sense of the visualization feeding back into my swing is starting to develop–this is a hard one–and at times it seems that to see it is to hit. Seeing the shot infuses into my body the means to hit it.
This is a distinct difference from the way I used to play, which was hit the ball and see what happens.
One more thing. The pro said he didn’t want me to play until this series of lessons was over. For five weeks I’ve just been hitting balls, developing my ball-striking skills and my mental imagery in tandem. I’ll keep you posted and let you know how things go my first time out.
One more thing, this time for sure. He also said that when I let loose of such a mechanical approach to the swing, I will start hitting the ball a lot farther. Two days ago I was hitting 8-irons. My normal carry distance is 132 yards with that club. These were landing beyond the 145-yard flag–cold balls that spent the night in sub-40s temperatures. Oh, boy.