Except for the fact he plays left-handed, I’m just like Bubba Watson.
Sure, he has won two green jackets as a major champion at The Masters. And he’s made a gazillion dollars in purse money as a professional golfer and could beat me by 20 strokes on his worst day. And he’s young and good looking.
OK, I’m nothing like Bubba Watson.
Thing is, before last week, Bubba and I shared at least one thing in common: we were self-made golfers who didn’t fancy practising and had never taken a lesson.
Swing coach? What for? Hours on the range? Puhleese, I’d rather watch paint dry. Or the CFL.
Then, a month ago, a friend who shall remain nameless gave my name and number to a golf pro at Morningstar, Darren Griff.
My buddy, you see, has watched me work wizardry on and around the greens, saving bogey and the occasional par because, well, I’m pretty good with a wedge or putter in my hand. He has always watched me struggle from the tee, a weak train wreck, if there can be that kind of thing.
This is the same buddy who talks a lot about how he used to play well and can’t believe why he keeps having to buy me a post-round beverage after yet another loss. But this friend knows Darren Griff from a past life and decided he would do me a favour and set me up for a lesson with the former playing professional.
What Darren did wrong to have this lost cause foisted upon him is something I probably don’t want to learn.
Griff has an impressive resumé. He played 50 events on the Canadian and Web.com tours and four on the PGA Tour.
Sinking a bendy, 50-footer on a PGA green would likely be easier than correcting my swing. Griff is brave. Or something.
I rush from work out to Morningstar, having changed from the suit jacket into golf attire, neatly folding the dress clothes because I have to put them on for a work function right after the lesson. Driving through the gates of a golf course has always been a great feeling for me — the phone gets turned off and I imagine what’s to come, maybe that elusive round in the 70s.
Not this day. It’s an odd feeling. Channeling my inner Iverson, I mutter: practice? We’re talking about practice? But I know I’m not going to get any better until I can correct my swing, so I convince myself this is a good thing.
Griff walks up, looking every bit the golf pro. Rockin’ some cool shades, too. As we walk to the practice range, he introduces me to John Randle, the man behind the Randle Golf Academy at Morningstar. He is going to join us. Great, someone else who has PGA Tour on his resume gets to watch my crappy swing.
Randle has an in-house training program for his team of instructors to help them grow as coaches. He is going to watch and listen how Griff works with me as part of that program. The academy uses stuff like Trackman, K-Vest and digital video to help its students, but today Griff is just going to talk, listen and give pointers with his student.
He asks me to warm up a bit and I immediately reach for the driver, aka The Big Stick, aka The Problem Child. He lets me hit a few before suggesting I try a few swings with a mid-iron. It’s quickly obvious to Griff what my problem is: weight transfer. I’m leaning too far back, not trusting my twice ACL-replaced left knew to handle the weight. It’s in my head — the knee can handle it.
I always thought that was the only problem, weight transfer. Soon, Griff explains — with the clever help of Randle, who asked me to kick a golf ball like I would a soccer ball, which I did and was just fine on the weight transfer — that my swing path is way off because I don’t transfer weight properly.
Now, I’m not going to get technical here, because that talk bores me to tears (practice? We still talking about practice?). Griff didn’t get all technical either, speaking to me in a language that I could understand.
He had me set up differently. He showed me how my feet, despite the fact I thought I was square to the target, were way off. He taught me the value of practice swings, something I rarely do. He taught me how to transfer my weight.
Thing is, I was still spraying right most of the time. A couple were not too bad, and Griff was quick to praise my better swings. I don’t think he looked much at the ball flight at all — he was looking at my torso and arms where the problems lie.
In about 35 minutes, Griff gave me a clear understanding of my problem and a couple of drills/techniques that could help. I left knowing that more lessons would be helpful. Time and patience would be helpful for me too, but I seem to be low on those commodities.
I will never again poo-poo lessons or practice. Thanks Darren and John.
For more information, check out randlegolfacademy.com, call 250-248-2244 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
— John Harding is the editor of The Parksville Qualiucm Beach News. E-mail: email@example.com