For those of us who are serious about this wonderful game, golf lessons can form an integral part of the armoury we use in our efforts to master it. OK, I’m sure none of us is crazy enough to think that we will ever get the better of the game, because we all know that as soon as we get to a point where we think we’ve cracked it, it has a nasty habit of jumping up and biting us on the butt.
From my own experience, however, the sad truth is that some teaching pros fall short in their efforts to help us to play the best golf we’re capable of playing, instead teaching their pupils in a way that often focuses on trying to get them to play golf that they’re not capable of playing.
In this series of three articles, I shall explain what I mean by sharing some of my own golf lesson experiences. However, just before I do, I must emphasise that what I’m about to say is not a general criticism of teaching pros; in fact, you will have gathered from the first sentence that I’m a fan of taking golf lessons as a means of golf improvement. My purpose is twofold: firstly, to highlight that care needs to be taken in choosing whom we entrust our game to and, secondly, to share one or two bits of golf advice that you can use to help you play better golf.
I’m taking the types of lesson described in the title in reverse order so in this, the first of the three articles, I’m exploring the “Ugly”.
1. The Ugly
A few years ago, before I became involved in the golf business in the field of golf club technology and club fitting, the worst lesson I ever had was with an apparently experienced pro and I knew, within five minutes of starting, that it was going to be very ugly indeed.
OK, he went through the routine questions about my game, got me to hit a few balls – which tended to go right – then zeroed in on my grip telling me it was too weak. Fine so far you might think; but it went downhill from there because he then told me to move my hands to the left on the grip so that my left hand was a little more under the shaft and my right hand a little more on top to make it stronger.
Now, I will say at this point that I’m right handed; you should also know – in case you don’t already – that for a right-handed player the stronger the grip, the more knuckles you can see on the left hand and less on the right hand; putting it another way, in order for me to do what he intended me to do (i.e. make my grip stronger), the pro should have told me to do the exact opposite of what he actually said.
From that moment on, the lesson degenerated into a maelstrom of confusion, and I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.
Now, I don’t want to leave this article on a negative note, so I’ll just mention a little experiment you can use to get an idea as to whether your grip is too strong or too weak; the “lefties” amongst you will, of course, need to do this with the opposite hands.
Grip the club with an exaggerated weak grip; in other words, get your left hand as much under the shaft as you can and the right as much on top as you can taking care to keep the clubface square. Then, set up behind the ball (imaginary or real, it doesn’t matter), and just relax your hands and wrists. Note what happens to the clubface; it opens.
Repeat the exercise, only this time get the left hand on top of the shaft as much as you can and right hand underneath it; relax the hands and wrists, and note that the clubface closes.
Next, apply your normal grip; if it is either too weak or too strong for you, the effects described above are what will happen at impact so you need to find the grip that keeps the clubface square when you relax those hands and wrists. Normally, this would result in you being able to see between two and two-and-a-bit knuckles on your left hand and between one and one-and-a-bit on your right whilst in your normal set-up position, but this is about finding the right grip for you so try the above exercise and remember, if you are a “leftie” it’s the opposite hands!
The second article in this series takes a look at the “Bad” and explains what I mean about pros trying to get their pupils to play the golf that they are not capable of playing.