The perfect golf swing. One of the holy grails of this great game. An act of finite timing, athleticism and talent that the game’s greatest have all been striving for. Every golfer from the upper echelons of the professional game to the weekend hacker are looking for that repeatable action that delivers a telling blow and allows the ball to soar effortlessly towards the hole. One of the ways a lot of people go about this is to have regular lessons. If it is good enough for Tiger to use a coach then surely lessons will help the average golfer. But what makes a good lesson?
I have been using my coach Grant Sayer for two years during which time my handicap has reduced from 20 to 13 and I have managed to win a number of monthly medals and stablefords. Coincidence? I don’t think so. The first thing conducive to a good lesson is the right environment. Grant is part of N1 Golf Schools and is based out of Maidenhead Golf Centre in Berkshire. A thirty year old family run establishment with good quality range balls, heated bays and top notch mats, its discreet location ensures a quiet atmosphere and is ideal to concentrate on the vagaries of the golf swing.
Having found the right location, a good lesson can only be achieved if the pupil/teacher relationship works. Grant qualified as a Class A PGA pro in 2004 and like many modern coaches looked to develop his teaching credentials. He’s worked with the Leadbetter Academy in Florida and as Head of Instruction at Longshore Golf Club in Connecticut. Our relationship is based on him giving simple to follow instructions that I can easily understand and implement. Personally I like to “feel” the golf swing as opposed to a more regimented teaching style trying to ensure the club is in position A, B or C at any given point.
The question of what constitutes a good lesson recently appeared on the Golf Monthly chat forum and many of the contributors agreed like me that there must be an understanding of what is being worked on and why. This usually incorporates a brief chat before each lesson and deciding on a plan of action. Like many teachers, Grant will normally take a video of my current swing so I can see how my flailing limbs bear no resemblance to the compact swing I have in my minds eye. A video nasty in every sense.
Simplicity is another fundamental to a good lesson. The golf swing is a fickle beast to master. Too many things to think about or being shown in a convoluted manner are a recipe for disaster. Having looked at my video, I’ll get one key point to focus on. For me, I need to have a comprehension of what I am trying to achieve and why and so I’m normally given a drill to work on and master to realise our objective.
One of the reasons I have stuck with my coach is the fact that he believes golf should be fun and that he tries to make the lesson uncomplicated, positive and enjoyable. Part of this fun comes from the use of various teaching aids. These have included a 7 iron head attached to a flexible shaft to quieten lateral body movement which had to be swung precisely in order to actually make contact with the ball. We have used balance mats to train stability in the lower body and there have been weighted clubs and swing “fans” designed to slow my aggressive thrashing motion. These toys all have a serious purpose and help break the swing components down and make the lesson more informal and enjoyable.
Another key component to a successful lesson is the ability of a coach to get the changes across in a way that is easily remembered. Just as many of us can remember a particular lesson from our schooldays, it is vital that in the months following a lesson the changes are trawled from the memory bank and practised and honed. In my humble opinion, there is an onus of responsibility on behalf of a pupil to go away and work on the changes made. Golf gives nothing away freely and swing changes need to be worked on and fine tuned on the range or practice ground long after the lesson has ended.
In these days of economic gloom and fiscal restrictions, value for money is another facet in my book for making a good lesson. Whether I want a single refresher lesson or a course of instruction, I need to know I’ll get a good service for my hard earned cash. How that is qualified is difficult. Is it all about monetary cost and going to the most inexpensive instructor around or is about getting a quality coach who may not come as cheaply. I have to be honest, there have been times recently when I have whored my golfing faults around several local pros, but I’ve never come away entirely happy. I could swing well for a while but faults would reappear. Whilst it probably has more to do with my inability than their teaching, with Grant I find that things stick for longer and I’m never under pressure to come back unless I feel the need.
And my final requirement? That’s trust. Trust that what you have been told is correct for your particular swing and that after putting in the time to practice the changes that it will stand up. I need to feel that when the monthly medal is on the line I can stand on the 18th tee and ignore the out of bounds and swing as I’ve been shown and that it will stand up to the toughest examinations.
I may never set the golfing world alight but through regular tutorage and dedication I can enjoy the game to the maximum. Do lessons really work? Let me finish by telling you that Grant recently gave me a lesson on a Thursday. I practised what I had been shown at the range on Saturday and on the Sunday went out and won the monthly stableford, cutting my handicap by another shot. I think that is testament indeed to the power of a lesson.