Today was my first lesson with Golf Monthly Top 25 Coach Paul Ashwell. Originally, we had planned to play nine holes so that Paul could take a look at my whole game; unfortunately the weather had other ideas!
With the course shut, Paul elected to perform a swing analysis using his indoor academy. First we sat down and discussed my game. Paul asked me to rate my strengths and weaknesses. I thought that most aspects were a weakness but he felt I had a good approach to my game and found the positives in what we discussed. I explained that my usual shot shape was a fade/slice, so I was asked to take my Ping G20 7-iron and hit a few balls to see how they looked. The indoor academy has a launch monitor and balls are struck on to a ‘virtual’ driving range. True to form, the launch monitor showed the flight of my shots fading right of the target line.
The software recorded various statistics about each shot and Paul carefully explained what each meant and how it related to the flight we were seeing. He took the time to explain how my swing path and the angle of the club face could create the results I got. Paul said that with work on my short game and some better course management, breaking 100 was possible with my existing swing; it was very reproducible, so the shape could be factored in to my shot selection. However, he felt that there were other good points about my swing and a real improvement could be made. I want to gain as much as possible from this opportunity and am willing to put in the necessary work so we agreed to look at how I could improve.
Paul started by filmed my swing from behind and face-on. On replay these highlighted the issues he had explained when discussing how swing path affected ball flight. From behind you could see I was swinging from out to in, cutting across the ball and generating side-spin, sending my shots right.
Face-on told more of the story. I was swaying dramatically on to my back foot during my back swing, putting me off-line and forcing an out to in swing to get the club face back to the ball. Another issue was an almost complete lack of hip-turn. Paul demonstrated a simple drill with my arms held across my chest that showed the correct way to turn my shoulders and hips and maintain a centred stance. After a few minutes of learning the feeling of this turn, I picked up my 7-iron and began to make practice swings using the same movement before lining up to hit a few shots.
My first shot was a horrible top, so I stepped back and had a few more practice swings concentrating on getting a good contact with the ball. My next shot was a much cleaner strike and immediately the shot shape we had discussed was evident, the ball stayed inside the target line and proceeded to produce shot after shot with similar results. Once Paul had collated the stats he showed how I was now producing much lower sidespin and that, crucially, some of my shots were spinning right to left; something necessary to hit a shot with true draw.
This is only my first step on the ladder to improving my game, but it was a positive one. I’m looking forward to getting on the range to further groove the shot before seeing how it translates on the course.
Follow Paul’s progress on twitter @eyeforapass