'A relationship with a golf pro is personal, they have to understand you and how you learn'
So, Bubba Watson says he has never had a lesson in his life and has won two US Masters titles.
Meanwhile, I’ve spent a small fortune with teaching professionals and I’m still looking for a swing that might possibly win the club champs one day.
Golf is many things but it’s certainly not fair.
I think I may have gone through more coaches in the first four years of my golfing life than I had boyfriends at university.
Even more terrifyingly, I have allowed these comparative strangers to put their hands in places that would have been cheeky even on a first uni date. Holding, pulling and stretching my body into unnatural and uncomfortable positions in search of my perfect arc. The things we do for golf!
A relationship with a golf pro is personal. They have to understand you and how you learn. You have to open yourself up to initial failure as you attempt to change.
I must confess that I have been known to shamelessly flit from one to another without telling them. Like a brazen golf floozy I have had two on the go at the same time, sloping off to seek golf satisfaction with another man… and one woman. I have been a golfing Jezebel for anyone who could add ten yards to my driving distance. After all, length is important!
Much as I like Bubba and his singular approach to the game, I do wish he’d kept his secret to himself. His inborn flair for winning golf is surely the exception to the rule that only practice makes perfect.
For whatever reason, I see very few women on the range at our club and yet I spend hour after hour patiently pounding the mats after lessons, trying to remember the latest piece of precious instruction I have purchased.There is a coaching adage that the last thing we learnt is always the first thing we abandon under pressure. How true it is of golf.
Any changes that teaching pros make to our swings are rarely ‘ready to go’ without a few range sessions spent honing the new muscle memory. So, when we are faced by a 150-yard carry over water out on the course, we invariably go back to the devil we know and revert to the old swing. It’s like paying for a blow dry for that big night out then washing it out before you go.
I really do want to improve my golf. Any of my teachers (and I have only had five) will tell you that I am a good student, always prepared to invest in a course of lessons and practise whatever they preach.
My game has improved significantly during the four years since I first picked up a club, as my 17 handicap testifies, but I just don’t think my progress has been as smooth or sustained as it should be given my level of dedication. Who is to blame for that? Well, obviously not me!
I swear that there have been times during my tour of the teaching pros of Berkshire when the next one has tried to persuade me to do the physical opposite of the last one. You’ve only got to look at Bubba’s unique swing to see there is more than one way to hit a golf ball and I think I may have been taught every single one of them already.
One player’s idea of the perfect coach is another player’s idea of the most confusing. After one session I was actually emailed a video of exactly how my swing looked compared to that of Tiger Woods. How’s that for the biggest ever morale knocker? Like you can learn to make objects disappear just by watching Derren Brown do it? I don’t think so!
The only comparison between Tiger and me is that we have both been unfaithful (to our coaches). Butch Harmon, Hank Haney, Sean Foley – Woods has worked with the very best but at the turn of the year he turned his back on them all and announced that he was going to become his own swing coach.
Yes, even the greatest golfer of the modern era reached that stage that you and I know so well when you say to yourself, “oh, **** it… just grip it and rip it!” The lowest of low points in any golfer’s career is when they find themselves listening to the advice of some kindly old hacker in the next booth. Blind leading the blind.
I have now (I think!) settled on a teacher who works perfectly for the way I learn. Someone that ‘gets’ my game and my desire to improve.
He seems able to spot the fault responsible for my latest meltdown and correct it simply and clearly. I can send him videos of my range work and he will invariably spot the error of my ways.
He deals with one issue at a time, looking to make minor adjustments that I can take out onto the course rather than seeking to totally remodel my swing. He talks a language that I can understand.
I’m officially taken. I am giving ‘golfing monogamy’ a chance!
Golfers will tell you that the new clubs you tested and bought never work quite as well once they leave the shop and go into your bag!
Sometimes, it feels the same with golf lessons. I can hit the ball beautifully under his watchful eye, then lose my swing completely when I’m left to my own devices.
I guess it is all about persistence and practice, about repetitive training until the right way feels the natural way. I am more than willing to put in those range hours if I can see genuine progress. And even when I can’t!
I am interested to hear the experiences of fellow women golfers about lessons and practice. I don’t want any more recommendations, but I would love to get your feedback on how best to convert true commitment into true ball-striking.
At what point does the bit between the ears become overloaded with valuable information? What factors make for the best teacher/pupil relationships? Next time, I will visit the eternal riddle of how to take range swings out onto the course, but are we all agreed that this is a highly-technical game that requires specific tuition?
Or should we just copy Bubba instead?