Blog: My journey to becoming a proper golfer
Back in the summer, my attempts at learning to play golf were going well. When I was taking part in the Up To Scratch programme at Leeds Golf Centre, I had two lessons a week. Plus, with the threat of the final challenge looming, I had plenty of motivation to practise as often as I could.
However, since then things have gone down hill quickly. I soon discovered that standing in a field trying to hit a ball isn’t as enjoyable when it’s dark and freezing in the evenings. Funny that…
So my promises to, ‘Definitely keep playing regularly’ and, ‘Not let all my hard work go to waste’ were pretty much forgotten by about by mid-October.
Like everyone else, I started January with several resolutions and ambitious ‘New Year, New Me’ ideas.
While my promises to cut out chocolate and go to the gym every morning were quickly abandoned, I remained determined to start having golf lessons again. My aim for 2017 is to be able to actually get round a golf course in an acceptable fashion.
So I got in touch with Ryan Rastall, the head pro at Howley Hall Golf Club in Leeds. He came highly recommended from several friends who assured me he was an excellent teacher who would be very nice and understanding about all the many, many things I struggle with in golf.
After my first lesson I can confirm they were totally correct. I really enjoyed my lesson, Ryan was very nice, and I came away feeling way more positive and believing that perhaps one day soon I will be able to play a full round of golf without completely embarrassing myself.
So here are the key things I took from my first lesson…
1) Indoor practice areas are amazing
It sounds stupid, but I never really considered the possibility that you could have an entire golf lesson inside. The thing that most puts me off going to the range in the winter is how cold it is – when I can’t feel my toes, my hands are freezing, and my nose is bright red I am not in a happy place emotionally.
But at Howley Hall, I could practice all my swings and putting inside, hooray! Using very clever Trackman technology I could also see how far, straight, and high my shots were, and also play back my swings in slow motion. All this while at a comfortable temperature and safe from any wind, rain, snow etc. Genius.
2) You can still hit it hard inside
At first I felt like I could only hit it gently. Hitting a ball at a screen that was only a few metres away from me didn’t really seem like a good idea. But after reassurances that I couldn’t break or damage anything/anyone I got used to it.
Another good thing is that even if you manage to just roll the ball a few metres, it still doesn’t look as pathetic as it does on the range. A bad shot on the range or on the course can be so demoralising when the people around you are driving it for miles. But in the studio the balls end up in pretty much the same place no matter how hard you hit, so you can choose to ignore the many terrible ones.
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3) I can actually remember things from my other lessons
Once Ryan reminded me of things that I should be doing, such as transferring my weight from my right foot to my left as I was swinging, a lot of it came back pretty quickly. That’s not to say my swing was amazing, but it wasn’t like I was starting again as a beginner.
In an hour we went over using a 7-iron, hybrid, driver and finally putting. Putting seems even harder on an fake green. But it did go in once after bouncing off the wall behind the hole, which I think still counts…
4) Using a driver is fun
Drivers seem pretty scary. I’d generally rather stick to using my trusty 7-iron. But actually, when you get the hang of them they are pretty great.
Apparently I hit the ball 150 yards one time, which for me sounds pretty impressive!
With proper instruction on how I should adapt to how crazy long it is, and how big the head is, I can now see why the driver is the fun club to use.
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5) Most importantly, having a private lesson isn’t scary at all
I tend to worry unnecessarily about the smallest things, and the thought of playing golf in any situation tends to panic me.
Having a private golf lesson gave me extra cause to fret as all my other lessons had been group ones. The thought of having all the pressure and attention on me was a bit terrifying and I wasn’t sure what to expect.
But, once I got started, it was really enjoyable. If anything it was better than a group lesson because there was no waiting around for my turn. We went straight into it and got loads covered.
Having Ryan there to tell me what I was doing wrong and what I was actually doing right was such a big help. It’s much better than getting through half a basket of balls by yourself without having any idea of why things are going so wrong.
Now I just need to get myself to the range to practise in time for next week!