Madeleine Winnett: The pursuit of feelings
I was torn between starting my column with the lyrics, ‘Feelings, nothing more than feelings…’, which would really show my age, or the slightly later ‘What a feeling…’, which would age me marginally less. Either way, the sentiments are the same.
Ever since I talked about my skiing trip last month where I finally skied without any conscious instructions to my legs, and wanted to pursue the same feeling with my golf, the concept of feelings seems to have followed me non-stop.
Once would be coincidence, twice would give me pause for thought, but three times? Clearly, I must be onto something here.
I used to read Lady Golfer long before I started writing for the magazine, and I still enjoy doing so, even practising some of the advice.
As I have the flexibility of a board, I thought the ‘Dru Yoga for Golfers’ stretches might be quite useful to help loosen up my swing. However, I hadn’t foreseen an unexpected bonus.
As I embarked on the Standing Twist, which was supposed to “benefit the rotation of the spine and improve disassociation of the upper and lower body”, I suddenly became aware of something I had heard about for years, but had clearly never ‘got’ before.
With the instructions to rotate to the right, moving from the hips up and not by leading with the shoulders, I finally experienced what the feeling of that all important coil on the backswing was all about.
I have obviously spent years turning in one solid block, with my shoulders and hips going together. What a difference it makes to rotate properly!
I couldn’t wait to transfer this feeling to the golf course, and it worked like magic. Gone are the instructions to tell myself about take away and hand positions, weight transfers and swing paths.
Now, I just have to feel that I am winding myself up as far as I can go, and then letting rip as I unwind.
Before I had got over this revelation, The Telegraph revealed some ski fitness tips to improve proprioception (your body’s positional sense) which involve standing on one leg whilst cleaning your teeth.
So armed with a stripey tube in one hand and a brush at the ready in the other, I launched myself into my task. I always thought my balance was pretty good, but it’s a completely different ball game trying to stay stock still whilst focussing on a fixed point standing on one leg, than when multi-tasking with a toothbrush.
I was more akin to a demented air craft marshall waving his arms around than a serene statue subtly detecting minute muscle movements as I fought to maintain some semblance of balance.
Then, just as my preoccupation with feelings was starting to fade slightly, a new club arrived on my doorstep – a GForce G-Wedge – courtesy of one of my friends. I could scarcely believe my eyes as I read the accompanying leaflet: “This allows you to feel the weight of the clubhead and loading of the shaft in the backswing helping you feel the perfect transition giving you exceptional consistency and feel.” There are an awful lot of ‘feel’s in that sentence, so this had to be right up my street!
Apparently, renowned golf coach Pete Cowan is a huge fan of the G Force swing trainers (there’s a 7 iron and a putter as well as the wedge) which all work under the principle that there is an easier way for you to learn and master the golf swing.
Graeme Storm, Danny Willett, Simon Dyson and Padraig Harrington are all keen advocates of the clubs, which help to develop rhythm, timing, tempo and swing coordination thanks to the incredibly flexible shaft.
I started by chipping, and even with such a relatively short swing, I could immediately feel the lag and could begin to improve my notoriously poor rhythm.
With many gadgets that aren’t actual golf clubs, no matter how good they are, they don’t transfer directly back to your swing simply because they aren’t the same. As this is a genuine 54 degree wedge (or 7 iron) that you hit proper shots with, the feedback is immediate – and the one thing coaches cannot give you is a sense of feel. This does.
So, with my cutting edge Dru Yoga turn on the backswing, my new acutely developed sense of balance, and an incredible sense of sequencing from chipping, all the way up, that just leaves me with one choice this summer – should I be singing ‘More than a feeling’ as I stride down the fairways, or ‘Peaceful Easy Feeling’?