TAKE A LESSON ! Improve your game !

We don’t often think about taking a golf lesson. After all, we all have a limited time to play with friends and family so we do not take the “extra time” necessary to improve our game. As I see it, the two things I can do to improve my game are: #1. spend time at the driving practice range, (use every single club in the bag; full swing, 3/4 swing, and 1/2 swing) —– and #2. take a lesson.

Over the last two weekends, our club, the Red Hook Golf Club, ran its annual Club Championship tournaments for men and women. I thought I was ready to play my usual game — in love with my long game and hating my short game. My state of mind is, anytime I can take a full swing at the green, I am happy. Anytime I need to cut back – to chip or half-pitch – I lose all confidence and hope for the best. Most often the best is not good. Then I recover with some decent putting. Not a great strategy for winning a match.

In a moment of inspiration or desperation, I decided to take a lesson. I hired Doug Wiltsie, our Club Pro, to give me a half hour lesson on chipping. Plain and simple. Fix this mess of mine. He quickly diagnosed my problems — decelerating on the downstroke (out of fear of messing up the shot) and often using the incorrect club. I asked him to take apart the proper swing, to tell me what the club should be doing and what that accomplishes with the ball. We went over setup, backswing, make contact, swing through. Then he asked me to follow the flight of the ball and he described it as a hop, skip, and run out. Because of his explanation I could see when I was executing the stroke properly simply by observing the flight of the ball. I do not use the traditional stance for chipping but Doug did not try to change my stance. I liked that about the lesson. He only addressed what needed to be addressed and did not try to make me into a textbook case of the “perfect swing.”

We practiced for a while from short grass, long grass, close up, and far away. We shot to the pins near the edge of the green and the pins much farther away. In my mind I had it!

As we started to end our half hour lesson, Doug asked if I had anything else on my mind. Yes, I admitted. I need help getting the draw back into my game. I love to shape the shot to the left. As Doug set me up for the shot, we I found I could relate the stroke to my former tennis game. He gave me three mental checkpoints and we practiced a couple of shots. I was beginning to see results.

Fast forward to the tournament three days later. I can honestly say I “won” the tournament because I went into the games without fear. I no longer cared where my shots landed on the green or near because I was not afraid of the “chip” to follow. My chips worked beautifully. I even chipped in a couple of times. The draws worked and I took advantage of them whenever I needed them to work for me.

What is the lesson here? The lesson from Doug was worth every penny and the time I dedicated to “fixing” my game. I payed for an hour lesson and came away with two new skills that I could use in my game — and it helped me win the matches to boot.

TAKE A LESSON ! Improve your game !!