As a new golfer I wanted to get better fast and decided that, since I love learning in an educational environment, I would need some lessons. I started to research golf schools and over the Easter weekend I attended a golf school in Florida. Golf Made Simple is a 3 day intensive golf programme. You start the day at 9 am with six hours of instruction and practice and a break for lunch. Then around 3 pm you head out with the pro (one per three or four golfers) and play 9 holes of supervised golf. After that you can play another 9 holes if you like.
This was my birthday gift from my husband who decided he liked the sounds of the school and so he came along too. It was actually a pretty good deal, around $1750 US for each of us, and that included 4 nights in the on-site Mariott hotel (normally 3 nights but we added an extra one), 18 hours of instruction, 3 games of golf including 9 holes each day on the course with the pro (who just works with the golfers but doesn’t play himself), golf cart and lunch for 3 days.
So we arrived on day one and there were five men, all about 55-65 years old and all with a handicap of about 17-22. Then there was me, a new golfer, female with a handicap in the 43 range. They have a maximum size class of 4 golfers for every pro and because there were 6 of us and 2 pros they combined our group together. One pro, Jim, took the lead in instructing us on drills and the other one, Bert, often demonstrated. Now Bert is a left-handed golfer but in almost every case except the long drive he demonstrated the skill right-handed because we all golfed right. Bert was spot on with his alternate side and that in itself is pretty impressive.
Golf Made Simple has a set formula on how they teach the course, starting out with a lot of work with a wedge to get our swing nice and smooth and consistent. Instruction is mostly on the driving range but also some on the putting green and bunker. The focus is on stroke improvement and game plan. Jim and Bert watched all of us go through the practice exercises and gave us continual feedback.
They say that they don’t try to change your swing like so many golf schools do but they work with you to improve your game and that was the deciding factor for my husband, a golfer of more than fifty years, to take the course. You don’t have to get worse to get better. They gave us some great drills and specific things to practice at home and in the driving range before each game. I am so pumped to get out on the course here in Toronto next month.
So what did I learn? The short answer is lots!
After the first half hour Jim had me adjust my grip, wrapping my fingers around the shaft and tucking my baby finger on my right hand into my left forefinger for a stronger connection to the club. At the end of three days I was totally comfortable with the new grip. Since taking up golf last year I’ve been experiencing lots of hand pain making it necessary to increase my wedding ring a full size up and requiring multiple acupuncture and physio treatments in my right thumb I’m hoping this makes a big difference.
Because I’m a runner my body tends to move forward and I have limited side to side rotation. I do personal pilates training twice a week to work on flexibility and that does help. Jim and Bert helped me learn how far I can actually rotate in the back swing and when I am able to perform this move my shots go longer and straighter. I have a tendency to not put my weight on my back foot during my back swing and so they reminded me regularly to shift my weight from right to left. Each golfer had different things to work on and the two pros zeroed in on what specifics each of us needed to improve our own game.
I learned a lot about chipping including front foot weight and position and length of back swing for different yardages around the green. The first couple of hours on the first day was entirely chipping drills but they emphasized the use of the same swing movement for all clubs, starting with the sand wedge right up to the driver.
Putting drills included uphill vs downhill, closed eyes putting into a fixed box and how to read the greens. Bunkers were covered on the last day and foot position, type of sand, distance were all explained and practiced so that I can now execute out of the bunker onto the green.
Each day we got individual help with our own game in the 9 holes on the course with the pro. This allowed us to actually try out our new skills in the golf course environment. The next day they would emphasize what specifically we needed to focus on while performing the new exercises.
It was exciting, exhausting and so informative. I hope to improve a lot this year with all of the knowledge, practice and so much more confidence in my game.