Note: Somewhere over the last year my golf game disappeared. It emerges every so often, but was clearly on life support. Drastic action was needed. Over the course of the summer, I’m heading to the terrific Golf Institute at Bond Head to rebuild my swing, with CPGA Master Professional Bruce McCarrol and my body with physiotherapist Kevin Honsberger. Each Friday I’ll chronicle my progress.
Drastic problems call for drastic solutions. Drastic hooks call for [photopress:bondheadinstitute_1.jpg,full,alignright]drastic cures.
That’s what I took away from my second week of working with McCarrol. I’ve got a problem. Thankfully the problem being addressed is what McCarrol characterized as a “good golfer’s issue.” That means I hook the ball, a situation partially caused by the fact I take the club away too far to the inside. This runs contrary to that of most golfers, who take the club to the outside and therefore cut across it, resulting in a slice.
I, on the other hand, take the club back like I’m trying the clip my back foot apparently. The result — a tendency to use my hands to attempt to square the clubhead on the downswing. All sorts of nasty things follow — balls that start left and go further left, hitting roads, cars and other things (none of which I’m admitting to, especially if your windshield was cracked while I was on the course). On the occasions when I hit it solid, it results in some bombs — 300 yard shots with my driver, for example. They just don’t happen all that often any more. On a wide course, I can manage my way around, but it isn’t a way to play golf — it is more about avoiding disaster.
Over the past week since I began working with McCarrol, I’ve been dilligently heading to the local range, working at the back off grass, often alone. That’s helpful because I don’t feel quite as silly going through by posture drills (that I described in the first week of this series) designed to give me a solid foundation and less sway in the legs. I don’t care who you are — at some point there’s a self-conscious nature about people; no one wants to feel ridiculous.
That said, without the sway in my legs and working on keeping grounded, I’ve made progress. Now the ball only hooks off the planet every fourth time — which is clear signs I’m moving forward. My driver has also started to come around, which is a nice feeling after playing in the long left rough 200 yards off the tee all of the time. I don’t care how good your short game is — you just can’t play satisfying golf that way.
The Good Doctor Goes to Work (Or Bring on the Pain, Sir)
I guess, for practical purposes, Kevin Honsberger isn’t a doctor. He’s [photopress:honsberger.jpg,full,alignright]a physiotherapist. But he quickly demonstrated through this technique (big on description, often dumbed down for those thick in the head like me) that I have issues that need to be dealt with if I’m going to get back to playing the golf I expect.
Thankfully, I’m pretty much like everyone, Honsberger explains. The difference is that I have higher expectations of my game.
“I would say 95% of what I do is re-establishing proper posture,” he said as we started.
Sure enough, I slouch at the shoulders. Shocking, of course, considering I work slumped over a desk eight hours a day pounding out copy for my ever responsive readership.
What comes next is intriguing: “I’m not that concerned with the pain, but the cause,” Kevin explains.
Creating positive change in your posture isn’t going to come with just one session with Kevin. It takes time — four to six weeks, Honsberger says — and some dedication (short workouts throughout the day designed to improve posture.) The benefit to the golf game? The ability to position your body correctly during the takeaway and downswing that will put you in the appropriate positions to make the correct contact with the golf ball. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Well it isn’t.
At the end of Honsberger’s session in which he’s illicited a fairly significant amount of pain, we take a look at this ink-stained wretch and examine my posture. Some improvement is already evident.
“You have to show people change or they won’t buy into it,” says Honsberger. “I think I have an obligation to people to show exactly what I’m doing.”
Honsberger leaves me with some exercises designed to improve my posture. I spend some time during the following week working on them.
The Swing Doctor
Ever hit balls balanced on foam blocks with rounded bottoms while [photopress:rt1.jpg,full,alignright] also trying to avoid hitting a child’s floatation toy on the backswing and follow through? No, you say? Really?
In my first session with McCarrol, my immediate thoughts were that his processes of instruction — having me hit off blocks with rounded bottoms, and on pads that rotated — were unorthodox. I suspect in respect to traditional golf instruction, McCarrol’s methods are a bit unusual. But they are designed with a purpose — to show your body and mind what it can accomplish.
It didn’t surprise me that during my evaluation with McCarrol, investigating my posture, for example, in my address position, we’d hit the blocks again. First there were some slight adjustments — and some praise. In a week in which I hit the range in the Beaches three times, I’d begun to lose some of the exaggerated lateral movement with my lower body. My posture and setup was also better, though it still required a tweak.
Lastly, I was told to get a couple of clubs regripped with over-sized grips as a result of my over-sized hands. This was something I’d never considered and which no one had ever addressed.
[photopress:rt2.jpg,full,alignleft]Then it was off to the world of children’s toys — in this case designed to correct my “good golfer’s problem” of taking the club too far to the inside. Thus the children’s floatation toys — in this case attached to the shafts of two old clubs. One (as you can see in the photos and on the video) is designed to force my to take the club back only slightly inside. The other is designed to get me to turn my body on my follow through.
Surprisingly, the body and the mind adapts to these circumstances quickly. But sensing too much movement in my legs, McCarrol upped the ante, putting my back on the blocks from week one. Within five minutes I was hitting 170 yard six irons balanced on the blocks while threading the club through his circus tricks. Oh, sure I catch the floation device on the follow through fairly frequently, and I became convinced that you had to have a role in Cirque Du Soleil to avoid it.
“But Robert, good golfers won’t hit it,” McCarrol calmly explained. I wasn’t entirely sure I bought that notion, so I tempestuously handed McCarrol the club and asked him to do it. Sure enough he made it through the obstacle course without any warm up. Impressive. I think he’s on to something here.
By the end of the lesson, we had accomplished three things to work on:
1 — Stabilized my lower body. Though the situation isn’t perfect, it is better.
2 — Determined I take the club too far inside, and provided me with drills designed to alleviate it.
3 — Improved my address position.
“You look a lot better,” McCarrol said, eyeing the video and comparing me to of all people, Tiger Woods. Now that’s just unfair. Let’s see — 30-year-old major winner in great shape versus chubby golf writer nearly six years his senior. Shockingly the tweaked address position wasn’t that far removed from Woods. I looked less like someone ready to give up the game, and more like someone prepared to hit some good 4-irons.
Games Played: St. Thomas G & CC (May 26) — Score 82
Magna GC (May 28 — nine holes — five pars, two bogeys, two “others” that I didn’t keep track of in a net better ball tournament. Two 300 yard drives.)
Time at the range: Four hours.