GETTING through a difficult morning at Lilley Brook golf course takes a certain amount of self-belief. Belief that, although the first five swings were useless, the next five will be spot on.
Belief that, although you feel as if you have gone straight back to square one, all you are missing is “the feel” of the swing. Simply focus on the sequence, and the ball will soar.
Sporting excellence is, after all, a mind-set. It was once said the greatest sporting achievements are made when the mind is as still as a glass lake.
But self-belief can only take you so far and I have a confession to make. I did not have time to practise before my fourth lesson. As a result, the sequence of the swing needed honing once again and this took some time to achieve.
When I am standing above a ball, many things go through my head.
Keep the radius of the swing the same throughout, drive back from the left shoulder keeping the arms straight, sit down into your backside, make sure your chest is tall, move your body towards the target before the arms, lean forward at the finish, do not scoop the ball… and so on.
I am yet able to achieve the flow that comes with a still mind – and years of practice.
And practice does not mean whacking balls at a driving range. Practice is not about hitting the ball.
It’s about making the swing such an innate and organic movement, you no longer have to think about it.
Repeating those movements again and again until they become as ordinary and everyday as walking.
My coach, professional Simon Harrison, emphasised how far I had come in just three lessons, but reiterated how important practising was, even if just for five minutes a day swinging through a tee in the ground.
In the first few whacks at the ball in lesson four, I struggled with the finish of the swing. I curved my spine, pointed my club to the sky and was sitting back on my right foot.
As a result, I thinned or topped the ball.
Simon told me about ‘the arrow theory’.
The chest should point forward along the target line, rather than up towards the sky. Holding this position for several seconds and thinking about the mechanics involved in finishing a swing like this meant that the last few hits were some of my best.
And to my credit, the ball mostly flies straight – one bad habit I don’t have to work too hard at correcting.
But how do you measure progress in a golf lesson? Can we measure it by the ratio of good to poor shots? Can we measure it by how finely tuned one part of the swing sequence is?
Can we measure it by how far and straight the ball flies?
It is entirely subjective, and a perfectionist like yours truly struggles to come away satisfied.
That is part of the enticing charm of golf. That’s what keeps you coming back for more, time and time again, hoping that the next swing will be your best.