IN THE first of a new wscountytimes.co.uk series, sports editor Allan Norbury puts himself in the hands of golf pro Mark Haines in a bid to reach that elusive single figure handicap.
We’ll be bringing you video analysis of Allan’s swing and his progress after sessions with Mark at the Mike Yorke Golf Academy at Horsham Golf and Fitness - as well as Allan’s diary in print in the West Sussex County Times.
I HAVE been playing golf for something approaching 20 years, but in that time I am yet to break 80.
Despite being told I have a good eye, rhythmical swing and a putting stroke to die for, inconsistency has dogged me all the way from my early years on the Goffs Park pitch and putt in Crawley, through to 36 hole club championships at Tilgate Forest.
I have had lessons, but only in fits and starts. So when PGA professional Mark Haines at Horsham Golf and Fitness offered me the chance to write a diary of lessons with him, I almost bit his hand off.
My stock bad shots are a nasty slice (mostly off the tee) or a pull high and left. Strangely, the moment I stepped on to the mat at the Horsham Golf and Fitness driving range I started hitting the dreaded shank.
Mark pretty much had a blank canvas to work with.
After initially watching me knock a couple of pretty solid irons down the range - interspersed with the aforementioned shanks - Mark filmed a couple of swings from head on and behind me.
Watching yourself swing a golf club is a real eye opener, and it soon became pretty obvious I was stood too upright and my shoulders were wide open at address. It meant I had to perform a huge shoulder turn, which with my set up resulted in a flat, narrow swing around my body which invites poor ball striking.
A few tweaks later, Mark isn’t afraid to push your body into the right position, and I was square on with a more dynamic set up - eyes over the ball. It felt odd and pretty uncomfortable. After all, I had been used to a completely different set up for years. But I hit a few decent shots and could tell it was worth persevering.
In session one we also worked on my pitching, from inside 100 yards you should be pretty confident of getting it close, and working to a ‘clock face’ idea (nine o’clock for a 60 yard shot, 11 o’clock for a 90 yard shot and so on) that particular issue was ironed out pretty quick.
It’s all very well hitting solid shots during lessons, but putting it into practice on the course is an entirely different matter. So, moving on to lesson two and three, further inspection on the video camera revealed I was still ‘laid off’ at the top of my backswing - especially with longer irons, and that just invited problems. Mark has got me moving my hands rather than shoulders at the start of my takeaway with a set up promoting a more upright swing - while slowing everything down.
Again, I hit it great on the range, but when I get out on the course I have so many swing thoughts, and it only takes one bad shot to shake my confidence.
A particularly inconsistent round at the weekend means Mark may need to iron out those creases in my takeaway once more before we can get on to the more advanced stuff.