Limerick Leader golf columnist Ivan Morris
ALL things considered I had a good golfing year; better than could be expected for a fossil.
Consequently, going for series of 'lessons' was far from my mind until I heard Colin Montgomerie being interviewed following his latest win on the Champions Tour in the USA: “It's good to be back in the winner's circle. Now, is the perfect time for me to go for a lesson.
“I only take lessons when I am playing my best, so what I need to know to keep playing at my best is clarified and articulated for me” is a paraphrase of what I heard Monty say.
It struck a chord. When I have my odd 'good spells' they never last long and while I usually know the reasons why my game is 'off', it is never quite so clear to me the reasons why my game might be 'on' and how to keep it that way.
Without the input of an expert coach, few golfers ever reach their full potential once, let alone maintain it. It's foolish to ignore 'modern science' and rely on fly-by-night hunches that come and go.
I made ‘enquiries’ who might have Trackman technology closer to Limerick than the academy at Lahinch? Trackman has made coaching more efficient. Its data is indisputable.
The name Eanna Jones was mentioned so I contacted him (086-164 3225). After we met for a chat in his superbly kitted out and warm indoor academy at Nenagh Golf Club, he agreed to take me on as one of his clients during the winter months ahead.
I had an ulterior motive. I was also curious to see the scientific data Trackman would fire out when its electronic eye watched me hitting balls with my 1920s hickory clubs.
When Eanna admitted to being intrigued by the prospect of hitting balls with my hickory sticks too and said that: “It would be a novelty to coach somebody who wasn't looking for a quick fix to solve his problems,” I knew I had found somebody with a passion for golf that matched my own.
“Lack of knowledge not any deficiency in latent ability prevents golfers from improving. That’s where a good coach comes into the picture because improving by a couple of shots is not hard for most golfers.
“People want to enjoy golf as a hobby but they get used to playing badly. The main reason is they don't know how or why the golf ball does what it does.
To change one must understand the causes for different ball flights. A good coach explains, challenges and guides. Too many instructors want to take all of the credit for their student's improvement when all he, or she, did is help the player to find his own way. The player does the work!
“Once one knows what one should be doing during the swing, one is more than halfway to success.” Eanna told me. I wouldn't disagree.
He went on to say: “There are always things to figure out in golf, but too many golf lessons are SOS calls to help deal with long term neglect. Sometimes, my response is tongue in cheek: if I could sort out an issue in one session, I would charge €500 per hour.
“I had one gentleman recently who said he had been struggling with a slice for 15 years. Between buying new drivers (to cure the slice) and going to driving ranges, I calculated he had spent well over two thousand euro before seeking my help.
“Is that foolish male ego or plain stubbornness? In other countries, taking golf lessons is the norm; not so in Ireland. People do want to improve but dislike the disruption of change.”
The golf swing is two turns and a swish in the middle. For years, I perceived ‘improper turning’ as my personal Achilles heel. When I have asked coaches in the past how I should turn there could be a dozen answers and, of course, nobody could ever tell me by how much. Eanna was different.
He just said: “A video will tell you pretty quick! If you can see yourself, you will figure it out. Any way will do, as long as it is YOUR way and you own it. When Ben Hogan said: “the secret is in the dirt,” ownership was what he was referring to.
Golfers looking for a light bulb moment are wasting my time. Improving at golf doesn't happen in a flash of inspiration. The internet is full of ‘how-to’ information, but we'd all be better off beating balls and paying close attention to how they fly and where they end up.
“Understanding where the club face is pointing, and swing path tells us most of what we need to know.”
This was all music to my ears and the sort of common sense and coaching philosophy I wanted to hear. I want my coach to be a second pair eyes. One cannot see oneself unless one is being filmed. Interesting days ahead, that's for sure!
Words of the Wise
Sadly, there are many lifelong golfers who have never 'broken 100' but by correctly implementing no more than a handful of fundamentals anybody can play golf in the 'respectable 90s' consistently.
If high-handicappers enrolled for a series of lessons and at least attempted to master the basics of a proper grip, stance, posture and how to aim - respectable scores could be theirs provided they also possess the three 'ps' - perseverance, persistence and patience.