S.T. showed up for his second lesson this morning. We started with the usual recap of his practice and playing since his first lesson two weeks ago. He was well pleased with his progress, telling me that his iron play was much better. He was hitting all his irons more solid and straighter with shallower divots and, without a doubt, longer. His fairway woods, even his driver, were better in terms of more solid and straight, but he felt the distance was still around the same as before on good hits. However, he was confident he would see improvements there soon. His best result: pain-free neck, shoulders and back which, he pointed out, was the best result of all.
With the recap complete, ST handed me his first D & P sheet (diagnosis and prescription) and he began warming up as I started my evaluation and diagnosis of his setup and swing, filling out my evaluation form. I started checking out the setup from face on, checking out his grip, stance width, feet and knee position, ball position and his head, eyes and nose position, and his arm extension. I did this in around five swings and then walked behind him to check out his balance and, most importantly, his alignment which was real good parallel left. At his last lesson he was aiming close to the right field bleachers and coming over the top big time.
I was giving him a lot of PG (pretty good) and G (good) grades. His turn was limited, with the arms rotating the club away toe up into the catcher¢s mitt, and he had good lift with the left arm over the toe line at the top of his ¾ backswing, with the club around 11:00 o¢clock. His plane and path were good, divots shallow and his follow through and finish were excellent, with his arms folding up over his left shoulder as compared to his first lesson where he was stopping abruptly short and around.
S.T. was enjoying the moment of good swinging and ball striking, just rolling one ball over and hitting them one after another as I looked and wrote and walked around. Then all of a sudden, as I was writing, I heard a chunky divot and looked up and saw an around and low finish. Then on the next swing I saw an over rotation and flat and inside backswing. Next was a big time out and across chop downswing and deep divot, with another deep and around and flat finish. I stepped back and watched him roll two more balls over, and take his stance without barely moving his feet from the last hit. He gripped it and swing — another awful swing. I could see the problem standing in front of him face on.
His perfect aim was now way right. To confirm it, I quietly walked behind him to check the down the line view. S.T. was back aiming to right field and the only way back to the aiming line was the big outside to in over the top downswing which produced deep chunky divots and big slices or low pulls. The worse he hit it, the more he just rolled a ball over from his last stance position, addressed it and swung. He had completely abandoned his setup routine that was a big aid in getting aligned parallel left and into good posture. He was basically beating balls and beating himself up and I am sure praying that I would have the cure to help him.
I asked him to setup. When he was ready, I asked him to lay his club down across his toe line and come back near me and check out his alignment. He was shocked because I had earlier complimented him as it was good in the beginning of the lesson. So what happened to S.T.? He got on a roll and started getting careless and got out of his setup routine. He not once for over a dozen shots, and most of them
with bad alignment and an out-to-in swing and chunky divots with weak block slices, he never walked away and re-grouped. He never came back behind the ball to get his intermediate spot, walk in, take a practice swing to find his tempo and swing before hitting another shot. I call this practicing swinging concentrating on your setup and swing fundamentals to find and feel a good swing ¢earning your next ball.¢ He was doing none of that and reaping the poor pre-swing routine results of poor shots.
I reminded S.T. of his pre-swing and swing thoughts and to work his routine, especially with attention to his alignment. He got back to solid basics, walked in correctly and made a good swing, just like the ones in the beginning, and hit a really good shot. He was back and paying attention to the details of good basic fundamentals. That was all that was needed. He had the good routine and good swing but only when his setup was correct. The #1 basic PPGS principle — ¢The Setup Determines the Motion¢ — was proven again.
The moral for S.T. and for all golfers is a very simple one. When your swing starts going south, going into rapid fire mode beating balls and getting blisters is not the answer. Trying one swing thought then other and another trying to figure out the problem is only creating confusion and destroying confidence. Back off and slow down. Get back to the basics and fundamentals of doing a good setup routine and a swing thought to make a good swing. Think only positives, and work on your routine and swing thought. And, after every shot walk out to behind the ball and start the routine all over, ball after ball. Beating balls is beating yourself up. Working your routine and hitting good shots is pumping yourself up.
Remember, ¢Perfect practice is what makes perfect¢ — on the range and then to the course.