Golfers, even beginners, know what I’m talking about.
You step up to the tee, especially the tee nearest to the clubhouse patio where everyone is watching. You give a few practice swings and they are smooth as silk. Then you step up to the ball – and shank it.
This is where Hall Thomlinson, a CPGA professional instructor, comes in.
Thomlinson is going to try and take that, albeit infrequent, nice practice swing and insert it into my actual game so that it reflects on my scorecard. So I accepted his offer to join his Ultimate Golf lessons, taking place in the Jackson gymnasium before the links are even free of snow.
“Most golfers are slightly paralyzed by the presence of the golf ball,” explains Thomlinson.
“The ball-bound golfer swings to that ball, not through it. Ultimate Golf eliminates this problem, by eliminating the ball. In this way, the student has only one thought in mind – the swing.”
Indeed there isn’t a ball in sight at class. The group of us golfers, who range widely in size, shape and ability, content ourselves with sections of carpet to protect the floor from errant swings.
Thomlinson points out that very few golfers swing the same at the tee as they do in practice. He also notes that an effective swing takes 1.3 seconds to execute – too fast for the body to do a lot of planning.
“The golf swing is not a thought-out process, it is a muscle reaction,” he says.
Therefore, golfers rely on muscle conditioning when they swing. Condition the muscles for an effective swing and that becomes the body’s habit. Practise a bad swing (and there are a whole host of ways a swing can go wrong) and that’s the swing you will see on the course, especially when under pressure.
So after a quick lesson on gripping the club, Thomlinson starts, not on our swing, but on our finish. By aiming for the perfect finish first, he rationalizes, you must have had a pretty decent swing to get there.
So I attempt to channel my inner Ben Hogan, and stand posed, club raised, hips square and my mind’s eye seeing my ball sailing down lush fairways to land firmly on the green.
One of Thomlinson’s students who is returning for the second year, mentioned he took five strokes off his handicap after last year’s classes. I’m not enough of a golfer to have a handicap, but I’m sure hoping between these classes and my five-minutes of daily practice, I can avoid humiliation at the tee box.