You may have heard the saying, “If you want to play golf, don’t get into the golf business.” I would add “or have a bunch of kids.” I have four daughters so my golf time is limited. I love to play, but I have to pore over several school and dance calendars to find a six-hour window to hit the links. Then, I have to negotiate with my wife to get the green light. Why am I sharing this? Because like many of you, I do not have a lot of time to go hit balls and work on my game. Even if I did, I would probably be practicing the wrong things.
When the last holidays came around, I gathered up my gift cards and scoured Amazon for the right backyard net and mat. I even bought a launch monitor to tell me how far I was hitting each club and one of those elastic bands to keep my arms together during the swing. The goods arrived and I started swinging.
The family didn’t particularly care for the new addition to the backyard. They thought the net looked ugly and thought I looked ridiculous wearing a glove and soft spikes to hit off a mat. ‘Dad you look like those weird people who bring their own clubs to Top Golf.’ I didn’t care. I was pumped.
I’d go out between sales calls and hit a few. Back to the home office for more calls. Then to the backyard to swing some more. I was convinced I’d build muscle memory and be a scratch in no time.
This is probably a good time to tell you about my game. I play about eight times per year. I usually land in the low 90s. Even though I don’t play often, I get mad when I don’t play well. It really makes no sense. But I’ve tried to convince myself that I shouldn’t get upset because I don’t play much and up until now, I haven’t practiced.
On the advice of a buddy, I downloaded the V1 Golf app. He told me that I might benefit from recording my swing and watching it back from different angles. I’ve always been an analytical person, so I figured I’d be able to identify my swing flaws by seeing them. I recorded some swings over the next few weeks and watched them back in slow motion. Then I used the app to compare my swing side-by-side against the best players in the world from the V1 video catalog.
I was hitting a lot into the net and I could feel my swing getting better because I was making better contact. This went on for a few days. And, then, golf happened. My swing took a turn for the worse. I shanked one over the neighbor’s fence. Then I hit it INTO the fence. It was loud. I scared their dog pretty good. I went back to the app to try to figure it out. No such luck. I didn’t look exactly like Louis Oosthuizen, but my swing still looked pretty good. Back outside. Same result. I was freaking out about my recent case of the shanks. I expressed this to my family over dinner. They didn’t care and made it clear that they didn’t want to know if I was hitting them pure or 45 degrees to the right.
Monday, May 17th. First round in three-plus months. Also, the first round since the mat acquisition (and the shanks). Nervously, I arrived at the beautiful Fazio Canyons Course at Omni Barton Creek Resort. Was up half the night, petrified that my new swing ailments would join me at the course. Fortunately, I had a good range session (and a cocktail). Crisis averted. I started with a par and ended with a par, sandwiched between several laughs and a 90-minute rain delay. All in all, it was a fun day. I shot 93. More importantly, I won $28 off my buddies.
When I got home I started thinking about my round and decided I was ready to up my game. Once feature of the V1 app is the ability to connect with PGA instructors for a video lesson. I scanned the list of pros and immediately saw the name Buck Mayers. He gave me a few lessons years ago at Grey Rock Golf Club in Austin. Now he’s the director of instruction at the luxe private Escondido Golf and Lake Club in Horseshoe Bay. He’s really good and has worked with mini-tour players, top college golfers, and thousands of amateurs across his distinguished career. But could he get me on track? I recorded a couple of ‘face-on’ swings and then some ‘down the line.’ I uploaded them and sent them to Buck.
The next day, I got some feedback. He started out gently and reassuringly enough.
Initially, I’d say your balance points are pretty solid. You do a pretty good job of getting the club back into a good path. You just need more room to swing it.
Then, he instantly pinpointed some basic set-up issues that have been creating a trigger effect that seems to be at the root of my swing’s inconsistency. The good news, they’re fairly easy to adjust to and fix.
Your right-hand grip is a little too much in your palm. I like to see it more in your fingers. Your ball position is at least two balls too-far-back in your stance. You’re right-handed, so I’d like to see the ball in your stance in a straight vertical line down from your left ear. The ball too far back is causing you to sway linearly, rather than turn, in your backswing then slide into the ball with your body hanging too far back. All you can do from there is use your hands to flip and drag the club while pulling the elbow inward. You’re going to miss a lot to the right or overcompensate with the hands and hook it.
Harsh, but he’s right. There’s a big difference between me analyzing my swing and a professional instructor analyzing my swing. He diagnosed me immediately. I’m getting in my own way on the downswing and I’ve been relying too much on quick hand action to compensate. Buck puts up a video of Masters champion Trevor Immelman’s set-up and swing and illustrates what moving the ball forward in my stance can do. Immelman doesn’t have to sway to get behind the ball. He’s already there and has room to swing freely back to the ball.
Buck then points out another reason why I need to create more space to swing by making a better hip and shoulder turn.
On your backswing, you get up on your toes and move your body upward and that moves you closer to the ball which gives you less room to swing. Your hips get under you, your arms get stuck behind your body so you have to shift back linearly and do your flip-drag move to make contact. Better grip and ball position is going to give your more room to make a good swing.
He shows me how Adam Scott opens up his hips, pelvis and core without swaying back or lifting up. By turning properly, Scott keeps his body inside the narrow phonebooth shape Buck draws over the video. In the side-by-side, I see my head pop out from the top of the box then poke out the side on my cramped follow through while Scott freely unloads on a perfectly-balanced in-to-in iron swing with the shaft fully extended. Seeing this on video crystalizes the picture for me. I need to create more space to swing on a better path with more power and less hand flipping to fix other faults. On my backswing, I’m thinking about moving more around and back vs. up and forward to give me more space to shallow out the club and swing with pure contact and good direction.
Finally, a prescription for practicing. I know what I should work on.
So, without leaving the house, I got a professional lesson and my swing compared to two Masters winners. With the changes Buck sent me through the V1 system, I can practice, rewind and re-watch his voice-over lessons and then send him videos as I work on his suggestions.
Pounding balls in the backyard was fun. Seeing an improvement in my swing is a game changer. Obviously, Buck can’t alter my family schedule, but he can dial in my irons and create a more enjoyable round the next time I find a window to go play an actual course.
If you want to step up your game, I would definitely recommend trying the V1 app. What do you have to lose, except more strokes?
By Marc Hoenig