Last Updated on Wednesday, 27 June 2012 21:05
Tuesday, 26 June 2012 10:05
by Bryan Outram
A few years ago Tiger Woods' swing coach Hank Haney took on the onerous task of trying to fix the famously flawed swing of ex-NBA star and current basketball analyst Charles Barkley.
The challenge Haney faced in attempting to correct or at the very least tone down the spasmodic 'flailings' of Barkley was akin to climbing Mount Everest with an elephant on your back.
Despite some obvious early success, ultimately the struggle to banish Charles' swing demons was deemed to have been in vain as Barkley appeared determined to swing like a man with an electric eel shoved down his shorts.
What did come from that endeavour was the concept of Haney working with other willing individuals who felt there was at least some hope of improvement in their pursuit of that holy grail known as the functional, repeatable golf swing.
It is with that ideal in mind that your agent has decided to embark on the ambitious undertaking of trying to realize improvement in a golf swing that has had the benefit of precisely one professional lesson - albeit from renowned local instructor Jack Westover of Vancouver some 40 years ago - to see if one really can make a silk purse out of a sow's ear (sorry Mr. Westover, probably should have taken more lessons).
Early on in my 'media career' it was indirectly pointed out to me via a very accomplished writer/journalist that 'I' needed to be less prominent in my writing and reporting.
That little piece of advice has stayed with me as the 'senior' editor of Inside Golf (emphasis more and more on the 'senior' these days), at least until now.
For the purposes of an experiment of this nature the most obvious candidate to be the test subject turned out to be the guy writing about it - me.
So, with apologies to a former Macleans magazine bureau chief, I will be reporting here on the progress made, assuming there is any, in improving my golf swing and hopefully overall game under the watchful eye of professional golf instructor John Aasen from 3D Golf Performance in Coquitlam, B.C. as he takes on the role of Hank Haney in this project.
And, no, I won't go so far as to put myself in the role of Charles Barkley, that would be entirely too self-deprecating. Perhaps we can use another of Haney's subjects - say...Ray Romano, if only for the comedy relief aspect.
So without further ado, let's see what kind of miracles John Aasen can work with a 54-year old golf magazine editor's swing. It should be pointed out that the subject of this experiment currently carries approximately a 10 handicap (we say 'approximately' due to insufficient number of scores posted over the past few years - further contributing to the need for knocking rust off of an already corroded golf game).
Lesson One - 'Get A Grip'
Before jumping headlong into this endeavour, a couple of thoughts need to be shared initially in order to understand the sudden urge to pursue this in the first place.
Being in the position of one who is connected with a golf magazine, it's surprising to see how many people automatically assume how much you know about not only the minutae of the game played by the pros and top amateurs alike, but also the proper mechanics of a good golf swing.
Now I'm the first one to say that I believe I understand what is supposed to take place in a good golf swing, I just don't do it. That probably sounds rather inane, but without going into even further explanation let's just say I've had my (however flawed) reasons.
With The Aid Of State-Of-The Art Electronic Monitoring Equipment, John Aasen Of 3D Golf Performance Is Able To Point Out And Discuss Areas Of A Golfer's Swing That Could Use Some Work
Over the years I have encountered at least some success on the golf course, but suffice to say the good results pretty much reflect my game itself, essentially echoing a Forrest Gump quote, "My golf game is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get."
After accepting the unknown quality...and quantity.... for so long, I finally decided to see if indeed a more predictable result could come about with some professional help.
I have long advised those who would ask that getting lessons from a qualified teaching pro, as well as being properly fitted for your clubs, was the ideal way to approach the game in order to give yourself the best chance of success.
Well, I'm finallly heeding my own advice and.... without jumping too far ahead.... as of this writing I have had precisely 3 visits with 3D Golf Performance
owner and teaching professional John Aasen - I am already thrilled with the early direction that things are headed.
The first step one takes when visiting 3D Golf Peformance is to get hooked up with the electronic monitoring devices (the Avatar outfit) and make a few normal swings so that they can be recorded and offer a starting point from which to work.
It's not quite the same as baseline testing for a concussion, but the principal is similar, only in this case we are looking for improvement from those original stats, not a return to them.
It is critical for those who are looking to make honest improvements that you just grip and swing the club as you would normally on the golf course and not try to 'fool' the equipment or the teacher.
The goal here is to take the 'bad' habits and change them for the better. In order to get the best results you must be honest with yourself.
I have always been cognizant of the fact that I have a 'weak' grip, in particular with my left hand.
But like anything else, we find a way to justify things if it makes us feel better.
Once John had a good look at my grip and the resulting takeaway, he had a very good place to start. And that place was right at the beginning...how you pick up the club to start with.
He determined rather quickly that my grip was the root of the other evils that were taking place within my swing. And because I was prepared to listen to whatever John had to say, the process has had immediate positive results - not that there isn't a long way to go.
Many have heard that a good golf swing revolves around the basics of grip, stance and ball position. These things are all integral parts of making a solid strike of the golf ball. But the first most important step is to hold the club properly.
Granted, there are small variations each golfer may go through as all of us are constructed differently, but there's no question that you give yourself a much better chance of doing things right if you start off with a good, proper grip on the golf club.
John placed the golf club at the base of the fingers on my left hand with the butt of the club under the heel pad of my palm.
Then, once I placed my right hand on top of the base knuckle of my left thumb, I looked down and saw the famous two 'vees' pointing between my chin and my right shoulder.
Of course, to me this felt like someone had taken my hands off and put them back on upside down, but then....gripping a golf club essentially the same way (incorrectly) for close to 40 years (I say close to 40 because I'm giving Jack Westover the credit for showing me a proper grip when I was 13 and of me actually using it for a year or two) will have that effect.
John then smiled at me and informed me that I was no longer allowed to pick up a golf club any other way again...ever.
John has a particular smile when instructing that, while engaging at the same time, also lets you know that following his advice would be the best way to have things work out correctly.
One would think that just gripping the golf club differently wouldn't be such a revelation and that you could move on quickly from there. And although I took several swings in order for John to point out some other off-kilter characteristics within my swing path, it generally came back to me having to re-examine how my hands were placed on the club.
Sadly, at least at this juncture, I foud I couldn't put my hands on the club as well as John could do it for me. However, I'm not so sure he'll be available to do that every time I attempt to pick up a club. For now, I have to get used to putting the club in my hands properly and just swinging it so that it begins to feel natural.
Obviously there's a lot more to taking a club from address position to a backswing and then finally making contact with a golf ball, but for right now I'm focussed on just holding on properly.
Next week, once I'm starting off with a good, solid, proper grip, ( giving me the basis for position number 1, the 'address') I'll be ready to learn the best place to put the club in order to create the proper swing path. That's known as going from '1 to 2'.
By Bryan Outram
Bryan Outram has been editor-in-chief for Inside Golf for the past eight years.
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