Better to be lucky than good!

I've not yet had one of those days on the golf course when everything seems to go right, but yesterday I did play the front nine in a fashion that made it seem like I really knew what I was doing. It all fell apart on the back nine, but that's another story altogether. Anyway, on the front nine I started off slowly, but not badly , for me, bogeying the first 3 holes. On the fourth hole, a short par 4, I hit an eight iron about 4 feet from the pin and sunk the birdie putt. On #8, a 168 yard par three, my four iron landed about 12 feet short on a line straight at the pin and I was able to roll in another birdie putt. Those two birdies couple with two more pars and overall fairly decent play got me to the turn at 40.

The shot that sticks out in my mind, however, was not a particularly good one. I was lying two, about 120 yards out on the 457 yard par 5 seventh hole, after pushing my drive into a bunker and then hitting a decent five iron back into the fairway. In other words I was right where I wanted to be. I grabbed my nine iron and walked confidently up to the ball. I swung and hit an ugly, fat shot left of the green which was going to land about 25 yards short. However, the ball caught the edge of the cart path and bounced crazily toward the pin, ending up about seven feet right of the hole. In one of my normal rounds, the ball would have bounded left, or maybe even right back toward me, but on this day, my positive energy seemed to have charged my game and even my bad shots turned out good. It's a feeling I'm not used to!

I just missed the birdie putt, which was OK with me, since I figured I didn't really deserve a birdie after that shot anyway.

On the back nine, my karma totally reversed itself as I pressed a little harder, realizing that my lifelong goal of breaking 80 was with possible reach. Nothing went right, from chunked chip shots, to shanked tee shots, to a greens maintenance guy riding noisily up to the edge a the green just as I was about to chip on and parking there staring at me as I muffed the shot. (That's no excuse, but annoying none-the-less)

So, at the end of the day, my score was a lot worse than some days, and a lot better than others, but basically average. I did experience for nine holes that rare feeling of invincibility, where even my bad shots turned out good and where my luck ran to the positive side. I'm still waiting for the day when I can ride that wave for 18 holes.

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Never had a lesson! (until now)

I've been hacking away at this great game since I was about 14 years old, and I've never had a lesson! Well, that's not entirely true: my dad took my sister and I to a kid's golf clinic when I was 14 and that was my introduction to the game. Through the years I've never been more than an average golfer and never took my game too seriously. It was a fun pastime and a reason to drink beer, and that was about it. Until about 4 years ago, that is, until, in my late forties, I kind of thought "Why not me?". Why couldn't I be more than an average golfer? Why couldn't I regularly break 100? Why couldn't I break 90? Why couldn't I eventually break 80????

Well, over that last few years I was able to regularly break 100 and have broken 90 several times, dropping down to 84 in one round in June of 2008. My improvement, however, seemed to level off and even reverse as of late, which is why I'd been thinking more and more about an idea that had been luring in the back of my mind lately; Why not go for a lesson with a PGA teaching pro?

I've been playing regularly at a course near my house, Riviera Country Club in Holly Hill, Florida, and my son has been going for Saturday morning clinics with the local pro, Donnie Klem. I'd even spoken briefly with Donnie on a couple of occasions about the possibility of actually scheduling a lesson.

Then, last week, I did it! I mentioned to Donnie once again that I would like to get a lesson sometime, an he said, "How about Tuesday at 11am?" "OK", I said, "sounds good to me."

I showed up at the appointed time not knowing what to expect, but with an idea of what I felt like I needed to work on. I had been getting off the tee OK lately, and my short game was passable. What was killing me was the inconsistency of my second shots. Time after time it seemed like a good drive would be followed by a fat iron shot out of the fairway, or a poorly struck approach shot falling short of the green. I have also noticed that the length of my iron shots was significantly shorter than many of the guys I was playing with. My distance off the tee was acceptable, but my irons were falling short.

I told Donnie, the pro all of this and he went to work on my swing. It turns out that my self-taught, thirty five-year-old swing was based on a swaying of the hips instead of a turning of the shoulders and my grip was on the strong side, with a hint of tension thrown in. This was producing high, floating iron shots that tended to drift to the right, costing me distance and accuracy. Donnie showed me a couple of things to work on, with the intention of producing a more powerful, lower, right to left, draw shot, which should tend to zing the ball more sharply to my target. It felt strange at first, but then I got it for a while. For about a 15 minute stretch in the middle of the lesson, however, I could hit nothing but nasty, ugly little shanks. Donnie then had me perform a drill that involved placing my feet closer together in a very narrow stance. This helped me to feel the proper shoulder rotation better, and I started to hit the ball more precisely once again.

I had a round scheduled right after the lesson and off I went, armed with a few tips from Donnie. The round went OK, and I ended up shooting a 90, which wasn't bad considering I somehow managed a 9 on the par 5 17th hole! There were a few of the little ugly shanks sprinkled into the round, including one on 17 that contributed to my quadruple bogey.

More importantly, though, I actually had 5 make-able birdie putts in the round, two of which I made. I hit a 5 iron 3 feet from the hole on the par 3 12th, and hit a 4 iron to 8 ft into the wind from 160 yards out on the par 4 15th. I also closed the round by sinking a 5 foot birdie putt on 18 following a 9 iron approach to the green.

I trip to the driving range a couple of days later produced amazing results, as I was able to drop ball after ball into small circles around my targets, making me more excited that I have been in a long time about the potential of my game.

Obviously, it's too early to tell if my lesson is going to produce miracle results, but I have to think that having a trained pro watch you swing and give you direction woould have to produce better results that self-intruction from a guy who's never broken 80!

I guess I should have gone for a lesson years ago!

BritesideGolf.com is a site dedicated to the belief that you don't have to break the bank to play good golf and enjoy your time on the golf course

Click here to go to Brian’s BritesideGolf Club Shop on eBay

You can contact me anytime at via email at brian@britesidegolf.com

Be sure to make BritesideGolf.com a regular stop in your online golf journey!

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