A rookie golfer learns it’s a tough sport to master.
WHEN RON HANSON asked me to hit a golf ball to see where my swing was before he uttered a word of advice, I looked at him to make sure he was serious.
Until my intro session with the PGA golf pro, golf and I were not friends. I had only putted at miniature golf and had never been to a driving range. I found golf intimidating — the golf course, the driving range, the golf bags, not to mention swinging a golf club.
But I was at Interbay Golf Center to learn, and I soon realized I also was there to get over my trepidation about the sport in general.
Interbay Golf Center
After my first, choppy swing, Hanson and I discussed the basics. We started with the golf club. I practiced holding the club upright in different directions so I could start to feel what it was like when the club was balanced and in alignment, versus off, with the direction of my body. He adjusted my grip.
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We focused next on my stance, my feet set about hip-width distance for stability. I learned my lower body had to stay roughly in place, and that I generated power from rotating my upper body like a coil. I turned my shoulders to face away from the range, my club lifted up and high, much like a baseball player, then let the club swing to hit the ball and finished with a pivot of my back foot forward.
It sounded easy enough. Execution, as every golfer knows, is far from simple. Hanson mentioned a few times that nobody has mastered golf, including the golf greats. It’s a lifetime of practice, he said. No kidding, I thought.
We worked on my starting form. Some of it included instructions that feel universal in sports, including a soft bend in my knees and engaging my core. Hitting a tiny ball with a club was less natural.
After a lot of practice shots, I realized I was straightening my front leg and lifting my foot on my backswing instead of keeping my feet on the ground, throwing my club off balance and resulting in a choppy swing.
Once we problem-solved my backswing, we worked on my follow-through. I had a hard time remembering to pivot my back foot so my hips would spin forward, following the direction of the club up and over my shoulder.
Golf is hard.
During an hour with a lot of mishits when the ball veered to the right or scuttled along the ground, I occasionally felt the easy flow of a swing with a good thwack. I felt validated when the club connected with the ball, and it went soaring straight.
It never lasted long. After correcting a few elements of my swing, Hanson had me hit a bunch of balls. Like all sports, golf is practice, practice and more practice.
Once you get the basics of the swing and the rules of the course, Hanson says, golf should be about having fun when you’re out on the course. Even if you’re not at the same skill level as the people you’re playing with, you can still play and enjoy the day.
Everyone is always working on something, he noted. Golf is precise, requiring focus and a lot of technique.
After my session with Hanson, I feel like I could go to a driving range now and work on my swing, which is a giant improvement. I also can see why golfers are determined and passionate about the sport. Maybe one day I will feel bold enough to hit the golf course.