Golf is an incredibly complicated game
What I learned during this summer of the club is that there are no quick fixes
Published on Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2012 06:50PM EDT
As the days dwindle down to a precious few, after four months of instruction and hard work, I have come to the conclusion that I can indeed break 80 on a golf course this summer.
I have also come to the conclusion that the golf course will have to be one of those par-55 layouts commonly called "executive length," which really means "a course for really old guys who can't hit the ball very far."
That's not the only type of course that will allow me to break 80, though history of trouble getting the ball through the clown's mouth may be a problem.
The cold, hard reality is that taking a guy who was having trouble breaking 90 and trying to get him to the point where he could go below 80 in one summer was pretty much a fool's errand. But, hey, who better for the job than me?
That's not to say 80 isn't possible.
Golf gods being the cruel jokers that they are might even grant me an 80 before the snow flies - and on an honest-to-goodness golf course, too. But it really isn't relevant to my real goal, which was to become a more consistent golfer.
Of all the things I learned during this summer of the club, the most important one is that there are no quick fixes. Nobody is going to go from 100 to 79 in four months, or six, or even 12 - and certainly not a guy whose previous attempts at improving may have sent instructors into therapy.
Bradlee Ryall, who took on the unenviable task of trying to mold a career hacker into a golfer who had some idea of which direction his shots were going, put it this way shortly after a session of watching balls hit all over the BraeBen golf academy range during my final lesson for this project: "There is no Band-Aid fix in golf. Everybody wants that, but there is so much that goes into getting where you want to go it's going to take time."
For the record, Bradlee told me he never really thought getting to 80 this year was realistic, at least not after his first look at my swing - an event that no doubt still causes him to wake up screaming.
But he does believe that with work, I can get to a place where I eliminate the 105 scores and stay in the 80s most of the time.
That will take a commitment to fixing the one thing that is producing awful scores, like the 99 I shot at Lakeview last Sunday and the 100 I recorded Wednesday at Don Valley: the aforementioned swing.
It is, in a word, awful. Arms flail, shoulders drop, knees lock and, I'm pretty sure, my vital organs gyrate. It has been known to make golf pros weep and groundskeepers call the emergency resodding hotline.
It needs to be fixed.
Without rebuilding my swing into something that produces a consistent swing path, I will always mix mid-80s with scores in the triple digits.
Now, I could admit defeat and accept the fact that I have a condition that causes all four limbs to move independently of each other. Or I can continue to work in hopes of getting better.
I choose the latter, partly because I love the game and partly because I seem to have an uncontrollable penchant for things that frustrate the hell out of me.
I also choose to continue the battle because to give up and be happy with being a bad golfer would waste the many things I've learned this summer.
* Golf is an incredibly complicated game, a revelation for one who studiously avoided Golf Channel DVDs, instruction books and magazine articles that promised to have me swinging like Tiger Woods in three easy lessons. During my last lesson with Bradlee, I learned there are 27 different shots around the greens and that I'll eventually need to execute all of them. Maybe brain surgery would have been an easier pursuit to occupy my spare time.
* Golf is a cruel master. I knew this, but didn't realize how cruel. Since launching this project I've put in about 80 hours on the practice range and another 90 on various courses. The result so far is an improvement of about two strokes per round.
* Putting is the key to reducing scores and the key to improvement is a) having a routine and b) practising so much that you wake up in the middle of the night holding your wife's wrist with a putting grip.
* Get the right equipment. Go to a testing centre when you're looking for new clubs. It's a better investment than anything in my stock portfolio.
* Be patient and remember that Tiger Woods has needed more than two years to rebuild his swing. And, if I remember correctly, his wasn't as bad as mine.
It's all coming together
A game with two faces
Upon further review
Thin edge of the wedge
Golfer heal thyself
Seeing the forest through the trees
One game does not an improvement make
I am certifiably insane
Turning the corner?
Mirror, mirror on the wall
All part of the learning process
Practice what you putt
Nothing easy about my swing
The Cadillac of golf testing facilities
First date jitters
Miracle worker or victim No. 5
Getting to the root of my rot
Why doesn't golf love me back?
Chris Zelkovich has accomplished many things in a journalism career that has spanned almost 40 years. He has worked as a reporter, editor and columnist for a variety of newspapers and his work has appeared in several magazines. His 12 years in golf have been somewhat less distinguished.
Bradlee Ryall is a Class 'A' member of the CPGA and Director of Instruction for the Braeben Academy. Nominated for the Ontario PGA Teacher of the Year award in 2009, Bradlee has studied and trained with some of the best golf instructors in the world at the David Leadbetter Golf Academies and served as teaching professional at some of the greatest golfing destinations in the world including the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge in Alberta, Canada.