Member of Topgolf marketing team, Andy Gibson, is determined to get better at golf. Join on us on this series of golf diary entries as he tries to transform himself from terrible to Tiger. Missed part one? Read it here.
Since my first lesson, I’ve been busy perfecting my new swing; it’s starting to feel more natural, but I’m still more inconsistent than I’d like to be.
This week, whilst I didn’t have a formal lesson, I hit some balls with one of the golf associates here in Watford, Charlie Fuller. I was doing OK, but not as well as I had been at the end of my first lesson. Naturally I asked Charlie why this was happening; he told me that my swing was still a little bit long and looked at the video from my last lesson. Whilst I had managed to shorten my swing, it’d crept a bit higher than it should have since last week. For the next 30 or so balls my only aim was to keep my swing at the right length – I didn’t care where the ball ended up, or at least I pretended I didn’t when I shanked the ball 50 yards.
After a while I was back to hitting it how I was last week, but my shots were all going too low and not very far. I was using an 8 iron and only managing to hit the green target or just further than it (about 100 yards). I jokingly asked Charlie ‘how can I hit the ball higher and further?’ not expecting him to give me a serious answer.
Charlie then watched me hit a few more balls and identified that I wasn’t using my whole body in the swing. He explained to me that when he hits a ball he gets to the very top of his swing, then uses the ‘torque’ (which is a golf way of saying tension) built up to hit through the ball. The way he put it to me, was to imagine your backswing is you pulling back an elastic band, and then imagine letting go of the band. Think about how the tension builds up and is then released and mimic this with your body. This creates much more power and gives you a more consistent swing path. He also told me that my hip rotation should be the first part of my downswing – not my arm movement.
I tried this and miraculously the first ball I hit was much better, it went straight into the blue target with no bounces. The next few shots weren’t quite as good, but still a huge improvement on how I was hitting it before. Again it feels massively unnatural and I left Topgolf that day with loads of aches – I think I was using muscles I’ve never used before!
The main things I took away from hitting with Charlie is that:
1. Golf is physically hard work. I thought it didn’t take much fitness to be a good golfer, but after hitting 80+ balls I was dripping with sweat and absolutely knackered! Maybe I’m just unfit…
2. It’s amazing what one little tweak of technique can do.
3. I should have had golf lessons sooner.
You’ll see our golf associates walking the tee-line at all three Topgolf venues and they’re always more than happy to offer some golfing tips – I’d recommend making use of them.
Pitch and putt:
Before I had any more lessons, I wanted to play a round of pitch and putt so I can measure my improvement and see if my new swing made any difference. I went to play with my friend Arthur, who is also a complete golf novice, and by complete coincidence the only one of my friends who’s unemployed and available to play golf on a Friday afternoon.
Abbey View is a good place for beginners as it has a good mixture of longer and shorter holes, with the longest being 240 yards and the shortest being 88 yards. The first hole is one of the longer ones at 212 yards. Feeling confident, I stepped up to the first tee and decided to use one of my special (and bloody expensive) Watford FC golf balls. I hit an 8 iron first shot, and with my new swing I got a great connection and hit the ball very pure… straight into the trees and off the site of the golf course.
This was only the start. Over the 9 holes I managed to lose 4 balls. Two were in my first two shots. After a nightmare first hole of hitting 4 over (I don’t even know what the term for this is!?) I slowly improved. Whilst my first shots off the tee were much improved, although still inconsistent, my chipping and putting let me down hugely. Once I’d settled into a bit of a rhythm, I was often getting on the green or within chipping distance but it was all downhill from there.
Arthur spent a lot of time in the long grass.
On the 8th hole, I was about 10 yards off the green with two shots left to make par, but ended up with a score of 4 over. My first chip went about 4 yards, and then the second one overcompensated and went miles off the green the other side. It was infuriating, but at least Arthur found it amusing.
Beating the floor in frustration.
My overall score was 48 which was 19 over par. Not great, but plenty of room for improvement, and I beat Arthur who scored 60! There are definitely a couple of things for me to work on – firstly I never really have any idea which club I’m supposed to use and usually guess, Arthur wasn’t much help as a caddie either. Secondly, my shots have improved in height and distance but my accuracy needs work (see the picture of me in the trees for evidence). And lastly my short game, especially chipping needs A LOT of work.
If you want to improve your golf skills, or get some advice on starting golf from scratch, make sure to book a lesson with a Topgolf Pro.
Read part three of Andy's golfing journey.