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Andy Gibson: Topgolf Rookie, <br>Part One

Andy Gibson: Topgolf Rookie,
Part One

My name is Andy, and I’m the Marketing Executive at Topgolf Watford.

I’m a novice golfer. My only real experience of golf is from playing Topgolf and a few games of pitch and putt – and I’m not just saying that because I work here! As a teenager I had absolutely no interest in golf, until I visited Topgolf. I’d heard about it, but dismissed it as I thought anything to do with golf was boring. It was only when my sport hating sister visited and wouldn’t stop raving about it that I thought I should check it out. If she liked it, then I thought I must too.

I played for the first time and absolutely loved it, despite having never hit a golf ball before in my life. Over that summer I must have visited almost every week, and after playing weekly there was an improvement in my swing and Topgolf score, I’d gone from hitting 30’s to consistently hitting scores in the 80’s. Still not great, but a big improvement.

This got me thinking about getting out on to the golf course. I bought my own clubs (£30 on eBay!) and some lake balls and went to my local pitch and putt (below).

Source: Abbey View golf course

I was truly rubbish and actually found it to be quite a demotivating experience as a result. Since then I’ve always thought about getting golf lessons and playing a full 18 holes, but have never built up the confidence to actually go and do it.

My bargain set!

Over the next couple of months, the Topgolf professionals are going to give me some tips and lessons to try and improve my score and general skill on the course. I’m going to blog after every golf lesson to show my improvements, what the pro worked on with me, and (hopefully) that golf isn't as hard as it looks.

Lesson 1

My first lesson was with Tommy Culverhouse, one of the PGA professionals at Topgolf Watford. I was quite excited to finally have a golf lesson, but also a bit nervous that I’d make an idiot of myself. Some days when I attempt to hit a golf ball, it's genuinely embarrassing. I started off a bit ropey (as usual), but steadily improved throughout the lesson, thanks to Tommy's guidance.

Tommy Culverhouse, Golf Pro at Topgolf Watford

The first thing we did was talk over my experience level, how active I am generally and any previous injuries I’ve had. Once Tommy had this information, it was time for him to see my swing. I’m the kind of person that hates people watching me play, if I play at the pitch and putt I’d rather let people behind me go ahead than have people watching me – the pressure gets to me and I shank it every time. Fortunately, Tommy made me feel very at ease, and I started to hit a few balls. There were a few shanks, but overall I hit some shots that, I thought, were decent.

Without me realising, Tommy had been filming my swing on his fancy golf teaching app – Hudl Technique. Hudl allows Golf Professionals to diagnose a swing using slow motion analysis, in addition to various other fancy features. Being able to see my swing on camera was actually really useful in helping me see where I was going wrong.

The first area for improvement Tommy identified was my set-up. My feet weren’t wide enough, and I was bending my knees too much. This meant I was too hunched over the ball, and as Tommy said I was losing a lot of power from my swing by standing in this position. After making some corrections, Tommy predicted I’d either miss or top the next few balls…I did. But once I was used to the change, I could feel the improvement instantly.

The next thing Tommy identified was that my swing was far too long. As a novice I always thought that the longer you swing it, the more power you generate; to me, that makes perfect sense! Tommy quickly explained that by swinging too long, you lose a lot of control and you’re far more likely to shank it. When I saw my swing on Hudl, I could see what he meant.

Before and After

For the rest of the lesson he had me working on a shorter swing. I’ll be honest, it felt very unnatural as I’m so used to my old swing. However after a few practice shots, I was hitting balls consistently straight, which never happens. I played a full game of Topgolf, practicing my new, shorter, swing and I smashed my high score. My previous PB was 109, and on this game, from just a few minor changes to my swing and stance I managed to score 130!

I finished the lesson feeling positive. Tommy was a great teacher, and made me feel very comfortable. When you have your first lesson, one important thing to remember is that you almost certainly won't have been the worst person the pro has ever taught. I think it’ll take me a while to get used to my new and improved swing, but it’s a good start! Stay tuned for part 2.

Want to get better at golf? Book your first lesson online.

Read part two of Andy's golfing journey. 

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