Want to improve your golf? Try this novel approach

The Scoop

After nearly 40 years of playing the game, the penny has finally dropped for Mark Townsend, as he explains in his Notebook

On a recent day out with children there was a weighing machine which, away from prying eyes and against my better judgement, I stepped on. It was one of those old-fashioned contraptions that inform you of your weight in both kilograms and pounds so there could be no doubt of its findings. I am now officially fatter than I’ve ever been. In a word, and not even being self-deprecating, enormous.

Hence, for three days now, I have since had breakfast at work – some simple cereal, rather than pulling in for, in amongst all the self-talk and inner chatter not to do so, a daily bacon and sausage sandwich, I’ll now keep some fruit by my side to keep the cravings at bay and I’ll go for a brisk walk at lunch.

The chances are, with just the slightest bit of self-restraint – don’t shovel the children’s meals into your face when pretending to clear up and don’t put everything you eat between four slices of bread – I’ll lose some weight. My back will creak a little less, my clothes won’t stretch as much, I won’t look quite as jowly and old, I’ll have a bit more energy and I’ll be quite pleased with myself.

At this time of year my other general self-loathing is my lack of any forward planning for my golf. The next three months will most likely consist of one bleak outing of 18 holes, maybe five visits to the range, some online pointers, a couple of swishes in front of the mirror to bed in my online rebuild and then hope to hit the ground running in April.

Other than that one round I won’t have hit a single putt, most of my range visits will have entailed the same three clubs – 6-iron, 8-iron and some sort of kill-zone wedge – which, in my head, is some sort of Zach Johnson winter of 2006 boot camp where all he did was hit wedges to nail down every yardage and shot shape. A few months later he won The Masters having laid up on every par 5.

So, for the first time ever, I’ve booked a series of winter lessons in an effort to actually improve at golf. Actually that isn’t strictly true as I’ve done nothing about this yet but, by just writing this, it will hasten me into taking some sort of action.

Once upon a time this would have simply consisted of bringing your 7-iron along, a check of your grip, a bit of clock watching from both parties before then trying to shorten your backswing.

Now I’m hoping for a three-month MOT by the end of which I’d like to own my swing, just like Hogan. Or, at the very least, not go bouncing from one random tip to the other in my scrambled head from the last 35 years when I’m cut adrift in the middle of some windswept course and in the middle of a run of blobs.

What better time to address those flippy hands and general power-shy swing?

Golf lesson

Ten 45-minute lessons doesn’t seem to be beyond the pale over the course of three months. One for some basic swing mechanics and a quick eye over the fundamentals, one for getting the most out of the driver, one on putting and one for short game which, after 10 minutes we would both agree that this is a waste of time and to continue battering your putter from anywhere where the clubhead can get behind the ball.

Which would then leave five spare to spit out all the insecurities that have been bubbling under since my last ‘series’ of lessons (two) back in 1992 and my hopes for the coming months.

“Can we spend the next 45 minutes discussing the merits of a strong hybrid against a 4-wood?”

“Are my shafts a bit too ‘jumpy’ for me?”

“Chief or strong 3-wood?”

“The Eddie Pepperell swing drill, will that work for me? If not, why not?”

“What are the chances of getting my swing to closely resemble Robert Rock’s by March?”

“The Justin Rose exaggerated, slow-motion move from the top in his pre-shot routine, can we weave that in?”

Golf lesson

“Can I be a bit more Cameron Champ-like?”

“Could you make me look as casual as Marc Leishman?”

“Do you teach any easy-to-learn ‘quiet mind’ techniques?”

“I’d like to chip like Jason Day, can you make that happen?”

“Chiropractor or orthopaedic surgeon?”

“Do you think I’ve lost any weight?”

This might seem to be asking quite a lot from my local PGA pro. When he was going through his training he might not have prepared for this type of mental onslaught, even Bob Rotella might throw himself in front of the adjacent bay when I get into full babble swing but it would make those winter lunchtimes fly by.

At the end of which I’d like to achieve the following, in no particular order: Hit more fades with my irons, feel freer in my swing and, most importantly, have a new best friend.

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