I’ve been fortunate to take lessons from some top-shelf instructors over the years. If given the choice between a $500 driver and 4 $125 lessons, I’ll always opt for the later. I have friends who go the other way, and I’ve always been mystified by their approach. More often than not, they dump that driver within one season and pick up a new one by the following spring. For them, holding something tangible in their hands justifies the expenditure. For me, it’s the opposite.
About 15 years ago, I contacted the late Lonnie Nielsen at Crag Burn, and asked him the club allowed him to teach non-members. He indicated that they did. I asked if I might come out and make a proposal on why he should take me on as a student. For those not in the know, some instructors pick their students, not the other way around. I indicated that I knew that I would coach golfers better than me, and that I needed to know what to say when, and when to say what. As Lonnie had played the PGA Tour, and would play the Champions Tour soon enough, he had reached a level beyond my own, and he could share wisdom and experiences that other instructors did not possess.
I took a half-dozen lessons with Mr. Nielsen, and I utilized thoughts, keys and positions that he gave me to this day. When I turned 55, it occurred to me that the learning doesn’t have to stop, and I decided to seek a new instructor. I watched a number of competitive golfers and they had one instructor in common. Much as I did nearly 20 years ago, I stated my case and was taken on as a student.
I’ve had two lessons with my new instructor. Suffice it to say that I made the correct choice. We discuss coaching, fitness, posture, the posterior chain, ball position, swing planes, flattening, and lots of other topics. I hit no more than 20 balls per lesson, but I make each one count, and I figure out how to learn from each swing.
What’s the end game, you might ask? I made the decision at age 25 that I would not be a competitive amateur. I personally could not balance family responsibilities with the demands of tournament golf. Others can; not I. Over the years, I’ve played a few state qualifiers and Erie County Ams. I did that to keep my head in the competitive game, so that I could connect with the athletes on the teams that I coach. Always, I wanted my swing to be authentic and legitimate. It had its flaws, but I could live with them. On June 7th, 2021, all that changed.
I understand things now, after two lessons, that I did not grasp over 45 years of playing golf. It is refreshing, enlightening, and quite optimistic. I am energized, and I am chasing improvement. A child of mine joined me for a practice session a few days back, at a local range. She asked So what are you working one? I could not imagine a more delightful question. This was three days prior to lesson number two. My answer was limited (for me) to I have these two critical, essential elements that drive my practice. When I return in a few days, I’ll find out if I was practicing the correct elements. I’m not afraid to learn that I was wrong, or partially-wrong. There’s no harmful pride here, only the supportive kind.
And that’s it! Now it’s off to work on the posterior chain and get ready to play.