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Lesson and (encouraging) progress update

Date of lesson: 27/3/24

Having bought a block of lessons with Mike, we have been chatting about how best to use the remaining sessions. With several rounds now logged in Tangent, we also reviewed the data and suggestions from there. With the season now getting underway (although the Scottish weather is doing its best to spoil that), Mike wants my focus to be more on playing golf instead of range sessions unless something particularly needs attention and some block practice. We decided on the following plan:

Regular checkups: Focusing on the fundamentals of grip, posture, ball position and strike location.

Playing lesson: We hope to get out for 9 holes on the Eden or Strathtyrum. The objective is to examine my shot choices and course management decisions, focussing on how to score.

Ad-hoc focus areas: Anything that gets flagged up by Tangent - bunkers, short game, approach shots etc.

Today's lesson: I had 16 rounds logged in Tangent at the time of the lesson and it confirmed findings from Golf Data Lab last season that my biggest scope for improvement is approach shots. The graphic shows my "Shots Gained" relative to a scratch handicap player. Predictably, my putting has been very good since I committed to buy the LAB DF3 (which has now arrived but has not been used on the course yet - watch this space).

Tangent allows me to dig into the data behind my approach shots and, like most golfers, I tend to miss short. Given the cold, windy and wet weather we have had recently, this will be a combination of poor club selection (overestimating how far I can hit) and poor execution (fat, thin etc. but difficult to assess when using fairway mats). This lesson would focus on impact location.

Fundamentals: Grip, stance, posture and tempo were all fine but I have let the ball creep a bit too far forward in my stance. Take-away and weight transfer are good. Issues continue with my transition, particularly wrist position in the downswing.

Impact: Striking a bit low on the face and losing distance.

Findings: As often seems to be the case with me the issue appears to lie in transition where I am releasing my hands too early and getting a slight "cast". This means I have to stand up too early in order to get out of the way. The clubhead gets too far forward, I lose speed and compression, hit too low on the face and hit it short. Another old bad habit creeping back in.

The solution: Mike got me working with an odd plastic coathanger-type device (pictured here) called a swing plane trainer. I subsequently bought one from Amazon for practicing with at home - there are a number of generic options that don't cost much. It's quite difficult to explain the purpose of this device but in essence, it's to help me get the feeling of "holding off" the release of my wrists until later in my swing. As I move through the transition, I should feel the device rest on my leading arm and I need to keep it in that position for as long as possible during the downswing. This will help me deliver the load sequence better, generating more speed at the ball through the more efficient release of my hands. Compression and strike should improve and hopefully, I'll stop missing short!

Practice and results: This thing felt odd, but I saw an immediate improvement in club head speed, strike location and ball speed, so I persevered. We did a lot of exaggerated, slow-motion swings, working on the different feel of the motion. How it felt to load and release the club. How to create room for my downswing so I don't have to move up to get out of the way. I know from thinking about bad shots on the course that I will often find myself "on my toes", losing balance and hitting the ball thin. Using this helped me get through the ball much better, with improved balance and strike. Rather than low in the face, I was now hitting much more in the middle of the club and you could audibly hear the difference in strike quality. Distance was also noticeably longer.

We then took the training aid off and kept working on the new swing feels. The thing that helped me most with this was imagining trying to skim a stone with my right (trail) arm. This helped me keep my wrists in a better position for longer, pulled my right elbow in and down and stopped me from casting the club early. It all became more fluid and less mechanical too.

Course feedback: I've played a couple of rounds since the lesson. When I

concentrate properly, I have seen a definite improvement in strike and distance. Having recently transitioned back to grass from using fairway mats, it's easier to assess the strike now and I've also managed to capture some more data in Tangent. I'm encouraged by the difference and will keep working with the training aid at home. Tangent backs up the visual improvement I've seen in approach play since the lesson.

General progress update

So this happened on the Jubilee recently! When I dropped the "Quest for Scratch" theme last year, one of the goals I set for myself was to play all of the main St Andrews courses (plus the Duke's) in level par or better. This round on the Jubilee was in a matchplay event, so unfortunately it wasn't eligible for handicap. However, my partners on the day will attest to me holing out consistently and not taking advantage of gimmies etc. I was delighted with how I played and felt some pressure over the last few holes. It's not often I birdie 15 either!

The following weekend, in another match (Stableford this time, but non-counting again) I got off to a poor start on the Eden but persevered and finished well. Developing grit, putting bad holes behind me and focusing on the next shot is a key component of scoring better. While this round also wasn't counting for handicap it did count for the competition I was playing in and contributed to my team winning. With zero points on the third hole, I was pleased to finish with a total of 37 points.

My general health and fitness is also improving thanks to my new daily regime. I've even dropped a trouser size in the process, although I'm sure the upcoming boy's golf trip to Turkey will see some of that undone!

Hopefully this period of terrible weather will pass soon and I can get more golf played in the weeks ahead. It's all rather frustrating at the moment!

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Apr 10

Thanks Dallas, I have been using it sporadically and really should use it as you suggest - by exception when the strike was poor. Once I'm wearing fewer layers of clothes it will be easier to do at the time, although I know I can add that extra info during the round review.


Dallas Webster
Dallas Webster
Apr 10

Awesome progress! Curious if you are using the strike location feature of Tangent to track your strike quality. I use it mostly to track bad strikes (I assume if I didn't track the strike that it was a center strike). It helps me to quantify just how often I miss the center while playing. Excited to watch your journey.

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