Editor’s Note: After a long and cold winter, golf season has finally arrived -- and guest columnist J. Mike DeAgostino (who happens to be the public relations manager at the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa) decided it was time to prepare for the 2014 golf season by taking a few lessons. Here's what he learned:
First, you have to know that I hate homework. It’s a chronic condition I’ve had since birth. I vividly recall two instances in elementary school when my parents had to meet with my teachers after school over that situation – I wasn’t doing my homework. Golf lessons are sort of like school. You learn in class, and then comes homework afterward on the practice range. I hate hitting golf balls on the driving range. It’s boring. And it’s lonely. I’d rather be on the links playing golf with my buddies, enjoying their camaraderie, laughter, and a couple of brews. But in fall of last year, my golf game sank to such a low point that I decided to take lessons during the winter. I really needed lessons - bad. The low point came when I was paired with Grand Traverse Resort and Spa’s Head Golf Professional and Director of Instruction Scott Hebert in the Village Cup – an annual, friendly yet competitive, two-day Ryder Cup-style tournament in the fall between Resort Employees and Resort Club Members. During those two days, Scott saw my game up close and personal, and he carried me around the golf course. It was as if any ability I that ever had flew away like a helium balloon in the breeze. My game needed a ton of help. Fortunately, my playing partner scored well enough that we split points with our competitors. Afterward, I promised to contact him for lessons. In early February, I called Scott at Grand Traverse Resort and Spa's Golf Academy and asked him to set me up with a lesson plan. The Golf Academy is open year-round. Lesson One came on February 20, 2014. After warming up by hitting golf balls into a net for about 10 minutes, Scott videoed my swing. Upon analysis, he said the set up looked OK, albeit a little hunched over. That was the end of good news. In short, by the top of my backswing everything was awry, forcing me off balance, off line, off target and the result was a downswing that gave me a slice - that’s the ball going to the right - in my case, a big banana curve way to the right. Then he put up video of PGA Tour Pro Brandt Snedeker side-by-side with my video. Clearly, what I was doing was all wrong. Just look at the photo. My alignment is the opposite of Brandt’s. Not good. The point was not to make me feel bad, but to show me what the tour pros do (what I needed to do). It worked. With Scott’s coaching, I made an adjustment (as well as my “I’m-old-enough-to-be-his-father” body could) and it was a real improvement. During the next three lessons, each a week or two apart, Scott continued to re-build my swing, one step at a time. Every time he recorded a video of the lesson that I could watch online as a refresher. He even tracked my swing with the Foresight GC-2, a high-tech piece of gear that measures club speed, ball speed, trajectory, spin and several other parameters – important data about my less than stellar swing. And every time I successfully made an adjustment, Scott pointed out another adjustment that was needed. All in all, there were six key things that Scott coached me to change. I had to remember to do those six things - a challenge, yes, but I knew that if I practiced (homework), I could put it all together. (Shhh, don’t tell Scott - I didn’t do my homework.) I played golf last Saturday for the first time this season. The first 17 holes were a disaster. I sprayed my ball all over the course and I couldn’t get all those six things working together. But on the last hole, my swing adjustments started working together. On 18, I struck the ball much better, and I achieved par on that hole. I called that “success!” Now, I’m still no Brandt Snedeker. I never will be. But I can’t wait to get out to play golf again with my new swing.