Five months ago, I took the first of what turned into a total of 10 lessons at my local GOLFTEC in Scottsdale, Ariz. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect — I’ve been a golfer for three decades, but my dad was my primary instructor in my formative years. I took a handful of lessons from others as a junior, but never on a consistent schedule or with the same instructor.
I have plenty of competitive experience on my resume — I played collegiately at Columbia and qualified for the 2015 U.S. Women’s Mid-Am — but that seems like eons ago now. My life has changed a lot in recent years. I’m a mama now, to a soon-to-be five-year-old girl and a one-year-old boy. As much as I love the game, rounds of golf — and even range time — have been subjected a free-fall in terms of time priority. My handicap — a mid single-digit — has languished in the no-man’s-land that is years of unposted scores.
But with my daughter starting kindergarten this year, and my son nearly pre-school eligible, I knew it was high time to get my game back in gear. “Me time” approacheth! And I planned to devote one day a week to swinging a club once the kids were in school. What better way to prepare myself than with a lesson series, for the first time ever?
So I arrived to my first session with an equal mix of trepidation and eager anticipation. What is it about hitting shots into a net in front of someone that makes you feel like you might shank each one?! So nerve-wracking. Anyway, after taking a few swings, I explained to my instructor, Thomas Howell, that I would do my best to practice but it would likely be minimal. Tom was great — he said he understood, and we would basically do the best we can with what we’ve got.
So! My swing revealed two significant leaks that Tom suggested we hone in on. The first: my swing’s low point. I’m a bit of a sweeper, so Tom thought we could get more clubhead speed and distance out of each shot if I had more ball-first contact. To do that, Tom suggested we address my lack of a wrist hinge. Instead of the ideal “L” shape that players like Collin Morikawa make on the way back, my shape looks more like … well, let’s say a very obtuse angle. In short: there’s a lot more wrist hinge to be had! So that’s what we decided to focus on.
I should note that, over the course of my life, I have given my golf swing pretty much zero thought. I am not a technical person or player. My swing is essentially the same now as when I was six years old. So, over the course of my sessions with Tom, thinking about things Tom suggested like adjusting my head position, shoulder set, weight distribution and wrist hinge was admittedly difficult for me. I felt like my mind was going a mile a minute over the ball, but together we worked through it, and found a balance that got my swing into a better spot, without me thinking too much.
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Tom was great partner to have throughout the experience because of his willingness to pivot when I started getting frustrated or demoralized. He always had another drill at the ready if the first one just wasn’t clicking — and that happened several times! I think one of my biggest takeaways was the fact that improvement is certainly not linear. I had what felt like multiple setbacks, but Tom would often suggest something at the end of the session that would result in a bit of a breakthrough or at least leave the lesson on a high note.
My wrist hinge still isn’t where I ideally want it to be, but as Tom told me: I can still play perfectly enjoyable golf with the swing that I have right now. Real, meaningful change will require a higher time commitment, but the process of doing that has already helped me make better ball-first contact. It’s getting better and better every day, and the process of working it means I now have an arsenal of things I know to tweak when my swing starts to go sideways on the course. I’ve truly never had that before, and that alone makes the last five months of effort worthwhile.