IT HAPPENED so innocently and so quickly yet I knew instantly the devastating impact it would have on my golf game.
As a wonderful round with my regular playing partner Richie drew to a close at the gorgeous Glades Golf Club on the Gold Coast, we paused a moment for a few photos. Richie stiffed one so tight at the par-3 17th that it became his screensaver before we reached the clubhouse. Then as we teed off the intimidating 18th, he asked whether I might like the moment captured for posterity. Only it wasn’t a photo upon completion of my tee shot but a video of my strike down the last, and in that instant I knew I had a piece of vision likely to rip my game apart piece by excruciating piece.
Let me state this for the record: I’m not a ball-striker. No one has ever uttered anything resembling, “Whoa”, “Wow” or, “You da man!” when a clubface I have been in control of has made contact with the pill. I nudge it around, hit it OK, make some putts and once in about every six rounds play to my current handicap of 8.
I’ve never had a lesson and I’ve never – ever! – watched my swing on video, because like the early stages of the making of a sausage roll, once it is seen there are some things that can never be unseen.
I’d avoided it for more than 30 years of playing the game and experienced varying levels of enjoyment, blissfully unaware that how I swung the club had more in common with Charles Barkley than it did Dustin Johnson. Much more.
But here it was. A 20-second, real-time montage of me as a golfer burning a hole in my pocket that begged to be viewed.
I know all about cause and effect, but the compulsion was too much and when I got home I looked at that video and I looked at it closely. Like inspecting the mess that gathers in the filter of the washing machine after six months of going unchecked, the initial reaction was one of absolute horror and then I started to pick apart exactly what was going on in there.
There is virtually no extension of the arms, the shoulder turn was more a slight lean, my hands turned under like I was carrying a tray of champagne flutes and the plane… My god, the plane!
Ben Hogan once said to Gary Player: “Son, your swing can never be too flat.”
Yeah, well, I bet someone once told Elvis Presley that you could never eat too many hamburgers, too.
The miracle in it all was that I actually hit a pretty decent drive, probably 210 metres over water and the ball coming to rest in the middle of the fairway.
I couldn’t help thinking that if I made even some minor improvements to that god-awful swing, I could maybe transform myself into a half decent golfer. So the next day I went to the range and the analysis began. I set my phone up and recorded more than 20 minutes of video of me hitting ball after ball. I’d even give the camera a little ‘thumbs up’ when I thought I’d hit a good shot that would undoubtedly have come about from a picture-perfect swing.
I tried fixing my takeaway, altering my grip, standing more on top of the ball, lengthening my backswing, shortening my backswing, swinging with shirt tucked and untucked and turning my shoulders so steeply that it felt as though on the way down I would achieve nothing more than hitting those yellow range balls square on the head.
I moved my left foot back and swung on a slicer’s path that actually seemed to improve my contact, but by the end of the bucket I realised I was in a hole so deep that my rescue might have to start on the other side of the planet.
‘I was in a hole so deep that my rescue might
have to start on the other side of the planet.’
We played again a week later and I hit shots that are banned in 32 countries on my way to a dismal 27 Stableford points that would have been a record low had I not somehow parred four of the last five holes.
So here I am, in the midst of a self-managed swing overhaul because I was too scared to let a PGA professional formally inspect it for fear they would mutter something under their breath still audible enough for me to hear like, “Well, that’s a new one,” or, “At least he made contact.”
There have been signs of improvement but for all I know I am still swinging the club on the same plane as a wood chopper, hoping upon all hope that sheer repetition will bring some manner of consistency.
But one thing is for certain, that’s the last time I’m ever letting anyone commit my swing to videotape.