Beginner’s Diary: Finding a way across fade street

Ronan Collins, PGA Professional at Fota Island, reckons he can make some kind of golfer out of our reporter at Fota’s Golf Academy. This week, some remedial action, writes Larry Ryan

DIGGING IN: As I connected with the sand just behind the ball, a few shots splashed up onto the island.

A landmark week. Who knew we could arrive at this pivotal breakthrough so quickly?

Amid a swell of emotion and pride it has been born, by quite painful delivery. My very own bad shot.

It’s what I got into this game for. The exhilarating ability to repeat the same mistake over and over again.

Not to be that guy, from five weeks ago, who could produce a wide and dizzying selection of bad shots. A man who could show you all the mistakes, if you hung around for five minutes.

Rather, I’m closing in on specialist status. Of becoming the kind of serious individual who can lash a few balls on the range and shake his head sagely after each one, muttering about the need to eradicate that slice.

That’s my boy. The drive that leaves home out the front door then makes a curious looping dash for those trees way over to the right.

Thing was, Ronan had left me to my own devices with the big stick while he was tuning up my short game (I can say those sort of things now I’m a man with his own bad shot).

And flaking away happily, I seemed to develop what we serious golfers call ‘a natural fade’. All of a sudden, even the good shots were curving left to right, instead of right to left.

Not one to sweat the small stuff in these matters, that was fine by me. At least until those curves became rather more pronounced. I’m not sure at what point the fade officially becomes a slice, but we had certainly crossed that rubicon.

He’s your own and you’ll always be kind of proud of him, your bad shot. But on a practical level, it was time to investigate some means of keeping things between the ditches.

Happily, as my old friend Lee Trevino likes to say, “you can talk to a fade but a hook won’t listen.” And sure enough, Ronan had a full and frank discussion with the fade, who was all ears. As usual, the solution was keeping my hands in front of the ball. It seems to be the answer to almost everything.

So the fade has faded. But it was nice to get to know him. And it will be another landmark day when I can bring him out on purpose.

In any case, it is no longer something to be ashamed of, seemingly, the fade. It used to the kind of condition you’d whisper about and get a cream for.

But it’s back in vogue with the youngsters. Ronan had a bunch of Spanish students for a camp and they were all fading proudly. Because that’s what Sergio does.

So rather than mutter sagely, I’ll have the option of roaring after my slices in Spanish.

Incidentally, the old hands in front of the ball seems to be the key in the bunkers too.

It’s the most impressive thing about Ronan’s work, much more so than all the good shots he casually hits, his ability to hit bad shots on demand.

So he showed me what would happen, if I didn’t keep the hands in front, drilling a few into the lip. Then watched as I did the same.

It took some persuading to get me to swing fully through the ball. I was jabbing tentatively, convinced the lad on the lawnmower 50 yards away was in mortal danger if I did what Ronan was telling me.

Eventually, I decided it was Ronan’s fault if he came in the line of fire and dug into a few, connecting with sand just behind the ball as instructed.

And sure enough, a few splashed up onto the island. Which was almost as satisfying as the birth of my bad shot.

Next week, adventures in putting. Ronan reckons there’s a touch of Jon Rahm about me. A natural in-square-in path, as us guys with our very own bad shot would say.



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