Ronan Collins, PGA Professional at Fota Island, reckons he can make some kind of golfer out of Larry Ryan in six lessons at Fota’s state-of-the-art Golf Academy. He has his work cut out...

Beginner’s Diary, Week 2

After two more lessons this week, Ronan reckons we have achieved a critical breakthrough.

In this new place we are in, there are still bad shots, very bad shots, and indeed atrocious shots.

Some comrades on the range have explained to me how they have a stock bad shot. A bogeyman that creeps back into their locker just when they think they have the whole thing sussed. A stubborn weed in their manicured garden.

“That’s my bad shot,” one fella says to me, after vanishing a drive left. He immediately does it again, prolonging this reacquaintance with an old friend, as if to illustrate the potent contagion of the bad shot.

I am not in that place yet. There remains room in my repertoire for all the bad shots.

I can certainly pull it well left, just as I have become acquainted with the slice right. Though, in truth, I’m not ready yet to consider these as bad shots, there still being a certain pride the ball has set sail at all. That I have launched it up there among other people’s bad shots.

There are worse bogeymen. And double-bogeymen.

The shot that fails to keep pace with the grand divot sent to keep it company. The topped effort that does its level best to go backwards. The ‘thinned’ shot that actually flies straight and a decent distance because it comes clean off the edge of the blade. It is the golfing version of the toe poke, but nobody will ever liken you to a golfing Romario.

And there is still the occasional shot after which the ball sits there scornfully. Unmoved. Oblivious to any attempt to strike it.

But still Ronan insists important ground has been broken.

Because I am getting to know the bad shots, having spent a good bit of time in their company. And, more importantly, I am beginning to recognise the causes of the bad shots.

During lesson two, we watched a fair bit of video. After decent shots and bad shots. Ronan noting the lack of movement in my feet or the hands turning over or the head lifting.

All the while, his Trackman software is spitting out data to match what’s there in plain sight. Vital signs to match the symptoms. Club path, attack angle, launch angle. And soon enough you can start making your own diagnoses.

In fairness to Ronan — and this is why I would send him the twins to make Tiger Woodses out of them — just as he encourages me to recognise the bad in a shot, he is magnificent at finding the good in every shot. Well almost every shot.

“I’m not too worried about that,” he’ll say, as another one scurries 50 yards along the ground. “You got forward well on that one. It was just the hands.”

Just.

I reckon this positivity-based teaching style can make well-adjusted Tigers out of them, with a healthy level of self-esteem, for when things go south later doors.

For now, he has also weeded out one or two of the bad shots.

The topping and thinning has reduced considerably since he slipped a coin under the ball and invited me to hit that instead.

And after a bout of slicing with the TaylorMade M2 driver he entrusted me with, he adjusted the head to close the face. And sure enough what followed was a couple of shots I would consider not bad at all. He has a cure too for my reluctance to move those feet, a drill involving holding the club upside down and launching into a Happy Gilmore-style exaggerated swipe.

By the end of lesson three, we were stringing three or four ‘not bad’ shots together. Which is inevitably when old friends made a reappearance. But now, at least, I was beginning to see they hadn’t just turned up uninvited.

Maybe I’m a step closer to having a bad shot to call my own.


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