Jasper Park Lodge Swing Clinic

We ended our golf trip at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge to take part in the 3 day spring swing clinic with two CPGA professionals.

Welcome to Jasper Park Lodge!

We were a group of twelve students ranging from beginners to club members.  In addition to sitting down together for breakfast and lunch (the food at the lodge was fantastic), we were lucky to play with 3 different couples during the three days and had a great time.

Day 1 – Putting and Chipping

Our instructor had a lot of putting drills and aids on the putting green for us to give a shot at.  Drills/aids include:

  • A mirror to check your eye line is directly over the ball
  • A block of 2×4 down the putting line to guide the putter head
  • A raised alignment rod to rest the putter shaft on, to again go down the line (this felt more natural to me than the 2×4
  • 4 tees set up in a block about 30 feet away as a lag drill
  • Alignment rods towards the hole to work on the stroke

I spent most of my time in the last station, putting between the alignment rods.  I got the chance to ask my instructor about how he fights the difference in the putting line from when you stand directly behind the ball and when you get into your putting stance.  I use a line on my ball and on my bad putting days, I know I’m fighting with my brain because the aim appears to be off when your perspective is from the side and above the ball instead of from behind.  He gave me a great tip to stand behind the ball and visualize the full putt rolling in first and trust that read before even setting up to the ball.

For chipping, we were taught the putting stroke chip with various clubs.  To be honest, I never practice ever with chipping with anything trusty 54* wedge- and very occasionally my 58* for this short-sided situations.  So here, I got a chance to use my A and P wedge and wow, does it ever roll out fast.  I’d need a lot more practice to figure out their roll- for now, I’m still chipping everything mostly with my sand wedge.  I tend to miss all my chips left and I learned that when I close my stance on setup, I also unconsciously close my shoulder line as well.  This little tip to re-align my shoulder square had me chipping alot closer to target immediately!

Day 2

Today was pitching and sand shots.  Probably the least practised element of my game.  My not-so-graceful pitching technique is to basically grip down as appropriate and take a full swing at the ball.  This leads to general inconsistencies- pulls, pushes and lots of fat!  I can’t tell you how many times I think back on my round about the thrown away shots from under 100y out.

Like chipping, we were taught to take a longer club and take a more controlled 9-9 swing with good tempo.  No rushing the shot.  For example, we were on firm ground hitting into a green with the flag at 50y away.  Usually, for me, this is some awkward grip-down-to-the-metal-full-swing lob wedge.  Instead, I found a soft controlled sand wedge flew the ball much more in the right line and would be at least be on the green even if the distance was a tad short or long.  I think I’ll try to incorporate this new idea into my rounds.

For bunkers, we did the usual “hit the lines and get the sand on to the green” drill.  I had a horrible season from the bunkers last year and made a conscious decision spend time in the practice bunker early this season.  These days, we are being taught to align square to the target and lower the handle to add loft instead of the old-school way of opening up your stance and cutting across the ball.  I still open my stance a touch to help with stable legs.  I seem to be able to get out of bunkers with much more confidence these days.  My thoughts are to basically hit a flop shot (open face, club face finishing facing me and high) but make sure to focus on splashing a particular grain of sand 2 or 3 inches behind the ball onto the green.  I used to think “pick” the grain of sand out but that had me thinning the ball.  The “thump and splash” thought works much better.

Day 3

Finally, we worked on irons and drivers.  I’ve been starting to have problems hitting irons and I’ve finally stopped hooking my drives this season.  Unfortunately, I’m starting to occasionally fade my irons and heavily slicing my drives.  During the session, the instructor told me that my tempo is too quick- I end up using my hands and arms instead of my body on the bad shots compared to turning through properly with the body on the good shots.  He gave me very good advice- to work on a smooth tempo and get consistency in the shot first before feeling comfortable and adding speed.  It made a lot of sense to me so for the last week, I’ve been on the range trying to work on tempo.

My Game

Fortunately, my hard work in fighting my hook has been won.  I even get the occasional dead straight balls. Unfortunately, I’m now also fighting a very obvious fade and slice with shorter distances and having to readjust my club selections.  It’s crazy to be fighting a hook for two seasons, be always aiming right and counting on the ball swinging back left, and then finally not having the club stuck behind me but now facing a slice.

I remember when I used to fight a slice and yearned for a draw.  Then I figured out how to draw but then snap hooked started happened and I wished like crazy to go back to a fade/slice.  Um, guess what?  I made it here and I don’t like it!  I’m going to work on strengthening my grip a touch again and see if I can at least keep the ball in play again!

JPL Swing Clinic Summary

You can find this package here:

http://www.fairmont.com/jasper/special-offers/hotel-offers/golf/springswingclinics/

Package Includes:

  • Three Nights Accommodation
  • Three Breakfasts
  • Three Lunches
  • Welcome Dinner with Golf Professional
  • Two hours of Instruction Per Day (six hours total) with Canadian PGA Golf Professionals
  • One Round of Golf Per Day (Three Rounds Total)
  • Golf Cart and Club Rental
  • Club Storage
  • Food & Beverage Gratuities

I have to say the swing clinic was just perfect.  I didn’t want to go into some swing de-construction and re-construction right now and the pros tried really hard to give every single student one or two important take-aways, customized towards their own swings.  For me, it was all about tempo and not rushing my transition.  For my wife, she learned that she sometimes “quit” on her 3w and need to follow through fully like her driver.  The 2 instructors made us feel really comfortable and the other students were great company.  The rooms were a little warm with AC but it was a comfortable quiet place to sleep.  We even had some wildlife visit us in our back yard-

The included food was in abundance and very good.

Finally, the JPL golf course is a great golf course.  The course is beautiful, surrounded by a mountain view every direction you look, and is fun and challenging to play.  Both my wife and I had a great weekend and thought it was the perfect end to our golf trip.

The highlight of my week was accidentally playing from the tips my first round(the silver tee box really looked like whites!) on number 13- I think it played to 608 instead of 540 from the whites.  I looked at my GPS and I still had 340 left!  I was thinking to myself “wow, this is quite the long par 5, even after a good drive with a tail wind”.  Took 3 hybrid to 150 left to a blind green.  Since this was our first round, we had no idea if my approach was okay or not.  It made it to the edge of the green and 2 putt out for the longest par I’ve made so far.  In later rounds, I discovered paring this hole was a pretty good score for me, even if playing from much closer tee boxes.

Look for more JPL pictures in a future post!

Fixing the Slice

Almost every tip from TV and magazines talk about fixing the nasty slice, which is is also the natural shot for most beginners to the game.  My struggles as a beginner was no different than most.  A typical round consists of more times spent in the trees on the right or playing an entire hole from the opposite oncoming right fairway (if lucky).  At the range, I was able to shoot a ball 170 yards straight out and then the right turn signal comes on and the ball takes a hard right towards the fence.  The same pattern would happen for anything longer than an 8 iron.  If the ball gets in the air, 90% of the time it’ll deflect off an invisible shield near the green off to the right.  The other aspect of these shots were that they are often weak high glancing blows and it’s a total fluke to ever find a fairway (on the right edge).  During my early golfing life, a 175 yard staying in the fairway would be a small victory in of itself!

These days, my misses are either pushes or hooks which is mostly a matter of clubface control that I’m working on.  I wanted to share my experience and journey from being a 90* slicer to someone who now fears the hook more than the slice.

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Lesson 4 – Connected Putting

This is part one of a seven part series documenting my Winter lessons as a bogey golfer trying to improve.  You can read the Intro here: Winter Lessons Series

Lesson Date: Mar 4, 2014

Review

So far, we’ve only worked on iron strikes but one thing I mentioned early to my coach was that I needed help on my short game.  Today, we did a little diagnosis on my then terrible putting.

He had me set up and watched me hit some 10 foot putts  (which I missed fairly consistently, I might add).

The diagnosis is not good!

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Lesson 3 – Setup

This is part three of a seven part series documenting my Winter lessons as a bogey golfer trying to improve.  You can read the Intro here: Winter Lessons Series

Lesson Date: Feb 22, 2014

Quick Recap

In Lesson 2, we worked on a better takeaway to avoid getting into a stuck position on the way down.  Today, we’re going to just refine it a little bit.

Analysis

After  a week of practice, Rob sees that my takeaway is a little too outside now and we continued to make small adjustments to my set up today.  He continued to analyze my swing and give me suggestions, mostly on my setup.

I often hit towards the toe of the clubface and he shifted me to be a hair closer to the ball.  I can really feel the difference between an off-center face contact and one that catches the sweet spot.

I tend to set up a bit open to my target.  So he offered a few thoughts for me to try.  Have my left arm higher than my right, and have that right elbow less rigid, slightly bent and tucked against my body.  And then try to keep the arms connected to the ribcage throughout the swing.

Finally, along with the tension comes a pretty firm grip.  After seeing some pushes, he asked me to loosen my grip abit and see if it helps.  There’s definitely a bit of a sweetspot in terms of holding it loose enough not to have tensions in the elbows, but holding it firm enough to have enough face control on the club.

Recap

Sometimes, it’s one thing to hear and “know” what you’re supposed to do.  But it’s a totally different thing to be able to actually do it.  I don’t really think I truly “got” what it’s supposed to feel like to have less tension and to have the arms more connected to the chest until I started working with the Faldo Preset Drill just recently (into the summer months now).

Looking back, I can finally connect the feeling of less tension and more connected arms very clearly with everything Rob was trying to get me to do over the winter months.

Let’s (Not) Get Stuck

This is part two of a seven part series documenting my Winter lessons as a bogey golfer trying to improve.  You can read the Intro here: Winter Lessons Series

Lesson Date: Feb 15, 2014

Quick Recap and Progress

Last week, Rob showed me my obvious flip at the ball so it gave me something to work on at home.  I tried working on the drills indoor at home and I find it’s pretty hard to tell- I can always bring the club back with plenty of forward shaft lean if I swing in super-slow-motion but when I feel confident and try to record a full speed swing, I still couldn’t get the hands back in front of my body- it is trailing way too far behind me and now, I see pretty clearly I have to flip at the ball to have any chance at not catching the ball with a wide open face.

The Fault

Today, Rob was a lot more demanding- I guess the pleasantries were over and it’s time to get down to business.  I warmed up with an 8 iron and he started keying on one of my more obvious faults- one which I’ve been fighting since I’ve started this game.

I can’t seem to help but start the back swing with my hands, suck the club to the inside, and feel like my power comes from swinging the club around behind me.  So much so that my elbows is way behind, outside of my torso at the top of my backswing.

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The Flippopotamus

This is part one of a seven part series documenting my Winter lessons as a bogey golfer trying to improve.  You can read the Intro here: Winter Lessons Series

Lesson Date: Feb 8, 2014

Review

Rob started out by having me warm up while watching me on video and asking me questions like:

  • What is your usual miss?
    • It’s wild.  Left pulls and right pushes/slices.  He says it’s more a hook than a pull after I started missing some left.
  • Do you hit it fat?
    • No, generally if I miss, it’s a thin shot.  I’ve gotten so good at it that I have no fear fairway bunkers.  Greenside bunkers can get ugly.
  • How’s your distance?
    • Messy.  Can easily be one club differences depending on the day.  A 150y 8i one day but 140y 8i on others.

I also mentioned I feel like my ball flight is pretty high and I have lots of difficulty playing in the wind. Continue reading

Winter Lessons Series

Winter Coaching Package

Seems like every one of my posts this week has the word “Winter” attached to it somehow!

I bought a package of 8 x 30 min lessons from a local pro.  He has a great setup with multi-cameras, V1 golf and flightscope.  There’s nowhere to hide from your flaws with the multiple angle videos all supported by radar driven numbers.

Lesson Goals

As you’d expect from a good coach, Rob took a look at my warm up and then asked me what my goals are.  I thought about this and honestly, there are just so many issues with my game that I’d like to improve on that I didn’t know where to begin besides giving out the most generic unquantifiable answer possible: to be more consistent.

He had a perfect response for me:

Well, even Tiger Woods wants to be more consistent.

Haha, yes, I see that.  So I dug deep into the most painful part of the game affecting my confidence- the dreadful 2 way miss.  There are days where I have no idea where to aim and just aimlessly aim down the middle and hope for the best.  I tend to go for the right half of the green- and when playing great, I can draw it back to the middle nicely.  But when I have an off day, it’s really off.  Lefts are way left- off the green or smothered into the ground.  Rights are way right, a push slice that leads into the bushes or another fairway.

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