Part 1 – Reflections on my ‘journey to better’

This is part one of a three part reflection series on my how golf lessons are helping me improve in 2015.  Thank you for reading and I hope you’re having fun with the game and playing your best.

Reflecting on my ‘journey to better’

I’m playing Srixon golf balls this year so I’m comfortable acknowledging their tagline and borrowing it; check that, owning it. I’m 47 years old and playing the best golf of my life. The qualitative aspect of that statement is important; I’m taking lessons and demonstrating a greater commitment to improve my golf game than ever before. But first, some context; I’m an 8+ handicap and am not a member of a course. I’m what the Golf Association of Ontario classifies as a Public Player. And like many Canadians, I am managing a healthy addiction to the game. I played over the Christmas holidays this year as it was a balmy 6c on Boxing Day. I get about 25 rounds a year in and am beginning to enjoy practice more than ever. I’m seeking to get better at golf and wanted to share some reflections from my experience over the last year. All that to say is I suspect I fit within the ‘avid golfer’ category.

I began lessons for the first time in my life in 2013. I worked with a young instructor who got me set on a good path – solid fundamentals and an identification of key priorities to work on. My schedule and his growing family and business opportunities had us drift apart but I remained committed to exploring a new instructor, someone I feel would have the capacity to support my journey. Simple fact is my golf swing is like my car: it runs but when it doesn’t run as smoothly as I’d like it to I want to take it to a professional for tuning up. A series of fortunate circumstances had me sitting in the main lobby of the Brampton Golf and Country Club on a cold November afternoon talking with CPGA Instructor (and awesome golfer) Brian McCann. A friend and I were seeking semi private lessons and I was charged with the task of interviewing our prospective golf instructor.

This was new. What questions does one ask a golf instructor? I thought about it, researched a little, and ended up going with my gut. My main question revolved around teaching style(s). My friend and I are comparable in terms of our talent and that’s about where things end. Our swings are different, our needs vary but we’re willing to help and support each other along this journey. Brian and I sat and talked for well over an hour. I was able to get a sense that Brian has a passion for the game, he communicates well and clearly, understands the golf swing, has good experience as an instructor and wasn’t shy about working with two golfers who are committed to improving. This interview, ok, call it a conversation if you will, helped reinforce that the relational aspect of the student-instructor relationship is fundamental. I always chuckle when I read lists that rank top golf instructors; it’s so subjective. When I look back over my life and times when I was able to learn effectively it was from someone I could relate well with. Call this my first ‘a-ha’ moment along the way – good instruction is borne from good relational skills.

A-ha Moment One – The Ability to Relate
If you have ever watched Golf Channel you’re likely are familiar with Michael Breed and Martin Hall, both of whom are skilled and experienced instructors. And while they both know the game and are proven teachers, I find that I can relate better to Michael Breed’s instructional approach. For me, things like tone, energy and being able to convey thoughts clearly, sometimes in multiple ways, help me to learn.

For me, my connection with my current instructor came when he was able to visually demonstrate a flaw in my swing. Brian took the time to show me the one important element, ensuring I was listening to understand and not listening to act. He was also patient to teach me the movement, feel and requirements for successfully replicating this properly. It was at that moment when I turned a corner. And also when I knew I had an instructor I could build my game with.