Polishing the golf basics at Old Greenwood
Before diving into the nitpicky mechanics of a proper golf swing, Keith Lyford wanted to observe my form. The director of instruction at the Golf Academy at Old Greenwood needed a starting point from which to teach.
So I dug in, provided 6-iron in hand, and took a mighty hack.
With blinding velocity, the club whipped through the swing zone, emitting a crisp “swoosh” as its head grazed the grass and struck the ball square in its belly. Onlookers gasped as the tiny pitted object exploded into orbit ” a line drive that disappeared, still on the rise, into the distant smoke.
An eruption of applause followed as women flocked to meet the man who blasted the 400-yard drive. Lyford, awestruck by the display of sheer skill and power, immediately offered a job as his assistant.
OK, so that’s not entirely true.
All right, beyond Lyford’s instruction to take a demo swing, none of it is.
Truth is, I gripped the club with grossly improper form, reached into a backswing and sprung like a cobra, only to chop a dribbler that settled about 15 feet from our feet.
Lyford had his work cut out for him; it’s a good thing he’s patient.
A former PGA Tour player who has since been named by GOLF Magazine as one of America’s Top 100 Teachers, Lyford knows a thing or two about how to strike a golf ball.
It starts with the grip, based on our lesson, and it’s not quite as simple as lining up the knuckles on a baseball bat.
After fumbling with my hands to tweak them into the proper position ” this took longer than the average person’s threshold for patience ” Lyford was satisfied enough to proceed.
The next issue was posture, a basic concept compared to the relative complexity of the hand grip. Bend at the knees, Lyford said, lean forward with a straight back ” ironing out every bit of slouch ” and push the butt out. (The butt part helps straighten the back.)
With posture and grip dialed in, we moved on to hip rotation, holding the club against the body at waist level while twisting the trunk back and forth to master the feel. This would be incorporated into the backswing and follow-through, the latter of which I found to be the more challenging.
As the club head swept through the ball, Lyford said to stiffen the front leg and open the chest on the follow-through while sucking in the back knee so that it was tight with its counterpart. The final product should be a raised back heel, leaving only toes touching grass.
Seemed pretty simple, really. Now, putting this all together in one smooth stroke was a different story.
My backswing was clean, the follow-through not so much, Lyford said. That stubborn back foot just did not want to cooperate.
Nevertheless, at least three times the ball shot off the club head without threatening the lives of any gophers within 50 feet. Mostly, though, the balls sailed wide right due to my signature slice. To correct this, Lyford said to work on squaring up the face of the club. I can do that.
At the end of the 45-minute lesson ” which ranges in price from $100 to $150 ” Lyford had me take some hacks in front of a couple strategically placed video cameras. He then analyzed my swing, pointing out the goods and the bads. The good: posture and backswing. The bad: follow-through.
Asked how he’d grade my performance from ‘A’ to ‘F,’ Lyford, to my surprise, dished out an ‘A’-minus.
“If it weren’t for that (back) foot I’d give you an ‘A’-plus,” he said.
Good enough for me.
Sylas Wright is the sports editor at the Sierra Sun. He may be reached at email@example.com.