Our new guest column charts the fledgling moments of Kim Dowsing’s golfing career as she attempts to go from beginner to 18 handicap within a year.
"Pack your case kiddo, we are going to Nice," he said. "And we will be taking your golf clubs."
"Nice, as in the south of France?" I asked.
"Nice? Hmmm, nice."
A few days later, the following:
"Kimmy, I didn't tell you the entire story. We are going to Nice, or at least we are flying to Nice. And then we are heading to Terre Blanche, where you will be working with Jean-Jacques Rivet. He is a biomechanist, and he works with the best golfers in the world, including Lyida Ko and, erm, me. The man is a genius. And Terre Blanche – well that is a five-star resort that you will adore."
So let me put you fully in the picture. When the announcement was made, I had only been hitting golf balls for about three months. I admit that I had hit thousands of golf balls under the guidance of Derek, my partner (henceforth referred to as Himself) who is a seven-handicap golfer. I had always wanted to learn to play golf and finally I was doing it.
But JJ Rivet? He would have to be a genius. After all, I had not set foot on a golf course. I knew the driving range at Dunston Hall, near Norwich, backwards and I had ventured onto the practice putting green and had even managed to hole a few putts. But surely I was nowhere near ready for this step.
It was only when we walked into JJ's practice bay that I became fully aware of my shortcomings. I didn't want to embarrass myself and I didn't want to waste JJ's time. He told me to warm up by hitting some seven-iron shots. It was excruciating. Standing before this man, I found that I could hardly hit the ball. There were air shots, there were shots that moved the ball a couple of inches, there were shots that went sideways.
All the while, JJ sat and watched, every so often turning round and looking at the monitor behind him which was recording everything I did. I could sense Himself willing me on, but the harder I tried, the worse it got.
Then JJ summoned me over to look at my results. There was good news – my foot grounding (more of which later) wasn't too bad. The bad news - pretty much everything else was in dire need of assistance.
The first thing he addressed was my grip. Himself had taught me to play using the Vardon grip, but I was advised to try the interlocking grip and to turn my left hand more to the right so that I could see a couple of knuckles when I looked down. But my biggest problem was that I wasn't releasing the club at impact. Instead of a straight right arm, my right elbow was bent and I was clearly trying to scoop the ball up into the air. I was also trying to hit the ball too hard – something you-know-who had been telling me to avoid.
JJ told me to hit some shots with my new grip. Straight away, it felt more comfortable. I have a touch of arthritis and after hitting 100 balls on the range my left hand had been hurting. Astonishingly, there was now no discomfort.
I was at the range raring to go at 9am the following morning. Before we go any further, let me tell you about foot grounding. If releasing the club properly at impact is the most important part of the golf swing, then correct foot grounding comes a very close second.
Essentially, the important thing is to keep your feet on the ground throughout the swing – even on the downswing, you should keep your right heel on the ground as long as possible. It helps to prevent you from swaying and it encourages a more powerful, more consistent move through the impact area. Thanks to my pre-Terre Blanche introduction to the game, I had already had this drummed into my head.
Of all the things I learned over the few days, the one that was most likely to work for me in the long-term was where I started my swing with my right heel in the air. It gives me the feeling of being in the right place at the top of the swing. And the following words will ring around in my head for ever:
"You are being too aggressive. You need to hear music in your head. Find the right music and you will find the right position."
I've Got The Golf Bug!
I left Terre Blanche knowing how lucky I had been to have had the opportunity to work with this man and when we got home I couldn't wait to head down to the driving range and hit more golf balls. And do you know what? When we got there and I started pounding my 100 balls I had a Eureka moment, the feeling where it all kind of clicked into place and made sense. I know that months of hard work lie ahead, but I also know that I really do have a chance of getting my handicap to 18 by this time next year.
And JJ? Himself was correct. He IS a genius.
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