THREE weeks ago, I started group golf lessons at Haigh Country Park.
An infuriating five hours spent hacking around an 18-hole course prompted me to take action – and the promise to ‘Get Golf Ready’ in five weeks was too good to resist.
Instructor Alan Crompton told me they had really taken off – with like-minded enthusiasts of both genders and all ages lured in by the chance to get better for just £5 a lesson.
To a modest level, I’ve already started to feel more confident in my own game. And Alan’s pointers have given me an idea of where I’ve been going wrong when shots have been occasionally topped and sliced.
“The aim of the course is to get people to a position where they could confidently go around nine-holes,” said Alan. “Many people don’t have the time to do a full course, and that’s fine. But you can get around a nine-hole in an hour-and-a-half.”
Here is a breakdown of what areas are covered over the duration of the course – with tips from Alan about common errors.
Week 1: Introduction, grip and irons – it wasn’t just novices who profited from this class, but those who had been playing for years – often with the wrong technique. “One common fault we see is people trying to help the ball through the air by ‘scooping’ it, rather than brushing the grass and following through,” said Alan.
Week 2: Drivers – the big-boys, the boxing gloves, the clubs which make possibly the most satisfying noise ever. With longer clubs and bigger club heads, there is more room for the shots to go spectacularly wrong. “It’s often hard for newcomers to get to grips with the drivers,” said Alan. “But what we’re trying to do with this course is get them to a point where – when the time comes – they have an idea how to stand, how to tee it up, and how to hit it.”
Week 3: Short game – golf is full of ironies. There are woods that aren’t made of wood and – in the short-game – the technique of using a sand wedge.
When the ball isn’t in the sand. And using a seven iron... to tap it onto the green. “In the short game, there are basically two shots – the chip and the pitch,” says Alan. “The chip is using an iron, played more like a putting stroke, and a pitch is when we’re going over an obstacle such as rough grass or a bunker.
“We use a sand wedge because it has more loft than a pitching wedge.” Like irons, one common fault is trying to ‘lift’ the ball – rather than following through. Players should put more of their weight on the front foot.
Week 4: Putting – the easy one, right? Which is why many neglect to practice it. But consider this – nearly half of a professional’s shots on an average round are made with a putter. There are three areas to focus on, says Alan. Direction, pace, and reading the green. “A lot of this comes from practice and experience,” he said. Two tips: keep your eyes over the ball, and keep arms straight, so they look like a pendulum.
Week 5: A round – Haigh Hall has Shot Centre technology which – in short – is like playing golf on the Nintendo Wii. Only it’s precise, with real clubs, and the big screen allows players to try out courses such as Belfry.
Alan says newcomers – whether playing with fellow novices or accomplished players – should try ‘Texas Scramble’, in which everyone tees off, and the best shot is used as the starting point for everyone’s next shot, and so on.