Out on the golf course, overdue lessons meet reality
Columnist Steve Kelley is trying to get back into golf at age 63. This time, he takes his lessons onto the course to test his progress — and patience.
Seattle Times staff columnist
SNOQUALMIE — The video didn't lie.
The golfer on the tee was hunched over the ball looking like Bob Cratchit over his ledger.
How could somebody look that uncomfortable? Couldn't he feel his own awkwardness? Who was this guy in the video looking like some 30-handicap Quasimodo?
Oh, my god, it was me.
My swing looked as if I'd been practicing by hitting balls off the deck of a yacht in the middle of a hurricane. My balance was so bad I was falling back on my follow through.
I was trying to scoop the ball, instead of compressing it. I was hitting up, instead of hitting down. I was so out of sorts you would have thought I'd spent the previous hour hanging out at the beverage cart.
That was a month ago, when I began my search for my golf game.
Luke Brosterhous, the teaching pro at Snoqualmie Ridge Golf Club, agreed to help in the search. I wasn't looking to join the Champions Tour. At 63, I just wanted to enjoy golf again.
"You have to determine where golf orients into your life," Brosterhous told me. "Are you playing for fun? Are you playing to score? Are you trying to beat other people, or just enjoy their company?"
For our first lesson, he suggested we play nine holes, take my game out for a test drive. Discover the extent of the damage. I suggested we start at Green Lake. He demanded we play the front nine at Snoqualmie Ridge.
I was bad, an Econoline van with a broken transmission.
A few days after we played, Brosterhous emailed my score, adjusted over 18 holes. I thought he was just rubbing it in, but he said the numbers would be good benchmarks to chart my improvement.
Score: 106. Fairways hit: 8. Greens in Regulation: 0. Putts 40. 3 Putts: 8. Penalties: 10.
I quit the game because of rounds like that. I couldn't get out of my way. Bad shot followed bad shot. Golf no longer was fun.
So much thinking is associated with the sport. Concerns about your stance, grip, chin. Is anybody watching? Did I just lose another ball? Do I have enough balls left to finish the round? Where's the beverage cart?
So much can go wrong with a golf swing. At least that's what I told myself. Brosterhous corrected me.
"A lot of it is being comfortable with the results and that means being comfortable with what might happen," he told me after those first nine holes. "Once you've related to the score to the point where you don't care necessarily if it's good or bad, then you can make breakthroughs.
"I think good golf can only be played from a place of anxiety-free fearlessness. You have to enjoy the game, be present with each shot and know that you can't always control the results.
"If we come into it with all kinds of expectations about how we stack up, and if we measure ourselves with other people or are worried about whether we're embarrassing ourselves in front of some foursome, then we're going to have some issues."
For the past month, Brosterhous has gone to work on my game. He's kept it simple.
He's worked on the placement of my hands. He's gotten me out of the habit of scooping, so that now I'm compressing the ball better, transferring my weight more consistently.
He broke tees and put them about six inches in front of the ball. The idea was for me to think about hitting the tee with my follow through, improving my compression.
He had me lift my back leg, so only the toe was touching the ground. I hit seven irons looking like a stork and started comprehending the idea of finishing my swing on my left leg.
Miracle of miracles, I've started making much better contact.
"In terms of improvement, on a scale of one to 10, I think right now, over the last four weeks, you're about a nine," Brosterhous said. "Like a lot of golfers, I think you had some technical things in your setup and in your swing that weren't allowing you to be very consistent.
"But you've come quite a ways in terms of consistently striking the ball. That's something you should be pretty excited about. Now it's going to be a matter of taking that out on the course and trusting it on the course."
We're going back to the course this week. I'm thinking of it as a midterm exam. And once again, playing Green Lake is not an option.
Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or email@example.com
About Steve Kelley
Steve Kelley covers all sports, putting his spin on matters involving both the home team and the nation.
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