Earnest Words

Lesson 3 with Don Byrd

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Had a lesson today (written 9/23) at the golf club of california with Don Byrd. It was my first lesson in about 3 months: vacation and the first month of school really got in the way. Oh, and the fact that our house was a construction zone for some time.

So it’s now three months later. Since I met with Don the last time, I’ve played 66 holes and have continued to improve. I made every putt from under 6 feet at St. Mark’s in July, played two family scrambles, and scored my best-ever championship score on the Vineyards course. At the Loma Club, I had a birdie for the first time in nearly two years and had 34 putts, which was especially good because I didn’t play particularly well that day.

So we talked a little bit about how to score on the way up to the course. I told Don, “I’d really like to learn how to hit my longer clubs.”

He asked me why. I told him I wanted to be closer to the hole with my second and third shots.

He told me, very kindly, that I was wrong. My handicap is so high that I should give myself two strokes on every hole.

Here is a summary of what he said.

“Look at the scorecard. Even the longest hole is only 500 yards. If you can get your 7 iron 150 yards each time, you are on the green in 4 strokes and you can two-putt for a bogey.”

I’m paying him for lessons. I will endeavor to listen to him. He did let me know that my instincts were correct: it’ll help to have a longer club off the tee. Driver or 3 wood were what he recommended.

I told him my relationship with my 3 wood was poor. He told me that was fine. 

We worked on the range, I think because the course was pretty crowded.

I hit 5 pitching wedge shots at 85 yards. He saw me taking a small backswing and trying a shorter swing and asked me what I would normally hit in this situation. I told him sand wedge, so we switched to sand wedge. 10 sand wedge shots, 5 9 iron, 5 8 iron, 5 7 iron, and 5 driver shots. Then I hit 10 shots with my 3 wood after he saw what my driver was doing.

I struggled. There is no other way to say it. I didn’t make very good contact and didn’t feel very confident.

Don worked with my contact, having me do a drill aligned to a folding chair. My goal was to strike the back of the chair with the heel of my club, sweeping my right elbow across my chest.

I was, predictably, a mess with this as I tried to do a very intentional action. It was like thinking about walking without walking.

I seemed to have figured out the chair drill pretty well, but extending my right arm by uncocking my wrist after the swing was a challenge. Again, it is like trying to think about throwing while you are throwing. It is very hard.

Don also gave me some course management advice: take everything that wasn’t a 7 iron down and my 3 wood out of my bag. Goodbye, 6 iron, at least for now.

I should be getting down to a bogey on par 3s (happily, I can share that my average on par 3s since I started taking lessons is a fine 3.91 strokes per hole).  I should treat par as two strokes higher on par 4s and par 5s.

I felt very happy because my chipping and putting appear to be pretty good. I’m down to about 1.7 putts per hole since my first lesson, from averaging 2.2 a hole previously.

So now it is just: keep putting, keep chipping, and work on the chair drill with my 3 wood and all the other clubs in my bag and then work on the extension.

I’ll let you know when I play again! And it’ll be 7 iron on down!

Day later update:

So the elbow across the chest thing is beginning to click. The extension will take time. I also know that I should be encouraged by a push shot, since that means that I literally just missed the optimal contact point.

What did I learn:

3 wood was blocked out a lot, with a big swooping fade. I did have two really nice shots: one with a draw and another where I flushed it. But I only topped one and that was because I didn’t extend.

So I’ll aim left side of my target pretty considerably to account for the most likely miss.


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