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Through the eyes of the pupil

One of my regular pupils, Martin (@GolferOnTheTyne) agreed to collaborate with me to provide an insight into my golf lessons and demonstrates the benefit lessons can be to golfers of all abilities. Read on to find out more about his journey.

Martin says:

November 5th, 2018 I wrote – Accept it or rip it up and start again…

Quickly came a challenge from a local PGA Pro, Mark Penny: “You won’t need to make too many tweaks.” Just what I was looking for, lesson booked.

I’ve known Mark since his amateur days, both playing at Newbiggin Golf Club and he had just joined Parklands Driving Range to develop his teaching business. A year on, he is building a very good reputation teaching all standards of golfers, but what is very noticeable are the number of low single figure players who are trusting him with their game. Knowing it’s never a small tweak and that I’d need to revisit in the future, I arrived at Parklands with an open mind and a willingness to do what I was told.

Greetings were exchanged and then Mark suggested that the first part of our session would be conducted with the aid of Trackman technology. The system would give me a random yardage and then I’d have five balls to try to hit this distance. This would be repeated with a further seven distances with five balls at each. Trackman then rates your accuracy from the pin, distance control, sideways movement then gives you a score out of 100. This allowed Mark to gauge where my game really was whilst quietly analysing my swing.

2018 was my first full year back playing at Bedlingtonshire Golf Club and although I finished the year off six (6.4), I was clinging on. I went up 0.6 in the year and never broke 80. I knew it was a tougher course, but that tough….. or was it me?

Trackman rated me as a 7hc, fair enough. Surprisingly 130 yards was my best distance to approach from (food for thought when laying up in future). A starting point for my quest to get better.

Mark Penny: I quickly noticed Martin struggled with a high, right to left curving shot that would be very difficult to control. At the point of impact, he’d throw his hands at the ball which does create speed but doesn’t give the consistency of strike each repetition. This gave him too many variables: How far should he aim right? What if it doesn’t turn? What happens in high winds?

MP: So, first we set out to stabilise a much squarer club face at the top of the swing. This allowed Martin to turn back through the ball, syncing his arms and torso, preserving clubface and club path in relation to his rotation. This allowed a much quieter pass of the hands and wrists through the ball.

Mark described what he saw in a mixture of technical and layman terms, allowing me to fully understand his idea, what action should be taken and what the outcome would be. This was also backed up by what we were seeing on Trackman, which before the session would have been numbers on a screen. In a simple but interesting way, Mark explained how the calculation of Club Path and Face to Path correlate into how we see the ball react after impact. In my case, a club path of +7.2 & face to path of -6.2, results in a 22 yard, right to left hook. Take that Bubba!

I was to keep the left arm straight all the way to the top, this stopped my overswing. Then at impact, I was not to rotate my wrists, which felt as if I was holding the clubface off/open. But to do so, I must turn my body. Three simple pointers that I still think about a year on when I’m struggling on the course. It never works straight away, but very quickly my ball striking improved. If the ball went right to left, it was a gentle draw. I basically took the left-hand side of the course, out of play. In the past, a nicely rotated wrist would have resulted in a draw, if I was too quick, it was a hook, if I got the club stuck behind me, it was a block when aiming right of the green! Too many variables, not enough consistency.

MP: By the end of the lesson, we reduced Martin’s Club Path down to +2.0 and Face to Path to -0.5 which resulted in less deviation in the air. He was also able to explain in his own words, the “feels” which allowed him to do so. This allows the pupil to take away and work on what they feel rather than what they think. The results on Trackman showed a lesser dispersion of shots, more consistent distance control and no shots finishing left of the target. A very successful session.

During the winter I revisited Mark several times to check I was heading in the right direction. A right to left would often reappear but would quickly be minimalised as soon as I was in the teaching bay. We were often in touch over text and email regarding my progress. He helped me out with a driving problem which ended in a change of shaft (equipment changes are the last resort, but it became apparent that his driver wasn’t the right set up for Martin’s swing).

MP: Martin contacted me in June to discuss issues on the course. He mentioned a couple of tee shots which he thought were wrecking his card. We quickly decided on a plan for each drive and I reassured him on his mental approach to these shots.

From this discussion, I decided to log down my scores per hole for the season (all available on HowDidIDo) and evaluate my scoring average thus allowing me to know where I needed to improve further. I targeted certain holes which I knew I should be scoring better on and reduced my scoring average by 2.29 shots per round.

Due to playing a lot of golf during the summer, I’ve struggled to maintain my lesson time with Mark and if I was to focus on my main miss of 2019, I’d say when trying to hit a high draw, I often missed on the right-hand side of the green as my wrists don’t rotate. There’s something bitter sweet in knowing that my ‘fix’ of last winter, is either an Achilles heel of 2019 or have I improved and need to trust that I can aim for the left half of the green? I managed to break 80 four times, with two scores of 77 (four over par). I represented Burgham Park in six league games, winning three of them. I lowered my handicap down to 5.3 but ended the year on 5.9 (having been up to 6.8 in May).

MP: My plan for Martin would be to manage his tendencies, help him practice more efficiently and therefore optimise his performance on the course. We’ve identified weakness from 80 yards and in plus his pitching and chipping. Time well spent on these areas will improve his game.

My aim for the winter of 2019/20 is to maintain a regular schedule of lesson and practice time. Mark has developed a Winter Coaching plan which combines 1-2-1 and group sessions, this will include KPI’s for each pupil. I look forward to challenging myself with Mark’s help to improve for 2020.

PS, if you are reading this, thinking you can relate to my issues or have thought about lessons but are worried about making it worse. Get booked in and see what happens (you’ll always be able to revert back). Mark will tailor your sessions and his technical language plus he’ll help you understand your swing.

Follow us both on Instagram @GolferOnTheTyne & @_MarkPenny

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