Golf special: Why learning to swing properly is vital

By Jon Massey on January 14, 2014 10:58 AM |

Brocket1WEBBBBBYT.jpg"Golf is hard," Brocket Hall's head pro, Simon Garner intones. "Imagine a tennis racquet and ball. In golf we have a much smaller ball and a much smaller surface with which to hit it."

As a complete novice, I'm afraid I have bad news for those who wish to wield a wood with an acceptable level of skill.

I went to Brocket Hall in Hertfordshire looking for a shortcut to competency. But after three hours or so of tuition, never once striking a ball, I can report there ain't a quick fix.

Abandon hope all those non-players who have signed up for an important corporate golf date in the coming weeks.

While contacts may be nurtured sweetly in the palatial restaurants and bars of the club which agreed to put up with me, sweet contact with the driver only comes through sustained practice.

To get into the sport then, is a long, aching road of commitment and dedicated work. Well, if you want to be any good, that is.

Simon suggests this partly explains the high churn of participants, with estimates in the millions picking up clubs only to leave them gathering mildew beneath the stairs.

Frustration at absence of progress is the culprit but the game is also lengthy and demands significant time, putting it at odds with many other pressures.

Simon is the bearer of good news, however. He contends everyone can improve with the right tuition, so where better for me to start?

Brocket Hall's Palmerston Golf Academy boasts superior facilities (it's £695 for a six-month pass that covers the various practice areas and the par-three Academy course).

Instead of heading for the immaculate driving range, putting green, chipping practice area or three-par course, we head for a nondescript barn.

And, apart from a short spell putting, it's within that I spend my first golf lesson. No balls please.

Instead Simon talks at length in the manner of a man who knows all the jargon but prefers simple clear language.

I start splayed against the wall attempting to force the length of my spine flat. Everything's connected so the task is impossible.

As one part snaps into position, so another pops out. The message? In order to fluidly strike a ball, one's whole body has to work in harmony.

To reinforce this, I spend the next 15 minutes or so hitting a padded wall with a club.

First using only my wrists, then arms, then torso. It's no surprise more power comes with more body parts, but there's a certain physical insistence imparted by the exercise.

Thwack. Thwack, thwack, thwack.

A painstaking period follows as I'm taught how to set my body ready to swing.

The idea is to build a solid routine that relaxes and prepares a solid stance that can be calibrated more finely, the more I play.

And, oddly, it works. Almost without noticing it I'm bitten by the bug.

Even though I've not hit a ball, the cogs are whirring. Spurred on by Simon's encouragingly positive assessment of my video-captured lunge, I feel a sense of achievement.

The weekend after I beat my friend at pitch and putt.

I'm still laughably bad but the routine adds a degree of consistency I'd never had before and an understanding that with a huge amount of practice and refinement I might manage a decent shot or two one day.

Brocket2WEDDBBBY.jpgAnd, if you have the cash, where better than Brocket Hall, a splendid outpost of opulence not far north of London.

In addition to the spotless Palmerston (par 73) and Melbourne (par 72) courses, designed by Donald Steel and Peter Allis and Clive Clark respectively, the estate provides superb accommodation in the form of restaurants, bars and conference facilities as well as expert advice and equipment.

But be warned. Once bitten you're likely to return again and again.

■ A wide range of membership options are available at Brocket Hall. Go to brocket-hall.co.uk for more information about the club.

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