Gimme Three Strokes: Overcoming Frustration

Over the past few weeks, we have covered many different highlights of my golf lessons with Greg Baresel at Cantigny Golf and Country Club in Wheaton, Ill. I’ve drastically improved my weight shift, backswing and posture in less than two months. The final element of my full swing is perfecting the proper impact position. As you will learn, however, this element can be very difficult to master.

Before I get started, I’d like to first offer this disclaimer: I can get angry and frustrated very quickly. It is a personality trait that has haunted me throughout my life ever since a horrible LEGO incident in the early 1980s. Let’s just say you can fit a square peg in a round hole with enough force and a running start. I’ll let you take that however you want.

If you’re a golfer like me, you have the tendency to let your right hand take control of your swing’s follow through. This often leads to an early unhinging of your wrists, which results in a serious reduction in power by artificially adding loft to the club. You are “scooping” the ball at impact instead of compressing it. I’ve written about this swing flaw of mine in previous columns.

As you can see on the left side of the video above, my hands are barely past my right leg when I make contact with the golf ball. This is a weak impact position and a recipe for a snap hook. It’s also a good way to lose your mind on the golf course. Trust me, I know.

To remedy this swing flaw, Greg had me watch a video of Dustin Johnson. Take a look:

As you can see, DJ has this funky-looking wrist position at the top of his backswing. His right wrist is extended toward the back of his forearm while his left wrist is cupped — or flexed — downward. Greg wanted me to feel this wrist position through impact. He suggested I focus on turning my wrists down toward the ground when I started my downswing. If I could do so, pure body mechanics would cause my hands to be more in front of the golf ball.

Does this sound difficult to comprehend? Don’t worry, it was for me as well. I simply did not understand how I was going to remember to turn my wrists “down” (whatever that meant) in the split-second it takes to transition from the backswing to your downswing. I’m not smart enough. I became incredibly frustrated as I routinely failed to hit the positions Greg wanted me to execute.

The lesson ended on a bit of a somber tone for the first time in my program. I was upset with myself and my confidence was lacking. Greg reassured me that this was the final step to improving my golf swing. What happens if I never get over this obstacle? I was worried I wouldn’t achieve my goal of having a single-digit handicap.

If you decide to take golf lessons, you will become frustrated at some point in the process. This is guaranteed. You’ll be introduced to a golf concept that is completely different than anything you’ve ever heard and then you’ll be asked to contort your body to fit that position. The key is to channel your frustration into something positive … like more practice.

So that is exactly what I decided to do. Two days after my lesson I went to a nearby driving range, bought the largest bushel of golf balls I could find and hit balls for more than three hours. I worked on drills, focusing on turning my wrist downward through impact and did not leave until I started seeing results. My back and hands are still sore from that practice session.

Up until this point, I have progressed quickly through my lessons. Following this most recent lesson, I knew that if I wanted to get any better, I would need to work harder on my game than ever before. At the risk of sounding too overly dramatic, I had to approach my practice sessions like a professional.

In order to reap the benefits of your golf lessons you have to do your homework. Classroom time with a teaching professional is only half the battle. Putting in your work at the range — hours of work, actually — is what will help you improve the most. The trick is first knowing what to practice.