Editorial License

Rob Hammerton, music educator etc.

The Tables Have Turned, Mr. Bond

I had a lesson today.

Now, I’m trying to recall the last time I was involved in a private lesson on any subject that did not feature me as the teacher, but rather, the student. I think it was better than fifteen years ago that, while I was a graduate student, I took a series of saxophone lessons. Before that, it was earlier in my grad school career, this time a series of voice lessons.

I was reminded, this morning, of that first voice lesson. In that case, I knew my teacher from a slightly different sphere of life. I enjoyed his company. I wanted to impress him with what I could do before even the first lesson. So I sang as well as I could, with as proper posture, diction, air, etc., and at the end of the selection, I looked over at him expectantly.

“Not bad,” he said with a friendly smile. “…For Kermit the Frog.”

Ouch. Well, at least he was smiling. By the end of that first lesson, he had helped me adjust a few things, and singing felt different; and I knew I had work to do. But I wanted to go do it immediately. I also knew that I didn’t sound like Kermit the Frog anymore.

This morning, I arrived at the lesson site early, and I knew one thing: back in 1995, that lesson involved music, at which I’d had a little bit of success, so I didn’t feel like I was that far out of my element. This lesson, though, was all about golf. My golf experiences number three: the Great Cape Cod Tee-Off Disaster of (Probably) 1974 … all my birthday-party trips to the local miniature golf course (so my putting might not be too bad; I’m not sure yet) … and one afternoon in Maine in the mid-1990s that found me standing at one end of an unofficial pitch ‘n’ putt course with a 7-iron in my hand. By the end of the afternoon I thought maybe I might have something of a short game. But I’ve never had any experience with Hitting For Distance. Any time I watch pro golfers tee off on TV, the mighty THWACK happens and I immediately think, I can NOT do THAT.

So I approached this lesson with more than a bit of humility, as I had a very good chance of golfing like Kermit the Frog.

The golf pro assigned to this possibly hopeless case had a couple of things to finish up before my lesson started, so he parked me at a practice tee several yards from his outdoor lesson desk (complete with video monitor – we’re using technology nowadays, I guess!), tossed a dozen or so golf balls into the hopper, and invited me to hit for a little while, to get loosened up.

Okay. Out of the bag came an iron. Ball on tee … set myself properly … try and remember what I’ve seen Phil Mickelson and Yani Tseng do on the backswing and the downswing and hope I hit the ball at all! … take a Mighty Casey hack! …

Well, the ball went basically forward and basically fairly high. Okay.

Next shot was a hot grounder to third. Wrong sport, and no one saw that, right?

Next shot went a bit further than the first, a high fly ball to right field. I liked how far it rolled. Next shot was (as long as we’re using baseball lingo) a pop fly to the pitcher. The infield fly rule was invoked. The best thing about all this was that, although there were several other people nearby, taking practice shots as well, nobody paid attention to me, and nobody snickered. I changed clubs, to my cool modern hybrid driver, and didn’t hit the ball appreciably far. Mercifully, I think, I ran out of golf balls shortly thereafter. Consistency might not be my strong suit. Fore!

The lesson started with me doing basically the same, so the pro could have a look. Happily, I hit two shots that had decent distance (in the air, no less) … and although they did hook left, at least they both hooked left. Consistency!

The pro stopped me. Try this and this to change your grip. Okay, now hit a couple more, and aim for that red flag in front of you, probably about a hundred yards ahead.

Darned if they didn’t fly straight and true.

And you, sir, accomplished that just by talking about the heel of my left hand? Teaching is a two-way street, I know; but friends, I get far less credit for this than does The Pro. Guess that’s why he’s called a pro. … Okay, I was listening before because it’s good to be polite. Now, I’m really listening.

The rest of the lesson featured no more hitting, and lots of physical exercises and drills to try to adjust my backswing into something resembling consistency. I cranked my upper torso in all kinds of inhuman directions. For the first time in my life, I was encouraged to focus on putting weight on the inside of my foot (not a marching technique, that’s for sure!). And then he walked over to his desk and fired up the video machine. All that time, he’d been recording my less-than-stellar form.

[For all the former Drum Major Academy students out there who may be reading this … who have spent time in my TV room, watching video of themselves conduct to recorded music, and execute drum major salutes … well, this summer I probably won’t go any easier on the DMA kids I see, but I’ll understand a bit better what it’s like to see yourself on DMA TV and hate it.]

Throughout the lesson, even as I focused on what the pro was saying, a little tiny part of my brain was noting the role reversal. I had confessed to him that as a teacher, it’s a good thing for me to be a student every once in a while, to see how the other half (or more!) lived. Also, that corner of my brain was trying to take notes on how this teacher did what he did, because in a couple of tiny but noticeable ways, I walked out of that lesson with a better golf swing than I had when I woke up this morning.

When the lesson finished up, and as I made arrangements for the next one, I desperately wanted to go to the far end of the practice range and hit and hit and hit and hit. Instead, I will repair to the back deck here, and do the three exercises that the golf pro put me through, so as to start a little muscle memory training. I will follow the pro’s instructions. I will be a good boy.

(And then tomorrow, as soon as I arise, I’ll go try to replicate that straight ‘n’ true hitting.)

I wonder: during everybody else’s golf lessons, are their brains as full as mine was?

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June 27, 2012 - Posted by | education, golf, teachers, technology | , , , , , , , , ,

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