When most people begin to play a new sport, they usually have a coach or take lessons to help train them and teach them the rules of the game. I first started golfing as an excuse to get out of the house and go hang out with my buddies after work, so five years ago when I first started swinging a club around, I had no idea what I was doing. I could still say the same up until a few weeks ago when I decided to change that.
Golf is one of the hardest games to play and for some reason I thought I could learn the tricks of the trade by myself. Between YouTube, Google and the various golf influencers I follow online, I thought I had all the knowledge I needed at my disposal. But online tutorials and tips can only get you so far when playing such a complex sport.
Over the last few months of playing, I’ve felt like I hit a plateau with my game. I’ve been shooting consistent scores, but I still wasn’t pleased with where my game was at. I was struggling with a bad slice when hitting my driver and I was hitting very inconsistent shots with my irons. I have a decent swing, but I find myself chunking and topping my irons too often. So, after struggling for five years and torturing myself trying teach myself how to play, I finally decided to book some golf lessons and learn from a professional.
For a right-handed player like myself, a slice is when you accidentally hit the ball and it curves to the right. A hook is when you hit and the ball curves to the left. A chunked shot, also known as hitting it fat, means that you’ve hit the ground before making contact with ball, and topping the ball is when you hit on the top of the ball causing it bounce or roll.
There are so many reasons why a person could play poor golf, and when trying to analyze your game by yourself it can be difficult unless you’ve been playing for many years or are a professional. I’m not sure why it took me so long to book a set of lessons, but after only two lessons so far, I’m so happy that I made the decision to try and better my game.
Finding a golf pro isn’t a hard task at all. With a little online searching you can find a coach at almost any course near you. Before booking lessons though, it would be wise to assess your goals and figure out why you want lessons in the first place. When you contact an instructor, they will first ask why you’re booking lessons and what it is you’re looking to fix.
I live in Turlock, so the closest course to me is River Oaks in Ceres. I’ve played this course for years, so I already knew a little bit about their PGA professional Greg Silva, but had never met him prior to my lessons. I have a few friends that have booked lessons with him in the past and they all had great things to say. After completing two lessons with Silva, I can honestly say that their praises were well justified.
Upon first meeting Silva, he made it clear that his love for the game is unlike any other person I’ve met. He has been teaching golf for 56 years and it has all been to help grow the game and teach young, up-and-coming players to fall in love with the sport.
He started playing golf when he was 10 years old and the time, he was given the nickname “thousand questions” for his never-ending search for answers. While on a trip to visit family in Utah, Silva’s mother signed him up for a golf tournament.
Unknown to both Silva and his mother, she had signed him up for a professional tournament. Silva would go on to place first while breaking the course record, scoring a 10 under 62 complete with a hole in one on the third hole. He walked away with his professional status, the prize money and a ‘64 Cadillac convertible. Pretty impressive for a 17-year-old high school junior.
Upon returning to California, Silva started working for his father who was also a golf pro in Modesto. Since then, Silva has been teaching the great game of golf and establishing an impressive resume. In 1967, he set the course record at Tracy Golf and Country Club. He had five eagles and 13 pars, which also set a record for most eagles in a tournament.
I paid only $170 for a set of four lessons, which is a fair price for the knowledge gained. Most golf lessons can cost double that depending on the area you live in or the person giving the lessons. But it’s never been about the money for Silva. He leaves no doubt that his reason for teaching is to help spread the knowledge he’s gained through such a lengthy and prestigious golf career.
During my first lesson with Silva, he watched me swing and hit a few balls. We went through the basics such as grip, stance, alignment, tempo, etc. I won’t go into great detail so I don’t give away his knowledge for free, but for the most part he said I had a good swing and he thought I could be a decent player.
The one thing he called me out on right away, though, was my grip. I was gripping the clubs the wrong way. At first, I was completely unsure of this new grip because it really weakened my right hand and I started spraying the ball in every direction besides straight, but after a few weeks of practice, I have finally become more comfortable with the way I’m holding my clubs.
My second lesson was focused on swing drills and repetition. Silva taught me the proper swing plane and how to improve my muscle memory off the course so that when I pick up a club, my body knows what to do without thinking too much. Golf is just as much of a mental battle as it is physical. You need to train your body and mind so as not to get distracted over the ball.
No coach is going to be an instant miracle worker or be able to fix your swing over night, but from the times I’ve gone to the range since changing my grip, I feel like I am hitting straighter, more consistent shots. I have yet to play a round with my new swing, so after a few more practice sessions and lessons I’m going to have to put my newfound knowledge to the test.
I look forward to finishing my next two lessons with Silva and seeing what new knowledge I can pick form his brain. I feel lucky to have found such an experienced mentor who is so accessible. I will be updating you all in the next issue to let you know everything I have learned and see how it translates to playing the game on an actual course. Wish me luck as I embark on the path of golf enlightenment, and until next time, hit it hard.