In golf, little changes make big difference

I recently heard a statistic that the average golfer - who obviously makes much more money than I do - has spent several thousand dollars over the past five years on golf clubs, and about $100 over that same period of time on golf lessons. I find it ironic that so many people feel that an upgrade in equipment will fix their game, yet they ignore the glaring flaws in their swing.
Matt DeYoung
Aug 27, 2011

I’m the opposite. Over the past five years, I had spent a grand total of $50 on golf equipment up until this past week, when I finally broke down and purchased a new set of irons to replace the old Tommy Armour knock-offs I bought used off a friend in college.

I also upgraded my driver, thanks to my younger brother, who works at Callaway in Carlsbad, Calif. He hooked me up with a FT-I square-headed driver he won at a raffle. He stands 6-feet, 7-inches tall, so he has no use for normal length clubs.

I tested out the new driver during a spring break trip to stay with my brother in San Diego, and I hit it great.

Since then, I’ve struggled with the new club. Every once in a while, I’ll bomb one down the middle of the fairway, but more often than not, my ball ends up left — way left. I’d be terrified to tee off on No. 1 at Fruitport, afraid I’d kill someone cruising down Harvey Street.

I knew it wasn’t the club’s fault, but I couldn’t figure out what I was doing that was sending the ball zinging off to the left time after time.

So when I stopped by for my weekly visit with Scott Janus of the Janus Golf Academy at Grand Haven Golf Club, I was desperate for him to help me straighten things out.

As usual, it didn’t take him long to pinpoint the problem.

When I first learned the proper way to swing a driver, I was using an older Cleveland Launcher, and I needed to hold the club face closed at address to avoid hitting a slice (a shot that goes to the right).

Janus explained that some drivers — particularly those with square heads — are designed to square themselves up at impact, so holding the driver closed at address was leading to my club face coming into the ball closed. As a result, my ball was going left.

“Picture a clock, and if your club is pointing at 12 o’clock, that’s a neutral grip,” Janus explained. “With your old driver, you had to set up with the club at about 11 o’clock in order to hit it straight. With this club, you might need to go to 12 o’clock or even a little past that to hit it straight.”

I was skeptical that such a minor adjustment would make much of a difference, but as I keep learning, with the game of golf, the difference is in the smallest of details.

My next 10 swings were all booming drives either straight or with a slight right-to-left fade, which is exactly what I’m looking for off the tee.

I’ve learned that hitting a few good shots on the practice green doesn’t always translate to success on the golf course, but realizing what my problem was and knowing how to fix it gives me a lot more confidence next time I step on the tee.

That’s good news for the cars traveling south on Harvey Street.

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