For years I’ve been telling people my first golf lesson was a disaster. It’s a good story but not entirely the truth because there was an informal lesson I had before taking serious lessons. And this lesson was anything but a disaster…

The public golf course I started at had a chipping green next to the Superintendents shed. The green was a nursery for the real greens and even had a sand bunker attached. This became my home away from home.

The driving range cost money – the chipping green was free. So when I wasn’t in the horse paddock, or using the putting green (also free) I was chipping and hitting bunker shots. To this day I reckon my bunker shots are the best part of my game. I hit so many shots from that bunker that I wore out my sand iron. I also learned to hit proper bunker shots – the ones that come out high and spin. A very handy shot. But I digress…

To get to and from the chipping green you needed to walk through the driving range. It was a new range – I think the first in Melbourne, it was surrounded by huge nets that stopped stray balls finding the nearby houses.

One day I was stopped dead in my tracks. “Cameron, come over here please”. It was the golf professional. He was in his early 20’s and had blonde hair. From memory this was his first job as a golf professional and he was finding his feet. I was 14 and shy. I remember being surprised at him knowing my name and worried I was getting into trouble. I can’t remember much else about him, I think his name was Andrew but I can’t be sure.

“I’ve just got this new video camera, would you like it if I put your swing on video?”

Would I like it? What a stupid question. I would love to see my swing on video. At this point in my golf development I had never seen my golf swing. I was excited. It was also the first time hitting balls in front of a golf pro. It was nerve wracking and I was struggling.

“Relax Cameron. I’m not going to bite. Can you hit the ball towards that flag?”

I settled down after a few minutes. The pro was playing with his camera, probably adjusting the shutter settings to get a clear picture as possible.

“Righto, let’s have a look at your swing on the TV”.

He ushered me through to a small room that was set up for lessons. I’d never been in there before and I was in awe of all the posters of the great golf champions.

Greg Norman, Nick Faldo, Seve and Jack Nicklaus were looking down on me. I particularly liked the poster of Greg Norman, it was him in full flight, smashing a driver and the photographer had captured the ball moments after impact – Norman’s muscles were flexed and his face unleashing the energy of a powerful drive. I couldn’t take my eyes away.

“Ok, I’ve got it. Sit down and lets take a look”, said the pro.

He adjusted the TV and up popped an image of me in my address position. This was exciting! He pressed play and I watched my swing for the first time. I didn’t say much, but my eyes were glued to the TV – I never showed this much attention in school that’s for sure.

He played a few minutes of the footage and then rewound the tape. It looked funny watching a left-hander. Most golfers are obviously right handed and to this day it looks strange seeing a left handed golfer.

But I was happy with what I saw. My swing was quite athletic and had plenty of club head speed. The pro then started the video again and paused it at key moments in my swing. From here he compared my swing positions to those in his teaching book – he had cut out swings of all the modern players and was comparing my swing to theirs.

I can’t remember exactly what he said but it sort of went like this,

“Cameron, you have a very natural swing. It’s as good as any swing I have seen in a player so young. You hit the ball well and you’re starting to shoot some good scores. I’m not going to change your swing, it’s perfect. You need to keep playing and practicing hard and you’ll be as good as you want to be”.

Wow. Was I hearing things? I had this big stupid grin on my face and forgot about my shyness as a bolt of confidence surged through my body. I couldn’t believe it but was determined to work even harder at my game.

This golf pro didn’t stay long at my club. I’m pretty sure he was snapped up by one of the bigger clubs in town and I never saw him again – he might have even gone overseas to teach.

It was years later until I truly appreciated the power of that meeting. I have often thought how things would have been different if he didn’t leave. It’s a shame really and I wonder what he is doing now. His coaching was brilliant and differed so much from many of the “traditional” lessons I experienced over the coming years.

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  • he didn’t mess with my swing technique
  • he encouraged me to hit the ball to targets
  • he wanted me to play more
  • he kept things simple
  • he understood the importance of a free flowing swing
  • he was patient and didn’t try and give me 364 things to think about at once

The only problem was I didn’t understand his brilliance and was easily distracted by big promises and swing fixes. I went off on all sorts of tangents before I realised this guy was correct right from the start.

To be continued.

Resources: Desperate golfer part one