Continuing my golfing journey under the guidance of my teacher, Zen Hogan, I have been practising hard and looking forward to my next lesson.
My Wilson Golf Clubs
Zen Hogan & the Arc of a Drive r – Part 2
After my first meeting with Zen Hogan I was keen to learn and Dad was happy to give me his old clubs. They were Wilson ProStaff and he had used them for years, and kept them in really good condition. ‘Treat them well and they will treat you well,’ he often said as I watched him cleaning and adding a little oil to prevent corrosion. It was a useful lesson and one I appreciated when I took a club into the back garden and practised with it. It looked great; the grip firm and holding and the blade and grooves clean and ready for action. The steel shaft glinted in the sunlight, and I knew when I swung it easily back and forth that I had to do justice to this beautiful club. I wasn’t so sure about feeling some kind of ‘oneness’ as Zen had talked about, but there was definitely something that intrigued me. And I wanted to know more.
I watched some videos that Dad had bought and stood in front of the television and copied the stance and movement of the instructors. The low ceiling prevented any swinging of clubs and I had to go into the garden to practise what I had just seen. I swung back and then forward and tried to feel what was happening. It was interesting but I knew I had a long way to go and looked forward to my next lesson and maybe hitting some balls.
‘That’s looking pretty good,’ said Dad who had come home and was watching me from the kitchen.
‘Thanks,’ I replied.
‘Looks like the beginnings of a swing,’ he added.
‘A thing of beauty,’ I said grinning.
‘I’m not sure about that just yet…but definitely a thing,’ he said and left it at that. He wasn’t one for false praise and I knew that he was happy seeing me practise. ‘Keep at it, son, you’re doing fine.’
I nodded and went back to work wondering all the while what Zen was going to say.
Zen and I walked to the practise range which, thankfully for me, was empty. ‘I hear that you’ve been practising,’ he said ‘let me see what you’ve got.’
I’m not one to get nervous, usually, but as I reached for my eight-iron I could feel my heart speed up and my breath got tighter. He never said a word but stepped back, and waited.
All the confidence that I had brought with me from the practise in the garden seemed to disappear and I made an ugly, rushed swing. I lost my balance and finished by almost falling forward like some unsteady drunk. It was embarrassing and my only saving grace was that there was no ball involved. It probably wouldn’t have mattered as far as the ball was concerned, as I no doubt would have missed by a country mile. It was horrible and I wondered why fate had conspired to play such a trick on me, and especially in front of Zen.
‘Try again,’ he said calmly ‘and relax. It’s the most important thing to do. Swinging the club and hitting the ball are indeed vital, but if you are not relaxed then nothing can be achieved. Absolutely nothing,’ he added and those words were meant to stick.
I nodded and deep down felt as though I had been let in on some secret. My swing, if that’s what you call it, had been so bad that I expected Zen to turn around and leave me to it. But no, he took out my driver and after a few gentle practise swings swung effortlessly and finished perfectly poised like a ballerina. I marvelled yet again at his easy grace and wondered if I could ever get close to being like that. It was a pipe dream, of course, but something that looked so good I was willing to put in some work to see how far I could go.
‘Let me see your grip,’ Zen said and reached down to see my hands.
My hands moved back and forth as he moved the club. ‘You grip the club too hard,’ said ‘it’s much too strong. When you do that you cannot feel the club as anything other than a weapon in your hands and not an extension.’ He pulled the club but I did not it go.
‘Extension, what do you mean?’
He grinned and shook his head. ‘Last time I said that the swing is about a ‘oneness’ – do you remember?’
‘Yes,’ I replied, the word thick in my dry throat.
‘Well, it seems that you have not appreciated what I meant. And what I mean is this’ he added ‘is that you and the club need to work together otherwise you have no chance.’
What was he talking about? ‘I was working with the club,’ I said but not sure it that was the answer.
‘Of course you were, but not the way you should. You need to hold it, of course, but not strangle it like you did. Doing that means that your focus is on holding the club tightly and not on swinging it correctly. You cannot do both things.’
I was flummoxed. ‘Can you show me, please?’
Zen stepped closer and rested the club in his palms and then wrapped his fingers carefully around the grip. ‘Now pull it away from me,’ he said.
I grabbed the club and pulled it free.
‘You see, now. I was not able to do that when you held the club. It was too strong and most importantly lacked feel.’
‘Yes, feel. Just like the feeling in your fingertips you should be able to feel the club at all times. Then it’s an extension of your hand and this, believe me, is what you need to get. Ok?’
I could feel my grip loosen and how much better it felt. Yes, I did believe and watched as Zen took a few more swings, each one a copy of the one before and each one a thing of beauty.