White on Course: The journey so far

Sport reporter Ed White attempts to learn how to play golf with Wetherby Golf Club course pro Mark Daubney. Here’s how his first three sessions went.

Part One: Learning the art of putting

When sent a message on Twitter by @proshopwetherby, aka Wetherby Golf Club course pro Mark Daubney, asking if I played golf, the reply was quite easy to write. “I do, but not very well.”

He then invited me to come to the club and see if I could improve under his tutelage.

I jumped at the chance, I’d never had golf lessons.

It’s fair to say, I have a pretty ropey technique, learnt from an occasional nine holes, and a wayward swing focused on how hard I can hit it.

I arrived at the club armed with my new putter (a Christmas present) on a rainy Saturday lunchtime preparing for a putting exercise.

My first problem, though, was not on the green.

It was finding Mark.

I walked around a dining room, into a lounge, then back into the foyer. Thankfully, a gentleman pointed me downstairs to the club shop.

When I found Mark he took me into the shop’s practice room and showed me the putting machine he uses.

It looked like an easy crazy golf hole, so having holed a few 10 footers in my time, I was in confident mood. He asked me to putt three balls into the hole. Easy, I thought.

That was until my first scooted wide. An improved second found the hole, but the third again was shunted left.

However, one out of three, that’s not a bad start.

Then Mark stumped me. He asked me, “What is your understanding of what you are doing?”, breaking it down into three areas, “Does your backlift want to be straight?”, “How would you add more power?” and “How much do you use your wrists?”

Again, I only got the middle one right.

To help me, Mark then pulled out another contraption aimed at working out my perfect putting motion.

I found out I needed to bend my backlift, and I did actually use my wrists.

It wasn’t long before I was standing on the balls of my feet, not my heels. Stroking the ball rather than forcing it. And finding the hole, not the backboard.

The key was to keep the putter face straight, arc my swing and flow equally from the backlift to the follow through.

I finished the lesson with three more putts. And this time, I made three out of three. The improvement was instant.

Next week, I’ll be working on chipping. Wish me luck!

Part two: Our learner begins to master chipping

In round two of White on Course, Ed White takes on the chipping with Wetherby Golf Club pro Mark Daubney. But did he make the cut?

After last week’s successful putting session, I arrived at the club with a strong sense of anticipation.

During the week I had taken Mark’s advice into my lounge and worn a line down the carpet.

However, chipping was a new entity.

It’s something I have always ignored as an essential part of my game.

And according to Mark, something most part-time golfers ignore too.

The first words I said as we reached the green were, “I can’t chip”. Thankfully, Mark reassured me, “You will be able to soon”.

He must have thought he would be eating his words within a minute of the lesson starting, having seen me arrive with a three iron and a pitching wedge, without the eight iron he’d asked for.

My first shot wasn’t much better than my distinction between the numbers three and eight, as it flew to the back of the green.

Mark told me I needed to lift my head up, transfer my weight onto my left foot and stay still through my shot.

He demonstrated, perfectly chipping the ball onto the heart of the green.

Soon his advice took shape. The next shot I struck pinged off the centre of my wedge, before bouncing six feet from the flag.

I began hitting the ball pure with regularity and it was certainly a nice feeling.

There was still a question bugging me though, how do I know how hard to hit it?

I was handed two balls and told to throw them towards two flags 15 yards apart.

Both throws stopped within two yards of the pin.

“There you go,” said Mark. “It’s how you see it.”

Not only has my golf improved, clearly my sight had too. Clearly there really is no such thing as can’t.

My three pointers to good chipping are;

One, keep your head still as you play the shot.

Two, transfer your weight to the leg closest to the hole.

And three, maintain a smooth swing through the ball.

Oh, and bring the right club. Join me again next week when it’s pitching... with a pitching wedge.

Part three: Pitch not prefect as frustration sets in

After the weather meant it was ‘snow White on Course’ last week, sport reporter Ed White was back at Wetherby Golf Club this Saturday for a pitching lesson.

And the sun even made a brief appearance.

Having had two successful lessons with course pro Mark Daubney, I felt my game was moving forward.

However, this week was a case of two steps forward, one back.

I was keen to impress, and I had even brought the right club, a pitching wedge, after visiting the opticians in the two week break.

But as I walked into the club shop two sets of eyes bore down at me. They swooped down to the floor and a sigh was audable.

I would soon found out, jeans were not to be worn at the club.

Luckily, Mark brandished a pair of waterproof trouser to spare my blushes. For a second time, my first lesson was learnt before I had made it on to the course.

As we headed onto the open driving range, I already felt I needed to redeem myself.

But pitching is something I have always thought I’m quite good at. I can hit the ball a distance, I can loft it and generally I can send the ball straight. So I thought it would work out.

But within a minute of taking my first shot, a skimmer along the surface, I found out my technique was dreadful.

Mark pulled me up for trying to hit the ball too far. He said I wasn’t trusting the club to do the work. I was told to imagine my arms as a clockface, with my levers making a box.

What Mark wanted me to do was swing, with a straight arm, from nine o’clock to three. I was firing from 10 to two, and at times, even further.

Not only was I swinging too far, my cricketing instincts were taking over and I was forcing the club face through the ball, sending it right.

The perfect connection was lacking. And time, after time, the ball would go right.

Worse still, frustration set in. I was disappointed to be playing bad shots, I tried too hard to find the pin rather than practice improving my technique.

Thankfully, Mark calmed my angst. He said to simply focus on the technique, to keep on the balls of my feet, steady my swing and trust the club.

He explained how golf is a unique sport, it is the only one where the equipment makes the loft for you. It only becomes difficult if you make it difficult. And I certainly was making it difficult.

At the end of the session, my head was down. I knew I hadn’t performed.

But Mark showed that actually, my shots had all landed within a 10m radius of each other. And he ended with this advice: “Learning sport is not a straight line. We all have peaks and troughs. It’s how we react to them that counts.”

Time to get to the range.