Make It Simple

By Michelle Evens
"How hard can it be? Swing the club – hit the ball."
These were the simple words of encouragement given to me by Keith Kalny, who during my days as a “cart girl” at the Wigwam Golf Resort, was an aspiring golf pro. He made it sound so basic—so simple. It certainly is not!
Years ago—many years ago—I had the opportunity to work at the SpangdahlemGolf Course in Germany. The scenery was beautiful, and the weather in the summertime was absolutely wonderful. With daylight lasting until 10 p.m., there were many opportunities to play, and my golf game was not too shabby.
Fast-forward to 2008: Playing less frequently, combined with the addition of a few extra pounds and loss of some flexibility, managed to change the swing of my younger days.My golf game could actually be downright embarrassing at times. During bouts of topping, slicing and every other way of sending the ball somewhere other than its intended path, I would often repeat the old, “Swing the club—hit the ball.” If it were only that easy!
People seem to assume that those of us who work for the Arizona Golf Association are actually good at the game. Granted some are, but I needed an overhaul. I decided that getting back to the basics was probably a good place to start. With 6-iron in hand, I ventured into GolfTEC in Peoria. There I met the director of instruction, Peggy Gustafson, an LPGA teaching professional with 27 years experience. She hooked me up to monitors that measure shoulder turn, hip turn, swing path, club head angle and just about every other part of a golf swing that can be analyzed.After a few swings, Peggy took one look at the playback of my swing on the monitor and, in her endearing Texas accent, summed up my problem in one sentence: “You’re making this a lot harder than it needs to be.”
So, back to the basics we went. Just as a mechanic builds a high powered engine one piece at a time to obtain optimumperformance, so goes the building of a proper golf swing. Accuracy and Power can only be realized though the learning and practicing of each component. Correct grip, stance and ball placement, combined with a back swing suited to the individual, proper release point, hip turns, shoulder turns and swing speed all factor into the making of a finely tuned golf swing.
First, we changed my grip to enable a better wrist hinge.Next, we took out some unneeded twists and turns and then shortened my back swing. I was concerned that I might lose power with these changes, but Peggy kept encouraging me to stick with it and practice. The videos of recent lessons and drills that were available on GolfTEC’s website provided an excellent source of review before hitting the driving range.
Then the day came to put it to the test. I joined the Southwest Golf Media Association at the Rim Golf Club in Payson. Even though I’d only had a few lessons up to this point, I just knew I was going to knock at least ten strokes off my game!My boss forewarned me that it would be natural to revert back tomy old swing once I got out on the course.Whether it was natural or the power of suggestion I’m not sure, but that’s exactly what happened.
In lessons to follow, Peggy brought out the big guns. I began to train with some of their unusual golf toys. Included in the GolfTEC toy box were balance aids, weighted clubs and,my personal favorite, the power swing fan. Each week, different components of my swing would be compared to various golf pros on the monitor. Similarities were rewarded with Peggy’s “That’s awesome!” One day, while going over the stats, she mentioned a smash factor number, and this one really got my attention. Although this new swing took a lot less effort, I was actually hitting the ball a lot harder!
In February, I noticed an upcoming charity event on the AGA website. Sanderson Ford was hosting an event at the Wigwam to benefit the West Valley Child Crisis Center. This seemed like the perfect opportunity to once again try the new swing—good course, good cause and scramble format. I called Andy Reece at Sanderson and was paired with three other players.
The day of the event, I was surprised that instead of having a case of the “first tee jitters,” I was thinking about that smash factor. And smash it I did! We actually used my tee shot. Many times throughout the day, I was pleased that I was able to hit quite a few shots that were used during our round. As an added bonus, my fellow players were complimenting my new swing.
Hitting better has incurred a new obstacle, however. Being in a hurry to see just how well and how far I’ve hit the ball, has given me an annoying case of the “lookups.”We all know what that can do to a golf game—the proverbial cat isn’t the only thing that was killed by curiosity. Peggy’s advice on looking down the fairway in that split second before you have even hit the ball: “That ball is not going to get so far away in the few seconds after you hit it that you will not be able to find it.”
I wonder if they have anything in the golf toy bag for this one!
Michelle Evens is the AGA’s club programs manager.