HOW X-GOLF IMPROVED MY GAME
– A. Makkreel
When I was first introduced to X-Golf I was admittedly a bit down on my golf game. I played a lot of junior golf at a competitive level in local tournaments. As I got more involved with my studies and work, I really struggled to find time to play. My clubs collected dust as I played maybe 5 times max over an 8-year period.
I later took a job at The Sands which afforded me an opportunity to practice. My range sessions were ending in frustration as I struggled to regain the good feelings I had about my game as a junior. I would try to find shortcut solutions by recording my swing on the range for self-analysis and using different “swing thoughts” that may work for a few days only to have them be over exaggerated and prove to be no longer useful.
The straw that broke the camel’s back was a 36 hole event in Ballarat, which felt like one of the longest days of my life! Having played sporadically since my return to golf and coming in with a golf swing that didn’t feel great. I’m not sure why I expected things to go well on this day. Perhaps I felt like this could finally be the day where some old feelings would magically return and I would be able to play some decent shots again. That would unfortunately, yet expectedly, not be the case as I was consistently hitting drives so far off target I didn’t even want to go look for them. Since it was a stroke round I didn’t have a choice. Causing me to agonisingly search for my ball hole after hole, eventually praying to hear a horn come from the club house as there was a threat of lighting earlier in the day.
I’m sure some of the people reading this article can empathise with my feelings post round, loading my clubs into the car I wondered why I put myself through this experience time after time, expecting a different result. Later that week I reflected on that day, determined to make a serious change along with a commitment to getting better. Lucky for me I was soon going to be introduced to a golf simulator that was going to finally help me with my aspirations for improvement.
My first training session at X-Golf was when we set up the portable simulator in our pop up shop on Pakington Street back in December ’17. Pete Nolan who is my business partner and a long time golf pro and teaching professional was showing me how the simulator worked along with how to understand the data. It was then that I realised this was going to be the tool that my game needed to get back on the path towards enjoyable golf. With the portable simulator being so big we had to put it in the shop sideways, which meant you couldn’t see the screen from the street. I quickly worked out the only way I was going to get people’s attention was to hit golf balls while people were walking past, as the sight of such a thing would almost surely merit a second look. That’s where I was able to practice my golf effectively for the first time in my life.
Pete Nolan being the good fella he is he gave me a few drills to work on and explained where he wanted my numbers to get to over time. What I mean by numbers is the statistics that come up instantaneously every time you hit a shot.
From ball direction showing me if my club face is open or closed, to impact angle which indicates if I’m swinging too far from the outside or inside, to smash factor which is a formula that tells me how well I connected with the golf ball. The key for me was knowing that I was doing the right thing while I worked on my drills as my club path was going from a -4 to a +1, meaning I was no longer “coming over the top” which causes the infamous slice.
As I continued to practice, the drills Pete taught me were beginning to feel less awkward, more normal. Eventually what I felt was my “normal” swing had some of the components of the drills now worked into my mechanics. To achieve a +1 impact angle on day 1 I needed to feel like my club was going to hit my back leg on the way down. It felt so inside. Now I would often get a result of +1 and it no longer felt foreign, and with that I was able to hit controlled draws consistently for the first time since I was a junior.
Prior to X-Golf I was trying to figure out my golf swing on the outdoor range at The Sands Torquay. It’s a terrific range which is part of a great practice facility, and I felt fortunate to be able to have access to it. The problem I faced was that I was able to convince myself that I was improving with new “swing thoughts” but was actually just coming up with band aid solutions that would prove to be ineffective once on the course. For example I would strengthen my grip to avoid hitting blocks, only to hit 5 duck hooks on the course. I would then hit 50 balls with a weak grip, the last 20 going the way I planned as I was in a rhythm. The next day I’d turn up and that trick wasn’t working anymore either.
Now, when I practice in a simulator I can’t trick myself into thinking I’ve made a change. The simulator will tell me that I’m still swinging with an ineffective swing path or that I’m still leaving my club face open at impact. I only saw progress when I stuck to the instruction, using the statistics as an assurance that I was indeed on the right path to improvement. Had it not been for the stats backing up what Pete had told me, I’d have been less likely to buy into what he was saying, and wouldn’t have committed to his drills and advice.
When I left the course that fateful day in Ballarat I was playing off 17. This weekend my card will say I’m playing off a handicap of 3. I’ve still got a long way to go with my golf game, but it’s safe to say I’m enjoying it a hell of a lot more now than I was when I was looking for my ball 1 fairway over for 36 straight holes en route to a last place finish.