Every now and then you read about a remarkable individual who has miraculously gone from 28 handicap to scratch in a matter of months. Much as I’d love to think that could happen to me, or better, that I could actually invest the emotional and physical effort to make it happen. It’s as unrealistic for me as it is for the majority of amateur golfers who have; a) a job; b) a family; c) a life.
For me, just a minor miracle will do. If I can improve from a playing handicap of 24 to single figures in less than 2 years then I will be happy. If along my journey I can share some of my experiences with other golfers who want to embark on a similar journey, then so much the better. I will leave no stone unturned, no gizmo untried, no DVD unwatched in my quest over the coming months.
Since the PGA Show I have waded through my shiny new pile of ‘paraphenalia for lost and desperate souls’ and carefully selected a range of products for experimentation.
First up, was the peculiarly named “Tour Impact”, or TI for short. It is a strange name to give to a training aid that is so full of delicate electronics that you cannot actually hit a ball with it!
The idea behind the TI, is that it is a practice club that helps you swing with the rhythm, tempo and timing of a tour pro. A bold claim - and one the manufacturer claims is achievable by blending recorded swings of 10 top tour professionals (they don’t tell you who they are) into a realistic feeling golf club.
The idea is simple enough, you select the speed that you feel is the most desirable for you; then you swing the club in time to the different sounds that the club emits. From a nice address position, as soon as you start your backswing you hear a loud audible tone; this tone then changes in pitch during the downswing, with a distinctive ‘swoosh’ sound through impact. The idea is simple enough; make enough practice swings keeping time with the sounds you are hearing and you will ingrain a consistent rhythm into your swing.
In theory, and to be fair with some practice, you should start to be able to mimic the timing and rhythm of your chosen tour professional. I have used this throughout every practice session for over a month, and although I cannot quite get over the fact that I cannot hit the ball with it, I have found it to be really quite useful and entertaining.
There are 10 speed settings (0 – slowest to 9 – ridiculously fast) and after 10 minutes of great fun trying to swing so fast I nearly pulled a muscle I finally settled for using it at 0, its slowest setting. With the setting at 9, I could barely finish the backswing before hearing the ‘swoosh’ of impact – I am not sure it’s physically possible to swing that fast!
After a few weeks I noticed that I was striking the ball more consistently out of the sweetspot and hitting fewer poor shots. How much of this was down to the TI is difficult to say. Certainly it deserves some credit if only for nuturing my interest in what working on my tempo could do for my game. In all my years of playing golf (20+) I had never ‘worked on my tempo’ and I was genuinely excited and enthusiastic about doing so.
After a few sessions I started to look for other instruction articles and videos about tempo and surprisingly found it hard to come by. Eventually, I found an excellent piece on the importance of tempo in one of my favourite golf books, “The Swing Factory” by Steve Gould and D J Wilkinson of the famous
They go on to say, “most golfers swing much too fast to retain control over the delivery, so their point of release and shape of their swings are subject to constant variation. You cannot standardise the shape of your swing and point of delivery until you have a constant tempo”.
This advice has proved to be invaluable. The TI has served as a useful aide-memoire to stop swinging like a lunatic and to start swinging within myself. I’d often heard TV commentators talking about top pros swinging at 80%; now I know what they mean, and even better I can do the same myself. This has started to produce better scores in the low 80’s already this year, and I have even played to single figures once!
I have certainly benefited from considering, and experimenting with, my tempo more often in practice and giving it some thought during play. For too many years I have been a victim of hitting rather than swinging. I have been concentrating so much on getting the backswing right, by the time I got to the top I was always in so much of a hurry to hit the ball, I would not swing back down and round through impact, but make an aggressive hurried swipe at the ball. Hitting from the top usually ended in disaster; I would lose my height and spine angle, lurch with my upper body and head, and generally make a pig’s ear out of a promising backswing. I have suddenly realised how important it is to give myself enough time to make a coordinated movement of my body through the ball and the results speak for themselves.
I’m still itching to give the ball a good whack with the TI, or should I say a rhythmic and smooth strike, with the TI. That’s perhaps the major drawback with an otherwise likeable and useful product. If it wasn’t a prototype they’d like back in one piece, I might have succumbed to that desire and given it one almighty swing just to see what happens.
The TI is not available in the