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By Kevin Markham
Copyright © Kevin Markham. All rights reserved. Used with permission.
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That was easy to say when I was eight or nine years old because the ball went only a hundred yards or so. My direction is little better today, but the ball goes 250 yards and there’s a lot more damage a ball can do at that distance.
Perhaps it was those special memories that made me keen to keep my baseball grip. I didn’t like the more widely-used interlocking grip and, after I and several kids went to Bray Golf Club to get lessons from the club Pro, I was more determined than ever to stick with what I knew.
"No, don’t grip it like that," the Pro said immediately, yanking the club out of my hand. "Like this."
He hadn’t let me hit a ball. I was eleven and I was damn good, demonstrating a modesty few eleven-year-olds can achieve.
"But . . ." I started.
"Like this," he repeated, shoving his interlocking grip into my face.
"My granddad showed me . . ."
"Well, he’s wrong." He checked that I was holding the club the way he wanted me to and then signalled for me to hit the ball.
I hit three shots, none of which went more than five yards.
"Next," he yelled.
It was because of that experience that I felt so much empathy for the kid at Enniscorthy Golf Club. He was in his teens, gangly and clearly confused. He was standing on the 1st tee with an older man who was doling out advice.
"Put your hands like that," the man said, demonstrating the baseball grip on the club he held.
"Like this?" the kid asked, using the reverse grip favoured by hurlers.
"No, the other way around."
"That’s mad, I can’t do that."
"Go on, would you. There are people waiting." The exasperation in the man’s voice was obvious as he glanced behind and nodded an apology to the waiting group.
The kid tried it, complained some more and finally heaved the big shoulder-shrugging sigh perfected by teenagers the world over.
"Now what?" he asked.
"Now hit the ball."
The kid looked dubious, took a swing and scuffed the ball two feet. "Jeez, this is a stupid game," he muttered. "Can I try it my way now?"
The man gave him a ball. The kid dropped it on the ground, ignoring the wooden tee, reversed his hands into a cack-handed grip and ripped his tee shot straight down the fairway.
Sometimes there’s natural talent… and sometimes we have to work hard to get to where we want to be. Most golfers I know are scared of taking golf lessons, terrified by the consequences of change. All those fears that flood in: will he alter my grip? Will he ruin the one strong part of my game? Will he laugh and shout "Next"?
It took me twenty years before I attempted a lesson again and Karl, the Greystones Pro, gave me enough advice that saw me drop from double figures to a single figure handicap in a year.
At the end of the lessons he said: "Now we’ve got those little things sorted out we can start working on the serious problems."
"Next!" I shouted and fled.
Kevin Markham is the author of DRIVING THE GREEN: An Irish Golfing Adventure and HOOKED: An Amateur's Guide to the Golf Courses of Ireland. He writes about Irish golf at his blog.