October 13, 2004
Next time you feel like buying a new driver for $400, or maybe a new set of irons for $600 to $750, do yourself a favor and redirect the urge.
A weekend “therapy session” at the revamped Golf Digest Schools at Legend Trail Golf Club in Scottsdale, which costs $499, will shave more strokes off your game than new sticks.
What I like about Golf Digest Schools, which are now operated by the Scottsdale Golf Group, is they are affordable. The sessions, which take place on Saturday and Sunday, are perfect for East Valley enthusiasts and include 10 hours of instruction (five hours each day), two rounds of golf at Legend Trail, and lunch (yes, both days).
There is another element to these new Golf Digest “school days’’ you will like. The philosophy is simple, as they teach people to golf instead of teaching golf to people. That’s right, we’re all different, and the GDS team led by Jim Gregory can help you figure out “what works best for me.’’
Over the years, I have received lessons from more than a dozen “top 100’’ instructors. Some of these gurus were very, very good. Others really, really messed me up.
In all fairness, it wasn’t their fault. I’m just not a pro and my mind and body don’t understand the idiosyncrasies of the perfect golf swing.
So I liked what Gregory told me right away: “How can I help you? What do you want to learn?’’
Unbelievably, the laid-back Australian who has worked with numerous LPGA players, including his wife, Dodie Mazucca-Gregory, looks at himself as — are you ready for this? — “a waiter.’’
“Chicken or fish? If the student wants fish, I’m not going to serve chicken,’’ he explained.
Gregory’s restaurant metaphor is worth a big tip, literally.
He truly believes every golfer is different, and every golfer learns differently — a concept that represents the 11 new Golf Digest Schools across the country to a “tee.”
Gregory took me through a quick trip of his studio at Legend Trail recently, and in less than an hour, he redirected my swing. Whether it stays there or not, that’s still up in the air.
According to Gregory, my flaw can be traced to posture, as I tend to line up with my head directly over the ball, rather than behind the ball. When my shoulders start to rotate, my head automatically dips forward, causing a minor reverse-pivot which in turn leads to a loss of power.
“What we look for in golf swings is the virus not the symptoms,’’ he said. “If we fix the root of the problem, other problems tend to go away.’’
Amazing how that works. Aiding the effort was a video camera/computer, which showed how Ernie Els and Tiger Woods do it compared to my far less polished effort. High-tech, yes, but there are a lot of other “simple’’ teaching tools — colored golf shafts, microphone stands and even tennis rackets — that Gregory employs to get the job done. We also had fun, even if some of the laughs (OK, a lot of the laughs) came at my expense.
“Flexibility is an issue for you, but there are a million different drills we could do for that,’’ he deadpanned. “Have you ever tried yoga?’’
Actually, I have, but that’s another column. Besides, Gregory added, most guys my age aren’t flexible.
“As a rule, men can really benefit from watching a video of Lee Trevino,’’ he noted. “Trevino had literally no flexibility, but his arms and body were always so well matched up that his results were incredible.’’
So, there is hope. More importantly, I understand my swing more than I did before. That’s because the goal of the new GDS instructors is not to make you their student for life. No, Golf Digest Schools are about discovering “the virus,” and tweaking your golf game.
Upon graduation, you will leave as your own best coach.