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The Steve WenPetren Project, Part 4

For those who missed it, check out Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 of my series on how to stop being a terrible golfer.

After the third lesson, I felt discouraged. Nothing to do with Steve’s teachings, but just the mental block I had given myself and my inability to hit a ball straight again. Thanks to a few visits to the driving range and a round of golf, I felt a little more confident going into the fourth lesson. But since all the confidence in the world isn’t necessarily going to give me the physical ability to hit a golf ball correctly, now I was slightly apprehensive yet anxious to show Steve if practice really does make perfect (or at least something better than awful).

Sure enough, it does! My hands were turning over, ball was going straight, and my 7-iron was going a solid 150 on most shots. Even my pitching wedge, a club I have ever rarely swung at full, as I’ve always chose to use it as more of a short half-swing wedge, I was hitting a clean 110 yards on most swings. Steve was so impressed that he suggested I try to qualify for the U.S. Open this week, ok, he wasn’t that impressed as this is what I should have been doing during last week’s debacle of a lesson, but because I had improved greatly from the previous week, he left it up to me what I wanted to learn next.

LESSON #4 – ENTER SANDMAN

Yes, that’s right, I wanted to learn how to play Metallica with my golf clubs. Actually, after Steve rejected my original idea of learning how to properly hit my driver (“I’m not ready yet” according to him), so my next suggestion was learning how to hit a friggin sand wedge. I say friggin, b/c as I’m sure most of you casual golfers out there know that hitting a shot out of the bunker is more dreaded then a surprise visit from the in-laws.

Ironically, I thought hitting a sand shot was the hardest and most frustrating shot on a golf course to hit. Technically any shot behind a tree would qualify, but thanks to Mr. shoe wedge, that shot is avoided. Yes, I’m aware golf is a gentleman’s game and the rules are taken seriously, but when I’m paying $80 to play on a public course with no trophies or over-sized checks on the line, I’m going to slightly move that ball away from the tree, judge me if you will, but 98% of you reading this would do the same. Now I say ironically about a sand shot being the hardest, because Steve claimed that it’s actually the EASIEST shot on the course. After I had Steve’s tested for every single drug ever invented, it turns out there was some validity to his statement.

Just another day at the beach.

His reasoning – a sand shot is the ONLY shot on the golf course where the object is to NOT hit the ball. Seems to make sense, as there have been numerous times over the years where I had no trouble missing the ball completely. Before I tried to hit a ball, Steve drew a line in a sand. That’s not a metaphor, he physically drew a straight line in the sand. He then had me approach the line, with my feet again shoulder width apart, my stance slightly open and my feet really dug into the sand so my feet wouldn’t slide on the swing. Then the object was to take about a 3/4 backswing and then swing down, aiming for that drawn line, and then following thru after making contact with the sand.

The goal here was to consistently line up and hit the line as my target. After doing that about 5-6 times without a ball, he then put the ball about two inches in front of that line and again told me to aim for that line. Success! I hit a very clean bunker shot. Holy crap, did I just push a Staples button, because that was easy! Wash, rinse, repeat, was able to do it several more times. The hardest thing to do here was hit that line behind the ball, but when the aim was right, the shot was simple. Still need to practice it, but knowing it was possible to actually hit it correctly and with relative ease makes me feel like a fool for all the past times I opted to just pick the ball up out of a sand trap and throw it on to the green (ok, I never did that but I would usually hit the ball way to far out of a trap).

After that, we practiced some more bunker shots, some with an uphill lie and some with a downhill lie, which Steve admitted is probably the hardest shot in golf, because you can’t really control it, which I found to be really true since I was more reckless with a downhill bunker shot than Lindsay Lohan driving a car at 3am.

"Remember when I used to be hot?"

The rest of the lesson, I actually watched Steve hit some golf balls, as he was trying to work out a kink in his swing.  I didn’t mind, not only was it about 90 degrees outside and humid, I also found this time refreshing to talk to Steve about his game and how he came about to being so good at golf.  Amazingly enough, Steve self-tought himself while in the Air Force.  When he realized that a lot of his superiors had weekly golf outings, he wanted in on the action and challenged himself to get better and better in order to get in on that big game, which he eventually became a part of and would win.

So after my sand lesson, I went out a few days later and played another round of golf, where I actually found myself slightly giddy the three times I hit the ball in the bunker.  Twice I was able to get up and down from out of the sand, and the third time, well, I may have reverted to my old sand skills, but hey, 2 out of 3 ain’t bad.  Not only that, I shot a 93 on the same course that I had almost broken 100 the week before.  Still no birdies, but a vast improvement nevertheless.  I also managed to sneak in 18 holes at the local par-3 course right across the street from my work.  Got out there at 6:30, and walked/played the whole thing in under 2 hours before it got dark!  Didn’t keep a real scorecard as I was rushing to get thru it, but I did finish real strong, making par on 8 of my last 10 holes, and that is a big success for me!

Now comes the scary part, going on vacation and not being able to swing a club for a couple of weeks.  Hopefully lesson #5 isn’t go back and re-learn lesson #2.  Stay tuned…


The Steve WenPetren Golf Academy is a great place for golfers of all ages and experience (or lack there of) to learn how to become a better golfer. For more information or to book a lesson, please check out www.stevewenpetren.com

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