The Project: To break an old goat’s bad habits and rebuild a reliable, repeatable golf swing for writer Bart Potter.
The Task: Huge.
The Student: Lateish-50s; 6-foot-4; loves golf, hates playing bad golf; USGA handicap index 26.0.
The Teacher: Tom Staskus, 52; PGA professional since 1998.
Short-term Goal: To break 90.
Long-term Goal: To shrink the student’s handicap index to 18 or lower.
The Timeframe: However long it takes.
In this space, we’ll first recap the earliest lessons of the Old Goat Project. Stay tuned as we bring it into real time.
(From December 27, 2010) THE OLD GOAT PROJECT pairs a seasoned teacher, Olympia, Wash., professional Tom Staskus, with a student who’s lost his golf groove, if he ever had one. Early work – some nine hours of practice and lots of conversation about putting – has yielded promising results.
The teacher: The student didn’t practice in the week between yesterday and the previous session, so Staskus, who was inclined to move into some chipping and longer swing work, kept the whole lesson on the indoor green.
From the ground up, the student built on concepts introduced in prior lessons:
- Weight spread evenly over feet;
- Firm legs and core, held still through the stroke;
- Solid grip, one that won’t let the wrists break down or the fingers guide the club;
- Shoulder turn controls the swing back and through the ball.
As the lesson went on, a theme emerged: “Why not be in control of the situation?”
By this, Staskus meant reducing the possibility for breakdowns in the club path. In his own putting, he takes a tiny backswing and strikes the ball firmly, rather than pushing it, and the ball rolls crisply to the hole.
When every element of the putting stroke – the stance, the grip, the turn – is of a piece, it can only enhance the control a player has over the situation that arises on every putting green of every round of golf.
The student: I didn’t make the time to practice between last Saturday and this Monday. The case could be made that family comes first during the holidays, and man, it’s busy, you know?
But I want to hold up my end of the bargain, and that means putting in the work and being honest when I don’t.
It’s completely absorbing: the hours roll by, and Staskus is patient. He doesn’t want to tell me, necessarily, what I’m doing wrong. He would prefer that I feel and recognize where a breakdown, no matter how small, might have pushed or pulled the ball by the hole. It’s getting there.
It’s eye-opening to realize all the different reasons I missed putts in the past. What is more amazing is that I ever made a putt at all.