As you may recall, last October I posted a “preview” of a review for a lesson with Mitch Lowe.  I finally had occasion to take Mitch up on the lesson I purchased all those months ago.

Saturday Morning in San Francisco was a picture perfect day: clear blue sky with streaky clouds. Since I haven’t had a chance to play as much as I’d like prior to getting a lesson, I thought I’d get Mitch some “hard data” by playing a few holes and developing some statistics for him to analyze my game.  This was also a wonderful excuse to check out Harding Park’s Gem of a short course – the Fleming 9-hole.  This short course is composed of three par-4s and six par-3s.  The holes vary in length from 140 to 235 yards for the par-3s and 260 to 425 for the par-4s.  Having played few short courses, I was keen to try this one out to expand my horizons on this fantastic idea.  There aren’t enough good things to say about this short course.  It is set directly in the middle of the back nine of the famous TPC Harding Park.  The big course is prominently featured on the Champions Tour and was the site of one of the most dramatic Presidents Cups ever played (I was actually there!).  From my limited experience, I have gleaned that short courses generally get the low end of the maintenance support when compared to the marquee course.  I was happily dispelled of that notion at the Fleming Course.  The greens were impeccable and the fairways were trimmed as though the Presidents Cup were about to return.  Also, the Fleming 9 were not short on the scenic views that Harding offers.  The beautiful cypress trees that line the big course also have their counterparts on the short course.  This truly felt like a mini-Harding experience.  For $31 total, the deal could not be beat.  No reservation required, just walk up and request to go out.

Having played a decent warm-up round, I went over to the range to meet up with Mitch at the appointed hour.  At the beginning of my lesson, he asked me what I wanted to accomplish.  I told him my goal was to work on my spotty iron play and to have a plan for improving my consistency and distance.  He took these goals and ran with them.  I started off hitting a few wedges and Mitch took video on his iPhone and quickly deciphered that my weak fade and spotty iron play was due to casting of the club.  Sadly, this much I had gleaned from my own video before.  Mitch, however, had a solution.  His method focuses purely on getting the club to the right position at impact.  Rather than focusing on the positions that my body might have been in, he focused more on getting the club square at impact with forward shaft lean.  The videos he showed me proved that though my hands were fast enough to square the club and hit a straight shot, I was essentially turning my 7-iron into a 9-iron by adding loft and having a backward leaning shaft at impact.  After a few adjustments, the later videos showed that I had indeed moved from a backward leaning shaft to a forward leaning shaft and was having to rely less on my hands to square the club.  In the end, Mitch accomplished what few instructors actually accomplish: he created a plan for me that would lead me to achieving the goals I had set out at the beginning of the lesson.

As far as a review:  Mitch was a consummate professional.  He entertained my questions about playing in the PGA Championship as well as kept me on track with the principles he was attempting to convey.  I believe his style works for me in that we discussed the thought or principle to me that he wanted me to think about during the swing and let me implement it by experimentation.  I also watched him work with a beginner prior to my lesson.  During that lesson, he was much more hands on and was interested in helping the beginner simply make contact.  His style changes as the situation requires, which I find valuable in an instructor.  He is very knowledgeable about the game and conveys his knowledge in an accessible and easy to understand manner.  He also conveys a true love of the game.  Toward the end of my lesson I asked how often he teaches lessons.  His response was a big smile and said that it was his full time job.  He truly enjoys giving lessons and the game.  I would highly recommend him for anyone that needs a tune-up or introduction to the game, and I plan to continue taking lessons from him.

Though I generally do enough reading on a daily basis to never want to read anything “for pleasure,” Carl Hiaasen’s The Downhill Lie caught my eye.  Before I begin raving about the wonderful writing, (actually) laugh-out-loud jokes, and truly touching story that Hiaasen has composed, I should provide a disclaimer:  Hiaasen attended Emory University which is also my alma mater.   I have no shame in admitting that this fact is the reason I purchased this book from the $5 shelf at borders.  That fact aside,  I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in feeling better about their own golf game.

Hiaasen describes his return to golf after a 32-year long break.  His entry to golf, like many, was due to his father.  He entered the game as a boy and never really took to it.  Like many children, he found the game difficult and frustrating.  After his father passed, however, he felt as though this might be a way for him to reconnect with him through the game he loved.  With dry wit and imagery I have yet to find in another golf book, he describes his triumphs, travails, obsessions, and follies that nearly every person demented enough to play this game experiences.  Ultimately, Hiaasen concludes his journey by realizing that passing the game on to his own son is truly his “contribution” to golf.  If you have time, I highly recommend reading The Downhill Lie.

From the book flap: “Hiaasen’s chronicle of his shaky return to this bedeviling pastime and the ensuing demolition of his self-esteem – culminating with the savage 45-hole tournament – will have you rolling with laughter.  Yet the bittersweet memories of playing with his own father and the glow he feels when watching his own young son belt the ball down the fairway will also touch your heart.  Forget Tiger, Phil and Ernie.  If you want to understand the true lure of golf, turn to Carl Hiaasen, who has written an extraordinary book for the ordinary hacker.”

The Downhill Lie Book

Buy the book here

While JK will be spending the next few weeks reviewing the Titleist Pro-V1 prototype (JEALOUS), I will be hitting the range with a living, breathing PGA Tour Professional!  Mitch Lowe is offering discounted lessons at Harding Park just south of San Francisco.  Why does that course sound familiar, you ask?  The U.S. just won the Presidents Cup there.  Yeah.  Review to come!

Get your lesson here! ($60/hr at Harding, or 9 holes at Fleming Golf Course for $110)