Not quite in the swing of it

16th September 2011 at 01:00

One of the difficulties of being a teacher is knowing when to stop. Just because you're off duty it doesn't mean your teacher brain will automatically turn itself off.

Last week, I went back to my golf lessons after a break of many months. And, student though I was, I couldn't help but notice the teaching techniques I found myself subject to.

First off, Ofsted would love my golf instructor. Not that that would prevent it from failing him on the spot for his egregious lack of paperwork. As we stood on the range there wasn't a lesson plan in sight - and no scheme of work complete with colour co-ordinated aims and objectives either.

But everything else from the "must haves" list was there. Take that hardy old perennial, differentiation. It was clear straight away that I was going to get a very different lesson to the one provided for those stringy youths who can whack a ball 300 yards as soon as look at it.

So what progress had I made since last time? I hit a couple of shots. As the ball flew in the air and relatively straight I felt pleased with myself. "Hmm ... " was what he said. I have learnt that, in the mouth of my instructor, "hmm ..." is a word pregnant with meaning.

"We'd better go back to the practice room." Shit! Now I was in for another "warts and all" session in front of the dreaded full-length mirror.

"What do you see?" he asked when I was lined up again and ready to take my swing. "Neanderthal man holding a long thin cudgel?" I suggested. "It's the angles," he said. "They're meant to be straight. But in your case they're more ... how shall I put it ... rounded."

"Round is the way I'm made," I protested, trying to look more like a fully fledged homo erectus.

"That's better," he said. "Now hit a couple for me." I hit. He watched. "Hmm ..." he said. "The problem is that when you take your swing you're still not separating your chest from your hips. You need to move the lower part of your body independently from the upper."

I tried an exploratory wiggle of my nether regions. "Hmm ..." he said. "I know Mick Jagger does it that way, but you're meant to be playing golf, not exciting aging groupies."

At this point he played his trump card, the one that really gets the Ofsted motor purring: use of technology. "I'm going to take a video of your swing and show you what it really looks like," he said.

He took me back to the office to see the results. At first it wasn't too bad. The laptop screen was split, with Neanderthal in profile on one side and Neanderthal full on the other. He superimposed some orange lines to demonstrate that work was still needed on those angles. But then there were some new images on the laptop. Neanderthal to the left, professional golfer to the right. Not just any old professional, either. My instructor had decided to compare my swing with Tiger Woods'.

Now there really was no hiding place. On one side stood the former world number one. Six foot tall and then some; slim but powerfully built; lifetime earnings from golf, $1 billion. And on the other - me. Hunched; paunchy; growth arrested at five ten-and-a-half; lifetime earnings from further education, #163;650,000 (approx.).

"Do you think he was taking the piss?" I asked my golf buddy next time we played.

"It's called tough love," he said. "How else are you going to improve?"

"Hmm ..." was all I could say.

Stephen Jones is a lecturer at a college in London.

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