My Lesson with Ben Doyle by Mark Walsh
Twelve months ago she wasn’t even into golf. I fleetingly told her that if she wanted a diamond ring, she better understand golf.
So she picked up a set, caught the bug and so I fulfilled my part of the agreement!
So here we are in 2010 just married and planning to visit the west coast of the United States for our honeymoon, with an added highlight of visiting the US Open at Pebble Beach! (I certainly married the right woman!).
So Bianca (my wife) and myself headed off direct to Los Angeles on the 9th June and stayed a few nights at the famous Santa Monica beach, relaxing and enjoying the beginning of a long lasting time together.
With the shopping and tan building out of the way, the second week was all about golf. This is a mad golfers dream!
So we set of driving to the well known golfing haven of the Monterey Peninsula. It’s about a 6hr drive north of LA, and only a couple of hours south of San Francisco. After a few missed turn-offs (usually errors by the co-driver-not me of course!) we finally made it to the seaside town of Monterey, the home of Pebble Beach.
You could certainly feel the buzz around town that very first night, a street market fair was on, there were people everywhere and food was definitely everything American.
The Wednesday before the open was the day I had been itching for.....My visit to Quail Lodge and a lesson with Ben Doyle! It was a Golf Machinist’s dream: the opportunity to meet a man privileged enough to have studied under the late Homer Kelley.
With a tinge of nerves before meeting a man of such cult like fame, and thoughts running through my brain such as: “what will he think of my swing”, “hope Furze knew what he was teaching“, “what are the 4 laws again?” we drove down to the Quail Lodge Golf Club, about 10 minutes from Monterey.
Just like the pictures, there he was waiting by the far right corner of the practice range. Setting up his famous 10 foot ‘Facts And Illusion Mat’, out of his cart. His electric cart by the way is almost like a ridiculously overloaded campervan full of every golf tool imaginable bulging from its sides, a big TV strapped to the side (for video analysis) and highlighted by a huge sign on the side saying “Sustain The Lag”.
We walked over to him and shook his hand. He is no doubt getting on in the years but was still looked every part the golf guru. After introductions he starts the video recorder and the analysing begins.....
The first thing he demonstrates is golf’s most damaging illusion. What appears to the golfers eyes (slightly behind the ball) to be a straight up-and-down club-shaft, is actually (to the observer in front of the golfer) the club shaft leaning backward away from the target.
Ben insisted that before the beginning of each swing I continue my three ‘waggles’ but also briefly forward press (from the lower body) to visually pre-set the impact position.
Next, was to tweak my setup routine. Grip left hand (heel on top of the shaft), right hand on, right foot pigeon toed in on the line of the ball, then left foot 1 inch away then move right foot back to a balanced stance, straight spine angle, right elbow folded along shaft line.
For the backswing (see video) “keep it all vertical” he says. Then he was very insistent on focusing on the aiming point for the hands. This was to be outside the left foot from line of sight.
I spent probably the last 30 mins of my lesson in the sand (the same bunker that Steve Elkington was in on other Ben Doyle videos) making mini swings working on hitting the impact line and focusing on pressure point #3 with the three hinges.
Alternating between vertical (pp#3 under the shaft), angled (pp#3 parallel to the shaft) and horizontal (on top of the shaft) all stopping at 1/3 finish. He actually got me hitting the ball so well that I accidently hit it too far and into one of the others coaches carts!
Ben Demonstrating Horizontal Hinge
If you have ever seen any of his previous videos, you would no doubt of heard his ‘tree phone’...Well it is real! There is actually the main handset of a portable phone in a box behind a bush, and he keeps portable phone in his golf cart. A few times during my lesson it rang and Ben shuffled over to answer a few calls.
After the lesson concluded, Ben kindly organised for me to have a game of 9 holes at Quail Lodge (he pulled out his ‘tree phone’ and asked them to give me ‘the special rate’).
Mark in the Bunker and Tree Phone Rings
I quickly grabbed a chicken sandwich (one of the best sandwiches ever!) from the ‘Quails Nest Snack Bar’ and within 30 minutes I was called on the tee by the starter and was joined by a guy called Matt from Seattle (he was in town for the US Open too).
Bianca acted as caddie, or as I like to call her ‘my crazy cart driver’. (She didn’t bring her clubs. Her luggage was the suitcase of our clothes and my luggage was my golf bag!).
I enjoyed a fantastic game. Unlike Melbourne courses of recent years it was green and super lush. Quail Lodge is such a picturesque course with the mountains in the background and birds chirping (we even saw a few quails). It’s not overly long although it is hilly and no doubt a strategic course with small greens.
On a confidence high after my lesson with Ben I went round in 39 (4 over) and could contribute that to horizontal hinging better and my crisper contact when pitching. Putting on American soil was somewhat a little trickier than home and even when it looked flat the greens did slope away from the mountains and towards the ocean, just like you read about in hundreds of golf books.
Feeling great and thanking my beautiful caddy, we left Quail Lodge. On the way back to our hotel an unexpected detour arose “Golf Supermarket this way”. Of course we had to stop for a look. It was a massive shop filled with only golf products. We both went nuts buying as much as we could (lucky my golf travel bag was big enough to cram all our purchases in!).
Thursday was pretty exciting. Waking up early and making our way to the US Open at Pebble Beach, first stop was the merchandise tent. It was so big that we spent almost an hour in there (it was more like a marquee the size of Bunnings than a tent!) It was unbelievable: every brand of golf clothing you could think of had their own range of clothes with the US Open 2010 logo! It’s hard not to go crazy in a place like that!
We worked out our bearings and settled on watching Mickelson, Els and Tiger among a few others. There was also an all Aussie group of Allenby , Scott and Ogilivy (local boy from Cheltenham!).
We managed to go all four days of the Open (it was a lot of walking, but defiantly worth it!). Each day we learnt more about the course and best spots to watch. The highlight for me I would have to say is the par 3, 7th hole. A tricky hole as the ocean runs along the right hand side and around the back of the green. A half wedge for most of those guys, as it plays under 100 yards to the smallest of guarded greens. I think they were quite lucky there was only a mild wind during the Open.
I heard Tom Watson used a 4 iron a couple of decades ago, and someone else putted off the tee as the wind was so bad!. Bianca liked a spot near the 9th tee, as you could see the players hit over the chasm on the 8th then putt, then tee off on the 9th. Pebble Beach is no doubt the most picturesque course that I have seen. It doesn’t get much better than watching someone like Mickelson punch a half wedge, whilst looking out for otters and seals among the coastal rocks and hearing the waves of the ocean.
If you have never been to this part of the world I can highly recommend it. Take your clubs and you will enjoy some fantastic golf and some beautiful scenery. There is an abundance of golf to check out and plenty of shopping and restaurants to be enjoyed in either Monterey or Carmel.
So there you have it a run-down of the best trip I have had. It was not all over then though, part of the agreement with my wife was that ”if we went to Pebble Beach we have to go to Hawaii” and we did just that for 5 nights.
Some well earned R & R in Maui after walking miles on end for 4 days straight! And I did manage to squeeze in a game between relaxing by the pool and the beach, at the Wailea Blue course in Maui (with my trusty caddy driving the cart again!) Note: the ball always runs towards the ocean for future reference!!
Mark & Bianca Walsh
Thank You both very much for that enlightening article on your trip to the US Open and Mark your golf lesson with Ben Doyle (USPGA, GSED). So if anyone is looking for a great golfing holiday, then here it is as spoken through Mark and Bianca Walsh.
John Furze (PGA Australia, GSED)