Slice Therapy: A Samoset Golf Lesson
Could a two-hour golf lesson at the Samoset Resort really make a difference for a weekend hack who hadn’t taken a lesson in 18 years?
By Ryan Brandt
“That eight iron you were swinging so well will probably do the trick here,” said Gary Soule, the Samoset’s 55-year-old head pro. As I got out of the cart he’d driven to the signature par-three 3rd hole to start my round on the heels of our lesson, I had to stifle a skeptical laugh. He seemed so positive, so assured with his piercing blue-eyed gaze and wispy thinning blond hair waving in a light breeze. “Oh, Gary,” I thought, “if only you knew. If only you knew.”
What he didn’t know was that I’d played this course once before, and it had been this very hole, with its inspirational-poster-like layout running right along the cliffs of Penobscot Bay, that had been my undoing. I’d scored a nine. Three tee shots in a row sailed high and wide, finding new homes in the bay.
“Have fun!” Soule called in a blissfully unaware farewell, then peeled the cart back toward the clubhouse.
Two hours before, I’d stood on the putting green of the top golf resort in Maine. I hadn’t taken a lesson since I was a 14-year-old caddie, which was the last time my golf game had been relatively solid. But like anything with age, my swing had started to break down. What had been respectful bogey golf in high school had given way to a vicious slice developed in college. Now, in my 30s, my game wasn’t in shambles, but it was as unpredictable as Kanye West in front of a camera.
Soule, who started two golf schools in Myrtle Beach before taking the Samoset’s head job in 2005 and now divides lessons with Director of Instruction Jeff Seavey, started my lesson right there on the putting green. He told me to move the ball forward in my stance and stressed the need to aim above the hole.
“You can’t get it in if you don’t give it a shot of going in,” he said. After delivering a few more tenets, we progressed to chipping and bunker work. Soule adjusted my grip, moved the placement of my hands, and narrowed my stance.
An hour in, I hadn’t swung a club above my waist. Soule handed me my eight iron on the practice tees and pointed at a flag about 160 yards away. I took aim (“Always have a target,” he said) and swung easily. It landed on the green’s fringe. I reeled off four or five more, all of which landed neatly on the short grass. About 30 more swings in, I looked at the green absolutely pock-marked with white balls. I tried to play it off as unremarkable, but Soule wasn’t buying. He raised his hands in a knowing “See?”
What had dogged me for so many years was how complicated this game seemed. Here, it all felt so simple, rhythmic, effortless.
So it was, with some expectations but also a healthy dose of skepticism, that I stood alone on the tee of the 3rd after Soule had departed in his cart to see if I could put any of this into practice. I launched my tee shot into a towering arc using my seven iron (despite Soule’s eight iron recommendation). Other than being 30 feet beyond the pin (he was right), I was on the green. I putted to within five feet, then rolled my third shot in for a par. Simple. Just like those swings on the practice tee.
It’d be a fairy tale to say the rest of my round went as well. It didn’t take long to realize the two hours I’d spent with him would require about 20 more for me to make those changes a lasting part of my game. But as I launched a scorching 210-yard three iron onto the green on the 9th hole, there was no doubt in my mind that I was willing to log the time. The results could be just too damn fun.
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