Leadbetter Golf Academy gets back to basics 


New golf training facility for pros, as well as slicers, hookers, hackers, and duffers

Lined up beside PGA tour great Ernie Els on the computer monitor, our swings start out looking remarkably similar - we both have our heads down, our hips back, and our clubs cocked way back at the same angle.

Play both swings in slow motion, however, and you can see why Els is a PGA tour professional, and why I'm generally happy with a double bogey.

Els form is picture-perfect, from top to bottom, and back up again on the follow-through - a textbook example of what a good golf swing should look like.

My swing starts to deteriorate by the time the club passes my hip.

While Ells keeps his wrists cocked until the instant he strikes the ball. My wrists are already straightened out and losing power by the time I get to my knee.

When he hits the ball, he brings his head and torso around, using every muscle available to generate power.

I keep my head down the whole time, like I was told to by fellow hackers.

Between my early release of the swing and my refusal to follow through on the natural swinging motion, I'm lucky I didn't hurt myself. On the computer monitor I can see that I come pretty close to hitting myself in the back of the head with the club on my follow-through.

The first piece of advice that Jeff Saager gives me is to relax.

"Uncocking the wrists too early, keeping the head own, these things are very common," he said. Other common mistakes include palming the club too much, not knowing how to align the club face to the ball, and thinking too much.

As the head instructor for the new David Leadbetter Golf Academy at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler Golf Course, he ought to know. In his 12 years with the Academy, and almost two decades of teaching golf, Saager has worked with thousands of golfers, from young kids, to tour professionals, to weekend hackers.

Since the David Leadbetter Golf Academy opened at the Fairmont course on July 11, he has already worked with more than 50 golfers, including a number of Whistler locals. Programs vary from morning clinics to intensive four-day courses.

Every lesson starts the same; you hit a few balls, while Saager takes video from two angles and make notes. Good golf begins and ends with a good swing, and a good swing is a combination of literally dozens of things.

When working with a golfer, Saager starts with the biggest, most obvious flaws, and for students the difference can be dramatic. The finer points can be worked out over time, once they have the basics.

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