My first experience at an Extraordinary Golf School, and my rampant stupidity on full display!

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One of the greatest questions I have received from our Data Axis Golf listeners came in the other day. I was asked, “What makes the Extraordinary Golf School so great, so exceptional?” Since I do talk about Extraordinary Golf a ton on the podcast, I thought it was a fair question. So here we go.

To try to best paint my personal view of the Extraordinary Golf School… as being “the best” golf school in the world, I’m going to need to start with the original time I attended –  because that was where and when I had the biggest golf-epiphany of my life. I have had big ones since, but without this first one, I don’t know if any of the subsequent ones would have been possible. 

Ok, so I went with my buddy Thayne… he is the one that introduced me to the whole concept of Extraordinary Golf and what they were all about.  

So Thayne and I show up in Carmel, CA and we are staying at a buddy’s of Thayne’s home, in their guest house; it is a very, very lovely this guest house. It was far more beautiful than our normal house, so the whole experience started out entirely different than I had expected. No kidding, this place was crazy, it’s up in the hills above Carmel Valley, it has a fantastic view and …really frightening guard dogs. So we had to sneak into the guest house to avoid the German Shepherds and their teeth. It was like the whole Magnum PI thing, really, but Higgins was way more excellent!

I really loved staying there, we actually went out and played some golf with this buddy of Thayne’s at Quail Lodge, which is a very cool course, a great little place located in Carmel Valley. If you can stay there at the lodge, definitely do, it is a lovely place, quiet, somewhat reasonable for the area. They have a famous exotics car show there each year. So, we all go and play this Quail Lodge course, and it is incredible, I mean the weather was great, the scenery magnificent, the course was in great shape, I’m having a great time playing, but I’m not playing very well. I’m a little embarrassed because I’m playing in front of Thayne’s buddy and trying to make a good impression.

After we have played a couple of holes and this buddy of Thayne’s (and he’s also been to the Extraordinary Golf School) he asks if we can play the next hole in dead silence, without talking, comments, absolutely no noise. And I’m like what? Is he kidding? What kind of a jackwagon makes a suggestion like that! Right? I don’t want anything to do with it. So, I’m like looking around, and thinking, yeah, um, where are the cameras? This has to be some kind of a joke. But, ok, we are on his course, staying at his house, so if that is what he wants to do, so be it. I’ll buy in. So I just go with it. And it was far for weird than I thought it would be, I mean, honestly, it was just odd. But, we go through play that hole in dead silence and I’m like whatever….. I take my par, and we move to the next tee. And then we don’t talk about it either, it was like, ok we played a hole in dead silence and now we will remain silent about it and go about playing from that point on. 

Well at the next hole some funny stuff happened. We are playing a hole that goes down a pretty good slope to the green. We all teed off, and this friend lets go of his walking cart and lets it start rolling down the hill, but as it goes, the as the cart begins to veer a bit to the right. About halfway down it becomes apparent that it is going to go right into a pond (which, I kind of felt served him right, for making us play a hole in dead silence). Anyway, when this guy realizes it he takes off at a dead sprint, but it about 10 feet away when it flies off the bank and goes into the pond. Well, the silence goes right out the window, and we spend the next 10 minutes using our clubs to help lower him down so he can pull his clubs out of the water. That karma can be brutal.

So, we finished playing Quail Lodge, and I think I’ve have had kind of a taste for what this Extraordinary Golf experience is going to be like, it might have a bit of the weird stuff on the side, but not much, I mean one hole out of 18 of the odd stuff was manageable. As it turned out, I was utterly wrong, it was a near perfect golf experience for me…

The next day we meet at Carmel Valley Ranch, also a super cool place, and we meet in this upper room in the clubhouse. Carmel Valley Ranch is now like heaven to me, it’s like Nirvana, but walking in I felt a bit apprehensive. I had read both Fred Shoemaker’s books, and I was going to get now to learn from the man. So I was feeling it a bit, the enormity of what was about to happen was not lost on me. I like thinking about that, but as for now, I love Carmel Valley Ranch, I’ve learned so much about golf at this club that it definitely feels like home to me. 

As I was sitting in the Extraordinary Golf classroom for the very first time, I was a little concerned. We were sitting around a great big conference table, and there are people of all ages there, and I’m looking around kind of thinking, “what in the world?”  I was easily the youngest guy there, and I’m looking around wondering if maybe we had signed up for the wrong class? It was not looking like golf schools that I had attended in the past, but I’m there, so here we go. Fred Shoemaker starts the class and welcomes us. He begins to talk about what we’re going to be doing, he tells us that to start we are going to go out to the range and get warmed up, and then the staff would be videoing our swings to get an idea where we are at in our golf learning. That sounded pretty great to me, and we all jumped up, loaded on the carts and headed out to the back of the driving range (which is also heaven to me now). 

We get out to the range, the staff gets the cameras all set up as we get warmed up. They inform us that they will be filming us from the front-on side and down-the-line toward the target as we are hitting golf balls. That sounds pretty normal and understandable to me.  When I am done with that, they tell me they also want to film me and all the others as we are throwing a golf club at a golf bag that’s like 20 yards down the back of the tee. And I mean they ask me to throw this club with some force down the end of the range, but with the same motion of swinging a golf club. I’m thinking, ok, a bit odd, but let’s go with it again. But it feels like weird, wild, whacky stuff. I pretty much keep my mouth shut, I give Thayne a few dirty looks, he just smiles back and mouths “just do it” so I keep my mouth shut but I’m a little uncomfortable. After everyone has been filmed, they tell us we are going back to the conference room. I wasn’t totally fine with this, I had not hit many balls, and we had not started even discussing what drills and things we would be doing to get better. But, I do as I am told and we all go back up into the conference room, and we all gather around the conference table again. 

We take some time now to introduce ourselves to one another. During the introductions, we come to find out that two people at the table had never played golf before. TWO!!! I’m like, are you kidding me?!? I start to think Thayne, and I have made a significant mistake, and we are accidentally enrolled in a remedial golf program. NOT COOL. And then one of the ladies introduces herself, and I can’t really remember her name, but for our purposes let’s call her Marge. She was the sweetest lady, but she comes out and says that she hasn’t been playing for very long, maybe a few weeks. We also have a guy in attendance that doesn’t own a set of clubs, nor shoes or golf attire. I am freaking out a bit, my mind is blown. I decided that I had made a significant mistake being here, that I had dropped over a thousand bucks for either very little or for nothing as far as my golf game goes. 

In the midst of my head spinning, Fred starts showing us the videos we have just recorded. The very first person Fred shows is this one we have named Marge. She is probably in her late sixties, or early seventies, somewhere in there, and they queue up her swing and have her move to the front so she can see it. Fred first shows her swing when she was hitting a golf ball, and I am like “Oh geez” in my head, it was a pretty horrible swing. I am thinking Mrs. Havercamp from Caddy Shack wrong. 

Fred is a sage man, he sees my reaction to Marge’s swing, and he picks me out of the group realizing I’m the idiot of the bunch. He picks up on skeptics quickly, so if you go, be careful not to come across as the idiot of the room, because, Fred will figure it out and he will put you on the spot, which he wisely did to me. And I am so grateful he did. 

After showing us Marge’s golf swing; where she’s hitting the golf ball, and Fred asks me, “Hey Aaron, what do you think of this golf swing?” I am instantly uncomfortable and ask back “What do you mean?” when I know exactly what he means, but I don’t want to say it out loud.

And he’s like, “Well, Marge is here to learn to be a good golfer, what do you think? How long do you think it will take her to develop into a good golfer?” Oh boy, this is one of those rock, hard place, me in the middle situations. I’m in a terrible place, I don’t want to hurt her feelings, but I don’t want to be dishonest, I want to answer Fred’s questions truthfully, so after a weird, awkward pause, I said.  “Chances aren’t good.” And he’s like, “No no no, what do you think, what do you really think, how long do you think it will take her to be a great golfer?” Ugh, Fred pushed me a bit, everybody is now looking at me, so I throw all caution to the wind, and I literally say, “She doesn’t have time.” Which was a stupid, what a cruel way to insinuate that she is so advanced in years, that she does not have enough years left on God’s green earth to develop a good golf game. 

Well, it gets more awkward. I don’t dare look at anyone, not even Thayne or Fred, I just stare at the floor. Obviously, Marge isn’t happy, most of the group who is of similar age and skill isn’t pleased about it. Thayne probably wanted to kill me… wishing he had never brought me into this group, I was now a golfing pariah. I eventually looked up, and Fred was looking at me like, that’s great, thanks for your opinion, not unhappy or mad at all, but he had a trick up his sleeve. Fred quickly switches over to the other TV and to play Marge’s swing when she is throwing a golf club at the golf bag across the back of the range, it was the face-on view. And then tells me, “Hey Aaron, based on what you know of the golf swing, what do you think of this motion?” And he hits play… I watch Marge in slow motion as her body moves to throw this club and I am speechless, dumbfounded. I realized I’ve been had. Fred had me exactly where he wanted me, and he won, and I learned when it comes to golf, Fred always wins, playing, practicing, golf theory, he is the man of all things golf.

And after I got done watching this video of Marge  (I wish I could remember her actual name, she was fun to be around that week) I had nothing left to do but say “Her swing is perfect, the golf motion is perfect.” I mean she took it back in a fluid motion, she set up on her right side, loaded, looked athletic and ready to fire, her hips started the downswing, the rotate, her arms fall in, her hips rotate around, and she has impressive lag and then releases it so naturally and just flings the club out there. I mean, she doesn’t rise up or down, as she did in her golf swing, her head stays steady, her weight moves back, it didn’t stay still on her golf swing, she stayed on her front leg. Her club throwing swing was a PGA tour pro quality motion. I was utterly blown away.

My golfing world changed at that very moment, I knew golf was different now, that all of us had beautiful golf swings, but we have been going learning the golf swing it in a very unhelpful way.

And then Fred says to the group… okay, that’s what we do. We take what we have in our golf swings, and we are going to get them to move as close to our club throwing swings as we can, let’s get to work. 

Fred then explains why we have always used these poor motions in our golf swings, which are actually super smart when we realize what we think we are trying to accomplish. But that for me that was the tipping point for Extraordinary Golf. Fred Shoemaker and Extraordinary Golf look at the golf swing very, very differently. And my research over the last decade proves they are the only ones that have been right all along, even without technology.

And going back to what I said when I was with my daughter and trying to show her how to learn to ride a bike, or the bike parable as I like to call it. Fred Shoemaker and Extraordinary Golf give you the experiences you need to finally get an understanding of where you need to be for you and your golf swing to work. And it’s different. It’s not about putting yourself into different positions and trying to learn those, it’s about discovering your God-given abilities to move and then using those to play golf. It’s really just about helping us find out who we are naturally, and trusting it. Now that sounds a little simplistic, it still takes work, but all we need to play really great golf, is already inside us, we don’t need to learn anything new, we just have to learn to identify what we have, when to use it, how to use it and how to tap into it. Just like with the parable of the bicycle, we don’t have on how to ride a bike. But we do learn, and quickly, naturally, how to balance, how to stay upright, and then we practice, practice, practice to get better. 

And based on what I saw Marge’s throw swing, she already knew the best move to use to hit a golf ball, she just didn’t realize that it was that motion. She had used another natural action instead, built in us for a different purpose. She knew how to put a good golf swing together, naturally. And we all do. And that’s what Extraordinary Golf is all about, that is what Extraordinary Golf Schools do. That is what Fred Shoemaker’s books do. It all shows us what our natural movements are, and once we tap into that, we play better golf naturally, and it stays at a certain level of proficiency forever. It was a total paradigm shift for me, and that is how I started to love Extraordinary Golf, that’s why I highly recommend it to everyone really looking to improve. That’s why I say to anyone who is serious about finding their correct golf swing, needs to go and do a school with Extraordinary Golf. 

And the cool thing about it, did you know your body already knows how to swing a golf club, so you don’t get hurt? You can take the pain out of your golf swing. I used to suffer so much back pain from golf, but with a more natural movement, I rarely have back pain now, and it is never from golf. So if any of you feel any pain when swinging a golf club, you are doing something dreadfully wrong, you need to stop, you need to get to Extraordinary Golf. They can help you learn how your body needs to swing to be pain-free, and all they are doing is helping you find what your natural movement is anyway. It is brilliant

I’ll close it with this. I played the last nine holes at this school with Marge. We had developed a pretty good friendship, forged by my rudeness. And she performed beautifully, not perfect, but she hit some really amazing drives, she hit some fantastic approach shots, she was a true golfer, with a beautiful swing. And she transformed herself in 3 days. She went from somebody who really struggled at golf, to somebody who could get around the course and hit some great golf shots lowering her scores. It was a miraculous transformation and still one of the coolest golf experiences I have ever had, and it happened the first time I attended an Extraordinary Golf School. And I  promise you if you go if you really want to get better, if you really want to learn with an open mind, you will have that epiphany moment too. The one where you realize Fred is a brilliant golf coach, sure, but he is even a better person, and the entire Extraordinary Golf Staff reflect these same values.

Until next time! Keep it in the middle.