One of Golf Writer Andy Reistetter's New Year's resolutions is to improve his golf game. So why not start a new series with one of golf's finest teaching professionals- Krista Dunton at Berkeley Hall in Bluffton, South Carolina. She is one of Golf Magazine's Top 100 Teachers in 2012, right up there with the likes of Butch Harmon Jr., David Leadbetter and her own mentor, Jim Hardy. Join Reistetter and learn how he came to find Krista and the dramatic improvements made to his swing in just one lesson.
Sometimes I do yardages on the LPGA tour for the Golf Channel which means I am out there on the fairway with the best women golfers in the world on Sunday afternoons. I pace off the yardages and pass them along to talented on course reporters like Jerry Foltz or Kay Cockerill. I also get the clubs the pros use from the caddies and then stand still off camera and watch them play the shot.
What I have realized from this up-close and personal view is probably the same thing you realize at home if you are a middle-aged man like me. The game of the professional ladies more closely resembles mine in terms of club selection and the distance carried. Sorry, but honestly I do not hit my 7-iron 190 yards like Bubba Watson nor drive it 300-plus yards on a good day, even with firm and fast fairways.
In addition, my experience in the corporate world (granted it is a bit dated these days) was that I liked working for women managers. They were typically more on task, focused on getting the job done and less political which translated into more fun, less stress and better results for me and my teams. So I put two and two together and set out to find a lady teaching pro for my first golf instruction article.
When I was in Hilton Head for The Heritage, I met Bob Ring and he invited me out to play Berkeley Hall and introduced me to Krista Dunton. She graciously accepted my offer to give me a lesson for this the very first Learn How to Golf the "Write" Way article.
You don't get on Golf Magazine's Top 100 Teachers list without the credentials, the experience and the talent to teach the game. Krista has all three and she made a significant improvement in my game in only one lesson. To be honest, I am probably not that good of a student. I might be a bit too analytical but I am a student with lots of opportunities for improvement. Krista is one of those people you meet with passion, drive and focus so that there is no question you and your golf swing will be impacted positively.
For my lesson she came in on her day off with two kids under the age of three at home and one was sick. It's not like you are reading this article in Golf Digest (yet). Now that is dedication and commitment. Maybe she heard about my Jim Furyk/John Daly type swing, didn’t believe it and wanted to see it for herself.
Krista grew up with three older brothers and a father that was the pitching coach at Stanford. She played many sports and once struck out 17 of 18 batters in a Little League baseball game (we have that in common). Gifted athlete box checked (hers not mine).
At age 17 she went to college 2,400 miles to the east at Michigan on a volleyball scholarship and grew up fast. She got through that "deer in the headlights" period real fast. Fiercely independent adult box checked as well.
The college athlete would come home during the summers and help Stanford's womens golf coach, Tim Baldwin, run junior camps, teaching the fundamentals of the golf swing. After Michigan she played the mini tours and hooked up with Ed Oldfield, the hot instructor of the day who also instructed LPGA champions Betsy King and Jan Stephenson and brought the 2000 Women's U.S. Open to the Merit Club in Chicago.
Krista's miss was a low hook. A back injury was the deciding factor to stop pursuing the professional dream and focus on the one that took root during those Stanford summer camp experiences- her desire to help others play the game of golf.
A teaching opportunity came up with Billy Ziobro at Forsgate CC in Central New Jersey just off the Turnpike. Starting with nothing but desire she built up her book by walking the range and giving free tips. During the winters she would head down to PGA National in Florida to watch Mike Adams teach, take notes and not make a single dime.
After putting in her time learning and preparing she received a mouth-watering opportunity to build her own program as the Director of Instruction at Belfair in Hilton Head. After five years there she came over to Berkeley Hall, heard Jim Hardy speak and liked what she heard.
As a dual PGA and LPGA certified teaching professional she connected with his Plane Truth (you are either a 1 or 2 plane swinger). The comprehensive plus-minus system corrects your swing by making your plane steeper or flatter to get you in the right position at impact which is all the matters. Instructor Dunton was the first in North America to obtain Hardy's highest Level 3 certification.
Usually, from what I hear, teachers and students in golf connect with each other in how they communicate or how they swing the club (technique). In the first few minutes of my lesson I realized Krista and I would connect both ways mainly due to her listening skills and immense knowledge of the golf swing. With her the lesson is centered on the student.
My biggest concern was that I know I have a strong grip (right thumb on right side of grip) and if I change it I will injure myself. Ten years ago I took a series of video lessons (my first and only lessons until Krista) and they changed my grip and I ended up impinging my rotator cuff. I had my first cortisone shot and a couple of months of physical therapy. Ouch, I can still feel the pain.
Try something for me to understand the issue I had with my grip. Extend your right hand out horizontally to your right side with your thumb up. Raise that hand straight up in a full arc (like a golf swing) above your head. No issue doing so- right? Now do the same thing with your thumb pointing down (my weakened grip). Can't get it much over the shoulder but unfortunately I tried too hard and did and it resulted in shoulder bursitis back in late 2001.
Now Krista recommended the exact same grip change but added a rotation of the right forearm to compensate and, voila, no impingement plus a firmer grip and control of the club at the top of the back swing, and most importantly, at impact. Truly amazing to me was that this combination did not feel drastically different or weird, which is unusual for such a major grip change. No different than going to the right doctor who makes the right diagnosis the first time and gives you the medicine that you need.
Two other changes we are making is to keep my takeaway closer to my body and eliminating my premature flipping of the club and early release of my wrists which adds loft to my shots and leaks power and distance. Doctor 59, as I now think of her, came up with a simple swing thought for me- keep the butt of the club passing forward through impact- which delays the release, de-lofts the club head restoring my power and distance. I played the next two days with my older brother who's known my swing since I picked up a club. He said I have never hit the ball better and I won the match to prove it.
Doctor 59? Well the New Jersey Turnpike is really I-95 and it seems Krista hasn't ventured too far from it in her teaching career only coming south 750 miles from Forsgate to Berkeley Hall. She educated me and "reversed" a lot of my thoughts about my swing in a demonstrative way so the 95 becomes a 59. A score of 59 is really good in golf plus I am GolfWriter59 and needed a swing doctor. No, I don't think I am going to shoot 59 anytime soon but if I was a young golfer with some talent and dreams of a professional career, I think with Krista's guidance they certainly will shoot 59 someday in competition. She is that good!
Before the lesson ended, Krista voiced over my before and after videos and sent them to me along with my player profile on Hardy's Plane Truth Golf website. Now I have video and selected practice drills on my cell phone that I can take to the range with me. I am all set to practice my new swing and reinforce the changes made. I have never been more excited about my game!
If you want to check out the video details of my lesson (could be brutal to watch no disrespect to Jim Furyk or John Daly) click on the following link:
Here is a link to Krista's web site:
My only fear now is not of injury but my friends finding out (before we play a match) and wanting more strokes. Sorry Rich, Sean, Stokes, Sir Walter, Merri et al, not going to happen! Thanks Krista!
Andy Reistetter is a freelance golf writer as well as a Research and Broadcast Assistant for the major golf broadcast companies. He spends time on all four major American golf tours- the PGA TOUR, Champions, Nationwide and LPGA Tours.
Reistetter resides within a couple of miles of the PGA TOUR headquarters and home of The PLAYERS Championship at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach.
A lifetime golfer, Andy enjoys volunteering at the World Golf Hall of Fame and THE PLAYERS while pursuing his passion for the game of golf and everything associated with it. He can be reached through his website www.GolfWriter59.com, on Facebook and Twitter as GolfWriter59 or by e-mailing him at AndyReistetter@gmail.com