Michigan Golfer ON-LINE

A Lesson Of A Lifetime
by Terry Moore

You've struggled with your game for years, never getting much out of your wayward swing. You've spent way too much money on lessons, books and videos in hopes of finding a cure to your slice, your duck-hook, your lack of distance. You're at the brink of despair about a game you love dearly. Should you chuck it all and head back to tennis ? Or do say "Carpe Diem" and take serious action? "Is there a doctor in the house," you cry out? Yes, and his name is Charlie Sorrell. Let me share with you a case study.

A past National PGA Teacher of the Year, Charles Sorrell is the founder and owner of the unique Golf Meadows, the Sorrell School of Golf, located in Stockbridge, GA, approximately 20 miles south of Atlanta. A long-time PGA member, Sorrell always longed for owning a private teaching and practice facility. In 1990, he launched his dream by buying a homesite with enough adjoining property to create an unprecedented personalized teaching center. Since that time, Sorrell has quietly but steadily developed Golf Meadows into one of the finest and most congenial places to improve one's game. Earlier this spring, my wife and I visited Golf Meadows and were highly impressed with what we saw first hand. And the results were even more impressive.

As background, let me say I've been fortunate to have known the affable Sorrel for some time. I first met him at the '90 National Teaching Summit where Sorrell was honored as the Teacher of the Year by the PGA of America. Listening to his thoughtful and humble acceptance speech, I knew this teacher was someone with a special feel and sensibility for the game and its oft frustrated minions. For sure, Charles Sorrell is a true southern gentleman with impeccable manners and a endearing sense of humor. On two occasions, I invited Sorrell to be a headliner for the West Michigan Golf Show where he won over audiences with his enthusiastic and common-sense teaching ability. Audiences especially liked his trademark way of instilling golf tips in catchy rhymes -- such as "Belt buckle to ball, watch your handicap fall; or "The more inside you go, the more the tendency to throw." One PGA teacher has aptly called Sorrell the "Rhyme Master."

Anyway, we finally found time this spring to take Charlie up on his long-standing offer to visit Golf Meadows. Our primary mission was to see if Charlie could help my wife Deb with her game. A fine chipper and putter, Deb's game had been impeded by a weak swing that had little power. Her swing was very arm-oriented and one that invariably was out of plane resulting in a poor position at impact. Without much clubhead speed, Deb relied on a good short game to compensate for a lack of distance in her long shots.

A PGA Master Professional, Sorrell starts all of his lessons with a personal interview and assessment of each student inside his well-appointed, all-weather teaching center. Ably assisted by his lovely wife Joyce, a recently retired school teacher, Sorrel wanted to know from Deb what the best and worst part of her games were. Most importantly, he asked Deb what she wanted to get of her lesson. As mentioned, more clubhead speed was the desired goal so as to increase distance. After a warm-up period, Sorrell began to videotape Deb's swing from four camera angles. Best of all, the entire lesson -- including Charlie's remarks and critiques -- is placed on taped so there is no need to take cumbersome notes. Every student leaves Golf Meadows with a videotaped record of the session.

With the help of a color telestrator, Charlie was able to point out Deb's basic flaws in a clear, understandable manner. Basically, Charlie illustrated that Deb's present swing lacked necessary arc and width. By swinging the clubhead merely above her head without any wristcock, Deb was missing out on a key ingredient for generating power. In his inimitable explanation, Charlie summed up the swing for Deb as: "Hands are made to hold, wrists are made to hinge, and arms are made to swing." And applying his patented rhyme, Charlie reminded Deb that "wrists that are limber will keep you out of the timber."

Anyway, Charlie demonstrated to Deb how critical it was for Deb to create a hinge in her swing so as to lengthen her arc. At the start, Charlie wanted Deb to pretend she was cutting grass with a sling blade. "Deb, I just want you to hinge and sling -- just as if you're swinging a sling blade," said Charlie. (Since we had only recently seen the Oscar-nominated movie "Sling Blade," I did my best Billy Bob Thornton imitation of Carl giving Deb some extra pointers here: "Some people call it a Kaiser blade, Deb, but I call it a sling blade.") Ideally, Charlie wanted the club at the top of Deb's swing to be parallel to the ground. For a correct downswing, Deb was told to tuck her right elbow "closer to her hip line" as if she was throwing a ball underhanded. Charlie showed her how these basic moves generated new clubhead speed for her swing.

With the "hinge and sling" mantra in mind, Deb worked on revamping her swing the rest of the session. The results were indeed remarkable. She immediately picked 50 yards and more on her long shots. Where before she might use a three or five metalwood to hit a ball 100 yards she would now use a five or seven iron with her new and improved swing. After Deb would hit another impressive shot, Charlie would exclaim, "That's it! Now play golf and have fun."

Golf Meadows is indeed a special place to learn golf and have fun. Where so many schools tend to be impersonal, at Golf Meadows you do get the feeling the Sorrells are inviting you into their home -- which they are. The 22 acre facility has it all for honing one's swing with the equivalent of three holes and practice greens and bunkers. Every aspect of the game can be addressed in a secluded, easygoing manner here. The rates are quite reasonable and are available on both individual and group basis. Currently, if someone was joining a six hour group lesson for four, the per student cost would be $225. As evidenced by a group lesson we observed, Sorrell has an exceptional ability to address and meet the needs of each of his pupils. Moreover, in an era when so many schools advertise "big name" teachers as part of the program yet seldom are ever seen on the premises, Sorrell is the one and only teacher conducting sessions at Golf Meadows. One happy student said, "I came here because I know Charlie will be giving the lessons and not some assistant. And that's why I come back, too."

In the entrance hallway of the teaching center there are countless awards and plaques that have been bestowed on Charles Sorrell. Along with being named one of GOLF Magazine's 100 Best Teachers and Georgia's Professional of the Year, my eye caught sight of a small, framed Biblical passage, obviously a favorite of Sorrell who teaches Sunday school every week. Taken from Proverbs 3:16, it read: "In all ways, acknowledge Him and He shall direct thy paths."

With apologies to The Master, let thy path lead to Golf Meadows.

For more information about Golf Meadows call 770-957-8786 or visit its web site at golfmeadow@aol.com. To order Sorrell's book, Lessons that Rhyme -- Stay in the Mind, call 1-800-681-9281.

Students traveling to Golf Meadows have a variety of accommodation options. However, for four star quality and service, it would be hard to match the nearby The Inn at Eagle's Landing, just a few minutes drive from Golf Meadows. Eagle's Landing, the golf course, is a world-class Tom Fazio design that is home to the LPGA's annual Chick-fil-a Charity Championship which was won this year by Nancy Lopez. A private country club, Eagle's Landing only allows guest play if you're staying at the Inn or enrolled at Golf Meadows. The Inn is beautifully designed in the Greek Revival style with classic columns gracing the entranceway. With a minimum of guest rooms, The Inn certainly lives up to its reputation for quiet and understated elegance. The room furnishings and appointments are truly luxurious and the service is prompt and energetic. Guest activities include tennis, swimming and exercise.

Eagle's Landing is a premiere residential area and as one resident proudly stated, "it's the best place for a golfer now in the Atlanta area." Surrounding the golf course are most impressive homes mindful of the palatial residences gracing Muirfield Village in Columbus, OH. Weary and/or savvy business travelers can easily access The Inn from Hartsfield International Airport -- only 25 minutes away. For more information, call 770-389-3118.

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