New year resolutions happened a long four months ago. Some were kept, some faded and some were (embarrassingly) scrapped. And some are about to happen.
This month, when Calgary-area golf courses open for the season, it will be time to make good on the resolution that 2017 will be the year to start or maybe renew the passion that is golf.
Calgary golfers are ready for fore! The trick is to do it right, or as right as they can.
With lot of diplomacy and professional experience, most Calgary-area golf pros and experts agree – despite unlimited and gung-ho confidence and well-intentioned naive assumptions – starting with golf lessons is vital.
“Your personal learning style and ability is individual,” stresses Terry Carter, director of Calgary’s National Golf Academy. “It also dictates the type of golf lessons you should take. Lessons are available for new, intermediate and advanced golfers in a variety of programs such as golf schools, clinics, group and private instruction.
“But before you sign up, be honest with yourself and determine how you learn best. Do you like a group setting or prefer private instruction? Do you learn better visually, verbally or physically? These questions should help you decide how to proceed. Your local Calgary PGA professional will guide you into the best program suited to you.”
Kevin Heise, general manager of Calgary’s Springbank Links Golf Club, echoes the important fact that golf, especially beginner’s golf, is entirely personal. “First, try a single lesson with a golf pro (PGA) recommended by a friend or fellow golfer. It will help you get a feel if the type of instruction works for you.
“If you’re happy, sign up for a series of lessons that should come with a package price. Group lessons are beneficial for the basics: grip, stance, posture and full-swing movement. But personalized instruction is what will really help your game.”
Ryan Anderson, PGA of Canada pro and head teaching professional at the Glencoe Golf & Country Club, agrees. “Lessons are a must. As a new golfer there is so much to learn to get started. Doing a series of lessons will make a huge difference in developing good fundamentals and speeding up the learning process of the player. Private or group lessons that focus on all aspects of the game will help get a good understanding of the different setups and swings.
“Getting on the golf course with a professional is so important. They will teach you how to play the game by showing you tips, tricks and strategies. Course etiquette and speed of play are best learned by playing, and an experienced professional will help you move around the course in a comfortable, stress-free manner.”
Even though hibernating and newbie Calgary golfers are anxious to get on the course, to get the most out of golf, there’s much to learn. Common sense dictates it’s important to spend a lifetime perfecting the game.
“In all areas of the game, the key is to start with solid fundamentals,” Carter cautions. “That means proper grip, stance, posture and ball position. They are all critical to build the proper golf swing and putting stroke. Once you have an understanding of the importance of these fundamentals you can move on to swing mechanics and proper short-game techniques.”
“The grip and address position and taking dead aim are the first things everyone should learn,” Anderson urges. “Also the basics on full swing, pitching, chipping and putting.”
Heise points out new golfers always benefit with range time before getting professional instruction to get swinging. “It’s a kind of ‘self-discovery.’ It can lead to more productive lessons, as the novice golfer can better identify their faults and strengths. Once the ball is regularly airborne, it is time to move to more control and consistency factors.
“After the basic technique, all you need to master your putting is a putter, a ball and a putting green, and lots of practice. It can actually be very relaxing and all courses have a practice green.”
Going with the flow, as in so many other aspects of life, is also a crucial fact of golf. “The other aspect of a smart start is learning how to play on the golf course,” Anderson suggests. “Playing quickly is a big part of the game. Being ready, being in the right spot at the right time saves a lot of time and will make a big difference in your enjoyment of the game.”
New golfers and seasoned veterans wonder about equipment as a factor in the game, and the enjoyment, of golf. Most experts agree: a key aspect in terms of types of clubs is body size and height.
Average-size men and women usually fit with standard-size men’s and women’s clubs, when it comes to length, lie angle and grip size. Taller or shorter golfers may need adjustments to fit individual body size.
Most manufacturers make “box sets,” complete with standard drivers, fairway woods, hybrids, irons, bags and putters.
An important aspect to enjoying the game is choosing the right course. While wishful thinking inspire golfers to dream about playing with McIlroy or Mickelson at St. Andrews, Pebble Beach or Augusta, Calgary experts have valuable course details to consider.
“It’s common to see green speeds very quick on many courses these days,” Carter warns. “With better technology, fertilizers and expertise, greens are now better than ever. Watching golf on TV, many courses have immaculate greens, which make for lightning-fast greens – often a big problem for the inexperienced golfer.
“Especially for new golfers, start off on a shorter, less-penalizing golf course. A par 3 or executive course will have less obstacles like sand traps, long grass, trees and water hazards.”
Of course, green fees and other costs are often a factor for golf course choices. “It takes time and money to play golf at any level,” Heise explains. “Start on an easier, shorter course. Especially for beginners, it will be the best value. Longer yardage, elevation changes, topography, carries and hazards such as bunkers and water hazards are golf course factors to keep in mind. Check the slope rating of the golf course via the pro shop or Google. Slope rating is a numeric measure of challenge for a course.”
“Learning green speed is difficult and takes much practice, even harder due to a severe slope of the green,” Anderson notes. “Analyze the putt for uphill, sidehill, downhill, grain and green speed to hit it with the right speed. Practice moving around a putting green from hole to hole with one ball with the goal of getting it within two to three feet of the hole.”