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Start Your 2017 Season the Right Way

Start the 2017 Season the Right WayWhether you make New Year’s resolutions or not, you likely have goals when it comes to your golf game. As we discussed last week, you may want to practice a specific part of your game (short game or putting), take additional lessons or maybe shoot a specific score or achieve a certain handicap. As part of starting the 2017 golf season properly, make a list of some goals you’d like to achieve this year.

Before you play your first round of golf, make at least one trip to the practice tee. PGA Professional Chris Foley offers the following hints to include during your first session:

Stretching
Start your session by doing some general stretching of your shoulders, back, hips and legs. It is important to get your golf muscles loose anytime you go to the course or practice facility, but especially the first time back or if you haven’t been very active. A good way to loosen up is to take a couple of short irons, holding them together and swinging them back and forth slowly. Also hold a club behind your neck on your shoulders and do a few twists at the waist to help loosen your back.

Putting
The short game is the hardest area of the game to get your feel back. Good putting is critical to scoring well and spending some time on the putting green important. Begin by finding a putt with very little break on the putting green. Place several balls at a distance of about three feet and work on hitting solid putts into the back of the hole. Try to make 10 to 15 in a row before ending your putting practice.

Next, get a feel for distance. Pick out the two holes farthest away from each other on the putting green. Take several balls and putt the balls back and forth, trying to get all of the balls to stop within a foot of the hole.

Chipping
The motion made chipping the golf ball is a miniature version of the full swing. Hitting crisp, solid chip shots will translate into solid hit shots with the full swing. Remember, the correct technique is to set-up with a narrow stance, weight on the front foot and the ball position off the instep of the back foot. Grip down on the handle of the club and make a short, brisk accelerated stroke. To make the ball go up in the air, let the leading edge of the club work down to the ground.

Full Swing
Start your practice of the full swing with your shortest club (lob wedge, sand wedge or pitching wedge) and make short, easy swings. As you start to get a feel for finding the center of the clubface, start to make full swings. Progress your way through your clubs by hitting a series of shots with every other club in your bag. Move from sand wedge to nine iron to seven iron, etc. Finally, hit a hybrid, a fairway wood and then the driver.

Going through this type of practice session will give you a good idea of where the golf ball is going and give you a feel for hitting the ball solidly. Confidence plays such a big role in how we play, so starting the season off properly will make lowering those scores much easier.

Golf Resolutions for 2017

What are your Resolutions in 2017?As we just flipped the calendar from 2016 to 2017, many people start the New Year with a list of New Year’s Resolutions.  Common resolutions include the typical things like exercising more, eating smarter, losing weight, etc. but how many of you have Golf Resolutions?  Who doesn’t want to play more?  But have you taken time to sit down and plan some golf resolutions?  Do you want to practice a specific part of your game (short game or putting), take additional lessons or maybe shoot a specific score or achieve a certain handicap?

Golf, unlike most sports, involves a new start and reset at the beginning of every year.  The professional Tours reset with the official money earnings starting over and the golf manufacturers launch new equipment, new golf balls, new apparel, etc. all designed to help golfers improve and play their best.  

Last year at an LPGA event, I heard LPGA Founder Shirley Spork challenge everyone to play 9-holes of golf once a week.  If you live in a part of the country that allows year-round golf, that’s a great challenge to accept since playing more golf will generally lead to playing better golf.

While many golfers like to say they will play more golf, a better golf resolution for a new year should focus on game improvement.  Start with a realistic goal of practicing the part of your game that causes you the most trouble.  Do you struggle getting off the tee?  Perhaps you shy away from using fairway woods?   Do you have confidence hitting bunker shots both from the fairway and around the green?  Do you routinely have more than 36 putts during an 18-hole round?  Make a plan to practice on your trouble area for 30 minutes once a week for a few weeks.  Many golfers prefer to play vs. practicing – when in fact, the best way to lower your score is to actually practice.  Establish a one-hour time frame to practice your short game – spend half an hour chipping, pitching and practicing shots from the bunker, then practice putting for half an hour.  You will gain confidence in your short game as well as save a few strokes each round.

Other common golf resolutions include working on your game by taking additional golf instruction from your local PGA/LPGA Professional.  You may have specific things you want to work on with your Professional (not hitting a slice, gaining more distance, hitting hybrids better, getting out of the bunker on the first shot, etc.) so be sure to explain your goals and have them incorporated in your lesson plan from your Professional.  By seeking additional golf instruction, practicing and playing, you will be on your way to lower scores and meeting your 2017 golf resolutions.

 

Holiday Stocking Stuffer Ideas for Golfers

Last week I shared golf accessory gift ideas for golfers on your list that included golf balls, distance measuring devices, travel bags, sunglasses, grips and push carts. The gift ideas continue this week with great stocking stuffer ideas:

EWGA Membership – give the gift of fun for the entire year! Introduce a friend to EWGA golf events and programs. All new members you recruit will save $20 off the Classic Membership by entering the discount code 2016-RECRUIT when they join online. Share your love of the EWGA with others!

Golf Instruction – Grab a friend and register for golf instruction together. Your local PGA or LPGA Professional may offer Get Golf Ready (designed to welcome new golfers to the game) or other small group instruction. Some Professionals will let you even set up your own group of golfers – so get some friends together and have fun working on your game. Visit your local Professional or find a PGA Professional or an LPGA Professional.

Tickets to PGA or LPGA TOUR events – Did you realize your EWGA membership card grants you complimentary admission to domestic LPGA Tour events, you may consider purchasing tickets for friends. Tickets to golf events fit nicely in stockings!

Are you headed to the 2017 Solheim Cup in West Des Moines next summer? Visit Solheim Cup for a variety of daily and weekly ticket packages as well as hospitality and special Gala information.

To purchase tickets to PGA TOUR events if they play in or near your hometown, visit PGA TOUR.

For information on tickets to the U.S. Open in Erin, Wisconsin or U.S. Women’s Open in Bedminster, New Jersey, visit USGA.org.

If the golfer on your list would like to attend the Sr. PGA Championship in Washington, D.C., the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship in Olympia Fields, Illinois or the 2017 PGA Championship in Charlotte, North Carolina or 2018 Ryder Cup in France, visit PGA.com.

Stay and Play Packages – This is the time of year many golf resorts nationwide are offering attractive stay and play packages. You may have a bucket list item of visiting Pebble Beach, Bandon Dunes, Whistling Straits, Pinehurst, The Greenbriar, Reynolds Lake Oconee or destination golf meccas like Scottsdale, Arizona; Palm Springs, California; Orlando, Florida or Maui, Hawaii. If you live in the part of the country that has seasonal golf, planning a warm weather golf trip is always fun.

Additional items that make great stocking stuffers include golf belts, golf gloves, golf towels, rain gloves, golf tees, sunscreen, ball markers, hat clips with magnetic ball markers, divot repair tools, head covers and putter covers.

 

Holiday Gift Guide - Accessories

Holiday Gift GuideIt’s that time of year – time to assemble the gift list for the golfer on your holiday shopping list.  The EWGA Forecaddie has made your holiday shopping a bit easier with the following ideas of all golf-related items sure to please the golfer on your list. 

Golf Accessories - We start with golf accessories because they’re way more fun to give and receive than golf equipment and apparel.  Here are some essential items for all golfers:

•  Golf Balls – Golfers love new golf balls – especially when they are a gift.  Find out which brand and model your golfer prefers – some companies even offer complimentary personalization during the holidays.  Titleist is offering the ability to customize golf balls with a specific play number, personalization or a logo.  Visit Titleist or your favorite golf shop for more details.

·   Distance Measuring Devices – there are all kinds of options when it comes to distance measuring devices – there are GPS units, Golf GPS watches and rangefinders.  Visit the following sites to find that perfect distance to the green:  Skygolf, Bushnell, Garmin and GolfBuddy.

•  Travel Bag – if you are looking for a quality soft golf travel bag, check out the options from Club Glove.  More than 90 percent of PGA TOUR players use the “Last Bag” – named so since it may be the “last bag” you may have to purchase for your golf clubs.  Also pick up the “Stiff Arm” – an adjustable telescoping club protector that fits in all travel bags.  Adjust the Stiff Arm to a length just longer than the longest club in the bag to protect clubs when traveling.

•  Sunglasses – while these may be personal preference, it’s important to remind the golfer on your list to protect his/her eyes from the sun.  Many manufacturers offer sunglasses for specific conditions on the golf course – designed for sunny and overcast conditions.  Check out Maui Jim, Oakley, Jack Nicklaus, Nike and Sundog.

•  Grips – while it’s not the top of everyone’s dream list, golf grips now come in a variety of colors and materials and are often overlooked part of equipment when a golfer gets ready for a new season.  Check out the options from Golf Pride, Lamkin, Winn and Super Stroke.

•  Push Carts – if your golfer likes to walk the course instead of riding a cart, consider upgrading to a new push cart.  Important things to look for are ease of use while playing golf as well as how easily it is transported to and from the course and storage when not being used.  Look at the options from Sun Mountain, Clicgear, Bag Boy and Caddytek.

•   Net Return – If you are thinking about a golf net for backyard practice or indoor practice this winter, check out the Net Return sports net specifically for golf, that automatically returns a golf ball back to you.  They offer a variety of sizes for indoor and outdoor use as well as nets for other sports. 

•  Ryder Cup Gear – continue to celebrate Team USA and their victory at Hazeltine Golf Club in October with special Ryder Cup apparel and accessories.  Visit the PGA.com Shop for a variety of gifts.

EWGA Membership – give the gift of fun for the entire year!  Introduce a friend to EWGA golf events and programs.  All new members you recruit will save $20 off the Classic Membership by entering the discount code 2016-RECRUIT when they join online.  Share your love of the EWGA with others!      

Check back next week for more suggestions for the golfer on your list as well as some stocking-stuffer ideas!

Do You Take a Divot

do you take a divot?If you watch the professional golfers on TV, you notice both men and women take a divot when they hit the ball.  Many people believe you take a divot then hit the ball but you actually hit the ball then the turf, which creates a divot. 

The best way to learn to take a divot is to have some acceleration in your swing and to hit down on the ball.  A good way to work on proper acceleration and swing sequence is to think of your golf ball in your stance as the finish line.  Take your club back to the top of your swing and stop.  As you take your down swing and follow-through and look to see in what sequence your hands, club head and back knee (right knee for a right handed player) come through the hitting area (at impact).  The proper sequence is the back knee first, then the hands, followed by the club head.  Many golfers get their hands or club head to the finish line (the golf ball) first and not the back knee.  Practice so you feel the back knee first, which will help you generate more power and help you hit down on the ball.

To do this, you need the bottom of your swing arc to hit at the correct place.  A good drill from 2012 PGA Teacher of the Year Michael Breed is to practice this by setting up two golf tees where your ball would be at address – one an inch or two above the toe of the club and the other an inch or two behind the heel (see photo 1).

Now take your swing and see if you sweep the grass (the bottom of your arc) past the golf tees (see photo 2).  This will ensure you hit the ball, then the grass and produce a divot after you hit the ball. 

Don’t try to help the ball get in the air – let the loft of the club do that for you.  The harder you try to hit the ball in the air, the lower it will fly.  Work on taking a divot with your approach shots and before long, you will be hitting down on the ball and taking a divot with your other irons.

Pre Divotafter divot

 

How to Spin Wedge Shots

We’ve all seen Tour players or perhaps even our friends, hit a perfectly crisp wedge shot into a green, take one hop and stop or even spin back. Maybe that’s a shot you’d like to learn but don’t think you can execute. Here are some hints to learn how to spin wedge shots.

Some golfers take a big backswing and accelerate through the shot, but think the way to spin the ball is to “flip” the clubface at impact – and end up closing the face and hitting the shot to the left of the target (for a right-handed golfer).
 

 

Many golfers make the mistake of taking a big backswing and then decelerate on the forward swing. This leads to hitting the ball fat or sometimes even hitting that line drive ball screaming across the green (i.e. a skulled shot). This long backswing and a decelerated follow-through causes the heel and the toe of the club to not move at the same speed.

The key to spinning a wedge shot is for the heel and toe to move through impact at the same speed. To spin a shot, make sure your upper body is active and rotates in your entire swing. You have to accelerate the golf club through the shot to create spin. You will feel the handle of the club finishes to the left, but that produces a crisp, solid shot.

Practice this shot with your clubface in a slightly open (not a club with a lot of bounce), but just open the clubface gently at address before starting the swing. The club should accelerate through impact and produce a shot with a high spin rate. It’s the same line you’ve heard before, “swing the club and let the ball get in the way.” Don’t try to lift it or do anything fancy – just make a good swing and accelerate through the shot.

World Golf Hall of Fame Class of 2017

The World Golf Hall of Fame Class of 2017 was recently announced to include Davis Love III, Lorena Ochoa, Ian Woosnam, Meg Mallon and Henry Longhurst. The induction will take place on September 26, 2017 in New York City and includes three men, two women and inductees from three countries.  The induction has traditionally taken place in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida in May during the week of The Players Championship. The 2017 event will take place during the week of the Presidents Cup in NewYork City.

New inductees from women’s golf include Meg Mallon and Lorena Ochoa, who join the list of 35 female members out of 150 members currently in the World Golf Hall of Fame.

Mallon enters the Hall of Fame with 18 career LPGA Tour victories and four Major Championships.  She is a nine-time member of the Solheim Cup teams and was the captain at Colorado Golf Club in 2013.  Mallon was recognized during the LPGA’s 50th Anniversary in 2000 as one of the LPGA’s top-50 players and teachers.  In1991, Mallon earned the Golf Writers Association of America (GWAA) Female Player of the Year award.

Ochoa had eight top-10 finishes during her first full season on the LPGA Tour in 2003. She tallied 27 career LPGATour victories, including two Major Championships. Ochoa held the World Number One ranking for 158 consecutive weeks from 2007-2010.  During at three-year stretch from 2006-2008, she won 21 tournaments and two Majors – the Women’s British Open in 2007 at the Old Course at St. Andrews and the ANA Inspiration (formerly the Kraft Nabisco Championship) in 2008.  She won multiple events by more than 10 strokes on more than one occasion.  Ochoa retired from competitive golf at the age of 28 to return to Mexico and raise her family.

Members are inducted into the Hall of Fame in one of four categories:  Male Competitor, Female Competitor, Veterans and Lifetime Achievement.  Qualifying is based on a variety of criteria –including age, number of years away from “active competition” and 15 or more wins on “approved tours” or two major victories.  Under previous criteria, players had to be a minimum of 40 years old, which just this year has now been increased to a minimum of 50 years old.  A 16-member selection committee reviews the ballots and votes on players submitted, with election to the Hall of Fame requiring 75% of the vote.  Each year’s election class is limited to two from each of the four categories and five members total.

Congratulations to all five members in the Class of 2017.