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What to Expect When Taking a Golf Lesson

Golf LessonsYou’ve made the decision to take a golf lesson and carefully selected your PGA or LPGA Professional.  Now what can you expect from that lesson?

Your professional should ask you what goals you want to achieve from the lesson or series of lessons.  He or she should ask about your playing history – how long you’ve been playing and if you prefer to be a casual golfer who plays a few times a season or if you have the desire to compete in events locally, regionally or nationally.  A good professional will always ask if you have any physical limitations – do you have back, shoulder, hip or knee injuries, etc. that will prevent you for reaching your full potential with your golf swing.

You have hopefully engaged in friendly conversation with your professional so you feel comfortable with each other.  Think of your instructor as your friend and treat him or her as you do your other friends and create a positive experience.  If your goal is to get better, help the instructor understand what that means.  We all want to hit the ball farther and straighter, but break it down to manageable things – so you want to stroke your putts better?  Maybe you want to hit bunker shots better or hit pitch shots more crisp.  Whatever your reason for asking for a lesson, it should be communicated to your professional.

You should be “moved forward” in your golf progress – meaning there should be and understanding of what causes problems in your golf swing and how to identify it and correct it.  A good professional will work with your swing and not expect you to swing like someone else.  He or she will also give you one or two things to concentrate on during the lesson and ask you to practice it on your own between lessons.  Think back to grade school piano lessons:  If you didn’t practice between lessons, you were just paying for the teacher to watch you play at each lesson.  The same holds true with golf lessons – don’t let your precious time with your professional turn into “supervised practice.”

As we discussed in the article last week in “How to Select a Golf Professional,” your instructor should provide feedback that is not too technical (unless you like technical advice) and should listen to your comments and feedback as well.

You professional will help determine your learning style – if you are a visual learner or kinesthetic learner.  You may be a visual learner who appreciates being shown how to swing with the help of mirrors, video or demonstrations.  Perhaps you are a kinesthetic learner who benefits from how things feel and the use of teaching aids to help with how temp and timing feel.

Your lesson will end with the professional reminding you what you learned and what drills you can use during your practice sessions between lessons.  Be willing to practice and take more than one lesson.  This is an experience designed to help you improve and play your best, not a one-time, quick fix.  Enjoy your time with your professional and learn as much as possible about the golf swing and playing this game.    

(Photo credit:  SuzyWhaleyGolf.com/Montana Pritchard)

How to select a Golf Professional

LPGA PGA Professional·  Trust and personable – just as you would select a medical doctor with whom you feel comfortable, you want the same experience with your golf instructor.  Ask for references from other golfers or from people where you play.  The golf professional should be compatible with you as far as mutual goals, swing philosophy and personality.  

·  Communication skills – make sure your golf professional explains terms or the swing concepts without being too technical (just as you don’t want a doctor to use detailed medical terms).  You need to understand the concepts and ideas from the golf professional without him or her being more technical than you are comfortable.  If you don’t understand a concept or comment, but sure to stop and ask for further explanation.

·  Credentials – seek golf instruction from PGA or LPGA Professionals.  Both associations offer extensive training and education for their Professionals – not only to obtain certification but also to maintain their credentials.  You may wish to learn from a well-established Professional rather than a newer Professional – keep in mind the price for the lesson will vary according to the instructor’s credentials as well.  A newer instructor will have lower hourly rate for a lesson than an established instructor.

·  Teaching Aids – many Professionals use teaching aids or swing aids to help you feel the difference in your swing or the concept your instructor is trying to explain.  They are designed to provide feedback to you, to help you improve.  Many professionals have a staff bag full of fun teaching aids – a good professional will explain swing concepts to you by sharing various swing aids. 

·  Technology – in the past, golf lessons were even more expensive if your lesson included video.  Now with the advancement of technology in the golf instruction space, you not only should have a video of your swing, but it will likely include feedback on your ball flight.  Ask your professional if your lesson includes ball flight monitoring and if so, how you might access the video, etc. after your lesson.

·  Enthusiastic – your golf professional should be enthusiastic and make the lesson fun and educational for you.  You should see his/her passion for the game of golf and his/her desire to help you get better.  Avoid a golf professional who treats you like a number and is eager to get to his/her next lesson.   

·  Variety of learning opportunities – ask your golf professional if he or she offers other types of instruction in addition to individual lessons - such as group lessons, clinics, playing lessons or playing in Pro-Am events.  Many will offer a special rate if you take a series of lessons (three, five or more lessons).  Group instruction, while not as personal as one-on-one instruction, offers you a chance to bring a friend and learn in a group setting, which should be less expensive than an individual lesson.  Some professionals offer instructional clinics that focus on certain parts of the game – short game, putting, bunker play, etc.  When you are ready to take what you learned on the practice tee to the course, ask about a playing lesson.  You will pick up all kinds of tips and course management ideas that help you while playing.  Finally, when you are ready, many professionals are invited to Pro-Am events and look for players to compete on their teams.  This is a great way to show what you have learned while having fun at the same time.

Next week we’ll talk about what to expect when taking a golf lesson and how to get the most out of your instruction time with your golf professional.

Healthful Golf Snacks

Healthy Snacks for Golf

For years the standard golf course “snack” at the turn was a hot dog, with a bag of potato chips and a soda to complete the “meal.”  That was long before chicken salad wraps, roasted almonds and kale chips.  Golfers today have more options when it comes to food and beverage offerings making it easier to select healthful food options on the course during the round.

Eating properly on the golf course is important to maintain your energy level and avoid drops in your blood sugar levels that can cause you to “crash” and not perform your best.

While many golfers would prefer a frozen Snickers bar, here are some healthful golf snacks many golf facilities now offer for you to purchase at the course that provide protein and energy during your round:

  • Nuts– Almonds, cashews, pistachios, peanuts, pecans, walnuts, etc.  If you like sunflower seeds, please don’t dispose the shells on the golf course (no one likes to putt through or remove sunflower seed shells on the putting green.)  You can add raisins, craisins or other dried fruit to make your own golf “trail mix.”  These are easy to make and store in a Ziploc bag and keep in your golf bag.
  • Nutritional snacks– granola, granola bars, energy bars, trail mix, chickpeas, edamame, kale chips, etc. are all healthy snacks that are easy to pack and make for a quick snack while playing. 
  • Veggies– Carrot sticks, celery, cucumbers, etc.  You can always bring a small container of hummus for dipping the veggies.  Some veggies are harder to transport and keep, but in general they are great to satisfy your hunger during the day.
  • Hand fruit– Apples, (cut into wedges), orange wedges, bananas, grapes, berries in yogurt, etc. are great to eat on the golf course.  They are easy to keep in your bag until you want a quick snack and are pretty easy to eat between shots.  Fruit gives you energy, without a crash, which is why you see many Professional golfers eating bananas and other fruit during their round.
  • Beef Jerky– this is a great golf course treat that comes in a stay-fresh bag and provides a lot of protein.  There are some varieties that are flavored as well, if you like spicy or Cajun jerky – look for all-natural brands that don’t have MSG, salt or other chemicals.
  • Popcorn– a fun and easy snack to have in your bag either in plain, cheese or carmel.  If you like the cheese flavored, avoid the cheddar (orange) as that residue from your fingers doesn’t look good on your golf shirt!
  • Cheese cubes or cheese sticks– these offer a good source of protein and carbohydrates and are easy to bring since they come in individual packaging.  Not just for toddlers anymore!
  • Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches– a quick bite of a PB&J sandwich provides protein as well as 27 percent of a person’s recommended daily intake of fat.  Smuckers makes a fun version of a “sealed crustless” PB&J appropriately called “Uncrustables.”  You can find them in the freezer section of the grocery store available with grape, strawberry, raspberry jelly or honey with peanut butter on white or wheat bread).   Throw a frozen Uncrustable in your bag or purse and in 30-minutes you have a nice peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Regardless of what you buy or bring to the course, making healthy choices will help you to stay your best during the round. 

Tips for Playing in the Summer Heat

Playing Golf in the Summer HeatIn most parts of the country, the weather has cooperated and we are officially in “golf season.”  As the days get longer, the temperatures get warmer, causing many of you to play golf in the blistering heat of the summer.   Here are some hints for playing in the summer heat – while many are quite obvious, make sure you remember these hints as the mercury starts to climb.   

·  Clothing – try to wear light-colored clothing when playing in the heat.  The trend in golf apparel now is synthetic fabric make with moisture wicking elements designed to help you stay dry.  Some apparel lines have SPF (sun protection factor) clothing that helps protect against the UV rays that cause skin cancer.  Another new addition in golf clothing is sun sleeves – a tight cuff (sold in pairs) that extends from above the elbow to the wrist – designed to protect your arms from the sun.  It’s smart to wear a hat or visor to shade your face and eyes from the sun.  Finally wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from the harmful rays (some people claim they can’t play wearing sunglasses – but if you can, wear them).

·  Golf Gloves – bring extra gloves so as you perspire and they get wet, you have a dry replacement.   It’s okay to hang the glove on your golf cart or bag to air dry.  Consider using rain gloves that are designed to be wet to help you grip the club.

·  Sunscreen – use one with a high SPF to help block harmful UV-rays.  The higher the SPF number, the more protection you have against sunburn.  Apply an hour before you go out in the sun and again during your round (sweat-proof is nice – but still reapply after a few hours).  Spray sunscreen is handy to keep in your golf bag as it helps avoids getting oil/lotion on your hands.  Caution that some sunscreen products will damage clothes if sprayed or rubbed on your clothing by mistake.  (Hint:  if you do apply sunscreen during a round, remove your glove and apply using the hand you wear a glove on to prevent getting your grips wet, sticky, etc.  You may also use an ice cube and towel to clean your hand.)

·  Hydrate – if you are playing in the heat, it’s a good idea to start drinking water before you arrive at the golf course.  Drinking cold water helps your body stay cooler once you are in the heat.  A good rule of thumb is to drink one bottle of water every three holes.  If temperatures are in the upper 90s to 100s, you want to drink 12 to 16 ounces of water every two holes.  To save on bottled water expense from the beverage cart, bring an insulated glass, tumbler, water bottle, etc. and fill it with ice.  As the ice melts, you have cold water to drink.  Many courses offer water coolers every few holes for you to refill your bottle or container.  Consider bringing a frozen bottle of water so you have cold water as the ice thaws.  Remember while alcohol or soda may sound good, they will dehydrate you rather than help you stay hydrated.  Sports drinks or beverages with electrolytes help refuel your body after perspiring and losing sodium.

·  Time of day – while it seems pretty obvious that it’s cooler in the morning, remember other golfers will think the same thing, so the golf course could be busier than anticipated.    Usually playing early in the morning before the temperatures rise should encourage a quicker round of golf, but sometimes the demand to play early in the day creates a busier golf course and could lead to longer rounds.  Another option is to consider playing later in the day during “twilight” times.  While it will still be warm outside and the winds could pick up, the rates are generally a bit lower, temperatures start to decrease, the round may be a bit quicker and you may see a beautiful sunset.  Some courses offer food and beverage specials along with twilight rates – another reason to consider playing later in the day.

·  Keep cool – in addition to the items listed above, when playing in the summer heat, think of additional ways to keep cool on the golf course.  If possible, play golf courses with trees that will provide shade while parking a cart or waiting to play.  Use a cool towel on your neck – some are made specifically for sports that are like a cool gel pack designed to fit around your neck plus it keeps a wet sopping towel from ruining the collar of your golf shirt.  You may also use your golf umbrella for shade.

 ·  Cart or caddy - if you prefer to walk when playing golf, playing in extreme heat is your turn to treat yourself to a riding cart or caddy.  Let someone or something else tote your clubs so you can enjoy your day a bit more on the course.  If riding in a cart, you have room for cool towels, ice and water, plus you can use a seat cover to make the ride more comfortable.

·  Play 9-holes – remember a round of golf doesn’t have to be 18 holes.  Playing 9-holes allows you to get out and play a few holes without having to be in the heat for four or more hours.  Many after-work leagues are 9-holes because of the time required to play and due to daylight hours.  Most people would rather play 9-holes than to not play golf at all.  You may also enjoy an Executive or Par 3 course that will allow you to play in a shorter amount of time.

Hopefully some of these tips will help you be better prepared to play golf in the summer heat.

Barriers to Playing Good Golf

Barriers to Golf

Many of us can recall a day on the golf course when we hit great shots, chipped or pitched the ball close to the hole or made long putts.  We probably scored well – maybe a personal best round – and thought I finally have this game figured out, only to go out the next time and feel like you are starting all over. 

Sometimes there are barriers to playing good golf – they could be physical barriers, emotional or even mental barriers that keep us from performing our best.  They could also be things we can’t control like the weather, slow play or playing with unfamiliar playing partners.

·  Physical barriers:  Lack of sleep, proper nutrition and poor fitness all play factors in to helping you play your best golf.  Help your golf game by getting enough sleep each night, eating a good diet with plenty of liquids to avoid dehydration and exercise every day. 

·  Emotional barriers:  If you are a person who feels stress, or is impatient, not flexible or easily frustrated, be aware that these can prohibit you from playing good golf.  Work on the positives of playing golf for fun and social reasons, don’t keep score and don’t focus on bad shots. 

·  Mental barriers:  We have all heard that golf is a mental game.  Maybe you don’t concentrate or take time to practice.  Get into your golf zone by concentrating more when you are playing.  Schedule time to practice – even if it’s only 30-minutes once a week.  Practice your short game so you are more confident.  You will soon look forward to your practice time away from your other duties.

·  Weather:  We all picture a perfect day on the course with blue sky, perfect temperatures, sunny weather and perhaps a slight breeze.  However, what we encounter on the course can include all types of weather – cloudy, blustery temps, gusting wind, rain and sometimes even sleet or snow.  Since the weather can change during your four hours on the course, be prepared for all elements.  Keep rain gloves, a rain suit, rain hat, extra towels and an umbrella in your bag (or bring it along with you) if the weather looks threatening or if you are playing in an event where you have to play in the rain.  If you are playing in extreme heat, drink plenty of water to keep you hydrated and stay in the shade as much as possible.  The opposite is true if you are playing in the cold – walk as much as possible to help keep warm, dress in layers and be sure to wear a stocking cap or hat to keep the body heat from being lost.

·  Slow Play:  This is the number one reason most people site as a barrier from playing their best golf.  While no one enjoy waiting for a slow group in front of them, you can be mindful of your own actions to not be a slow player in your own group.  Get to you ball as quickly as possible, select your club, have your glove on and be ready to hit when it’s your turn.  If you ride in a cart, select your club and walk to your ball (if safe) while others are playing.  Try to create a pace of play that helps you settle in to your round and not one where you hurry and wait, hurry and wait, etc.

·  Unfamiliar playing partners:  Many times when playing in an event, you don’t have control over who you are paired with in your group.  Some people will enjoy conversation and some people will barely talk with you.  Recognize these differences and don’t allow it to bother your golf game.

Remember golf is a game and your ultimate goal should be to have fun on the course.       

Myths About the Golf Swing

golf swing myths

How many times have you hit a poor golf shot only to have your playing partners offer their instant advice on what you did wrong or what you need to do next time you hit?  We refer to those people in your group as your “playing teacher or coach” when in fact they are offering you sometimes incorrect and certainly un-solicited advice.  Here are some common myths about the golf swing: 

·  Keep your head down.  Have you ever topped a shot and had your “playing teacher or coach” tell you the reason you topped your shot was because you didn’t keep your head down.  The real reason people top a golf ball is they tend to try and hit the ball in the air and by doing that, they flip their wrist and keep their weight on their back foot.  

· Set your posture over the golf ball like you are sitting on a bar stool.  Many people think the set-up posture needs to feel like you are leaning back or resting on a bar stool, when the ideal set-up position should actually have you in an athletic position with the weight more on the balls of your feet.  It allows the swing to transfer from the back foot to the forward foot during the golf swing, while keeping a good athletic balance.

· Keep your left arm straight.  Keeping the left arm straight restricts the backswing and doesn’t allow a golfer to take a full swing.  Watch the TOUR professionals on TV and you’ll notice they have a slight bend in the left (forward) arm at impact – it’s okay for you to as well.

·  Swing hard to hit the ball farther.  It would seem logical that if you want to hit farther, you need to swing harder.  However, when most golfers try to swing hard, they end up throwing off their tempo and rhythm and of course, the swing speed.  The key to generating more distance is to have more club head speed.

A good drill to practice to increase club head speed involves turning your driver over and taking some practice swings.  Listen for the grip to make a “swoosh” sound when you swing.  The swoosh means you are generating some club head speed by swinging through to the target, which in turn will help the golf ball travel farther.

Recognizing these myths and knowing how to overcome them will make you a better golfer and hopefully avoid the “free information” from your playing partners.

The 10 Most Misunderstood Golf Rules

The Rules of GolfMost avid golfers pride themselves on knowing the Rules of Golf, yet many times golfers have a different interpretation of the Rules and how to handle a specific situation.  Ron Kaspriske at GolfDigest.com shares a list of the 10 Most Misunderstood Rules and the correct ruling behind these myths.

1. MYTH: A golfer who is off the green must play a shot before a golfer who is on the green.

FACT: The player farthest from the hole, regardless of position, is always entitled to play first. So if a golfer has 50-foot putt while another golfer is facing a 5-yard chip, the golfer on the green is entitled to play first. Note, there is no penalty for playing out of order. However, in match play, you can be made to replay your shot by your opponent if you don’t wait your turn.

2. MYTH: A ball that is touched and falls off the tee after it has been addressed counts as a stroke.

FACT: In most cases, it doesn’t count as a stroke and the ball should be re-teed without penalty. It counts as a stroke if the ball already was in play (if you whiffed on your first attempt, for example), or if you were making a stroke at the time the ball fell off the tee.

3. MYTH: In a scramble or other team format, you can stand on or close to an extension of your partner’s line of putt while he makes a stroke.

FACT: No one on your side, including caddies, can intentionally stand on or close to an extension of the line of putt during a stroke. Intentionally is the key word. If someone on your side was standing there inadvertently, there would be no penalty.

4. MYTH: If you hit a ball into a water hazard, you can hit a provisional ball before going to search for the original.

FACT: If you’re virtually certain your ball is in a water hazard, you can’t hit a provisional. The next shot you hit is considered a ball in play (plus add a penalty stroke). If you hit a ball in a hazard, proceed under options for Rule 26. If you think your ball could possibly be outside the hazard, then you can hit the provisional. But if it turns out that your ball is in the hazard, you must abandon the provisional.

5. MYTH: If you hit a ball in a water hazard marked with yellow stakes or lines, you can always drop within two club-lengths of where the ball last crossed the hazard’s boundary.

FACT: Only hazards marked with red stakes or lines (lateral water hazard) allow you the option of dropping within two club-lengths, no closer to the hole. You have three options when a ball enters a hazard marked by yellow stakes or lines:

1. Play it as it lies.

2. Replay from the previous position.

3. Drop a ball outside the hazard behind the point where the ball last entered it, keeping that point directly between the hole and the spot on which the ball is dropped. There is no limit how far behind that point you can drop.

(The last two options come with a one-stroke penalty.)

 

6. MYTH: If your ball is unplayable, you’re entitled to a drop in a spot that gives you a “playable” lie.

 

FACT: You have three options (under penalty of one stroke) if you declare a ball unplayable:

                1. Replay the previous shot.

2. Drop a ball behind the point where the ball lay, keeping that point directly between the hole and the spot on which the ball is dropped, with no limit how far behind that point the ball may be dropped.

3. Drop within two club-lengths of the spot where the ball lay, no closer to the hole. Keep in mind that none of these options guarantee that you’ll be able to play from an unfettered position.

7. MYTH: You can either remove an out-of-bounds stake, or take relief from it or any fence/wall marking the course’s boundary.

FACT: You do not get relief from anything marking the course’s boundary. Play the ball as it lies or take an unplayable lie and proceed under those options (see previous myth/fact).

8. MYTH: You can’t have a ball marked off the green unless it interferes with your ball, stance or swing.

FACT: If you think another ball might interfere with your play of a hole, you can request it be marked and lifted. Note: A ball marked in this instance CAN’T be cleaned unless it’s on the putting green.

9. MYTH: If you can’t find your ball, you can go back to the tee and play a provisional ball.

FACT: A provisional must be played before you go up to look for your ball. If you go back and play another ball, your original is lost.

10. MYTH: When your ball, stance or swing is interfered with by a cart path (immovable obstruction), you always take relief on the side farthest away from the hole.

FACT: You have to locate the nearest spot off the cart path that allows you to stand and swing without interference and is not nearer the hole than the ball’s location. That spot could be on either side of the cart path depending on your ball’s position and the stroke you intend to make for your next shot. Once you determine where that spot is, you’re allowed to drop within one club-length of that spot, no closer to the hole.

Visit USGA.org for more answers to your Rules of Golf questions.