Don’t Miss Out: Get Started, Get Comfortable, and Get in the Game
Taking Up Golf May Seem Like A Daunting Prospect For Women, Not Least Because Of It's Mystique As A Male Preserve. But Getting Started Is Less Difficult Than You Might Think. And It's A Lot Of Fun, Too
Golf is huge. It pervades American culture: There are golf shirts, golf jokes, a golf channel. There’s even a Chicken Soup for the Golfer’s Soul.
But to the uninitiated, particularly women, the game is surrounded with mystery. For many years, private country clubs have striven to project an image of exclusivity, encouraging the idea that golf is reserved for the privileged male, and a privileged white male at that. While most courses don’t get the press Augusta National (the course where the Masters is played) does, there are other private clubs where women are not allowed to cross the threshold or that restrict access to women, limiting their hours of play. Many women view golf as a male bonding activity. Some deeply resent the fact that while they are toiling away at their computer terminals, their male (and sometimes a few female) colleagues have slipped out to the course so they can practice for a charity golf event their organization is sponsoring.
For women taking up the game, it can be an intimidating and overwhelming experience. There are up to 14 different clubs – “woods” that are now made from metal and “irons” with graphite shafts – used to make many different strokes. All these strokes have different names and are made at different points along the golf course. But savvy business women know the relationships developed on the golf course continue into the board room. Few sports foster business like golf. It's an ideal setting for networking and relationship building. Often, playing 18 holes of golf is referred to as a four-hour sales call.
Notes a senior executive with a trade group, “I don't golf, but wish I did. I plan to sign my daughters up to take lessons as I think it has been an impediment in my career.”
Adds a banking executive, “I don’t golf, and I think it has excluded me from opportunities at times. Vendors that I give a lot of business to will invite one of my male golfing peers to an outing, when he has a very remote connection to that book of business (the specific account) I gave them directly. Golf does seem to be the common activity for combining business and pleasure, and few vendors seem to accommodate non-golfing clients.”
Ask women who’ve taken up golf and most will say it’s a real leveler to interact with male colleagues and clients as well providing unparalleled opportunities for camaraderie.
Are you missing out?
Women who take up the game do face special challenges. Golf is rarely taught the way it’s played. It’s been observed that if sex were taught the way golf is taught, the human race would be extinct. Thousands of books and magazines offer tips and techniques, yet the instruction is often contradictory. It’s difficult to find quality instruction because the primary model for teaching golf is an economic one, not one based on how individuals learn new skills. Because the model is economic, golf has not been conducive to women’s schedules either. Golf courses want golfers to play a full round of golf – all 18 holes, not a nine hole round. For time-pressed women, this is difficult and discouraging Women learn differently from men, but there are fewer women teaching professionals. Instructors (who are male) may not understand the fear of failure and humiliation that often confront women. Here’s a typical scenario: A golf club hires instructors who are excellent golfers – usually males from college teams, anxious to make their mark as professional golfers. Because you don’t need a license or any kind of certification to teach golf, there is no assurance that these young men know anything about transferring their knowledge of the game to their students.
So what can you do? If available in your area, seek instruction from an LPGA teaching professional. Only the Ladies Professional Golf Association instructor program provides training, supervision, and evaluation.
To make it easy and simple to learn the different parts of the game, focus on the short shots, the shots taken around the green. Not only is it simpler to learn these shots first, but also they are more than half of everyone’s shots in the game.
It’s been said the skill of putting is less complex physically and mentally than tying your shoe lace. You are simply striking a ball with a flat stick to roll it into a hole. It only gets hard when you make it more complicated. You will get better at putting by one thing only: Doing it more. You do not need to do it on a green outside, you can do it on the carpet or in the office, like all executives. Guarantee: Other executives will pick up your putter.
So, you still want to know how to putt? Wrong question. Just putt. Here are two guidelines to get started:
Begin putting by holding the putter halfway down the shaft. It may be awkward, but it enables you to hit solid putts, with only your arms and shoulders moving.
Try holding it different ways; try pointing your index fingers down the grip. This helps with control.
We know a few of the following things about great putters - that they:
Only use their arms and shoulders;
Keep the body very steady, with no movement;
Keep their wrists firm throughout the stroke, with no movement;.
Putt slowly: one half as fast as all other players.
Look at the hole a lot right before they putt
Chip and Run
After you’ve putted a few balls, your confidence will grow. Build on the success of hearing the ball fall in the cup. Instead of learning a new skill for each type of shot you make, think about what parts are similar and how they relate to your other shots.
Putting skills transfer to chipping; pitching is a small golf swing that transfers to a full swing. Bunker shots are a full swing, but hitting and splashing the ball out on a bed of sand. The target is the sand, not the ball. Keep in mind the simplest way out of a bunker if there’s no lip is to putt out. In fact, it is best to putt whenever you can, even off the green, if the grass is relatively flat.
Chipping is the next simplest shot next to the putt, however, it is also the most abused. A chip is a putt with a hop. It’s a shot right next to the green that occurs when the ball will no longer be able to roll through the grass. It hops, because while the putter strikes the ball with a flat surface, in chipping, you use a 7 or 8 iron, which have a slight loft. When it strikes the ball it will get some lift, or hop! The easiest way to learn to chip is to putt with your 7 or 8 iron and realize on a basic chip, the ball should hop only a little and then roll most of the way to the hole. Keeping this simple method, your chipping skills will become as good as your putting.
A pitch will start as an extension of the chip however, you will use a club (pitching wedge or sand wedge) with more loft. This causes the ball to go higher in the air and not roll as much as when you chipped with the 7 or 8 iron. If you are 20 yards or more from the hole, the pitching stroke begins to resemble a small version of the golf swing. The difference between the pitch and a putt or chip is a weight shift and hinging of the wrist. When you putt or chip, you keep your weight steady and your wrist firm and set. When you pitch, you start to shift your weight, and take the club farther back by using some hinging of the wrist.
The Full Swing
The key to a full swing is to know it does not need to be as confusing as it may seem or has been for you. The mechanics of a golf swing are quite similar to an underhand toss, tennis stroke, bowling or a baseball swing. But none of those skills hold the fascination and obsession golfers have over the mechanics of the golf swing! It does not need to be this complicated.
A golf swing is simply the arms naturally swinging around you, while your weight shifts back and through with the swing. The timing is the same as baseball swing, or a tennis stroke. Simply pretend to swing a baseball bat or tennis racquet at a ball that is laying perfectly still on the ground.
Getting Comfortable and Getting in the Game
Ask men who seek golf instruction what they want, and you will usually hear, “to be more consistent” or “drive the ball farther.” Ask women, and you’ll likely hear, “I just don’t want to embarrass myself.”
So how do you cure that “I-feel-naked-on-the-tee-anxiety”? In the same way you deal with other challenges: Take a deep breath, and keep it in perspective. It’s a round of golf, not a life threatening situation. A bad shot does not make you a bad human being.
Most corporate events feature a forgiving format, designed for a wide range of skill levels. As a beginner, you can contribute to your team’s effort with your putting and chipping.
Be prepared for lots of advice. Perhaps because you don’t need a license to teach golf, many people feel compelled to share their golf tips. Feel free to take ‘em or leave ‘em. On the other hand, if the comments refer to an issue of golf etiquette, it’s best to heed the advice. Here are some basic rules of etiquette:
Be mindful of where you stand. Keep out of others’ field of vision when they are hitting their shots.
Be quiet! Stop talking as someone prepares to hit the ball, and stay silent until after the ball is struck.
Watch your step. On the green, stay out of the area between the hole and your partner’s ball, called a line. If you accidentally step on it, apologize.
Replace any divots (the chunks of grass you take out with your shot) in the fairway, and repair your ball marks on the green. Ask for help the first time.
Like most things in business and in life, the more you practice, the better you get. It’s as simple as that.
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