19 Aug 2004
A recurring theme in my 20 years of teaching golf is making the game too difficult for a beginner.
This column is targeted at men who are planning to introduce their wife or a female friend (or a youngster) to the game of golf.
Many women are strong and athletic and will have no problem picking up the game and quickly becoming competitive, but there are also many women who have never played a sport that allowed them to develop the hand-eye coordination required to hit a small ball with a small club head on the end of a very long bat.
This column is to educate you to help those women enjoy their early golf experiences, rather than making it an ordeal. It also applies to women learning the game on their own.
Consider some basic lessons first, to learn to hit the ball and have it go somewhere. Nothing is more frustrating than swinging and missing.
Because many women lack upper-body strength, proper technique is even more important to them. A man might be able to muscle the ball a long way based on strength and athletic experience, but a woman likely will not be able to hit the ball very far to begin with.
A woman can feel frustrated if someone takes her to the golf course, shows her the ladies' tees, and expects her to keep up. She will have to hit several times to get to where a man's drive is and will probably wind up just picking up her ball and not finishing many holes.
Don't worry about forcing the new golfer to play by the rules of golf. Use the following beginner rules - it's like learning to ski on the bunny slope rather than a black diamond ski slope.
Start at the 100-yard marker on a regulation course. Every hole would be played as a par-3. Better yet, start on a par-3 golf course, which is a good learning environment.
If the golf ball is not on the green in three strokes (par), place the ball a few feet from the edge of the green and chip the ball onto the green. Take no more than three putts, then pick up and go to the next hole. This will give a golfer the feel of "playing" the entire hole.
When the new golfer is able to score 50 or better from the 100-yard markers, move back to the 150-yard marker and play from there until she can shoot 50 or better. The next progression is the 200-yard marker, and finally the forward or ladies tees.
Following this advice will speed up the pace of play for the new golfer and make it a more interesting, enjoyable and positive learning experience.
I learned to play golf this way, and as I look back, I realize I fell in love with the game because it was fun and I tasted early success, which hooked me on the game.