Our region is rich with excellent and affordable golf courses. It’s never too late to learn this fun game or to refine your skills. Here, local pros offer tips for beginners and experts alike.
“Take one shot at a time and if you have a bad hole, let it stay on that hole and move on,” says Jordan Zellman, manager of golf instruction and programs at Rockford Park District. “You can’t dwell on the bad, especially while playing.”
Andrew Schlupp, head golf professional at PrairieView Golf Club in Byron, Ill., is always reminding golfers about the PGA – that is: posture, grip and alignment.
“Those are three very important things that help beginners get in a good setup position,” he says.
Schlupp teaches good posture by positioning golfers in a stance where their knees are slightly flexed with a good bend at the waist.
There are three grips that golfers can use. There’s a baseball grip, where all 10 fingers are on the club. There’s an interlock grip, where right-handed golfers interlock their left index finger with their right pinky finger; this also works for left-handers. In the overlap grip, a right-handed golfer’s right pinky finger overlaps between their left index and middle fingers.
“I explain these three grips and let the golfer dabble with all three of them,” Schlupp says. “It’s imperative that whichever grip you choose feels the most comfortable to you.”
For alignment, golfers should make sure their feet, hips and shoulders all work together and are aimed parallel to the intended target.
Jeff Hartman, golf pro and manager at Park Hills Golf Course, Freeport, starts lessons by urging students to focus on the right equipment.
“Even though there are 14 clubs in your bag, you only have one swing,” he says. “The driver is more difficult to hit, so we never start with the driver. Instead, we always start with a 9-iron and, in the next lesson, we may go down to a 7-iron.”
Once golfers get comfortable with those clubs, which are suited for shorter distances, Hartman explains how to use the driver and fairway wood, both of which impact their long game.
“Golf takes some talent and some hand-eye coordination,” he says. “If you also have athletic ability, you can learn the fundamentals and basics to become a really good golfer.”
Lynn Blevins, head golfing professional at Ingersoll Golf Course in Rockford, compares the proper golf swing to skipping rocks.
“So, if you’re a good rock skipper, you’re on the way to a successful golf swing.”
Why’s that? Because both activities require successful rotation, balance and repetition. Strong abdominal muscles make all the difference. A proper golf swing is about much more than your arms. Your entire body needs to work in one fluid motion.
“Think of standing in a barrel and if you hit the side, you’ll get shocked,” Blevins suggests. “Turn – don’t lift and chop.”
Pre-play warm-up is important. Stretch and loosen your muscles so they’re ready to move, advises Blevins.
“It’ll help keep you from injury and allows your body to rotate better to make a correct golf swing.”
It’s also important to have a plan of action before playing each hole, says Zellman. Close your eyes and envision where you want the ball to go.
“It’s crazy to me that, with just a couple of seconds, you can create a smart or poor shot,” he says. “It’s a lot easier to execute a great shot when you have a good routine, because all the guessing is gone before you swing.”
Of course, none of these tips matter unless golfers practice. That means working out the kinks at the driving range, the park or in your backyard. Remember, golf’s greatest legends are always honing their skills.
Duncan Geddes, head golf professional and general manager at Aldeen Golf Club in Rockford, says all players can benefit from the help that a professional provides.
“Find a good instructor that you’re comfortable with and set goals for where you would like to see your game go,” he says. “Make sure you play and you practice. Time on the course and time on the range will make you a more well-rounded player.”