Teach Good Pace – Take Pressure off New Golfers
Teaching my wife to golf.
When my wife, Carmen, first showed some interest in learning to play golf I was part of a long standing foursome that played two weekday mornings a week at the club I was a member at in Ontario, Canada.
I managed a large retail outlet for a big chain in Canada and I hardly ever had a chance to play golf on weekends. It wasn’t that easy for us to work around schedules but we could get out weekday mornings.
Carmen loved the game right off the bat which helped her learning process but needed some instruction as we all do. Not so much on her swing but more on the mind set, if you will, of being out there and having the confidence to feel you fit in and belong on a country club type golf course and the scrutiny, perceived or unperceived, that goes along with it.
That is what this article really is all about.
So, playing early on weekday mornings at my club meant playing among the clubs regular low handicappers who kinda felt that they owned the first 6 or 7 tee times through the week beginning at 7:30 AM., and how dare anyone book in between them.
If she was going to learn to play on the “big course” then she was going to do it among those guys.
We had done all the driving ranges nearby, the pitch and putts and all the cow pasture courses in the area, but that took me away from “my” course where I was a member which was paid for by the company I worked for… (free golf is nice)
Carmen also signed up for a beginners group lesson once a week for ten weeks the first summer she started to play, this helped her in all aspects of her swing, but really she was pretty much self-taught by watching other peoples swings or professionals on TV and breaking down their swings and copying their position throughout. Let me just say she has a picture perfect swing.
So how does your pace of play have anything to do with becoming a solid, confident golfer achieved in only one short 5-month Canadian golf season?
Challenges to new golfers, especially those nearing retirement age.
When new golfers start out, especially if they are nearing retirement age, one of the biggest challenges to learning is being able to get on the course and feeling that you have a right to be there. Many new golfers don’t understand that the pace they keep affects the people they are playing with, the group behind them and the group behind them and so on.
Then someone tells them to play a bit faster because they are holding people up. When they come to the realization that they are holding everyone up, the pressure mounts and now they can’t do anything right. One must not lose sight of the fact that this is only a game, you are out here for fun and exercise and it’s OK to pick up your ball and go to the next hole and start again.
Throwing clubs, using curse words and spilling tears don’t really help and the people behind are shaking their heads and calling the pro shop.
Teeing off first…talk about pressure for my wife.
So we got a tee time for 7:30 am Monday morning, first group off….in front of the old boys’ group. We got to the club at 7 and went in and had a quick snack and a coffee before we headed over to the practice green to hit a few putts before we teed off.
Just as we were about to leave the practice green the starter approached and asked if we were the 7:30 twosome, which we responded that we were and he said well you better get up there and get going because these guys “move” and expect to play in 3 and a half hours and don’t like anyone holding them up.
No pressure right?
Of course, when we arrived at the first tee there was the dirty dozen milling about curious of who beat them out of the first tee time…ha..how dare we.
I hit first and got off the tee OK in the fairway, Carmen rolled her pull cart down to the red tees and teed up. Even though she didn’t say anything at the time I could tell she was conscious of all the attention from the peanut gallery.
She hit straight on a line down the center of the fairway, picked up her tee and grabbed her cart and we headed to our balls. We weren’t passed the granny grass yet when a voice called out ” don’t be holding us up, we play in 3 and a half hours so get going.”
Again no pressure right?
The remainder of the first hole didn’t go so great as Carmen struggled to get the ball in the air and took 5 shots to get onto the green (a short 265-yard par 4). She picked up after 3 putts for an 8. As we were walking off the green there was a foursome waiting to chip on and one of them said just loud enough for us to hear “c’mon let’s pick it up.”
Carmen was fully intimidated by this point, one hole into the round, so I told her not to worry about them and just play “like I know you can”. However, the pressure from behind was deeply entrenched in her mind and she struggled to get the ball airborne. The game now became not about hitting good shots but about staying ahead of these guys.
An important lesson my wife learned early on.
This is where Carmen learned how important “pace” is to the game and how much you will enjoy the round or not.
She now realized that if she put some distance between us and them that the pressure was off.
I would hit and then she would hit and briskly walk straight to her ball and hit her next shot while I was still walking to mine. Her game became as much keeping a one hole distance between us and the group behind us.
If she was struggling on a hole and was obvious that an 8 would be her best score she would pick up on the fairway, drop on the green, take a putt or two and give herself an 8. 8 was her max, which also didn’t allow for astronomical scores at rounds end.)
As we hit our comfortable “pace” it was like all the pressure from behind was off us. I could feel her relax and we could now enjoy our round. Now she was really hitting some good solid shots and with each one her confidence grew. The “pace” now was easy to maintain because she knew that all she had to do if we started to lag was dial-up her speed of play a bit.
I believe this is the most important aspect of the game that new golfers are not taught, especially if your course is always busy when you want to play. She learned right from the start how important “pace” is to the overall enjoyment of playing the game.
Golfing at our golf community Timber Pines
We live in a gated golf community with four courses. The most popular three courses are often very busy, especially when the snowbirds are here. You never know who you are going to end up playing with or who will be behind you. I’ve seen many new golfers struggle with keeping up just because nobody ever explained the pressure from behind and pace of play before they got out there. Some gave up trying to learn because of it.
My wife and I have played at so many courses in Canada and the U.S. that I won’t even try to guess a number. We don’t care what time of day or difficulty level of the course or even who the starter putts us with because she keeps up without even thinking about it now. At first, she was nervous and didn’t play well with people she didn’t know, now she doesn’t even think about it and shoots in the 80’s more often than not.