Learning to play golf has been on my to-do list for years. It seems like a great hobby. You get some exercise, enjoy the beautiful surroundings and maybe enjoy a beer or two along the way. But I always found a reason not to try it. Either I was too busy, had to work, or would rather relax (aka nap.) At the end of the day the real reason I never made the effort was I was afraid of getting out there and looking like an idiot. The world of golf is intimidating. I didn’t want to get up to the tee and whiff the ball on my first shot or accidentally shank the ball so bad it ended up on another golfer’s hole. Or worse, what if I make contact with the ball and it hits someone?
Today, I ran out of excuses. I’m in Stowe every day and Stowe Mountain Lodge runs two golf courses, including one that offers lessons with Vermont’s only Golf Channel Academy. I talked to a few people who told me the Golf Channel Academy lesson is meant for people that have never played before. I figured it was time to get over my fears and go for it. So I booked a lesson at Stowe Country Club with Golf Channel Academy Instructor PGA Professional Susan Bond and I don’t regret it in the least!
It was a perfect Vermont morning with bright blue skies and a few puffy white clouds occasionally floating across the sun. I arrived at Stowe Country Club in a button-down dress shirt and pointy patent leather flats but left looking like a professional golfer. If I was going to get out on the course, I was most certainly going to look the part. I perused the pro shop for a while and realized I’m not a golf skort wearing kind of girl. Instead I went for a classic golf look with black shorts and Stowe Country Club logoed polo with a little modern vibe accented by my footwear. Shoes always make the outfit so I chose a pair of funky black and white printed ECCO golf shoes, and these are not your grandmother’s boring old- school golf cleats!
Now that I looked the part, it was time to get on the course. My PGA Pro, Susan Bond, walked me to the perfectly manicured putting green and handed me the “Mercedes Benz” of putters, a Scotty Cameron. Good thing these are the putters included in the Country Club’s rental set. Today was all about setting the foundation of my golf swing and putting.
Susan was amazing and immediately put me at ease, telling me how excited she was to work with me. She said I was a blank canvas with no bad golf habits to break. She spoke with a smile and had such a calm demeanor that I knew I was in good hands, which gave me much needed confidence.
To start, she asked me to grip the putter whatever way I felt comfortable. I took the putter in my hands, awkward, unsure of the correct way to hold a golf club of any kind and not wanting to look ridiculous. So much for that! When I did she asked me if I played hockey before, which I had not. Apparently I was holding the putter like a hockey player about to take a slap shot. I guess I watched Happy Gilmore one too many times. Lucky for me Susan had incredible patience and didn’t judge. We reviewed the three golf grips, Baseball, Overlapping and Interlocking, so I could decide which one I found the most comfortable. As of now, I ‘m leaning towards Interlocking.
Once I held the club more like Jordan Spieth and less like Wayne Gretzky, it was time to work on my stance. I held the club loosely in my left hand or what I learned is called my lead hand and hinged at the hips letting my hands dangle. I’m very happy no one was around to take pictures of me in that moment looking like a rag doll with a golf club. Apparently, contrary to what I thought was the golden rule of golf, you’re not supposed to keep your head totally down. The goal is to look down but not tuck the chin to the neck and keep arms loose. The key is to relax from the shoulders with a slight bend in the arms so that they graze the mid-section. Who knew?
Now that I’d developed the perfect stance it was time to putt. I positioned the ball off the inside of my left foot with my eyes over it looking straight down and lining up the center of the putter. Susan simply said, “relax and breathe” and “putting is like rolling a ball.” I took a breath and tapped the ball straight towards the hole, and what do you know, it went in! Granted there were a few more that didn’t, but I could feel the difference when I was hitting it just right. She explained that the back and through motion of the stroke and letting the putter head follow the ball to the target was the best form to follow. From there we worked on a few drills so I could get a feel for what it’s like to putt with a curve in the green or “break” and controlling ball speeds. I practiced making 3 two putts in a row from four different directions and played pong. Pong, a game where two people stand equal distances from the cup and putt at the same time to see who can make it in the hole. All in all it was a successful morning.
It’s incredible how such a little ball can be so intimidating, but when I hit it just right, it’s equally amazing how rewarding the sound of it dropping into the cup can be.
Can’t wait for my second Golf Channel Academy lesson next week!