There are the beaches, the Everglades and deposits of black gold. But with more than 150 courses scattered across Lee and Collier counties, golf might be Southwest Florida’s most abundant (semi) natural resource. While many parts of the country battle eye-watering nor’easters, we don Bermuda shorts. Let’s face it: If you’re not teeing it up, you’re missing out. And if you’re already teeing it up, you could always tee it up better. With that in mind, Gulfshore Life gathered five of the top instructors in Southwest Florida and asked them to impart golf wisdom that could help steer a beginner and refine a seasoned duffer. Let the lessons begin ...
KNOW YOUR GOALS
Ken McMaster, Miromar Lakes Beach and Golf Club, south Lee County
Do this: Figure out a specific goal. It’s not always about playing better golf. If hitting the ball perfectly were the cause of true happiness, Tiger Woods would be the happiest person in the world right now. After you know what you want from your golf game, it’s up to you to make it happen. When you’re looking for an instructor, don’t just pick the head pro at your club. We go through lots of girlfriends before we make a wife. And when you’ve conquered that goal, start over with a new one.
How to do this: Ask yourself these five questions: 1) Why am I here? 2) What do I want? 3) Where am I now? 4) Where do I want to be? 5) How do I get there?
IMPROVE TEMPO WITH PRE-SHOT ROUTINE
Mike Calbot, Mike Calbot International Golf School at Old Corkscrew Golf Club, Estero
Do this: Imagine a musician who can’t keep the beat. Disaster. The same could be said for the out-of-sync duffer. Poor tempo leads to poor timing. Poor timing leads to an arms-only swing, resulting in dead pulls or cold tops. In order to control your tempo on the course, use a pre-shot routine that provides an easy countdown of motions—the way the box step guides dancers.
How to do this: 1) Come behind the ball at 6 o’clock, take your grip and look at the ball. 2) Walk around the ball to 9 o’clock, set the club behind the ball and put your feet together. 3) Spread your left foot and right foot for optimal ball position. 4) Backswing. 5) Follow through.
SAVE THE CASTING FOR THE FISHES
Trevor Gliwski, Rick Smith Golf Academy at Tiburón Golf Club, Naples
Do this: Think of the ball as the finish line of a race. The race is between the hands, the club head and the right knee. Good players finish the race right knee first, then the hands, then the club head. A person who is casting is going to finish club head, hands, then right knee. Casting is the No. 1 problem in golfing. Instead of the hands and the body leading the club through the ball, the club head gets there first. The result is inconsistent contact—thin sometimes, fat other times.
How to do this: Turn your club around, where your grip is near the club head. Take a regular practice swing and listen for the swoosh of the club. If that swoosh is coming during the down swing, you’re a caster. If it comes after contact, you’re good.
USE THE SENIOR SWING
Jim Suttie, The Club at TwinEagles, Naples
Do this: For some reason, the ball isn’t flying like it used to. Believe me, for once it’s not the club’s fault. As we get older, our muscles become tighter. Our backswings become shorter and less powerful. To find their lost distance, seniors need to create more motion. The Senior Swing achieves this through a pronounced backswing that endorses some of golf’s biggest taboos. But seniors need to use the swing their bodies can naturally produce. I don’t care if you bend your left arm. Just make your backswing as long as possible.
How to do this: 1) Alter your stance so that your feet are flared out and your hips are closed. This will promote a large hip turn. 2) Turn your hips. Max hip turn creates max shoulder turn. 3) Square the hips at impact. Seniors don’t have the flexibility to fire their legs through the ball. 4) Release the club. The body is weaker, so ask the hands and wrists to pick up the slack.
PRACTICE PERFECT PRACTICE
Tom Patri, The Quarry, Naples
Do this: Lessons don’t do any good if a person doesn’t take the time to practice what he or she learns. And practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice does. If you play golf twice a week, then you should practice twice a week. Practicing twice a week doesn’t mean warm up. Warm up is what the Dallas Cowboys do immediately before a game to get their bodies loose. Practice is what they do all week long.
How to do this: 1) Take lessons. 2) Practice different situations—side-hill lies, tough wind, bad lies. 3) Bridge time. This is what they call a practice round on the PGA Tour. We’ve become a society of lessons. We learn the golf swing, but we don’t necessarily learn how to play golf. 4) Go whip your buddies.