Is that really the best title I can come up with?
We golfers constantly hear things like, “Grow the Game” and “Golf is Dying” and “How Can We Get Millennials on the Course?”. Personally, I think golf’s demise is greatly exaggerated. Still, as personal free-time and physical land become increasingly valuable commodities, and golf is good at taking a lot of both of these, it is important to introduce people to the game to maintain a healthy base of players and keep golf courses open..
At the suggestion of a Twitter discussion, I decided to do my part. I would offer to one of my (Facebook) friends who didn’t regularly (or at all) play golf a free, 9-hole round at my home course. Greens fee and cart, if desired, completely comped. On February 29 (leap year, what?!), I put the offer out. Anyone who responded to the Facebook post would be eligible. In the end, I had 5 people interested in my offer. Being a nerd, I wrote a quick Python script to pick the winner by random. No human bias involved.
We’ll call the winner J, to protect his identity. The spring and summer went by, and I had not heard from J about redeeming his prize. I was beginning to get concerned that this offer would not be redeemed. Finally, in September, I heard from J and he was ready to go.
A bit about J. He’s 29 years old (well, 30 now; we played on the last day of his 20s), married, moderately athletic, and had some golf experience, but not recently.
For any beginning golfer, I think you really only need five clubs: putter, pitching wedge, 8/7 iron, 4/5 hybrid, and (maybe) driver. My focus was to let him hit a few 8 iron shots off a tee, just to see how his swing was. I’d then have him hit the hybrid, then driver.
Also, I use Manuel de la Torre’s famous beginning quote: How do you make the ball move? I love throwing this riddle out to unfamiliar players, as I get all kinds of answers. Everyone talks about body positions and such; everything except for the ONE thing you have to do to make the ball move. My favorite is: keep your head down and eye on the ball. Then, I stand over the ball with my head down looking at the ball, then telling my student, “Did I make the ball move?” Since I’m not a Jedi Knight, the answer is clearly not.
SWING THE CLUBHEAD!!!!! It’s that simple!!!
J hit some pretty decent 8 iron and hybrid shots. Even had a little draw going on. I made a point to tee the ball up, because it helps get the ball up in the air. We can worry about the fundamental of the downwards strike in future sessions.
I had us play the forward tees and play a modified best ball scramble. I say modified because there may have been a couple times we just threw balls out in the fairway. Can’t confirm or deny that though.
As I see with most beginners, or at least those who don’t play often, the full swings were pretty decent. The ball certainly wasn’t going as far as I’d expect for a player of his gender or age, but good enough for someone new. However, around the greens is where it gets a bit dicey. They just don’t have the feel for pitch/chip shots or putts. Again, something that can be addressed later.
Where there etiquette issues? Yes. Did I call them out? No, unless they were really egregious. One thing I noticed was how much he was on his smartphone. I’ve known J for a few years, and the golf course is not the only place I’ve seen this behavior from him. Perhaps it’s a personal thing with him to be connected. One of the things I like about playing golf is being disconnected for a bit. Enjoying nature. Getting exercise. Chatting up strangers and friends alike. Plus, I’m not really sure how you can focus on your game while you’re constantly texting and checking the socials.
After a few pretty good shots from J, our 9 hole round ended. I asked him what he thought. He said he had fun, that it was something he enjoyed doing, and that he was interested in playing again. He talked about hitting up the driving range a few times.
Did I convert him into a full-time golfer? Doubtful. If nothing else, his wife is expecting a child in November. Not exactly the best time to take up golf. Still, I feel that I did my job in introducing someone to the game, who ultimately came away with a positive impression of the game and the experience.