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Sun, Dec. 08

Gunby: Learning the game of golf, and how to teach it
Tee it Up

I have seen many boyfriends, girlfriends, spouses, friends and parents doing their best, with great intentions, to teach those they care about how to play golf. It usually involves going out to a driving range, attempting to hit a golf ball with a full swing while thinking of a myriad of mechanics.

Go out to a driving range sometime and just sit there and observe. It is sometimes comical and sometimes sad. But most of the time, it is frustrating, both to the “student” and to the “instructor.” But, you usually get what you paid for.

Here are some of the demanding myths spewing constantly from the so-called “instructor:”

  • Keep your head down
  • Keep your left arm straight
  • Feel like you are sitting on a bar stool
  • Don’t move your legs
  • Swing it straight back and straight through

Think about learning how to play golf in terms of learning how to read and write. First, you learned your A, B, C’s by recognition and models and then the deliberate duplication of writing each letter. After you have fully learned this, you put the letters together to form words.

Then words became sentences, sentences became paragraphs, paragraphs became stories. Your teacher did not show you the alphabet one day and then asked you to read a book the next.

If that was the case, none of us would have learned how to read or write. But that is what these well intended “golf instructors” just did!

Here is what I propose that you do if you want to introduce someone to golf.

First, let them go out with you on a golf course and just observe the game. That way they can see what the game is all about. And that is getting the ball in the hole in the least number of strokes as possible.

Explain the areas of the golf course including the tee box, fairway, rough, green, bunkers, penalty areas, etc.

Let them experience the outdoors, inhale the fresh air, enjoy the nature that abounds, and the friendships that are produced. They will get an appreciation of the beauty of being on a golf course, away from everyday pressures and challenges.

And most importantly, show them how much fun and rewarding it is.

Your local PGA professional is a well-trained and experienced instructor/coach and can assist with the fundamentals of the golf swing mechanics.

With all the technology available today, I believe that a good instructor should use video, alignment rods (Golf Pucks especially) and lots of models (video, articles, photos, etc.) to teach. And just teach one chunk at a time.

Starting with putting, just hit a ball into the hole from 6 inches, gradually increasing the length of the putts.

Then introduce the basics of short shots (including bunker shots) from off the green. After they have learned the basics of putting and short shots, the full swing can be introduced, starting with the shorter clubs and working up to the driver.

Now, only after a period of time (don’t rush it) and when all these various shot fundamentals have now become habits, how to play golf should be taught incorporating the etiquette and basic rules. Playing golf is different from practicing golf. We will get into the nuances of how to play golf and how to separate practicing golf from playing golf.

“The most important advice I’d give any woman just starting to play is: learn the correct fundamentals” Louise Suggs, LPGA Hall of Fame Member

John Gunby Sr. is a columnist for The Daily Courier. Reach him by email at

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