Shaking the rust at a Summit County range
While this may not be based on any verifiable, quantitative scientific research, I’m fairly certain golf is the most humbling, expletive-inducing sport in the history of the world.
On some level, watching pro golfer Sergio Garcia plunk two balls into the same water hazard in rapid succession this weekend, at the PGA Tour Players Championship, was comforting. Even the pros hit it in the drink once in a while.
My trip to the driving range at The Raven Golf Club at Three Peaks, on the other hand, was not so assuring. If the 7-iron is the easiest club to hit, I might be in for a long season. At least I’m on track with my long-standing goal to be good at golf by age 65.
This story won’t go into detail about how many wicked slices I shanked to the right, the number of times I topped the ball to hit a worm burner, my fear of hitting a divot further than the ball, or the times I missed all together. I also won’t be sharing the thoughts that went through my mind when the guy next to me told his friend, “Man, I just hit 12 great shots in a row.”
Instead, this will be more constructive and cover some pointers from local course pros on how to avoid early season anguish.
With that in mind here are a few tips to shake off the off-season rust.
First and perhaps foremost: “Don’t have high expectations,” says Breckenridge head golf pro Erroll Miller.
While we’re a society that teaches kids that everyone’s a winner. Let’s be honest, the PGA Tour won’t be calling, at least not most of us.
Both Miller and Mark Nickel, golf director of the Raven, recommend starting the season slow. So don’t take the driver out of the bag right away. Consider sticking to irons for the first time back at the range, specifically, a mid-range club like a 6 or 7-iron.
Nickel also recommends resisting the urge to be John Daily or Tiger Woods and go for big drives. Instead work on short game first and build gradually. So aim at a closer pin on the range. He says this helps golfers loosen up swing motion and find the rhythm of their swing so the swing will be better when reaching for the big boys in the golf bag.
Miller also suggests not hitting too many the first time out for the season. Just like skiing, muscles need to adjust to the motion again after a long off-season.
Working on your core muscles through activities like yoga, bicycling, or training with a weight ball leading up to or early in golf season is also important, say Nickel. Core muscles are essential to a full and balanced swing.
One of the biggest things he sees on the range, especially early in the season, is, “people over arm swinging.” That means they’re concentrating on using their arms to try to muscle through a swing. This often results in swinging harder through the swing rather than having a smooth consistent follow through. He urges remembering that a golf swing is a full-body motion. Golfers may have a tendency to forget about their legs and hips. Nickel compares it to a coil. Motion starts in the legs and hips and progresses up through the shoulders to the arms. It’s “what a lot of people don’t think about,” says Nickel. Legs and hips stay ahead of shoulders through the swing.
Now if you, like me, find yourself topping two or three balls in a row, pay attention to your stance. Coaches often say keep your head down on the ball. Nickel corrects that idea. It’s not just the head, but rather a tendency to raise up one’s whole body through the swing. It’s important to keep your stance consistent through your swing. Keep “head up, spine in line,” says Nickel.
If hitting a divot further than the ball is a major concern, he encourages practicing, “clipping the grass” with a swing.
Finally, Nickel reminds golfers not to over think. Focus on one aspect of the swing at a time.
Course pro Errol Miller also emphasizes three things that can throw off a swing the quickest. Balance, alignment to the ball and grip.
Hopefully these pointers will have some a little more prepared to hit the range than I was Monday. Remember golf is a game, it’s supposed to be fun.
Update Course Opening Schedule
Keystone River Course will open the front nine this Friday. Course pro Phillip Tobias expects the full 18 to be open as early as mid week next week, and likely by Friday, May 24 at the latest. “We want to open with a solid product for our customers,” says Tobias. The Keystone Ranch course should open all 18 on the 31st of the month.
The Breckenridge Golf Club plans to open it’s driving range this Friday, according to head golf pro Erroll Miller. He is hopeful all 27 holes will be open the following Friday, May 24. Miller anticipates that they will be able to open at least 18 holes on that Friday.
The Raven Golf Club at Three Peaks currently has the practice area and the front nine open. They hope to have the back nine open on Thursday, or Friday at the latest.
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