“Golf is deceptively simple, and endlessly complicated” – Arnold Palmer
On first impression I think golf is so utterly complicated, so many rules, different kinds of clubs, then theres the golf lingo (I may have googled “golf lingo for dummies” to attempt to learn this foreign language!). Although I was a tad nervous at first, I was made to feel at ease by the really friendly staff that work here at Big Sky. They were so helpful and answered all of my questions, no matter how silly I felt they were!
First step was learning about all the different clubs, it seems like you need to have a plethora of them but I find I only use about five or six (a full set is 14). You definitely need a driver, a putter, and a sand wedge, then you can add a 5 or 6-iron, an 8 or 9 iron and a pitching wedge. Choose clubs with a regular flex for more control (with a stronger swing you would most likely need a shaft with a “stiff” flex).
Next I learnt about different types of golf ball (who knew there were so many things to consider!). There are two distinct types of ball- one designed for distance and one for feel (this gives you more control over the ball flight). If you’ve never played before it is always wise to go with the most cost effective ball as you will probably lose a few!
Then comes the hardest part: learning how to play. Ask yourself some questions: why do you want to play? is it for work or social reasons? In that case you may only need some basic instruction and patient friends to ride around and have some laughs. If you are looking to be more than a casual golfer then the best way to excel quickly is by getting some top-level instruction from a golf pro. If you have the time and money to dedicate to the game then this is the best way to start so you don’t form any bad habits. With positive direction you can get to grips with the basic fundamentals and build upon that. Your golf buddies might have some tips for you but its always a good idea to get help from a PGA professional who is trained to teach someone like yourself.
Practice, practice, practice! The best place to do this is at the range. Try to resist the temptation of whacking the ball as hard as you can with a driver to see how far you can hit a golf ball (OK maybe once). Instead start off with a wedge or a short iron, you can warm up your golf muscles with a half swing and really get a handle on your technique. Then increase the length and speed of your swings, move to the middle irons and then try out the driver. This should help you to keep a uniform tempo and tension level.
You should then spend the other half of your practice time on your short shots over on the chipping and putting greens. Chipping is the key to help lower your score, if you can do this well it takes the pressure off putting. Putting is arguably the hardest aspect to master, try not to think too much or feel tense, check your posture and relax!
The best place to start playing is the par 3 academy course, build up some confidence before tackling the 18-hole course. Then when you do try out the main course consider playing in the late afternoon twilight times for 9-holes, when the course is less crowded and rates are cheaper. Big Sky is great for beginners because its flat and doesn’t have too many hazards (watch out for hole 4!).
Think about timing- play from the red tees (5208 yds) to begin with, this will save you time, frustration and golf balls! Play is timed at around 2 hours for the front 9 holes and a maximum of 4 hours 20 for the whole 18-hole course. To maintain a good pace there is nothing wrong with picking up your ball if you feel you are holding the other players up. Just make sure you’re ready to hit when it’s your turn.
Remember -at first everyone is a beginner and you may completely miss the ball! But trust me it does get better: if you persist you’ll soon be hitting the ball with a nice loft and distance….it feels so good! What’s not to like about spending a sunny day out on the course with your friends and maybe even a beer. Relax and enjoy, good luck!
Lessons – interviews with the golf pros.
I asked our PGA professional instructors Woody, Corry, Mike, and Shawn a few questions for people looking to get into golf.
- How did you first get into golf?
My grandfather introduced me to playing golf at the age of 8.
I acted as caddy for my father when I was 9 years old.
My father got me into the game at age 13.
My dad, we had a meadow in the backyard so I started as soon as I could walk!
- What is it about golf that you enjoy so much?
I love to spend time on the course, its so peaceful. Also the mental aspect- I like a good challenge!
The challenge. I also believe that it instills life lessons for young kids.
I love being out there on the course, and I love the game!
The pursuit of perfection, hitting that one perfect shot and just chasing after that feeling. I also love being outside and walking in nature in the peace and quiet.
- What is your No.1 tip for beginners?
Take a lesson!
To finish the swing and let the club do all the work.
- How many lessons would you recommend to get started?
- What is the main difficulty beginners usually encounter and how should they remedy this?
Intimidation. Beginners have to realise that not everyone hits the perfect shot everytime, and they should get some lessons to feel more comfortable.
Fear of failure- I would advise beginners to treat it like any other game and have fun!
Using the small muscles, trying to make things happen instead of letting it happen.
The intimidation of the full sized course, I would suggest to play a proper set of tees for your level. Don’t be afraid to tee it up wherever you want to make it as easy as you possibly can until you’re comfortable.
- How would you describe your teaching style?
I focus on the mental approach to the game. I take how a student swings and try to improve on their individual style of play. Most importantly I try to make it fun!
I try to concentrate on the basic fundamentals and mental strategy, work on this before you even take a swing!
Simple and effective.
Laid-back, focusing on enjoyment and not overloading students wiht information. Trying to keep it as clear as I can in the player’s head.
- What is unique about golf at Big Sky?
It’s just you and the course, no houses/ cars/ noises etc., just the mountains and the feeling of tranquility.
The incredible setting and the course design which suits all skill levels.
The great atmosphere, the friendly staff and members!
The 360 degree views, its spectacular wherever you look. While the course does have its challenges it is very playable for beginners and professionals alike. Also the staff are so friendly- it feels like a home away from home!
Golfing with better players- how to benefit and overcome your fear of saying “Yes!”.
Have you ever been asked to pair up and suddenly felt a creeping fear coming over you: “Oh no sorry- i’m not very good!”, does this sound familiar?
Its normal to feel intimidated, that you’re not good enough to join a better golfer than yourself. However, that’s what the handicap is for- to level the playing field!
“Of all the hazards, fear is the worst”- Sam Snead
Reasons you don’t say “Yes!” when asked to join a golf game:
– you beat yourself up, thinking you’re the worst player on the course
– you think you will frustrate the other players by slowing them down
– you are intimidated by the other players swing, shots and overall confident demeanour
– you want to hit each shot no matter how long it takes to get to the green and how embarrassed you may feel
Reasons to say “Yes!” when asked to join a golf game:
– you can pick up tips from a more experienced player, treat it as an opportunity to learn!
– you may observe the other player’s course management skills
– it’s more challenging mentally and physically
– you might even make some new friends!
There is always going to be someone out there better than you, however, they were also a beginner golfer at one point. So instead of treating the situation as a negative you can think of it as a learning curve- enjoy the game and improve in the process.
The best players focus on their own game, they enjoy being social but when it comes to their own shot they enter the zone and ignore any distractions. In the same way you shouldn’t worry about what others may think of you, stay present and forget about the past shots. It’s all in your head!
Watch the players pre-shot routine for inspiration on how to best set yourself up mentally and physically.
Give yourself a personal pep talk- by learning from better players one day you’ll be leading others to enjoy the game as much as you!
By putting yourself out there you can only gain from the experience and make some friends at the same time. So why not say “YES!”, go out and have a good time- you may surprise yourself and play your best golf game yet!
Hints and tips- Easy solutions for typical errors.
- Incorrect grip
– hold your hands with the V-shape, between thumb and forefinger, pointing to your trailing shoulder. This may feel quite unnatural but it will become easier the more you practice.
- Not knowing where to aim
– always pick the smallest possible target as it increases your focus and delivers more consistent results.
- Holding the club too tightly
– 6/10 grip pressure, imagine you’re holding a tube of toothpaste: firm enough that its not falling out of your hand but light enough that you’re not forcing any toothpaste out.
- Trying to chop the ball
– take a couple of practice swings with a marker (a tee or even a leaf!), aim for the marker directly in front of the ball and see how much smoother it feels.
- Staying flat-footed
– when you finish your swing try to turn your belt buckle to the target and allow your rear foot to come up on its toe, hold this position for 3 seconds!
- Inconsistencies in putting
– maintain a triangle shape between your arms and chest while making a pendulum motion.
Most importantly relax and have fun!
“The more I practice, the luckier I get!” – Gary Player