By Eric Newman
With the Waste Management Phoenix Open in town and golf season upon Scottsdale, many residents and visitors will hit the local links, both to improve their golf games and enjoy beautiful weather.
For those interested in improving their skills, here are some tips from local experts:
Jesse Hughes: Director of Instruction at Topgolf Scottsdale
Hughes coaches golfers of all skill levels, as well as all levels of physical ability. Scottsdale, an older-leaning demographic, has some people with lingering injuries who may be concerned about further hurting themselves. Hughes says with the right instruction, there shouldn’t be too much worry.
“A lot of times people come and tell me they’re scared of injuring themselves or hurting somewhere more that’s already injured. I try to look at their strengths they do have, and sometimes we’ll just have to focus on more effort from somewhere else on the body. However, if you’re making the right swing, there shouldn’t be any worry about injuries.”
He also encourages first-time players of any age or athletic ability to try the game, especially with proper instruction. It is never too late to learn.
“If you come out here or to a golf course and swing a club, you’re a golfer. As a PGA professional, I swore an oath that I would try to grow the game. One of my favorite things is seeing somebody who has never swung a club before learning how to play, and then becoming regulars or people that are hooked for life. With good practice and instruction, that’s definitely possible”
Dane Olah: Regional Manager and Director of Golf Instruction at GOLFTEC North Scottsdale
Olah says he taught over 2,000 lessons in 2017. He says the thing most people ask about is maintaining consistency. However, the game takes a lot of time to learn, and students of the game need to learn one aspect at a time before they can be efficient at all of them on a regular basis.
“Consistency is the overused word from our students. They achieve that through a regular practice routine and sequential lesson structure. Some people actually get some information overload, trying to achieve too much too early. So, we try to give them piece-by-piece instruction, rather than overwhelm them right away, because then you won’t be good at any of it.”
While he hears “consistency” far too much, he says a person’s sway, an important aspect of their game, can be measured quantitatively. He recommends those interested in improving come to a place like GOLFTEC where it can be fully analyzed.
“Sway, or the lateral motion toward or away from the target, is such a big thing in consistency. We use motion measurement tools that are attached to people’s bodies that can measure the amount of sway. It’s got nothing to do with strength, it’s all about technique.”
Dennis Downs: PGA Professional with Reid West Golf Academies
Downs says a lot of people struggle with getting the ball in the air when they are learning the game. He has one way to help: Swing down.
“When you’re trying to learn how to get the ball in the air the first time, it’s actually pretty counter-intuitive. You hit down through the ball to get it going up. When you’re chipping or hitting an iron shot, you hit the ball first in a downward attacking angle. That’s something that people aren’t used to, and takes some time to understand.”
Downs coaches plenty of first-time golfers. He says a good method for those trying to learn the game is to relax. Take some time learning the basics before you rush yourself onto a full course.
“The first thing I tell a lot of them (first-timers) is, ‘You want to spend some time on the driving range, on the chipping and putting green before you get out on the course.’ There’s a lot of added stress, keeping up with the group in front of you or staying in front of the group behind you on your first round. Work on chipping and putting and how to get the ball in the air, because a lot of this game is backwards.”