Find Your Swing

Never picked up a golf club before? Feel like it’s time to learn? Congratulations—you’re in the right place. Colorado is full of gorgeous, world-renowned courses (read: crazy difficult!), but our state is also home to a long roster of well-regarded instructors and plenty of options for playing while you’re still learning.

May 2011

Lessons in Humility

I’m not a professional athlete. I wasn’t a collegiate athlete. Truth is, I barely made my high school’s junior varsity basketball team. But I’m not bad at sports. I don’t throw like a girl. I have a decent inside-out forehand. I can wield a baseball glove. So when my husband and I decided to learn how to play golf, I figured I’d be a quick study.

What the hell was I thinking? Had every episode of SportsCenter mysteriously evaporated from my memory? Had I forgotten that, more often than not, Tiger and Lefty end up in the rough, behind a tree, and then use a pitching wedge to launch the ball over the green right into the drink? Apparently, the answer was yes. I had forgotten.

And that was just the start: The litany of errors that followed would make any golfer shake his head in knowing agreement. Yep, did that. Uh-huh, been there too. Because I had never even picked up a golf club, I knew I had to begin with a lesson. Which was great—until I realized I had set myself up to look like a complete clown in front of a professional golfer. We started with the 3-wood. I have to admit that I was looking for an actual wooden club—but was fortunate to, for once in my life, keep my mouth shut. My instructor showed me the proper grip, briefly illustrated the correct swinging motion, and then told me to let ’er rip. He wanted to see what my “natural” motion looked like. I tightened my glove, squeezed the club, and took my first stroke. Turns out my natural swing looked like someone crushing a 3-wood into the ground.

Putting felt better to me. I thought maybe I’d found my niche. I was going to have a great short game. Drive for show, putt for dough. My instructor told me that putting was about two things: distance and direction. Distance: I wanted to strike the ball in a way that got it close to the cup in a north-south orientation. Direction: I needed to read the curves of the green to make sure I struck the ball so it wouldn’t go way wide of the hole. Direction I could handle. But then came distance. I’m always seven feet from the cup, I griped. My instructor explained that putting was not about sinking it from 40 feet. Not even the best putter in the world sinks a ball from 40 feet with any regularity. Putting was simply about getting it close. I confessed that, if that was the case, I may not have the personality for putting. Instead, I said, I might have the personality of someone who wants to wrap the putter around a tree. My instructor grinned and said he has had many students with that disposition.

For three full lessons, I degraded the dignified game of golf. Being kind to myself, I may have hit eight drives that went farther off the ground than 20 feet. More often than not, though, I simply whiffed—no contact at all. It was disheartening. I was embarrassed. I hadn’t expected to be Annika Sörenstam in three lessons, but I thought I’d be more of a natural. I thought my hand-eye coordination would help. I thought my slightly above-average athletic talent would mean something. (I’m not. It didn’t. It certainly doesn’t.)

And I should’ve known that. I mean, I’ve seen golf on television. Being athletic has very little to do with it. And that is when I realized what every other golfer—or wannabe golfer—eventually realizes: Golf is the devil’s game. No matter what, the game of golf will always win. A human being cannot beat golf—it’s impossible to hit a hole-in-one on every hole.

Yet it is that exact unbeatable-ness that’s so alluring. The desire to beat golf is why, every now and again, I think about taking another lesson. I’m also drawn to the ceremony of the game. And the social aspects are pretty good, too. (I mean, how many sports have beer wenches offering beverages during the game?) So, if you’re like me—a glutton for punishment, or maybe just a bit intrigued by the game—read on. I’m here to help you navigate Colorado’s golfing landscape, and help you become addicted to a game you’ll never, ever win—but completely enjoy nonetheless.