By Steve Bourbon, Senior PGA Teaching Pro, Chelsea Piers
If you live in NYC, you’ve surely noticed the impressive driving range along the west side of the city, at Chelsea Piers. It’s the only year-round driving range in the city, and more importantly, the top-notch pros at The Golf Academy are there to help you improve your swing, your putting, and anything else you want to try on for size, or take to the next level. Chelsea Piers teaching pro Steve Bourbon gives tips for every type of player.
5 Tips to Get Started Golfing
1. Take regular instruction from an experienced instructor. This should be someone who can communicate well, has been trained to teach, and can also play golf at a high level. Mastering the fundamentals is a lifelong process in this game. If you never leave the basics, you never have to go back to them! Golf is not a game that makes typical logical sense, nor one that you can figure out on your own because you played other sports well. What makes you good at other sports doesn’t necessarily help you in golf. In many instances it can actually hurt you. Supervised, intelligent instruction can help you avoid the pitfalls of learning the game on your own and creating bad habits that can take a lifetime to break.
2. As with learning all motor skills, you must crawl before you walk or run. For golf, that process is to learn to putt first, then chip and pitch, which will help transition to the full swing more smoothly and help avoid bad habits. You only really need 3 clubs to start: a putter, a wedge, and a 7 or 8 iron.
3. Start a consistent stretching routine. This will be helpful when learning golf, and it certainly won’t hurt any other areas of your life either. Remember in regard to flexibility: what you don’t use, you lose.
4. When you are ready to start venturing out on the course, try to begin playing on a par 3 course. The short game (100 yards and in) is 60% of the game, and where most people either lose or gain the majority of their strokes when trying to keep or improve their score.
5. Try to play with better players than you. Especially someone who can teach you a little bit about the etiquette and tradition of the game. It helps to make you feel more of a part of the game, and the sense of belonging to the golf community is important as a beginner.
5 Tips to Improve Your Game
1. Develop a proper warm-up routine. Consistently arrive an hour before you tee off. Use this time to stretch and practice a little of each aspect of the game you expect to encounter on the course. Focus on the areas of your game you typically struggle with.
2. Always strive to focus more on accuracy rather than distance. Distance will come as the proficiency in proper technique improves. Accuracy is the key to improving your score and enjoying the game. Taking an extra club and swinging at about 80% is usually one of the easiest ways to do this, rather than trying to time swings at top speed all the time. Remember: If you have to swing that hard to get the ball to the target, you probably have the wrong club.
3. Develop consistent pre-shot routines in all areas of your game. This helps you to not overthink and get in a state of playing through rhythm, feel, and instinct, rather that intellect. Over time, the best players use routines to make the technique of the swing more of a conditioned response rather than a conscious effort.
4. Be aware of what aspects of your game need improvement and try to take consistent instruction to improve upon them. You can do that by keeping track of greens hit in regulation, fairways hit, and putts per round. Compiling this data can help you start to develop a plan to improve your game in the offseason.
5. As with most physical endeavors, the stronger and more flexible you are, the better your performance will be. Not that you have to train like an Olympic athlete, but knowing how to maintain your flexibility and strength in your “golf specific” muscles will greatly enhance your enjoyment and improvement in the game.
5 Reasons Golf is Good for Your Body
1. You get fresh air, physical exercise, and a little cardio as well.
2. Golf has low impact on the body, meaning it’s a game you can play your entire life.
3. Golf is a good way to maintain your flexibility and stay active.
4. Playing and competing is good for the brain, and a great combination of utilizing instinct and intellect, which can help with brain health.
5. Golf has historically been prescribed by doctors as a way to relax, in an effort to decrease stress and blood pressure in our intense day-to-day lives.
5 Stretching/Exercises to Avoid Injury and Increase Performance
1. Using a weighted club or dumbbell, do side raises or deltoid lifts to help strengthen golf specific muscles in the hand and arm you wear the golf glove on. This helps the lead hand and arm bear the force the golf swing will place upon it during the swing. These muscles are also what engages the core and encourages the body to turn and shift in the swing.
2. Use a weighted club to slowly loosen the muscles and spine while warming up. This will help you avoid injury as the swing moves further, freer, and faster.
3. Ligament stretches: Standing straight up with the knees locked and your hands down at your sides, alternate sliding your extended arms down the sides of your legs or seams of your pants. This will help stretch the ligaments out on the sides of your spine in your low back. Repeat with the front of your legs, or pleats of your pants, to help stretch the other ligaments on the other parts of your spine.
4. Using a golf club, with your feet together and knees slightly bent, bow forward at the waist with 2 hands on the top of the golf club, and alternate out to the sides of your feet, planting the club in the ground and stretching out both sides of your lats.
5. When picking the ball out of the hole or teeing it up, always make sure to bend from the knees and not from the waist. This can help avoid any lower back injuries.
Steve Bourbon, a Senior Professional with the PGA, has been teaching golf for the last 15 years, serving as the lead instructor for legendary Hall of Fame teacher Bob Toski. During this time Steve also devoted himself to teaching seasonally at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in Southampton, New York, and Hollywood Golf Club in Deal, New Jersey — both rated Top 100 clubs. Additionally, Steve has traveled on every major professional golf tour and worked or consulted with several renowned players such as Ken Duke and Frank Lickliter III on the PGA Tour, Chris Nallen and Jason Gore on the Web.com Tour, and Sally Little and Birdie Kim on the LPGA Tour.
Steve’s teaching experience goes far beyond the professional level. He has enjoyed developing golf to players of all skill levels. His wide range of coaching expertise includes: beginners, Junior Development Competitive Juniors, amateurs of all skill levels, players with physical limitations/ disabilities, as well as Division I, II, and III college players. A Hillsborough, New Jersey native, Steve has had innumerable successes as a golf instructor, having coached seven State Open Champions and numerous men’s and women’s Club Champions. Nominated for Golf Magazine’s Top 100 Teachers in America, Chelsea Piers is lucky to have Steve Bourbon on the team of Teaching Professionals.