By Kevin Wilson
With the recent change in weather, it’s no surprise that people are enjoying some of their free time with a set of clubs and a few golf balls at a local country club.
By investing a few extra minutes properly, area course professionals say it’s a much easier transition to get back into the swing of things.
Local PGA teaching professionals said they often see golfers make the same mistakes every year after a few months away from the course.
“The common mistake is they go out to the driving range and pull a driver out without warming up,” said Jim Lumley, in his 11th year as pro at Clovis Municipal Golf Course. “That’s where you get back problems.”
Lumley explained that a golf swing uses muscles in the back that aren’t used at any other time, because the torque and swing of a golf club is different from other physical activities.
Lumley compared it to a weightlifter not stretching or maxing out early in the workout. He suggests starting with a pitching wedge with about 10 to 15 balls to loosen up the muscles, then move up in club power.
In a related note, weight training can help in some respects on the golf course. However, isometric training is better than bulking up.
“You’ll never see a golfer with big biceps,” said Portales Country Club pro Don McDaniel. “A golfer’s muscles are long, kind of like a swimmer’s muscles. If you try to build the biceps up, all you do is shorten the swing.”
McDaniel, in his sixth year at Portales after stints with New Mexico Military Institute and Roswell Country Club, agreed with Lumley’s stance but highlighted a different mistake.
“The biggest thing I see,” McDaniel said, “is that they don’t transfer the weight from the left side to the right side in their back swing.”
McDaniel said the weight transfer, which would be from right to left for southpaw golfers, should be about 75 percent.
“The real key is that you should be able to take your left foot off the ground, without shifting your weight, at the top of your swing,” McDaniel explained. “That will tell you if you’ve given it enough weight transfer.”
If you’re not transferring weight correctly, McDaniel said, it should be pretty obvious in a lack of balance. The test can be done even off the course and even without a golf club, he added.
It goes without saying that time on the course is one of the better methods to improving the golf game. That doesn’t, however, mean that the golf swing can’t be improved in the comfort of one’s home.
“You can hit whiffle balls in the backyard just to keep your back loose,” Lumley said. “A lot of people have installed full-length mirrors. You can even practice chipping out in the backyard or get a putting cup.
“There are a lot of different ways. It’s just the room or type of equipment that’s available to you.”
Equipment can make a big difference, too, but Lumley likened an equipment purchase to shopping for a car.
“If they’re fitted correctly, it can make a very big difference — 10 or 15 shots,” Lumley said. “Before you purchase something for $400 or $500, you should have somebody see your swing and see if those clubs are the right ones.
“A lot of people see these guys on TV hitting it 300 yards, but those guys live and breathe golf. All of their equipment is furnished to them.”
Golfers have an astronomical number of options in equipment (Lumley said at a recent workshop, the Ping golf company alone had 100 different drivers for testing) and other aids (numerous magazines and cable channels dedicated to golf).
McDaniel believes that all of these things can help, but golfers should remember that golf is as simple as a club hitting a ball. While at a teaching workshop last week, McDaniel said an instructor told him that from the time a golfer gets the club head set behind the ball, it takes 1.5 seconds to complete the swing.
That’s not enough time, the instructor said, for the mind to adjust with an overload of technical information.
“I think some of (the magazines and television programs) tends to confuse the golfer because they’re getting way too technical with the golf swing,” McDaniel said. “After all, they’re there to sell product.”
Lumley added a final note on an area he feels all golfers need to remember.
“Beginning golfers, they should learn the etiquette of the game,” Lumley said, and mentioned: allowing faster players to play through, replacing divots and ball marks, and never, ever, hitting the ball into a group in front.