Meridian Industrial




When golfers hit the links this year, there may be a range of expectations from new players who dream of sinking their first hole in one, to veterans trying to lower their handicap.

But the key word this year isn’t drive, hook, or slice — it’s forgiveness.

Jen Sawka is the instruction director at Cedar Knob Golf Course in Somers. She helps golfers build their confidence by landing their first shots on the fairway, and the best way to do that is to hit the ball with the sweet spot on the club.

“Confidence has so much to do with the game and manufacturers have designed new technology over the entire face of the club,” she said. “There are more sweet spots, which means you’ll have better contact with the ball. This forgiveness means your swing will have better results,” continued Sawka.

Manufacturers of golf clubs are spending tens of millions of dollars researching new architecture for their clubs, and on technology that helps players drive their balls farther, faster and straighter than ever. “The quality and technology of the new clubs is off the charts,” said Bobby Downes, head golf professional at the Country Club of Wilbraham.

“Companies are making really good products for the best players in the world to your beginners. The money these companies are investing in research and development is crazy,” he continued.

Golf clubs come in a wide variety of sizes, weight and flexibility. Just like anything golfers wear on the course, clubs should fit perfectly. Players should avoid sizing up themselves and pay the small fee retailers charge for personal fittings, say the pros. Many sporting goods stores also let their customers take practice swings with the clubs they’re thinking about buying.

Once players have a set of clubs, the next step is to work with a professional to get a basic understanding of how to swing their equipment. Newbies may be getting instruction for the first time — veterans may need to start the year off by recalibrating their approach.

“Grip, aim and stance are the foundation of your game from the professional level to amateurs and beginners. You always need to focus on the basics,” Sawka said. There are many ways to find tips and tricks on improving your game. Professional players post training videos online. Experts advise finding and following your favorite pro and learn from their instruction. Don’t jump around from one player to another or you make get conflicting information.

Golf courses also offer private lessons, clinics and leagues where players can receive instruction. Expect to pay a fee for that training.

Whether it’s advice from a pro or tips from a pal, Downes said even the most seasoned players should have a taste for help.

“Nobody’s beyond lessons. Look at your PGA and LPGA tour players. They all have coaches. Nobody does it on their own,” said Downes.

“When we start the season, that’s the best time to see your instructor to work on your grip, alignment, posture and ball position — those simple but important things,” said the Wilbraham pro.

Like so many things in life, it might be tempting to jam golf lessons or remedial training into an already-packed schedule. Sawka said that’s the wrong approach. She wants to see her students when they are relaxed.

“I try not to schedule a lesson with a student who says, ‘I’m going to be running in from work. I gotta get on the tee.’ Then it’ll take me 20 minutes to calm them down because when people are rushed, it’s not a really good time for them to be aware and to learn,” she said.

Sawka wants players to enjoy golfing and not stressout, because in a game of long shots, one thing is certain — balls will fly off track, into the tall grass or weeds — so players shouldn’t be too rough on themselves.

“I always tell people, it’s a really long journey. We all make a lot of mistakes. But if you’re relaxed, you can definitely be aware of and learn from them,” she recommends. Downes echoes that advice, and in a world of instant replay, he wants players to forget about—and forgive themselves — for shots that miss the mark.

“The shot you had previously is gone, whether it was good or bad. Just focus on what you’re doing for the next shot,” he said. “Golf is all about staying in the moment. It’s a great game you can play for a lifetime.”

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