June 2011

Your Best Match Yet

Cape Cod Life  /  June 2011 / ,

Writer: Rob Duca / Photographer: Joan Seidel 

Cape Cod’s landscape can create new obstacles for visiting golfers. Here are a few tips from local pros on common course challenges.

The Golf Club in Yarmouthport

A golfer stands and admires her shot on this hilly and scenic course in Yarmouthport. Photo Courtesy of The Golf Club in Yarmouthport

Hinge your wrists. Rotate your hips. Turn your shoulders. Don’t move your head. Shorten your backswing. It seems that no matter what ails your golf game, there’s a tip that promises a cure.

Just head to the magazine rack at the nearest bookstore and the headlines will scream back at you: “Swing Like a Home Run Hitter For Longer Drives.” “Sink More Putts From Six Feet.” “Fix Your Slice in Five Seconds.” Those are actual headlines from recent golf magazines. And they’re merely the tip of the iceberg (pun intended).

Playing on Cape Cod presents its own set of challenges. When golfers think of our region, the obstacles that spring to mind are the wind, cold, rolling hills, tree-lined fairways, and sloping greens. A golfer must negotiate these factors—sometimes all in one round—in order to score, and maintaining focus and confidence in the face of these conditions is demanding.

Cape Cod golfers

Frost instructs an amateur golfer on perfecting the motion of his swing. Photo by Joan Seidel

Work With the Wind

Wind is virtually always present on the Cape. Jane Frost, who operates a teaching school out of Sandwich Hollows Golf Club and is a former Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) Teacher of the Year, has an adage for her students: When it’s breezy, swing easy. “When that wind is blowing in your face your instinct is to attempt to overpower Mother Nature, and that’s never a good thing,” Frost says. “She’s going to win every time.”

Danny Caverly, director of instruction at Willowbend Country Club in Mashpee, advises golfers playing against a headwind to tee the ball one-half inch lower than normal, move it slightly back in your stance and take a three-quarters swing. And then hold the finish to three-quarters. “Taking a full swing in the wind will throw you all over the place,” he says. “Amateurs are almost always better off making a three-quarters swing. Look at Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson—they control their irons by controlling their finish. Very seldom do you see their club go past parallel at the finish.”

To learn to make an abbreviated swing, Caverly suggests laying down a club at your target line, then scratching a perpendicular line in the turf with a tee. Tee the ball on the perpendicular line and take half-swings. “If the divot is not on that line, don’t do anything else until it is,” he says. “You have to make contact with the club striking the ball and the ground at the same time.”

Willowbend Country Club in Mashpee

A crew of golfers watch on as one follows through on his long swing. Photo Courtesy of Willowbend Country Club in Mashpee

Focus on Feel

Frost believes that today’s technology, with video, computers and swing sensors, has removed a golfer’s ability to “feel” the swing. “Great golfers have the feel first and the mechanics follow,” she says.
Her solution? Swing with your eyes closed.

“Once you take the eyes out of the equation people start relying on other sensory systems for feedback. It helps establish awareness of balance. Initially, I just have them swing a club. When I tee up a ball, they are stunned at how well they hit it.”

Many golfers have little sense of why they slice or hook the ball. Frost has another drill to help them understand the relationship between their hands and the clubface. As a tool, she uses a frying pan. “Put the pan in your left hand for a right-handed golfer, with the open part that you cook with facing the target,” she explains. “As you swing the pan back, you want to see the side of the pan, which indicates that the clubface is square to the target. If you see the open part of the pan, the clubface is open. The bottom part indicates that the clubface is closed. This drill provides a relationship to the rotation of their hands and how it pertains to the club face.”

Cape Cod golfers

After a long day in the sun, a family of golfers heads back to the club to relax.

Up, Down, and Around

Glenn Kelly, head professional at Woods Hole Golf Club, stresses the importance of learning to play uneven lies. “The only flat lie at Woods Hole is the dance floor,” he jokes. “We should call this place Woods Hills.”

Kelly regularly takes new members onto the rolling fairways of Woods Hole to teach them the ins and outs of hitting off uphill, downhill, and sidehill lies. Hitting from an uphill lie requires taking one extra club, moving the ball opposite the higher-elevated foot, and aiming slightly right (caviat: This is for a right-handed golfer). The opposite approach is taken on a downhill lie. When the ball is above your feet, choke down on the club, and when you make contact the ball will spin from right to left. When it is below, choke back, and the ball will curve from left to right.

Bob Miller, head pro at The Golf Club at Yarmouthport, has become a proponent of the “Stack and Tilt” golf swing, which has become popular in recent years. This method requires golfers to keep their head centered on the swing, to place more weight on their left side and to reduce their lateral weight shift to the right. “In other words, don’t sway to the right,” he says.

Miller suggests golfers place their head against a door casing and try to make a rotary golf swing. “You will feel your weight start turning to your left.”

He compares the swing to soccer-style field goal kickers who approach the football from the side. “They create more speed by swinging the foot in a circle,” he says. “It’s the same thing with the golf swing. It’s called angular momentum. If you can swing the club more around your body, instead of straight back and upright, you will pick up clubhead speed and distance.”

And maybe you’ll even begin breaking 80.

Rob Duca is a freelance writer who lives in Plymouth.

Rob Duca

Rob Duca was a sports columnist for the Cape Cod Times for 25 years and is a member of the Golf Writers Association of America.