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I’d Rather Be Golfing

By Christy Walcott

When it came to golf, I was always a “rather be fishing” kind of girl.  Even though I was born and raised in the Gaylord Golf Mecca, taking up the sport eluded me.  It wasn’t until I found my calling with the Gaylord Area Tourism Bureau three years ago that I had a sudden wake up call – I needed to learn how to golf.

Believe it or not, I actually fished this club out of the lake one day. Fate.

I took my first “lesson” last February at the Cleveland Golf Show.  I had an instructor at my disposal for exactly one-minute before realizing I was doing everything wrong.  In the brief lesson received, I discovered this was going to take some real dedication.  But I also (possibly for the first time in my life) made contact with the ball after just a few pointers. 

Terrible form aside, I was ecstatic to have hit the ball at all.

Instead of hopping on a cart and riding off with one of my eager friends always offering to show me the ropes, I decided to do things correctly and take lessons.  Thankfully, we have Judy Mason at Michaywe Pines.  Judy has a reputation for excellence in our golf community, and she’s earned it.  For over 30 seasons, she has been teaching golf and working in golf operations in northern Michigan.  The first 17 of those years were spent instructing the Ladies Golf School at Treetops Resort, and the last 17 have been with the Michaywe Pines course, where Judy serves as the Golf Pro.  Expertise aside, she is warm and approachable, making it possible for me to ask “dumb questions” and seek out her critiques even when I know my form was out of whack.

My first lesson with Judy Mason at Michaywe Pines.

I can confidently say working with Judy is the only reason I’m able to go out with my husband and play nine holes (bear with me…I still lose my focus right around nine).  And while I won’t be winning any tournaments in the near future, I can pass along a bit of the knowledge Judy has instilled in me.  Avid golfers may want to get out on the greens now, the rest of this is strictly for newbies. 

I’ve had countless experienced golfers admit they wish they had started with lessons.  As Judy explained on day 1, it’s easier to learn the right way than unlearn bad habits down the road.  Having a qualified instructor you’re comfortable with, who can read your body language and understand muscle movement is so much more beneficial than entrusting the learning process to a friend who has most likely hit up the beverage cart a few times.  Lessons will take your focus off hitting the ball (I know – I thought that was the goal, too!) so you can concentrate on your form.

This sounds obvious, but trust me, golfers make that swing look so effortless that non-golfers think there’s nothing to it.  I now know they are wrong (notice I’ve been upgraded from the non-golfer category).  Judy couldn’t stress proper form enough with me and I am naturally an uncoordinated person.  In fact, my first two lessons were conducted without even hitting the ball because I just didn’t have my swing down.  And while I couldn’t help but eagerly stare at it out of the corner of my eye, my patience was soon rewarded with the first picture perfect swing of my life.  And it appeared effortless.

Major improvement from my first video!

Once again, this sounds obvious, but I didn’t realize how much practice was needed to keep up even my beginner’s skills. I decided to take a few swings in my backyard to show off what I’d learned…and discovered I had already started to forget.  I upped my diligence, bought a practice net and enlisted my hubby’s help in keeping me on track. While a driving range is a great option, backyard practice eases feeling self-conscious if it takes me a while to get back in the groove.

As my lessons progressed, and occasionally my frustration, I invested in my own set of clubs to up my motivation.  Seeing MY golf bag sitting in the garage each day is instant encouragement.  Reward your hard work by finally playing a round at a course you’ve had your eye on, putting golf on the agenda of your next vacation or simply buying some gear.  Give yourself something to look forward to as you continue to improve.

Trying out my new clubs at Michaywe Pines.

It’s the cardinal rule for any hobby – if it’s not fun, then you shouldn’t be doing it.  There will always be off days, but overall, let yourself enjoy the game and try not to take golf too seriously.  This is especially true while you are still learning.  My swing and miss is often accompanied by expletives because I already expect more out of myself.  When Judy is there, she can reel me back in with a quick break and some friendly conversation to get me out of my own head.  A good instructor will make your lessons fun, which carries that expectation on to the course.

Enjoying a picture-perfect morning with my hubby, regardless of how many balls I lost.

I’ve been waiting to share my golf saga until it had an ending.  But I came to the realization that there is no ending or “ah-ha” moment to this story.  Golf is something that will continually be an evolving factor in my life now that I’ve discovered a love for the game.  All I have left to do now is decide which days I’m spending at my favorite fishing hole and which ones will be on the greens.

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