Who doesn't love to see shiny, new golf equipment under the Christmas tree?
While the latest toys are nice to look at and brag to your friends about, consider them useless unless the proper steps are taken to ensure you get the most out of your special gift.
If you really want that golfer on your holiday shopping list to get the most out of his or her game, new equipment isn't the answer if it's the wrong equipment.
Here at PGA.com, we've enlisted the help of three top PGA Professionals from the PGA Center for Learning & Performance in Port St. Lucie, Fla., to offer their input in three essential areas: instruction, equipment and fitness. If you consider the advice given in each of these three sections, your favorite golfer will get more out of their respective game than ever before.
Areas to consider regarding instruction:
Ah the Holidays, the dreams of putting a, "better golf game," on Santa's wish list and actually getting it. Well it may be more realistic than you think -- if you are willing to be a good little elf (read as "an intelligent consumer").
Here's the key: just going out and throwing a dart at the phone book is as efficient a way to get real golf lessons as hunting a Saharan elephant with a bow and arrow using satellite imagery and shooting from the isle of Bora Bora. I suggest the following:
1. Draft a scouting report. Call your spouse's golfing companions and find out what area of their game is really in need of help. Then find out which club it is that they hate to hit. Finally, find out what club it is that they like in their friends' bag that they keep borrowing.
Here is what you just found out, you know the area of your golfing companion's game that needs work, the "shots" that are giving them trouble and you know the shots they would like to be able to hit.
Now, what do you do with that info?
2. Go to the PGA.com Pro finder and find the PGA Professionals in your area, use forefinger to dial the 10 digit number, and suggest a package of lessons that will be a "strategic course" for improvement. For example, "Yes Dave, I would like to get my husband a series of lessons that will help his putting and sand play, in addition he has difficulty with hitting his fairway woods -- so he probably needs to learn how to do that before I spend another $199 on a "club that doesn't work," and he seems to like the new hybrid 5-iron that his friend Ray uses, so perhaps he needs a look at his set makeup? Can we set up a package for this?"
Okay so maybe that was a really smart consumer, but if you are not that savvy your PGA Professional can fill in the rest!
3. And here is the beauty and magic of Christmas: when your spouse goes out for the lesson, it will be as if the pro already knew what to work on which will elicit the age old response, "Wow, there really is a Santa Claus!" -- Joe Hallett, PGA Director of Golf, PGA Center for Golf Learning & Performance
Areas to consider regarding equipment:
The golfer in your life and the holiday season can be the proverbial marriage made in heaven and not just for those of us lucky enough to live in a sunny climate. However, golf enthusiasts have had their fill of exploding golf balls and fireplace sets in the shape of golf equipment under the tree. It's not that these are poor gifts, but that there's another option for your superstar.
Golf handicaps have not gone down dramatically in the past number of years in spite of advancements in golf equipment and state of the art instruction technology, not to mention the dramatic improvements in golf course playing conditions.
The bottom line is this: A new driver under the tree is a wonderful gift. The 10-round pass at the local course is sure to please when the weather breaks in the spring. But a beautiful new set of irons are worse than worthless if they are too long and upright for your player.
Swing improvements are next to impossible if the body is incapable of attaining stronger and more efficient positions. So to make a dramatic difference in your favorite player's game this year, buy a complete player development program -- buy the knowledge and commitment of trained professionals in a coordinated effort and change the player forever. The fulfilling marriage here is combining quality golf instruction, properly fitting equipment and a body capable of more efficient and consistent production customized for the individual in a complete player development program. Save the exploding golf balls for the company scramble.
Here are a few dos and don'ts this holiday season:
1. Don't buy equipment based on the marketing alone. Do include a professional fitting in your gift with a gift certificate for the purchase of equipment. Some facilities will even throw an incentive toward the purchase your way included in the fitting.
2. Don't buy equipment because your friend Bill likes it. Do understand that Bill's game is very different than yours and the equipment that will work for you will be unique to your strengths and weaknesses.
3. Don't limit your search to the driver. Do think about the fact that less than full shots account for 65 percent of the game. A gap wedge and a perfectly compatible putter will most likely save more shots than the driver ever thought about.
4. Don't limit your gift to the short term. Do think about a developmental package for continuing improvement. As your superstar improves, equipment and instructional needs will change. Assist in building a relationship for the long term success of your player. -- Eric Hogge, PGA Director of Club Fitting, PGA Center for Golf Learning & Performance
Areas to consider regarding fitness:
Improving your golf game should start with a physical evaluation. The reason you swing a particular way is determined by how the muscles in your body contract and relax. In order to get the proper movement you need a correct push and pull in the body. Normally, the front side of the body is tight and restricts movement which creates an imbalance in the golf swing.
The problem with most physical improvements is that it requires you to do the majority of work. Not always the best gift to receive.
Here are three points to consider when buying or giving the gift of physical training for a golfer:
1. Not all golf-specific training programs are created equal. Show me the difference between a yoga for golf class and a regular yoga class. Is there really a difference between the Down Dog pose? The program should start with some kind of physical evaluations. You should perform motions in a unloaded state, with no weight and only you creating the movement, no club or bar. If these are not included in the training, go somewhere else.
2. Does the person working with you truly understand movement? If the individual you are questioning for sessions only wants you to lift heavy or work with machines, go try someone else. Just because they look good or work at a health club does not make them an expert. Ask them: why are we performing this exercise or activity? If they don't know, then stop working and get a new person.
3. The only golf-specific exercise is swinging a golf club. The best way to train to run the 100-yard dash is to run the hundred, the best way to train how to swim is to, yes, swim, therefore the best way to train how to swing a golf club is to swing the club. Those individuals who say this exercise is the best golf-specific training, start for the door. Work to increase core strength, glute or butt strength, hamstring strength and joint stabilization. All those motions combined with proper golf instruction will help you perform better on the course. -- David Donatucci, PGA Director of Fitness and Performance, PGA Center for Learning & Performance