Getting fit, feeling good and staying healthy

Golf: How to get in the game

By Susan Yellin,

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The thing about many sports is that the older you get, the less inclined you may be to play them. Not golf. In fact, golf is a one of those sports that lasts a lifetime and provides exercise, fresh air and a chance to get out and banter with friends.

Golf: How to get in the gameBut like all sports, it comes with frustrations. As a beginner (a status I have admittedly milked for years now) I am more than well-acquainted with frustration on the links: the drive that goes astray, the messiness of the sand trap, the ball that gets topped.

My husband, on the other hand, takes a healthier attitude; he considers he’s had a good game of golf if he finds more balls than he loses.

One of the reasons for golf’s aggravations is that it can be a consistently difficult sport, especially for those with high expectations of themselves, says Robert Thompson, a blogger at Canadian Golfer.

Still, it’s that delicious sound as the club hits the ball right on the sweet spot, the drive that is straight and high or the 25-foot putt that snakes its way into the hole that brings golfers back to the links time and again.

“Golf is frustration matched with endless possibilities,” says Thompson. “It’s the fact that even the 25-handicapper can occasionally square up the driver and hit it firmly that keeps people coming back, hoping to repeat that perfect shot.”

But there are some ways you can definitely cut down on the aggravation, says my golf instructor, Greg Dixon:

1. Play a course that suits your abilities. Unless you’re a really good player, forget about the courses that professionals play, such as Glen Abbey in Oakville, Ont. or the Royal Montreal. If you’re new to the game, try a nine-hole course so you won’t have to worry about the five hours of concentration required for longer courses.

2. Play from a tee box where you can hit a decent length. You don’t have to hit from the back tee. “The goal for a par four is to reach the green in two shots,” says Dixon. “So if you hit your best tee shot with your driver and then you hit your best approach shot and you still can’t reach the green, that’s a good indication that you are hitting from the wrong tee box.”

3. Learn to hit with more than two clubs. Many people first learn how to hit with a driver and how to use a putter. But you will also need to use a pitching wedge for chip shots and a sand wedge to get out of bunkers, and longer holes will require other clubs.

4. Get your clubs fitted properly. A club is like a suit: You should like the style and feel good with the swing. But like an off-the-rack suit, it may be a bit too long. Since you can’t hem a golf club, you need to buy a shorter one. “A proper fitting will give you the equipment that will help you hit the ball straighter and more consistently,” says Dixon. “The average driver in a golf store is an inch-and-a-half longer than the ones used on the PGA tour. So why are we, as relatively unskilled players, using equipment that is more difficult to play with?”

5. Practise. That’s what driving ranges are for. The pros practise every single day, so it only makes sense that someone who works behind a desk should practise as well.

If you follow these tips, you should be able to get out and enjoy the game, be pleased with your progress and feel good that you’ve taken steps to maintain your health.

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