Cindy Reid's Ultimate Guide to Golf for Womenby Cindy Reid
When it comes to women and golf, it's not just about the swing or the correct putting stroke. No one knows this more than Cindy Reid. Now the director of instruction at the Tournament Players Club at Sawgrass, she's become a world-class teacher in an industry long dominated by men. But Cindy Reid didn't pick up a golf club till she was in her early twenties, and… See more details below
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When it comes to women and golf, it's not just about the swing or the correct putting stroke. No one knows this more than Cindy Reid. Now the director of instruction at the Tournament Players Club at Sawgrass, she's become a world-class teacher in an industry long dominated by men. But Cindy Reid didn't pick up a golf club till she was in her early twenties, and she displays a unique and gifted empathy for the record numbers of women taking up the game, too many of whom find themselves not enjoying it nearly enough. She understands, for example, that women learn the game in a completely different way from men their concerns stretch way beyond correct mechanics and her guide is filled with positive and easily implemented advice, perfect if you're a beginner, if you can play a bit, or if you're scratch.
Filled with clear-cut advice and stunning full-color photography, Cindy Reid's Ultimate Guide to Golf for Women covers all the bases in a simple, conversational style from getting the right clubs and accessories, through understanding all the basics of swing technique and game management, and right on into how to keep fit for golf. The book is also filled with anecdotal material on the social aspects of the game, including how to be confident on the course when men are trying to hurry you along, what to look out for when you take a lesson, even how to correctly fold a glove when you're on the green. Driving, putting, playing, fitness, fashion, etiquette: It's all here, and with this groundbreaking book women golfers everywhere can post better scores, gain increased confidence, and above all, enjoy the game more than ever.
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Read an Excerpt
Cindy Reid's Ultimate Guide to Golf for Women
By Reid, Cindy
All right reserved.
Chapter 1: Learning How to Learn
I was giving a golf lesson to a female business executive not long ago when, out of the blue, she said something that struck a chord with me. "You know, Cindy," she said, "I work with hundreds of men and women, and it still amazes me. You can say the same thing to a man and a woman and get two totally different interpretations of what was said. It's like we have two separate languages, one for each gender, but nobody will admit it."
At the time I made a joke, saying, "Well, at least woman-speak is more advanced." But the more I thought about it, the more I realized my student was onto something.
It seems so obvious that it shouldn't need to be said, but it's so profound and so often overlooked it can't be said enough. Women and men are different. I know that isn't film-at-eleven news for anybody, but as my student pointed out, a lot of people ignore or forget that men and women process data differently. We communicate differently, analyze things differently, and speak, feel, listen, and learn in distinctly separate ways.
As I pondered this, I realized these differences apply to everything from physics to cooking to simple questions like "How does the pasta taste?" or "What does that feel like?"
Because I relate everything to golf and golf instruction, I started thinking about how these differences affect the way women and men learn to play the game. While most teachers acknowledge the physical differences between men and women, few, if any, modify their teaching to accommodate those differences, nor do they consider the possibility that women learn differently than men.
I see it all the time. A woman takes a lesson from a male instructor and the first thing the teacher tells her is to "fire" her hips through the downswing or to "release the club through impact by pronating and supinating the forearms." Can you imagine anything more useless? The best one I heard was a male instructor telling his petite female student to "Imagine you're swinging at a low, outside curveball." A low, outside curveball! This woman wouldn't have known which end of a baseball bat to hold, but that was the example her golf instructor used to communicate a particular feeling. If I'd been taught that way in the beginning I probably would have said, "To heck with it," and gone back to the ski slopes.
But I was lucky. I learned from the best in the business - both men and women - who understood the need to communicate and coach in a language and with methods that I understood.
As a woman, the golf instruction process probably intimidates you. I know it scared the wits out of me when I first started. Fortunately I had a great teacher, a mentor who had worked with great women professionals like Betsy King, Jan Stephenson, and Alice Miller and who understood the anxieties most women have when it comes to learning the game.
Why We Play
The first thing Ed Oldfield asked me when we stood on the lesson tee together for the first time was, "Why do you want to play golf?" It seemed like a simple question, but I didn't have a good answer. "I'm not sure, Ed," I said. "I can't play basketball and softball the rest of my life, so I'm looking for a new game. I see all these people having a great time, they dress well, they obviously love it - I want to give it a go."
That sufficed because it was an honest answer. Too often, when I ask my students the same question, I get a blank stare or a curious shrug. Even women who have been playing golf for years can't tell me what they hope to accomplish by taking lessons. "What are your goals? What are you hoping to accomplish? Why are you here with me on the lesson tee?" are all questions I ask before I impart the first morsel of advice to one of my students. Unfortunately, I get a lot of I-don't-know-type answers.
Golf is an individual sport. There are thousands of variables in the game and millions of ways to learn. In order to reach your full potential as a golfer you have to find the method and the mechanics that work best for your body type and skill level. But before you can learn anything, you have to determine what kind of golfer you want to be. Are you taking lessons (and reading this book) because you like the outdoors and think spending four hours on a manicured golf course constitutes a well-spent afternoon? Are you learning to play for business? Do you want to win your club championship or Ladies' City Amateur title? Is it your husband or a friend you're trying to impress? Or do you simply want to occasionally win a chit in your Tuesday morning golf/social group? There is no right or wrong answer, but before you venture into any sort of game-improvement plan, you need to be honest with yourself. Answering the "Why am I doing this?" question before you get started makes the process a lot easier and a lot more fun.
The "Ah Ha" Moment
Unfortunately, golf isn't a paint-by-numbers sport. There is no step-one, -two, and -three to the process. It's not a cake we're baking where the recipe is written down, nor is it like following the assembly instructions in the Christmas box, even the ones an MIT mechanical engineer couldn't follow. You can't simply put peg "A" into peg hole "B" and become a good golfer.
Golf is not easy. It's not a game you or anyone else will ever master. That's a big part of why so many people love it. One day you will take a lesson or read a tip in a book or magazine and you'll say to yourself, "Voilà! I've got it." You will be convinced that you understand everything there is to know about the game and you're on your way to great scores. Then, two days later, you feel like you've never held a club in your life. Your shots go everywhere, your swing feels awful, and you can't find any motion that feels remotely comfortable. I'd love to tell you that this is a problem I can easily remedy, but it's not. It's just the way golf is.
What I can do is help you learn how to learn.
Have you ever taken a class where the material was so foreign to you that you had no idea what the instructor was saying? There are few things in the world more frustrating. I know; I've had my share of those experiences. You're listening, concentrating, hoping that something will eventually make sense, but nothing does. You wonder if you're alone in this quandary. Then you wonder if you're just plain dumb. Anxiety sets in and soon your head begins to throb.
Then, out of nowhere, your teacher says one thing, gives one example or makes one analogy, and everything clicks. You get it. It's like the blinders have been lifted and all the gobbledygook suddenly makes perfect sense. You lift your head and raise your eyebrows in amazement that what had seemed mind-numbing only moments before now looks perfectly logical and orderly, simple even.
I call this the "Ah Ha" moment, the moment the lightbulb flickers on and you see everything you couldn't see before. You want to stand up and scream, "Eureka!" when this happens, but you usually just sit back, cross your arms, and let a satisfied smile creep onto your face.
So, what causes these "Ah Ha" moments? Why is it that we can be bewildered by a concept one minute and see everything so clearly mere seconds later? The information hasn't changed. The concepts aren't any easier, and our IQs didn't magically inch up a few points while we were listening. So, what makes us understand now what we didn't get a minute ago?
The answer is in the delivery. Your teacher finally said or did something that your brain registered. It might have been a visual cue or a mental image or a technical explanation that finally made sense. The trigger, whatever it was, allowed your brain to process the information.
Golf instruction is no different than the classroom. I've seen students who have attended clinics or taken private lessons from less experienced instructors who walk away without learning a thing. The teacher might as well have been speaking Swahili.
I'm as guilty of this as anyone. There have been plenty of times I've been in the middle of the lesson, explaining everything I know about the nuances of the swing and loving the tenor of my own voice while I'm saying it, when I see a glazed blank mask falling over my student's face. At that point I know I've lost her.
Fortunately I've been teaching long enough to stop when I see my student's eyes cross. At that point I try a different route. I know that people absorb information about golf in different ways. If I fail to connect with a student - that is, if the student doesn't understand anything I'm saying - I know that the student processes information differently from the way I'm teaching, so I change methods.
There are four ways you process information about the golf swing. They are:
Visual learning is just that - learning by seeing. Most of the students I've encountered learn to one degree or another through visuals. That's why video lessons have become so popular. If I can show a student what her golf swing looks like, she has a better chance of understanding what she needs to change and what she needs to work on to make her a better player.
Kids are great visual learners, because they mimic so well. You've probably heard the story of Tiger Woods, who before he was two, watched his father hit balls into a net in the family's garage. Young Tiger then crawled down from his highchair, grabbed his plastic club, and made a perfect golf swing. It sounds unreal, but I've seen it more than once. Young children absorb visual information much better than hard-wired adults. They can mimic almost anything. That's why when I'm giving a lesson to a junior I hit more balls than I do when I'm teaching an adult. I want the junior to see and copy the proper technique.
Most of us lose a little of that kidlike knack for imitation as we grow older, but visual learning is still the number-one way golfers learn. Korean superstar Mi Hyun Kim, who won Rookie of the Year honors on the LPGA Tour and racked up three wins in her first two years on tour, said she watched John Daly when she was young and decided she wanted to hit the ball like John. If you see Mi Hyun's swing today you'll see she was successful. Her long, loose backswing is unconventional, but it's almost identical to the grip-it-and-rip-it swing John Daly has been using for years.
Another Korean star, Se Ri Pak, studies videos of her swing from all angles as part of her game-improvement regimen. She, too, is a visual learner.
The problem with visual learning is few people recognize how much information they process visually. Witnesses to crimes often say things like, "I didn't get a good look at him. I'm not sure I can describe what I saw." But when investigators methodically walk the witness through the process, taking step-by-step notes, the results are stunning. Sketch artists have come up with incredible likenesses of criminals because of the recollections of witnesses who "didn't get a good look."
I see the same thing with many of my female students on the lesson tee. I'll say things like, "Can you see how your hands are working too much on the takeaway?" and the student will answer, "Oh, I really can't learn much by looking. I'm a feel player." When I probe a little further, I find that the golfer in question is not a feel player at all, but someone who learns by watching without realizing it.
Recently I taught a woman who had a terrible problem with laying the club off on the backswing. She rotated her hands on the takeaway in such a fashion that the club could never get high enough to make a good swing. She looked like she was swinging a baseball bat. Despite her insistence that she was a feel player, when I asked her about this swing flaw she said, "I just can't feel it." So, I broke out the camera and showed her a video of her swing. "Oh," she said. "I had no idea that was what I was doing." Within minutes she fixed her backswing.
This is just one example. I've seen it hundreds of times. People assume that because they can differentiate good shots from bad shots through feel that they are feel players when, in fact, they learn better through visuals.
Golfers of all ages and skill levels use visual aids to improve their games. How many times have you seen a golfer taking mock practice swings in front of a full-length mirror? I notice it almost every time I'm in a store where plenty of mirrors are available. If no one else is doing it, I usually take a few clubless practice swings of my own.
There's a good chance that you can learn a great deal about golf from visual aids. If you find yourself wondering what you look like with a club in your hands, or if you watch pros on television on the weekend and find yourself trying to mimic certain moves or positions, you are, at least in part, a visual learner.
Of course some players couldn't care less what they look like on video. I remember Hubert Green, the noted Senior PGA Tour player, saying that he watched a video of his swing once in his life and he almost threw up, so he never did it again.
Nancy Lopez is another player who doesn't take much stock in how her swing looks, and it's hard to argue with her success. Lopez learned the game from her father, and according to Nancy, the lessons she learned on the fundamentals of the swing were, "Bring the club up real slow; bring it up real high; extend your arms real far; hit the ball right on the sweet spot; and send it into the middle of the fairway." Simple advice, but it worked. Nancy won forty-eight professional events and is in the LPGA Hall of Fame.
Both Hubert Green and Nancy Lopez are feel players, players who don't take much stock in finding the perfect, classic swing. They feel what works for them, and they work on that feeling.
A lot of teachers give their pupils analogies of what something should feel like, but that often tells you more about the teacher than the pupil. If a teacher says something like, "You need to feel like you're cracking a whip with your right hand as you bring the club down," that tells you the teacher has created a mental image of himself cracking a whip. It's what the teacher feels and what the teacher uses as a mental cue. The student might not have any idea what a bullwhip looks like.
Feel players are tougher to teach, because feelings are so subjective. One of the funniest stories from the golf instruction world is an old tale Bob Toski tells on himself. Toski, an excellent tour player in his day and one of the most respected instructors in the world for decades after he retired from competition, was teaching a student who simply couldn't grasp what Toski was saying. "I can't feel it. I can't feel it," the student kept saying. Finally, in utter frustration, Toski leaned over and bit the student on the forearm.
Excerpted from Cindy Reid's Ultimate Guide to Golf for Women by Reid, Cindy Excerpted by permission.
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Meet the Author
Cindy Reid is the director of instruction at TPC, Sawgrass. A seven-year veteran of the professional tour, she is a regular contributor to the Golf Channel as a guest instructor on Academy Live and Junior Golf Academy. A frequent contributor to Golf for Women and PGA Tour Partners magazine, she has also provided on-air playing tips on CBS and on-course commentary for NBC. She runs numerous clinics for corporate clients around the country, and was chosen as one of the Top 50 female instructors for 2003. Cindy Reid lives in Ponte Vedra, Florida. This is her first book.
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