Matt Freeman and his staff of teaching professionals at Canyon Meadows Golf and Country Club love seeing people they’ve recently given a lesson to walk off the 18th green smiling at their scorecard.
For that to happen, the head pro and his assistants at the Canyon Meadows course — home of the 2016 Shaw Charity Classic PGA Champions Tour tournament — share advice on the game’s three areas: driving, chipping and putting.
Most people want to start by conquering their driver and Freeman has some easy advice for hitting the long ball better.
“Your lower body has to be grounded and you have to use your hips,” he says. “A lot of people, when they hit driver, they just use their upper body and they just swing away. You don’t get that nice crisp contact and the ball doesn’t go as far as you like.
“Lower body activation is important with driving.”
And don’t grip the driver too firmly or swing too big, he advises.
“People hold the club way too tight and grip it way too strong,” Freeman explains. “It’s nice to have a relaxed grip and relaxed arms and shoulders in order to get the club head releasing to the target properly.
“I like to teach amateurs to swing three-quarters. Some people swing way past parallel. If you tell them to swing three-quarters it gets them back to where they should be and then it controls the club face,” says Freeman.
Young golfers looking to improve their skills are invited to the Canyon Meadows course for a Junior Clinic hosted by MEG Energy on Friday, Sept. 2 from 3:30-4:30 p.m. at the upper driving range at the club. Admission is free for those aged five to 17 who are with a ticketed adult.
Juniors will be able to watch Champions Tour professional Brian Henninger demonstrate some skills and trick shots before getting the opportunity to pick up a club themselves to receive brief personal instruction from Alberta Golf professionals.
The clinic is one of two events for young golfers held in conjunction with the Shaw Charity Classic, the other was a Junior Drive, Chip and Putt contest presented by West Island College that was held on Aug. 14.
The three-round PGA Champions Tour event itself kicks off with pre-tournament events on Aug. 31 and concludes with the final round on Sept. 4.
With long drive legend John Daly competing this year, expect some bombs to be unleashed. But Freeman says that while a booming drive can make a crowd gasp, good chipping and putting save strokes.
With chipping, he teaches students to maintain soft hands.
“You want the club to scrape the grass under the ball,” he says. “You want to stay under the ball, scraping the grass with soft hands. It’s like a mini version of the golf swing.”
If you have trouble picking the right club for approach shots, Freeman says it’s OK to find a club you love and learn to use it on a variety of shots.
“If you are confused about what club to hit, chances are it’s going to create doubt. To take all doubt out of it, fall in love with a club and practice a few different shots with it. Then you don’t have to second-guess anything.”
When it comes to putting, Freeman says consistent speed is essential.
“You mirror your backswing and your forward swing — same speed back and forward,” he says. “You want to keep the putter face as square as possible through impact. You don’t want to put any spin on the ball. You want the ball rolling out straight. You want to simplify it.
“You don’t want to use too much wrist and hands and keep those elbows tight and work the triangle that the hands and elbows create.”
And, you want to practice short putts a lot.
“If you hit it 10 to 15 feet (three to 4.5 metres) from the pin and you’re three-putting those, you’re wasting a lot of good shots,” he says.
“When you see people hitting 40-foot (12-metre) putts on the practice green, what does that really accomplish because how many times in a round are you going to have a 40-foot putt?
“But, you’re going to have a ton of five-foot (1.5-metre), 10-foot putts.”
Freeman’s final tip is simply to “practice as much as you play.”
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