Golf tips for the snowbound

This story appeared in the National Post’s new FP Weekend section on Saturday — a section that I’d encourage more people to read. It is a great example of the Post’s strengths — which is offering a different, fun read to those who find the Globe and Mail a little too dull. Anyway, here it is, with two sidebars.

The chip shots are down: Worried about whiffing on the course? These golf pros specialize in discreet instruction that can get
your overwintered game in shape, while no one else is looking
By Robert Thompson
Financial Post

On a bright day in early April, a young woman in formal business dress drops into a downtown Toronto office building looking for a way to fix a nagging problem.

It turns out the woman, a business professional from Bay Street, needs to buy a golf game: Golf 101 wasn’t a course they taught her in business school. She needs to find a way to keep from embarrassing herself when she takes clients out on the fairway and has come to the King’s Golf Academy, located in the basement of a spacious building, to seek a cure to her ails.

The scenario is familiar to Chima McLean, a former Canadian tour pro who runs the King’s Executive Golf Academy, a golf instruction school that caters to Toronto business professionals. In his nearly 20 years teaching golf, Mr. McLean has helped hundreds of Bay Street execs acquire a serviceable golf game, or make repairs to an existing one.

“We have people who come in here where every part of their life is uber-critical,” he says, noting two-thirds of his students are senior Bay Street managers or lawyers. “And many of them look at learning golf the same way.”

But becoming a golfer who is comfortable playing with clients or in the company tournament doesn’t come without a significant time or financial commitment.

Though pricing varies from instructor to instructor, depending on their location in Canada and experience, expect to pay between $400 and $1,000 for a series of lessons to get your swing in shape.

Mr. McLean, who charges $475 for five lessons and unlimited practice at his facility, warns there are very few quick fixes in golf. He says most individuals who seek instruction should plan on taking those lessons over a number of weeks. That way, you’ll have time to work on what you’ve learned in your lessons.

Tom Jackson, who teaches out of the OslerBrook Golf & Country Club in Collingwood, Ont., and was recently named as one of the best golf instructors by the National Post, says anyone taking up the game needs to spend a lot of time practising in order to see improvement.

Part of that practice may not involve golf at all. Mr. Jackson says one way golfers can expect to improve their game when they return to their country club this spring is by improving physically.

“You don’t need to be Arnold Schwarzenegger, but being in reasonable shape is going to help,” he notes. “Once you have your body fixed, we can work on getting your swing fixed and your head fixed.”

Becoming more consistent is the aim of most golfers, Mr. Jackson says. But he’s quick to point out that consistent doesn’t mean morphing into Tiger Woods or being able to break 70 on a regular basis.

“When people say they want to be more consistent, it means they want better mechanics and better practice habits,” he said. “That’s a combination that leads to consistency.

Mr. McLean says consistency to one golfer might mean posting scores in the 80s, while to another, it could mean shooting 120, “but without wiffing or duffing the ball at all.”


Eager to improve your golf game? Heed this advice:

– Before handing over any cash for lessons, ask about the pros’
experience, says *Chima* *McLean* of the King’s Executive Golf Academy
in Toronto. Get a handle on who they studied under, where they have
worked and how long they have taught.

– Similarly, you should inquire about methods and style of
teaching. Does the instructor use visual aids and modern video
equipment? Novice and experienced players alike typically respond
well to visual aids.

– Watch golf on television, but be critical about what you see. Mr.
McLean says amateurs can learn a great deal from watching PGA Tour
pros, but some camera angles can mislead novice golfers. Also, tune
out the announcers: “Turn the volume off and watch carefully,” he

– Don’t always buy the most expensive equipment. Pricey gear won’t
necessarily elevate your game. According to Mr. McLean, “Technology
is great, but a lot of it is created for the elite player.”


Strong loonie a boon to golfers: New clubs priced lower
Section: Financial Post: Weekend
Byline: Robert Thompson

Every year, golfers try to improve their games by buying whatever is new and hot on the market, says top Canadian golf instructor Tom Jackson.

Mr. Jackson points to so-called “game improvement” clubs that help occasional players get the ball in the air more quickly and hit it straighter.

“New equipment isn’t a total fix,” he says. “But you should always try to use the club that has the most advantages for you.”

This year, hot clubs include TaylorMade’s R7 and R5 drivers (estimated retail price of $499). Aimed at helping fix the perpetual problem of slicing the ball, the clubs allow players to make alterations to change the direction of their shots.

Golfers are also benefiting from the rise in the Canadian dollar that has led to a decrease in the price of some equipment. New drivers, which often cost $599 in the past, are regularly priced less than $500.

For example, Callaway’s Big Bertha 454 Titanium Driver, which has garnered a lot of attention since David Mobley used it to win the World Long Drive Championship, is currently selling at an estimated retail price of $379.

“This is a club which is more forgiving and stable for the average player,” says Jim Bradley, director of marketing for Callaway Golf Canada.

While you can expect to get at least two years out of a new driver before having to switch to a newer club, he says, “People fall in love with a club and some will rarely change.”

And if you are just going to hit balls into the fescue or a pond, you don’t have to play Titleist ProV1 balls, which retail at more than $60 per dozen.

“The average player won’t have a swing speed-high enough to get what the pros get out of a ProV1,” golf instructor Chima McLean points out. “The average player would be better off spending a little less and buying something like the Titleist NXT ball, which offers some variations.”

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