After playing in my first pro am at the Phillip Island Golf Club on Sunday, it is an experience that I highly recommend to everyone regardless of how new you are to golf.
The Phillip Island Pro am was an individual and a team event. The best stableford score on each hole contributed to the team score. Very early on I was told by a team member that it was difficult for a team with a female in it to beat an all male team. Challenge set! This created my goal for the day. My individual goal was to not wipe at least three holes on the course. My team goal was to have those three holes contribute to the team score.
We started on the 10th, a par 3. As a lady I had the pleasure of being the last to tee off and watching the results of the other drives first. I set up my drive, and focussed on stabilising my body and opening the gate in the back swing and closing the gate on the follow through. The ball took off with lady like speed and landed on the fairway near the green. This precision landing allowed it to run up onto the green! It went toward the back of the green past the flag and rested. It was on the green! “What a lucky first shot”, I thought to myself as everyone cheered in a very surprised manner. Once my team mates joined me on the green it was time to putt. Downhill is always particularly difficult because it is so easy to over hit the ball and consequently very easy to be too timid and hit the ball a third of the distance. I had no idea of what pace I should give the ball so I just relaxed and did what felt right. Mouths dropped as the ball held an excellent line to the hole and pulled up about 1 metre away from it. I could not believe it! Was this me or Aaron hitting the ball?! It was now time to “finish off”. And the first time I felt nervous. I could feel my hands shaking a little which was bizarre. I never would have thought golf would do that to me as an amateur. I lined up the putt, had reassurance from Aaron and hit the putt. BOOM! It went into the hole like it was a magnet. I could not help but jump for joy as my 3/4 would be on the team card for sure! I was a third of the way to achieving my goal after playing the first hole.
My luck continued on the next hole, the 11th which is a par 5. Again I contributed 4 points to the team card after an excellent drive, great fairway play and some putting that looked and felt a little too skilled for my novice level of golf experience. Two holes in and I was 66% of the way to achieving my goal thanks to a par and a bogey.
Although I did continue to play well throughout the day it was not possible to me to continue my 4 point performance. But I enjoyed every hole nonetheless and I obliterated my goal of not wiping at least three holes and contributing to the team card. I found the most challenging aspect to be the combination of mental and physical endurance. Golf is no marathon and a lot of people dismiss it as not being a true form of exercise. However the combination of mental intensity and repeated physical performance gives a unique experience that is like no other. By the time we got to our 10th hole I was finding it difficult to remember how many shots I had played. Although I would hit a shot, my fourth for example, I would say 4, 4, 4, etc to myself as I made my way to my ball. But by the time I decided what club to hit, where I wanted to land the ball, how much of a back swing I would need to achieve that, where I was aiming for the ball to land, thinking about maintaing my posture, opening and closing the gate…….. Ummm how many shots is that? I would then have to visualise each shot of the hole to get back on track with my counting. The visualisation also became more difficult as the game progressed. Luckily I had some wonderful playing partners who could always tell when I looked confused and helped me count my shots.
I was reassured that counting your shots and remembering them does become easier in no time at all. And I believe it will. However, my biggest tip for fellow beginners is to invest in a tool that helps you count your shots, whether it be a pencil and tally marks, beads on a thread or one of those high tech clickers. Whatever you choose I believe it will take some of the pressure off as you go around the course.
The other essential item that I did not have with me is a ball marker! Luckily a kind team member allowed me to borrow his spare marker throughout the day. It had completely evaded my mind despite years of watching Aaron and other golfers marking their ball.
As I began to tire I was told that during my swing I was moving my upper body upward upon striking the ball, as though I was preparing to look up to see where the ball went. To overcome this I try to bring the focus back to stabilising my lower body, bracing through my core and feeling the swing through my arms so that my core stretches and comes back to normal. I try to create a delay by holding this brace longer than feels natural before looking up.
I must say that my wonderful playing partners Kevin and Paul (and of course Aaron) really made the day for me. I loved getting to know them and sharing in their golf stories. A very big thank you to Kevin, who showed me around the club house, let me ride in the buggy next to him, gave reassurance and a few tips and even shared his banana which I am told is essential to maintain your energy on the course. Thank you also to the Head Professional Marcus for putting on an excellent Pro am and allowing me to play in Aaron’s team. Congratulations also go to Aaron who looked after me all day and tied for 3rd place.
And yes – those are matching golf pants 🙂
You can check out the Phillip Island Golf Club here. I will certainly be back again in 2015!
I invite you to share your first pro am experiences below.
Until next time.