The first thing Sue Wilson learned was confidence.
After years of unsolicited advice from friends, family and helpful (but often annoying) strangers, the recreational golfer from Mokena felt beaten down whenever she played golf.
"It was overwhelming," she said.
Then, for her 50th birthday, Wilson's husband surprised her with six weeks of lessons in Cog Hill Golf & Country Club's "No Embarrassment" program for beginners. Since completing the group program in May, Wilson said she didn't need advice from other players anymore. She knew exactly how to hit the ball.
For Wilson, her newfound confidence was worth the $130 her husband plunked down for the lessons.
Beginners develop more than confidence when they learn from a professional. They gain a strong foundation in the game and get to work the finer points, such as pitching and chipping, while honing the basics.
With a correct technique and an understanding of the game, duffers can develop into stronger players--even with lots of hooks and slices along the way.
Those are OK, said Jeff Rimsnider, head golf pro at Cog Hill.
"The more errors you make ... the more you learn, " he said.
The trick is to find an instructor whose lessons are comfortable and comprehensive. In the "No Embarrassment" program, golfers spend 75 to 90 minutes each week learning the basics with two instructors. Golfers at Cog Hill spend the first week putting, a week chipping, and another week pitching and playing bunkers.
Finally, the group, normally 16 in all, tests their new skills on the same course that's bedeviled the likes of Phil Mickelson, Jim Furyk and Tiger Woods.
"No Embarrassment" also gives newbies an etiquette primer. They learn what's in a pro shop, how to make a reservation and what "pace of play" means--things they might not ordinarily know but are expected to once they step into hole No. 1's tee box.
Now, Rimsnider said, "they can put everything to work."
Instructors tailor lessons to fit specific groups of people. The Cook County Forest Preserve District expanded its six-week lesson program this month to include courses just for seniors, children or couples.
Not all golfers are created equal, said Chuck Kohut, regional marketing director for Billy Casper Management, which runs the district's golf courses. Teaching an adolescent to grip a club and retooling a 70-year-old's drive require different approaches. With the groups, pros can personalize the instruction to fit a like-minded group with lots in common.
"It's about building that common thread with each other and the game," Kohut said.
Regardless of what the program offers, novices should make sure they'll feel comfortable, not self-conscious, as they learn, Rimsnider said. Try out a program. If it doesn't feel right, find another.
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Looking to learn?
Two programs to check out:
"NO EMBARRASSMENT" GOLF SCHOOL
Where: Cog Hill Golf and Country Club, 12294 Archer Ave., Lemont; 866-264-4455. Cost: $130 per student What you get: Six weeks of golf lessons at Cog Hill, which hosts the PGA Cialis Western Open. Classes open to all.
GOLF LEARNING EXPERIENCE PROGRAM
Where: Various. Harry Semrow Driving Range, 1150 E. Golf Rd., Des Plaines, 847-296- 5764; Highland Woods Golf Course, 2775 N. Ela Rd., Hoffman Estates, 847-359-5850; George W. Dunne National Golf Course, 16310 S. Central Ave., Oak Forest, 708-429- 6886.
Cost: Ranges from $79 to $169 for six weeks of lessons and four rounds of golf. What you get: An interactive six-week program that encompasses all aspects of the game.
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