Edit ModuleShow Tags

Tee Up Your Best Game

Bring your score down and your opponents to their knees with these hard-won tips from the county’s top golf pros



photographs by Visko Hatfield

For such a social game, golf is also the great refuge for rugged individualists. And at no time in golf does one witness the self-guided maverick in action more than when it comes to scheduling an actual lesson: Many folks simply want to go it alone. But there’s no reason to be intimidated, says Cory Muller, head golf pro at Country Club of Darien. “There’s nothing you can do in front of me that I haven’t seen a hundred times before.” While golf teachers generally have the patience of midwives, they also have different coaching styles and strengths. To compile the technique tips on the following pages, we consulted with five pros at some of the area’s top clubs. Every course, public and private, has a PGA-trained professional on-site, ready to solve problems with a personalized approach.

Megin O’Donnell-Kelly

Location: Brooklawn Country Club, Fairfield

Kudos: Rated a top instructor in state by Golf Digest

Specialty: Instruction for juniors and beginners

Alma Mater: Stetson University

WHEN THE CHIPS ARE DOWN
When she was a girl, Megin O’Donnell-Kelly’s father took her out of class one day so she could watch Spanish golfer Seve Ballesteros play. She was thrilled when the enigmatic player warmly posed for pictures with her, and she was bowled over by his magical short-game heroics. Today, she counsels locals on the value of smart play from just off the green. Most of us spend the day just missing the green. Learning how to move the ball from the fringe safely on the green will make the evil high numbers tumble from our scorecards. To alleviate that frustration, O’Donnell-Kelly says Seve’s supernatural technique is not required. She teaches a simplistic method for a chip shot. But first, a semantics lesson: A “pitch” shot is one that flies through the air, over the hazard, let’s say, and onto the green. A “chip” is the shorter stroke from just off the putting surface; the important task is to roll it as close as possible to the pin. “You’re not always going to hit the green in regulation,” she says. “When you’re faced with a chip shot, concentrate on getting it to remain on the green.  Unfortunately, many golfers overthink it and either chunk it or skull it across the green.”

She encourages her students to be creative around the green and to learn how different clubs work in the short game. For the classic greenside chip, she recommends a nine-iron. Open your stance with your weight favoring your target side (as a right-handed golfer, your left side), then choke down on the club and shorten it—this will help you gain better control. “The ball position should be off your back foot as you want to catch the ball first — not the ground,” she says. “Make a smooth takeaway and start your forward swing by letting your hands lead the way. Don’t fall for the mistake of getting ‘wristy’ in this shot. Keep the stroke simple. Don’t get your lower body involved or you will lose balance and most likely mis-hit the shot. The actual chipping stroke is very similar to a putting stroke. All you want is to keep the ball low to the ground and rolling toward your target.”

Swing Tip: To help you learn what it feels like to keep your body quiet during a chip shot, O’Donnell-Kelly says to try this drill when practicing: First, put all of your weight on your target side, then just raise the other foot behind you and rest your toe on the ground (see photo above). This is the feeling you’ll want when you make the proper chipping motion on two feet.

John Scali

Location: The Stanwich Club, Greenwich

Credentials: Titleist staff for ten years and PGA Class A member

Former employer: Apawamis Club, Rye, New York

Tour Trivia: Competed on the PGA Winner Series

GOOD PUTTS
Putting represents about 40 percent of the round, and only a little help here could provide a lot of help on your scorecard. But because it appears to be the most rudimentary of actions, most of us just wing it...and suffer. John Scali helps golfers learn confidence for the short knocks and to use the powers of visualization on long putts.“People don’t read the greens enough,” Scali says. “They might be concerned about the pace of play and worry that, by spending five or ten seconds getting a good read, they’ll hold up all the players on the course. I teach my students to not only work on mechanics, but also on how to read a green. A lot of visualization takes place before you even stand over the ball. On a double-breaking putt, for instance, you have to see the speed and know how gravity is going to affect it on the side of a hill. Most people don’t focus enough on that.”

Scali encourages his students to visualize the speed the ball will travel and the path it will take as it traverses along the entire length of the putt—from the moment the ball contacts the putter face to the second it drops in the hole. “By running that imagery through their mind’s eye they can program themselves for a good putt,” says Scali. “Many students simply pick a starting line and hit it without proper mental rehearsal, basically hoping for the best. This invites uncertainty into the stroke, which in turn creates tension, poor tempo and inconsistency.”On the practice green, Scali has his students stand well back from the hole and lightly lob a tennis ball toward it. By doing this, they can see how the ball follows a path. “I lay out targets on the green, and it’s almost like we’re playing bank shots. How is the ball going to follow the roller-coaster path to the flag?”

On short putts, it’s a confidence issue and being tested is what makes a person a better putter. “Don’t accept gimmes,” says Scali. “When we have our club championships, gimme putts aren’t allowed and heads are hung low. People suddenly have three-footers that matter, and they simply don’t like posting those scores.”Scali also believes in the power of positive, strategic thinking. “Whether you’re left or right brain, you can train your mind to putt correctly in the same way you train your body to get stronger. It’s not hard and it doesn’t take a long time. Finally, the thing that can separate the good putter from the bad is the routine. A good putter can set a stopwatch on the points of his routine —when he puts the right foot forward, when he looks at the target and when he swings through. There’s a methodical and repeatable rhythm to that whole song and dance.”

Swing Tip: Remember to keep your arms relaxed, with elbows bent slightly and in towards the body. The knees are flexed for balance and stability. The putting stroke is made with the shoulders and arms acting in unison to create a relaxed movement that is free of tension, where the player can feel the weight of the clubhead.

For the complete list of pros who know pick up Greenwich Magazine's June 2012 issue.

Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit Module

 

Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

Greenwich Agenda

  • Soup Tureens to Nut Bowls with Ann Robertson of Dirt

    2014.11.20
     @ Garden Education Center of Greenwich

    Let's talk about different containers to use for your Thanksgiving table and the great textures of the autumn harvest with which to fill them...

  • Parties at the JCC Center

    2014.09.02
     @ Stamford JCC

    A place to celebrate birthdays and special occasions. Be a guest at your own party! The JCC offers a wonderful space for you and your guests to...

  • Flinn Gallery Art Opening

    2014.10.30
     @ Flinn Gallery 2nd floor

    "IN FOCUS" OPENING RECEPTION -  Thursday October 30, 2014 6-8pm. "IN FOCUS"features seven artists' visions in...

  • Antarctica: Photographs by Diane Tuft

    2014.10.28
     @ Bruce Museum

    October 28, 2014 - February 1, 2015 Selections from Gondwana, Images of an Ancient Land Bruce Museum, 1 Museum Drive, Greenwich, CT...

  • Exhibition: Northern Baroque Splendor

    2014.09.20
     @ Bruce Museum

    Northern Baroque Splendor. The HOHENBUCHAU COLLECTION from: LIECHTENSTEIN. The Princely Collections, Vienna September 20, 2014 - April 12, 2015...

  • Flower Power

    2014.10.08
     @ SM Home Gallery

    SM Home Gallery show featuring two Greenwich based artists: Margaret Bragg and Penny Putnam. The art show runs thorough November 22nd....

  • The Best of 2014: Cecile Chong, David, Ruth Hiller, David Licata, Loanne Mattera, Jill Parisi, Kristen Thiele

    2014.11.08
     @ Kenise Barnes Fine Art

    GALLERY I Dates: November 8 – December 22, 2014     Opening Reception: November 8, 6:30 – 8:00 PM Public Invited THE BEST OF 2014:  Cecile...

  • The Enchanted Forest

    2014.11.21
     @ Hyatt Regency Greenwich

    Junior League of Greenwich presents 2014 Enchanted Forest! Holiday Boutiques Gingerbeard Workshops Santa's Breakfast...

  • Junior League of Greenwich The Enchanted Forest

    2014.11.21
     @ Junior League of Greenwich

    The Junior League of Greenwich (JLG) will host its annual holiday fundraiser, The Enchanted Forest on Friday, November 21 through Sunday, November...

  • IMAGINE CANDY- SWEET TASTINGS!!!

    2014.10.24
     @ Imagine Candy

    Imagine Candy located in Scarsdale Village- Winner of 2014 Best West of Westchester by Westchester Magazine- holds a Belgian Chocolate and Candy...

  • Holiday Craft Sale

    2014.11.22
     @ First Congregational Church of Greenwich

    The Annual Holiday Craft Sale at First Congregational Church of Greenwich is a great place to start your holiday shopping.  The sale offers...

  • Photos with Santa at SPLURGE

    2014.11.22
     @ SPLURGE

    Santa Claus is coming to SPLURGE!  For a $10 donation to Kids in Crisis, professional photographer Cathy Wilson Ramin will be onsite to take a...

  • Wendy Tisch Memorial Concert

    2014.11.22
     @ Greenwich Library/Cole Auditorium

    Join us for a recital by acclaimed Canadian pianist, Angela Hewitt.  Sponsored by the Schubert Club of Fairfield County and Richard Tisch,...

  • Second Annual Wendy Tisch Memorial Concert

    2014.11.22
     @ Greenwich Library Cole Auditorium

    The Second Annual Wendy Tisch Memorial Concert presenting Angela Hewitt, celebrated Canadian pianist in recital Program:  Bach, Scarlatti,...

  • Holiday Craft Sale

    2014.11.22
     @ First Congregational Church of Greenwich

    Annual Holiday Craft Sale in Old Greenwich, Nov. 22 and 23 The Annual Holiday Craft Sale at First Congregational Church of Greenwich is a great...

  • Exhibition: Native American Pottery from the Bruce Museum Collection

    2014.11.22
     @ Bruce Museum

      Generously underwritten by Gabelli Funds and The Charles M. and Deborah G. Royce Exhibition Fund Over the years, the Bruce Museum has...

  • "Paper & Stone" an exhibition by Ellen Gordon & Sary Backer at the Loft Artists Gallery

    2014.11.01
     @ Loft Artists Gallery

    Paper and Stone” An exhibition by Sary Backer & Ellen Gordon November 1 - November 30th Artists’ reception: November 8th from 4 – 6 PM...

  • Native American Heritage Month

    2014.11.23
     @ Bruce Museum of Arts and Science

    November is Native American Heritage Month, and the Bruce Museum will celebrate with a special Family Day dedicated to Native American traditions...

  • Family Gallery Tours

    2014.10.26
     @ Bruce Museum

    Designed for children ages 6-10 and their families, these tours will provide an interactive, discussion-based tour of the museum’s current...

  • 6th Annual Greenwich Reindeer Festival & Santa’s Workshop

    2014.11.28

    Santa and his LIVE reindeer - Dancer, Dasher, Prancer and Blitzen, are coming back to town for the 6th Annual Greenwich Reindeer Festival &...


Show More...
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Most Popular Articles

  1. Greenwich Hospital Venezia Gala
    Greenwich Country Club
  2. 100th Annual Hunt Ball
    Conyers Farm
  3. The Good Lie
    Bow Tie Cinema
  4. BCA Annual Luncheon + Fashion Show
    Hyatt Regency Greenwich
  5. Harvest Art Fair
    YMCA of Greenwich