Learning to Play and Learning to Breathe
The stereotype of the physician-golfer teeing it up at a posh country club several afternoons every week has certainly died hard. Truth is, many time-starved physicians wish they could make room in their schedules to play and practice. Moreover, many medical professionals don’t even know how to play at all. It’s a safe bet that many of your colleagues privately yearn for the chance to get a taste of what this great game is all about.
My situation isn’t much different. I’ve dabbled in golf over the course of my adult life and have led the Annual Hospice of the Chesapeake Tournament for over a decade, but was never too serious about improving or playing more. My inspiration to step things up came from trailing my daughter from tournament to tournament throughout her high school and college golf career. Watching her inspired me to play more and really give it a shot. One thing I’ve learned to love about the game, I cannot think of anything else to have a decent round – not an easy task for me but very necessary.
The Right Credentials
For me to get serious about golf, I knew a destination golf school was the approach I wanted to take. An escape from my daily routine and wired lifestyle was needed so I could immerse myself in a focused educative program that offered plenty of time for instruction, practice and play.
Online research and recommendations from friends and acquaintances led me to the Innisbrook Golf Academy in Tampa Bay, Florida. I registered for a late winter session at The Golf Institute at Innisbrook, a four-day school led by Dawn Mercer, PGA. Dawn’s credentials were impressive, as she has been a golf instructor for nearly two decades and was named one of the Top 50 Female Instructors in the U.S. by Golf for Women Magazine.
In addition to a team of world-class instructors, Innisbrook boasts four championship courses and an expansive practice facility. The resort also plays host to the Valspar Championship, a PGA TOUR event held each March.
My late winter booking proved fortuitous. I left Baltimore just ahead of one of this winter’s numerous storms and headed south, with the promise of warmer weather and a rebirth of my golf game.
Sizing Me Up
Thanks to travel delays, I arrived at Innisbrook just in time to miss my scheduled 1 p.m. tee time at the infamous Copperhead course. I rationalized that playing a round at a challenging course named after a venomous reptile was not the best way to start, anyway. Margaritas and pool time won out as I took a moment to decompress before I was to meet Dawn and my fellow “campers” for an evening reception. Because of the storm, I was to be the only student. My disappointment in not having the chance to spend four days lasted about 30 seconds – I was going to have four days of private instruction. Yay!
Upon meeting Dawn that evening, I was impressed with her desire to get to know me. She wanted to learn my motivations for picking the game back up and to see how dedicated I was. We bonded over both having lost a sister to breast cancer and got to know each other on a personal level.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but Dawn used that time to size me up and identify what teaching strategies she would employ to help me construct my golf game from the ground up.
Things got serious early the next morning when I met Dawn at the Innisbrook driving range. We started learning the fundamentals of the stance and backswing, a strategy that gives new golfers a strong foundation upon which to build.
Various drills helped drive home the importance of the address position and essential elements of a sound swing. As the fundamentals fell into place, I was making solid contact consistently, and learned to savor the satisfaction of a well-struck golf shot.
Intensive instruction each morning gave way to a round of golf each afternoon with Dawn by my side. We played and chatted throughout, but she was right there to correct mistakes and offer advice when needed.
The curriculum included classroom learning, video swing analysis and lots of range time that focused on the technical aspects of the swing. Dawn takes a holistic approach to golf, preaching balance and calm concentration – lessons that also translate to the game of life. She found ways to help me re-focus through breathing exercises and taught me to ignore mild distractions. These practices not only improved my golf performance, but also are proving to be a help in everyday life!
As a veteran and gifted instructor, Dawn excelled at recognizing my personality traits and learning style. At times, I felt like I was at a golf expo – she seemingly had every golf gizmo and gadget at hand to personalize the learning experience.
I’m now more determined than ever to make time to practice and play. There’s a marked improvement in my golf game after my time at Innisbrook and I’m more self-aware of when its time to step back and just breathe.
For physicians and other busy professionals, it’s never too late to pick up the game of golf. However, simply buying clubs and hitting the driving range is not the best approach. You really can’t do it alone. Like anything else we decide to learn, it demands dedication and time. If you learn to play along with a focused, professional instructor, you can get started enjoying golf, which truly is a game for a lifetime.
For more information about Innisbrook, visit www.innisbrookgolfresort.com and save Thursday, October 3, for the 12th Annual Hospice of the Chesapeake Golf Tournament.
Local Learning Opportunities
If a week-long golf school won’t fit your schedule or budget, there are plenty of golf learning opportunities in Central Maryland. Nearly every course offers certified PGA instructors for individual or group instruction.
A series of five clinics will teach you all aspects of the game, from making a tee time, to basics of the stance, swing and short game, to golf etiquette and more. There’s no equipment required. Everything is provided for you and classes are offered throughout the spring and summer. For more information visit www.baltimoregolfing.com.