We asked Chris Hartig of The Professional Golfers Association of America (PGA) how to get into the greatest game if you've never picked up a golf club and how to take your game to the next level if you have played before. Chris is a PGA member with 28 years of experience in the golf business, including 15 years as a club professional at four different clubs in Virginia and Florida.
For someone who is brand new to golf, what are a few fundamentals you would recommend working on mastering? Are there particular drills one should focus on?
Golf can be a bit intimidating. It's a little difficult at the start, and that is true for everyone. The most important thing is to have fun. It may be a little tough, but it is great once it starts to click.
Whether you are just beginning or one of the best players in the world, the most important thing is getting the setup correct. Begin with your grip. Focus on learning a creating a solid connection with the club, and being able to repeat it every time. Next is proper posture. This ensures your body is balanced correctly and ready to make a good swing.
Proper alignment and ball positions are the final two critical parts of the setup. Alignment makes sure your body is lined up correctly to hit the ball in the direction you intend for the ball to go. The ball position varies by length of the club, and putting the ball in the proper location between your feet is critical for solid contact.
If you are interested in learning the game, I recommend taking a few lessons from your local PGA professional. I also recommend finding a friend to learn with you. Learning together always adds to the fun, and group lessons are usually a little less expensive.
For those who are just picking up golf and are a little intimidated by the course and rules of the game, what would your advice be?
As I said before, golf can be intimidating at first. You can get a little overwhelmed with all the rules and special etiquette that come with golf. Don't worry about it; if you dive into the game, you will learn as you go. The more avid and serious players tend to play in the morning, so if you are learning to play and you want to get out on the course, I suggest playing nine holes later in the day.
Each hole has its own "par," which is the target score for a very good (Scratch) golfer on that hole. If you are just beginning, "double par" should be your goal. If the hole is a par 4, try to get the ball into the hole within 8 strokes or less.
Another thing to be mindful of when learning the game is your pace of play. Evenings are great because it is more casual and there are fewer players on the course. Ultimately, you will be sharing the course with others. Work towards playing nine holes in two hours or less.
For the intermediate golfer, do you have any particular tricks or tips that can take someone's game from amateur to pro?
Once someone has played the game for a while and shown steady improvement, I recommend tracking your performance on the course. Tracking a couple of simple statistics and comparing them to the best players will tell you what your practice sessions should focus on. The statistics to track are how many fairways you hit in a round and greens in regulation, as well as putts per round. When you compare your statistics to the best players' stats, where you see the biggest gap is where there is the most room for improvement.
Separately, all good players have a good short game. It can be a lot more fun to hit practice balls on the driving range, but if you really want to lower your scores, work on your short game. Lower scores will come faster if you spend a significant amount of your time practicing chipping and putting. On the scorecard, a 3-foot putt counts just as much as a 300-yard drive. It's a lot easier to make 3-foot putts consistently than it is to hit 300-yard drives in the fairway.
Finally, why would Williamsburg be an excellent place for a golf vacation?
Williamsburg is a great golf vacation spot because it has top-ranked premier courses that bring golfers to the area and great supporting courses that bring golfers back. The Golden Horseshoe's Gold Course was designed by one of the game's greatest architects, Robert Trent Jones, and is routinely ranked in the top 100 courses open for public play. The best golfers in the world have played on Kingsmill's River Course for decades. The River Course has hosted numerous PGA and LPGA Tour events. Williamsburg and the surrounding area are home to over 12 championship courses ranked 4 stars or better and very affordable compared to similar golf courses in other golf destinations. Several facilities have multiple courses on-site, allowing golfers to easily play two different courses on the same day.
Traveling golfers also have a wide variety of lodging options. Traditional hotels with economy to luxury options are available, as well as spacious condos and suites. After golf, Williamsburg has restaurants for every appetite, historical attractions and theme parks.
some images shown are from Visit Williamsburg's partnership with Golf.com.