By Wayne Mills Contributing Writer Nashua, New Hampshire There is a rumor going around that men and women are actually quite different. For the sake of this article, we will leave the social and political arguments aside and just focus on the real and practical experiences of two golf instructors, one woman and one man, on teaching women golfers. Seth Dichard, owner and operator of the Seth Dichard Golf School in Hudson, New Hampshire, a Top 100 Teacher in the World Golf Teachers Federation, has had a lot of experience in teaching women golfers and with substantial success. His prize pupil is Alison Walshe, born in Galway, Ireland, but raised in Westford, Massachusetts, who became a student of Dichard’s while in high school. Alison went on to play on the boy’s golf team in high school, earn a college golf scholarship, become an All- American at Arizona State, and play her way onto the LPGA Tour, where she is climbing the rankings and is poised to enter the winner’s circle any day now. Another young woman who has fl ourished under Dichard is Tracy Martin, who also came under Dichard’s guidance while a junior golfer, and has now earned a full scholarship to the University of Richmond and plays on the women’s golf team. Dichard gives an unvarnished observation. “The obvious differences are women’s build (chest and wider hips) and that women are generally weaker than men. You would think that they would just hit the ball shorter, and other than that, their build wouldn’t pose any problems, but it does. “Due to their high levels of fl exibility, particularly in their hips (and shoulders), one of the most common swing flaws I see in women is their lack of stability in their swing, especially lower body stability, due to their overly flexible hips. This leads to long and powerless swings. So, generally when I work with women, I work on creating stability in their lower body with a good upper body rotation to help shorten their golf swings for better control, while keeping whatever power they have. I then make sure I put them in a stronger grip (closed clubface grip) to help them to hit a draw for added distance. “Since women tend to be weaker in the arms and hands compared to men, I may even have them set the club earlier to help establish more leverage during the backswing for added power. Their legs seem to be the strongest part of their body, so I then may teach them to use them more by driving the legs toward the target, depending on the lack of strength. “Specifically, some other changes I look for are: • Bent forward posture, enough so that they can swing past their chests freely. • Lower hands due to a bent over posture that allows for an earlier wrist set. • Wider stances to help create stability. “I teach women specific drills to help increase clubhead speed and proper release, because most women don’t ever release the club properly due to their lack of strength. And, I teach nearly all my women students (and most men initially) to draw the ball, promoting more of an inside-out swing path that produces more power.” As far as the student-teacher relationship, Dichard has some surprising views. “In regards to teaching women vs. men emotionally, or even how they learn differently, it really depends on the person. Some men act like emotional train wrecks and some women act and think like a world-class athlete. “Engineers can be argumentative whether they are a woman or a man. I’ve seen it and experienced it. But, in my experience teaching over the past ten years, I’ve seen all kinds of students, and it’s honestly hard to put women in a different category emotionally than a man. I guess I’ve seen a couple of women students cry and a couple of men students almost cry, but that’s about it. I’ve seen athletic women who are as good as any man and I’ve seen men who I think almost have never even thrown a ball. It sounds crazy but true.” Helen Gawlik, a Level II USGTF member from Illinois, offers her observations from the women’s point of view. “There are two separate types of individuals who play and/or want to learn golf. First, we have men, then we have women; however, we must separate them into the ‘competitive’ or ‘social’ category. Let’s take women first. “They are open-minded and take stock into the advice you give. When they do win, they want other golfers to come back and play. There are emotions that women display during their instruction and/or their play. Women who are competitive are just happy if they play par golf and look forward to always improving their game of golf, either by club adjustments and/or basic instruction. “The average social beginner or intermediate golfer wants to address an area of the game that they seem not to be able to correct (i.e., teeing off, chipping, putting). Again, we have emotions when they are given instruction and implement and achieve the desired outcome. They believe all is fi ne with their game; their drive to achieve anything higher than having a ‘social’ game of golf with their friends, husband, family, etc., will be accomplished as long as they can hit a ball and putt. However, they are too worried about their looks, and constantly concerned about what others are doing. They don’t pay attention to where their carts are, talking and/or texting on the phone. Or, to top it off, they are worried about where another golfer is positioned or what someone else is wearing. Insofar as instruction to these types of ‘social’ golfers, as mentioned earlier, they want to achieve, but are too worried about everyone and everything else instead of focusing on their golf game. “Men play golf to be competitive, and their goal is to win at all costs. They want to beat you! Insofar as instruction is concerned, they do listen, but I don’t see implementation after they have left a lesson and gone back out on the golf course. They basically know how to play golf and want to achieve without instruction. Okay, I haven’t had a beginner ‘male’ golfer yet, only the male golfers that I have had the honor of golfing with and noticed these areas. On the other hand, you have the average ‘social’ golfer who takes a moment to listen and possibly implement the advice you give. They will try to achieve a better golf game. However, they truly don’t want to be the leader of the pack; they are comfortable just going out and socializing with their friends. They are very intimidated when a woman who is in their foursome is achieving a better game, even though they will always acknowledge and respect the female golfer. They ask questions of that woman with regards to where they learned how to play, etc., but yet hesitate to pursue instruction because again, they feel they don’t need it, they socialize. “With the aforesaid, the bottom line in instruction is that men want the instruction to win at the game of golf, and women want to achieve at the game.”
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