Metro-East Living

Spring training for beginning golfers: Posture and strength are important

Tyler Kehrer knows a lot about swinging away — just not with a golf club.

The 27-year-old from New Baden used to play minor league baseball. Now he wants to master the links.

“I’m trying to break habits, like holding a golf club like a baseball bat,” he said with a laugh.

Golf pro and instructor Zach Peters nodded and grinned. It was Tyler’s first lesson of the season.

“I don’t have knowledge,” Tyler added. “I need to learn technique.”

Zach, also 27 and from New Baden, teaches at Clinton Hill Country Club in Swansea. In addition, he is the assistant golf coach at McKendree University in Lebanon, where he played for four years while earning his degree in Health Sciences with minors in sports psychology and coaching.

Preparing for a season where improvements can be seen in your game is a matter of attention and practice, says Zach, who also spent two years at the Golf Academy of America in Orlando and has his own business, Next Level Golf Improvement,

First, get your body ready before hitting the greens.

“A lot of people have the misconception that standing in one spot and stretching is the thing to do,” he said. “But, you need dynamic movement, so walking is better than standing in one spot. You need to get the whole body moving.”

Zach said when he first gets to the course, “I come in and warm up. I’ll stand at the mat and do some chips, hit some balls, do some swings.”

Despite the appearance of just using arms and shoulders in the game, a strong core can help your game immensely and prevent injuries, he said.

“Posture is so important and a lot of people naturally have bad posture; their core stabilizing muscles are weak.”

Tyler, who works at Scott Air Force Base as a civilian IT specialist, says while he spends most of his day at a desk, he works out to stay in shape and be strong.

That’s noticeable in his powerful swing, Zach said. “You can’t teach that.”

But Tyler isn’t consistent with that swing. “My biggest problem is my slice.”

The first lesson is all about aim, grip and set-up, Zach said. He taped Tyler swinging, then they watched it and discussed some problems that could be worked on. They also spent time working in front of a wall-size mirror so Tyler could see how he looked— right and wrong.

Students go home with personalized drill sheets. Then, it’s practice, practice and patience.

“Most golfers don’t have success right away and go back to doing what they did before — wrong,” he said.

Tyler shook his head: “I did that last year.”

Watching 6-foot-3 Tyler, Zach noticed right away that Tyler’s clubs were about an inch too short for him, and that affected his posture and reach.

Many beginners don’t invest a lot of money in the right set of clubs, which Zach understands. But the wrong clubs can set back their abilities.

“Go buy a nice used set for $150-$200; something that’s 4 to 5 years old,” he said. Spend $75 to $100 on a good used driver/wedge, which along with a putter, are the most commonly used clubs.

He suggested hitting up yard sales, flea markets, the used racks in golf shops and retailers like Play It Again Sports that specialize in used equipment.

Extensions can be put on Tyler’s clubs so he doesn’t have to be buy a new set.

About an hour after the lesson started, Zach watched Tyler try to incorporate correct hand grip, stance and balance as he hit balls out of the indoor bay and onto the driving range.

Some were straight and true; others not so much.

Tyler shook his head and grinned. “If you hear it hit a car, you’ll know where it went.”

He shook off the slice to the left of the range and repositioned himself. “You have to be a good self-evaluator,” he said. “I don’t need to be as good as Zach, but I want to hit it clean.”

He’s also a competitive guy, which is why he took up the sport and wants to improve. Plus, “most courses are nice getaways.”

They looked out at the range as a ball went straight and well past the 100-yard marker. Zach grinned.

“That’s what hooks people: One good shot and they want more. They want to do it again.”

When does he know a student has made progress?

“When their mind can realize this is how the body should feel.”