Curtis Strange will try to convince you he’s not a teacher of golf. Although he’s a 17-time winner on the PGA Tour and two-time U.S. Open champion (1988 and 1989), Strange doesn’t think he’s qualified as an instructor. He said so at a recent MasterCard “Priceless NY” program event at The Stanwich Club in Greenwich, Conn.
Ironically, Strange was holding a clinic for attendees, who were fortunate to be able to play the course following his hour-long instruction.
When asked what he would teach a beginner, Strange emphasized starting from the ground up fundamentally, saying, “I’m not a real teacher, so the first thing I would do is grip and set up.”
Strange dismissed the idea that a novice should stick to practice. It’s generally accepted in golf that someone in the earliest stages of learning the game should avoid playing the golf course in favor of honing his or her swing on the practice range. Not so, said Strange. “If you get a beginner, in any sport, too mechanically-oriented, what’s the fun in that?” He advised playing rounds periodically to remember why you wanted to play the sport in the first place.
When in practice mode, though, Strange suggested that players should focus on their short game—chipping and putting. Yes, hitting with woods and long irons might be more fun—you can swing harder and watch the ball travel further—but refining your short game is vital if you want to post low scores. He said, “It’s not as glamorous as irons or woods, but you have to tell them that [the short game] is half the game.”
According to Strange, practice is where players can rediscover their swing if they’ve been struggling on the course. “When a player breaks down, it’s normally in fundamentals,” he said. But when those fundamentals need to be sharpened, Strange modestly will defer to a PGA professional for a lesson or two.
Kyle Stack is a New York-based writer/reporter who covers health, technology, business and media in sports. He also writes for SLAM, Wired and ESPN. His work can be found at kylestack.com.