Shani Waugh (left) with Whitney Hillier.
I have been teaching golf for almost 6 years and in that time there have not been too many examples in my coaching experiences disproving the philosophy that “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus”.
For the most part I teach women differently to how I teach the guys. Putting it simply, men are mechanically minded and women are not. There have been many cases of a beginner woman’s eyes glazing over when I start to describe how a golf ball gets in the air. The boys on the other hand really seem to lap up the information, that is, if they hadn’t already worked it out for themselves.
There are of course exceptions to every rule and some women want to know all the ins and outs of the correct technique but for the purpose of this article I will stick with the majority.
I firmly believe as technically minded as the men are, women instead rely much more on feel. You don’t get too many opportunities to do too much ‘explaining’ how things work so get them ‘doing’ as soon as you can.
For the beginner woman I usually start by teaching the chip shot.
Reason being that chipping, even though it takes time to master, is less confronting than the full swing to start off with. Also the set-up position for a chip is very similar to the ideal impact position for the full swing.
This position best lends itself to the club head travelling down into impact allowing the ball to roll up the clubface, be gripped by the grooves, thus imparting backspin and floating upwards. I think that the quicker you can get the girls to experience success the more open to learning they become.
Chipping can provide the platform for this better than the full swing. On the other hand the boys usually just want to hit the ball as far as they can so it’s ok to start on the range!
Most women have an aversion to taking a divot. “I don’t want to dig up the grass” and “I’m scared it’s going to hurt” are the two most common concerns.
Now I know it’s not going to hurt and it’s the ground staff’s job to repair the driving range tee but these concerns are legitimate amongst new and even some established women golfers. Again, if you start with chipping you can slowly build the swing up, constantly encouraging the girls to “brush the grass” under the ball to create a mini-divot. This should give them the confidence and technique needed to venture onto the full swing.
My experience with new women golfers is that you need to offer plenty of encouragement, be patient and make sure you add a social element to the lessons or clinics because women love to have a good time with their friends or peers. Remember to use that to your advantage when it comes to creating a women’s program.
President of the ALPG Board, Shani spent 17 years playing on the ALPG Tour, LET and LPGA Tour. Her career highlights include wins at the 1996 Costa Azul Ladies Portuguese Open (LET), 2003 WPGA Championship of Europe (LET), 2005 Ladies Thailand Open (LET), and finishing 3rd in the 2002 US Women’s Open (LPGA).
Shani has also been the Travelling Coach with the Australian Women’s Teams at 2011 Astor Trophy, 2012 Queen Sirikit Cup and 2012 World Amateur Team Championship.