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Local Feature

THE ABC'S OF GOLF

words by Jenny Graber & Ed Boling

All-Male Attitude?
Someone told me that GOLF was an acronym for “Gentleman Only, Ladies Forbidden.” When I mentioned this to a group of “Lady Golfers” at T.L Reed, they laughed. Principal, Ginny Zalky said “we ignore comments like that.” While gender restrictions may have been the case in the ancient of days, overall it is not the case any longer. Right? ... not exactly.

After researching this idea, I was surprised to find a plethora of private clubs who either do not invite women into membership, or who exclude women from playing on certain days and times. In fact, as I called local clubs to inquire about their restrictions and policies, I was given the run-around by most of them; “Oh so-in-so is not here and will have to call you back about that?” or “Are you a member? I will have someone get back to you?” One club did tell me that women could not play on Saturdays after 11:00 or on Wednesdays before 11:00 and after 3:00. So, while it seems most local clubs avoid sexual discrimination, at least one openly admits to it!

Basic Beginnings
Jenny: Conversely, this is not the attitude at Kings River Golf and Country Club. My impression of the club was that golfers of both sexes, were not only welcome to golf, but were encouraged. Their policies are flexible and friendly.

Kings River Golf and Country Club is where my first experience with Golf began. On a brisk, but beautiful morning I drove to Kingsburg unsure of where this story was going to take me. I was joined by Traffic writer, Ed Boling, and Traffic Photographer, Andrew Shinn. Steve Pellegrine, Head Golf Professional, greeted us and we began our adventure. I shared with him my lack of knowledge and interest in the game and asked if he would be willing to explain the basics to me.

After explaining a couple of things to us, Steve led us to the driving range for a demonstration. He made it look so easy. He was even good at showing us how not to hit the ball. So after taking bets about if I could hit the ball past the first flag (or even hit the ball at all), I stepped up to the plate so to speak, and was ready to go; or so I thought!

First I had to learn how to hold the club. Steve’s directions were clear and logical. Once I had my grip, we moved on to body placement and posture. Steve says proper alignment is crucial. Once I had my body in position, I took my first swing and believe it or not, I hit the ball! It didn’t go very far; it crawled a few feet and then stopped. But I was happy I hit it.

My joy turned to frustration quickly when I realized that golf was not easy. I totally understood what Steve was saying, I could see the logic in the grip, body posture, etc. but I couldn’t quite put it all together in a way that commanded much force. Going through the movements in slow motion just didn’t produce the power necessary to send the ball where I wanted it to go.

So, I decided my first lesson was done and I would have to take up golf some other time, when I had more time. But I had great adventure! In fact, I really do have a different view and appreciation of golf. I can’t wait to get out there again to practice my swing and hit some balls.
But enough about my fun experience, let’s switch gears and learn more about the game from Ed’s perspective.
Ed: I watched and listened patiently while Jenny took her first lesson. Women tend to ask more questions than men. Steve says women are more technical; they want to know “exactly” what goes into a good swing. My attitude was basically give me the club and let me swing. Being the athlete that I am, I struck the first ball well and it landed about 150 yards away. Full of confidence, I stepped up for my next swing and swiftly sliced it far right. Next swing, I topped the ball and it landed about 10 feet in front of me. Ever confident, I kept swinging, finally ending as I started with a long straight drive.

Steve let us know most men do not want to be told “how to” hit the ball or told they need to fix their swing. Most men claim to know what’s wrong; we just don’t know how to fix it. Steve estimates that 90% of golfers slice and 95% of all swing problems begin with alignment. Which means if you slice and have bad alignment, the result is broken clubs.

Some of the notes I took during our lesson cover the basics. It is very important to maintain your spine angle throughout your swing, as if you were strapped to a pole along your spine. I’d often heard that you must keep your head down. Really that’s just a result of keeping your spine angle. Also, I found out that putting requires the most hand-eye coordination in the game.
Athleticism does count in golf. In fact, many of the world’s best athletes try their hand at golf. Interestingly, Steve started as a baseball player, almost going pro. When that didn’t work out, he took up golf. He says hockey players have the easiest time picking up the game followed by baseball players. I’m sure it has something to do with the spine angle. Bottom line, golf is not an easy game.

Course Characteristics
Besides learning about the basics of Golf, Ed Boling learned more about the club itself and went in search of some of the unique course characteristics. It is these hidden treasures that make Kings River Golf and Country Club a valley favorite and more than just a private club.
The club is very accommodating. Members are allowed to have guests and lessons are available to anyone. Dinuba High, Kingsburg High, and Reedley College practice and hold events there. Steve says events like these help to “bridge the gap between golf’s tradition as a rich man’s sport and golf’s progression toward everyone’s sport.” According to him, “It’s a place where people can let their guard down and just relax and have fun.”

Golf is also more affordable than you may think. Member, Todd Parkinson says that golfing at Kings River with his family is cheaper than many of the nice public courses. “There are always members looking to get out, so if you’re interested, I’m sure they have a spot for you.”
Steve was kind enough to take this “hacker” to play the back 9. The farther we went from the road, the more beautiful the course got. It was a peaceful, friendly place to be. As we stepped onto the 10th tee, it was a little intimidating, knowing that “every hole has the possibility of going out of bounds.” I’m not sure if Steve was trying to intimidate me or just doing his job as an interviewee.
The most memorable stretch was 14, 15, and 16 along the river; a very tough, very long par 5 on 14. Steve says, “this is where a bad day could get better, or a good day can turn bad.” Hole 15 is a tough par 3, very tight. Then, a tee shot over the river starts hole 16, a 519-yard par 5.
But these are just our opinions. Why not check out the course for yourself. You’re ALL invited to discover the hidden gem that is Kings River Golf and Country Club. But do not be fooled by our fun adventures; this course is no walk in the park.

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