Getting into the swing of it
Christine Langford, PGA professional golfer at Thorpeness Golf Club, offers her tips on getting started on the golf course
CAN ANYONE PLAY GOLF?
Yes, in theory players of all ages, shapes and sizes can learn the game of golf and how to hit a golf ball.
WHAT’S THE BEST WAY TO LEARN?
Getting to grips with the basics is important and will pay dividends, so go along to your local driving range or golf club and have a chat with the pros in the pro shop. We are always delighted to get new golfers and the game, in general, is crying out for new blood, so people needn’t think that private golf clubs don’t welcome beginners. I think some people are under the impression that they can’t even visit a private club. Trust me, the pro shop at any club will open their arms to potential new players.
WHAT DO I NEED TO GET STARTED?
A pair of trainers and a sense of humour – the latter being the most important. Golf is not a game that you can pick up in an hour or two. I always say that the first 30 years are the toughest, although I have been playing for nearly 50 and I still learn something every time I play, or teach, someone.
HOW CAN I IMPROVE, ONCE I HAVE THE BASICS?
There’s a raft of information available on YouTube, the internet, magazines and books, and, of course, unsolicited advice from your playing partners and loved ones. In my opinion, you can’t beat a half-hour lesson with a PGA professional. Treat your golf swing like your car – don’t wait for it to break down and stand on the hard shoulder waiting for help. Have it regularly serviced and it will stand you in good stead!
WILL I ENJOY IT? WHAT DO YOU ENJOY ABOUT GOLF?
Golf is a game for life, it’s a social game where you can chat to your playing partner in between shots, golf courses can be the most beautiful places to spend time. They are wildlife havens, set in some of the loveliest spots in the country. Wherever you go in the world, if you have your golf clubs you will never be lonely. I have met some of the most interesting and lovely people playing golf. There is no sport like it for the varied cross section of players. It transcends all age groups, social status and professions. The game itself is one that you never completely master. Each day can be different. Like life, playing golf is often about damage limitation and making the best of what you have, so it’s character building for young people and a challenge for people who have mastered other sports.
WHAT MADE YOU TURN PRO?
I was studying physiotherapy at St Mary’s in Paddington and was approached by a guy who was trying to start a professional golf tour for women in the UK. When it eventually fell through, he offered to send three of us to the US to play on the tour over there. So I ran away to join the circus and spent the first few years of my career playing golf on the US LPGA Tour, before returning home to help found the Ladies European Tour.
WHAT’S THE WORLD OF WOMEN’S GOLF LIKE?
I loved playing for my living. It’s a real privilege to be able to make a living playing a sport that you love, travelling the world with your clubs and having fun with your golfing mates. I have been a club pro for longer than I was a playing pro now. I never thought that I would coach. When you play you think your career will last forever, but then the younger players come along. They hit the ball further and putt better, and in my case, I realised that it was time to get a day job.
I have been very lucky to work in golf all my life. When I stopped playing tournament golf at the end of the 80s jobs at clubs for women pros were almost unheard of. I applied for a job near Bristol and amazingly was appointed head professional, although I don’t think the (900) male members could quite believe it.
Since then I have really enjoyed my role as a coach. I still travel quite a lot, hosting events and golf schools in Bermuda and Europe, but I am never happier than when I drive back from the airport and see the ‘welcome to Suffolk’ sign.
I am very honoured to be the head professional at Thorpeness. There still aren’t that many women head professionals at clubs. It will certainly be my last job before I retire, but I am not ready to hang up my clubs just yet.
Christine Langford (left), golf pro at Thorpeness Golf and Country Club