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

EADT Suffolk - - Golf - www.thor­pe­ness.co.uk

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

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