101 Golf Secrets

Golf Secrets 28 - 30: Playing the Game

Golf Digest

I've been a junior-golf advocate for years, sponsor of one of the biggest junior-golf tours and, most important, am a parent to a couple of pretty fair junior golfers. It makes me sad to see overzealous parents driving their child right out of the game.

The worst mistake parents of junior golfers make is interjecting their pride into their kid's game. Their emotional stability depends on how well their child plays and, even worse, they're blatantly obvious about it. I would urge parents not to interject too much of themselves into their kid's learning process. Your responsibility is to create opportunities for them, encourage them to have fun no matter the situation, and share in their accomplishments. Don't pin all of your hopes on their score.

When taking your young children out on the golf course in late afternoon or early evening don't force them to complete every hole or even play every hole. Instead, let them choose what holes to play and when to pick up. And don't get upset over their poor shots or decisions. It does nothing for their confidence and self-esteem. Be positive in your critique, which should be withheld until well after they've finished and had a chance to reflect on their game.

Let your child set his/her own goals. Pushing to excel in golf with a college scholarship or professional career as a reward often only results in premature burnout and an early exit from the game.


First, the basics on tour handshakes: Make it firm, shake hands with the caddies, too, and give each player either a "Good playing" or a "Sorry, man." We're in one of three moods after a round: Ticked off, neutral or giddy. If you're upset--got the eyes twitching, nose running, you want to chew on a squirrel--you'll have this glassy-eyed glare into oblivion. Shake hands anyway, and try to say something nice. If you just made a string of pars, the handshake tends to be a courteous, professional exchange, with eye contact. But if you birdied the last four, you'll shake the hand off anyone in your way. You're waving to the crowd, soaking in the applause. A word of caution: Don't try to hug it out with a playing partner who just doubled 18.


A prerequisite for shooting your age is to live long enough. The longer you live, the better shot you've got. Seriously, good health is your best ally. Keep yourself in shape. You don't have to be a fitness freak, but stay flexible, because the older you get the less elasticity your muscles have. I'm 83 years old, I've shot my age more than 1,000 times and I can still make a pretty full shoulder turn.

As you get older you tend to cut short your shoulder turn and go over the top. You get a little tight, everything gets fast and you hit all kinds of goofy shots. Stay flexible, extend your backswing and loosen up before you go out. I'm not a big exerciser, but I like hitting balls. Practice with a purpose, though, because to shoot your age you must have a pretty low handicap. Mine is a 3.

The short game is critical. I don't make as many putts as I used to, but I'm a better-than-average lag putter. Don't go for everything, and you won't have to sweat out those little things coming back. Tap-ins are a cure for high blood pressure.
Finally, enjoy the chase. I believe the reason it took me until I was 69 to shoot my age--I shot a then-course-record 64 at Wentworth Golf Club in Tarpon Springs, Fla.--is because I would get so wound up as I got close that I'd blow it. I had to learn to take it easy and accept success.

Chapman is a renowned artist who specializes in creating fantasy golf holes.


Images from top: Jim Herity; Dom Furore