Starting the season with a lesson

I always wonder why amateur golfers try to fix their golf swing by themselves when professional golfers use the help of a coach. Over the years I have seen many golfers try to improve their swing by trying different things that they heard on TV, videos, or read in a magazine that are not specific to their swing. _MG_0409 small

What you need is the help of a professional golf instructor that will tell you what you need to improve, so you don’t create bad habits or waste your time practicing something that you already do well or that is not the cause of your miss hits. A golf professional will help you find the problem faster and give you tools to improve your golf swing. Often what we think we are doing and what we are really doing are two different things. That is why a video analysis is a great tool to help improve your swing. A golf instructor will also help you improve your course management and make sure your equipment fits properly.

Hélène Delisle, Head of Instruction at Fairwinds Golf Club
Class “A” PGA of Canada member.

You can book a lesson with Hélène online at or by email at

The birds and the bees

In late February, six Western Bluebird nest boxes were put out in various locations around the course to encourage re-population on Vancouver Island. This initiative was undertaken in conjunction with the Garry Oak Ecosystems Recovery Team (GOERT), as part of their Bring Back the Bluebirds program they launched in 2012.


Volunteer Roger Taylor putting out Western Bluebird nest box

The Western Bluebird was considered locally extinct for nearly 20 years, and so the goal of the Bring Back the Bluebirds program is to re-establish a breeding population on southeastern Vancouver Island and the southern Gulf Islands. For the past three years, the program has been focused in the Cowichan Valley, where GOERT has been releasing bluebirds and providing nest boxes. Along with the birds released each spring, adult and juvenile bluebirds are returning to the Cowichan Valley and successfully establishing breeding territories. Read more about this great project on GOERT’s website.

Western Bluebirds prefer open fields and meadows with short-cropped grasses and perch areas nearby. Golf courses were identified as suitable habitat areas. When we heard that GOERT was looking for nest box hosts, we contacted them about becoming part of the nest box stewardship program. Now that a population is successfully established in the Cowichan Valley, hopefully we’ll begin to see them in other areas of Vancouver Island as well.

Our two mason bee houses were put out at the beginning of April, along with several hundred bee cocoons ready to hatch. Orchard mason bees are very important pollinators for trees, flowers, fruits, and vegetables. You may see or hear them buzzing about, but don’t worry – because they do not have a hive or queen to protect. They are very docile and rarely sting. Please “bee” polite and leave these little guys to their important work. Read more about mason bees in our post from last spring.

Happy Earth Day!

How do you improve your chipping?

How to improve your chipping – Hit down!

So what are the two most common, most annoying errors in chipping? The fat chip (chunk) that goes nowhere and the thin chip (skull) that shoots across the green.

What causes this? Hitting up. We are so determined to get the club under the ball that we either hit the ground first and the ball goes nowhere, the chunk, or, in an effort to miss the ground all together, we strike the equator (or top) of the ball with the leading edge, the skull. Chip-Shot-Finish

The key to striking the ground after impact when chipping is acceleration. Unfortunately, most of us are very reluctant to accelerate while executing the short game. Why? The simple fear of hitting the ball too far.

We have a realistic fear of hitting this “delicate” shot way too far – past the hole, over the green, perhaps even into the trap on the opposite side of the green. Thus, we slow the club head down, or decelerate, through impact.

How do we conquer this fear? Take the club back short and slow!

If we are slow on the way back, our brain will resist slowing down even more on the way down. Shortening your back swing on these shots will also allow you to be more aggressive with your down swing. A long takeaway brings the fear of over-hitting to the forefront of our thinking.

Short and slow back, and accelerate through impact.

Brett Standerwick
PGA of Canada Class A Professional
Fairwinds Golf Club

The Masters

I have played golf with many amateur and professional players. One amateur has stayed in my mind for years, I don’t know his handicap or what he shot, and I can’t even remember his name. What I do remember is his golf swing. It appeared painful to produce, let alone reproduce. He seemed to drive the golf ball in the direction that he wanted it to go. On the ninth hole at Morningstar, this golfer flailed at the ball with some kind of hybrid and precisely executed a low fade that worked its way up the narrow neck of land between the water and the bush. He made the ball go there. I watched with some amazement at his ability and, more so, his tenacity. It didn’t seem to matter if his success was minimal. Every shot was given complete effort and attention. This guy loves to play golf and I admire his passion for it. Not good at golf, but a good golfer. It was fun to watch.

Passion. Something all good golfers have. It has nothing to do with handicap or ability. It has to do with the love of the game; the love of hitting a golf ball; the challenge of it; and respecting the difficulty of it. Pure golf.

imagesApril is The Masters, the golf tournament to watch if you are into pure golf. At Augusta National, the game is not so much about money. Prize money is seldom mentioned, if at all. You won’t see any cars floating in the ponds, no billboards. It is about golf. Pure golf. It’s the love of hitting a golf ball; executing a shot that you saw first in your mind; and challenging and defeating fears.

Miracles happen at Augusta during The Masters. Champions, though not unexpected, emerge through mysterious circumstance. It was Mark O’Meara’s first major in a lengthy career. It was a late victory on the down hill side of Jack Nicklaus’ great reign. It was Ben Crenshaw’s emotional monument to his mentor Harvey Pennick. It was Tiger Woods’ record tying exhibition at the age of 22. It was Nick Faldo’s improbable playoff victory over Hoch after the missed 2 footer. And who can forget the monster chip in by Augusta’s own Larry Mize that defeated Greg Norman, The Great White Shark. The details aren’t important. It’s magic, it doesn’t matter how they did it!

The Masters at Augusta National is a special tournament at a very special place. It allows the professional golfer to be a golfer again. Pure and simple. Free of all the commercialism and hype. I think it lets the magic occur and fuels the passion. The players play like they did before they became famous. They play golf for the same reasons that my amateur partner played the other day. The same reason that golfers have played for centuries. They play because they love golf. They wouldn’t want to be any other place on earth that week. They want to be on the golf course challenging the game and their fears. It’s passion and it’s fun to watch!

Ward Stouffer, Director of Golf
Fairwinds Golf Club

You have seen the signs… but what does it mean?

Monday, March 16 was a big day for the Fairwinds community. The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MoTI) announced that much of our community is a designated Neighbourhood Zero Emissions Vehicle (NZEV) permit zone. Fairwinds is now just one of a handful of such communities on Vancouver Island and one of 50 or so in British Columbia. The use of electric powered, street legal vehicles makes our community just that much more environmentally friendly. The vehicles will also reduce noise levels and, in my opinion, enhance an open and social culture. Maybe most of all it allows a resident to use the same vehicle traveling to and onto the golf course*. This is something that can’t be done legally with a regular golf cart.

Only Transport Canada-approved NZEVs or LSVs (Low Speed Vehicles) are permitted to travel on public roads in these designated zones. Operators must receive a Road Use Permit from MoTI, as well as vehicle registration, license plates, and insurance from ICBC. More information is available on our website.

Golf carts are not street legal ansignd will not be approved. Those that are using an unapproved vehicle should be reminded that their insurance is only valid while playing on the golf course and allows golf carts only to cross public roads. It does not allow for travel to and from the golf course. As the sign indicates, golf cars are not permitted on public roads.

It can be anticipated that with the heightened exposure that comes along with this new zoning and signage, Fairwinds and the rest of the zone may experience increased enforcement. Please be careful out there.

Written by Ward Stouffer, Director of Golf
Fairwinds Golf Club

* Please note that for an NZEV to be brought onto the golf course, the vehicle and operator are both subject to prior approval by Fairwinds Golf Club.

Guest post: Finding Passion Through Pickleball

“I can’t imagine how good you would be without your disability.”

I’ve heard this comment many times in the two and a half years I’ve been playing Pickleball. I’ve also heard, “Are you ok?” “Did you injure yourself?” “Are you in pain?” I can understand why people are curious, as my mobility issues are obvious. At age 31, I suffered a spinal cord injury that left me permanently disabled, technically an incomplete paraplegic.

I’ve entered a handful of Pickleball tournaments since I took up the game, and being around strangers in new surroundings always creates a lot of speculation about what, exactly, has happened to me. Rumours spread – some true, and others not so much. Let’s just say being attacked by a bear is a bit of a stretch!

The truth is, I was golfing and swung the club like I had a million times before and by the time I had finished my swing, my lower body was completely numb. A disc had ruptured and crushed my spinal cord leaving me paralyzed, a rare condition called cauda equina syndrome. I required emergency surgery followed by a month in hospital and six months of rehab to get on my feet again.

Mike is also an avid tennis player.

Mike is also an avid tennis player.

Since my injury in 2005, I had to hang up my golf clubs and leave my job as Director of Golf at a private course. I don’t have the balance and lower body strength to move the ball where it needs to go anymore. While I still enjoy a good round of golf (I can even post a decent score) it’s no longer my passion. I don’t get those butterflies when I head to the course. All those feelings of excitement and joy have been transferred to my new passion: Pickleball!

Post injury, I suddenly went from a high-level athlete to a guy rolling around in a wheelchair. And, like anyone would, I struggled with that reality. My prognosis was all speculation, and after two years I stopped seeing improvements. Defeated, I just gave up. In the years that followed I put on an extra 75lbs. I developed a powerful addiction to alcohol and pain medication and spiraled into a deep, dark mind set.

Recently, I’ve been told I’m the kind of person that people just want to be around, yet back then I was toxic. I merely existed, coasting through the days and years under a black cloud. Thankfully, things have changed. Yes, I am still disabled. I can’t run or jump and I’ll always walk with a limp. I deal with internal issues and chronic pain. Despite this, instead of feeling shame and embarrassment about my condition, I wear my injuries like a badge of honour.

In May of 2012 I had hit rock bottom, so I checked into a drug and alcohol treatment centre. After a life-changing month, I never looked back. While I now live free of my addictions, sobriety and recovery is still a huge part of my daily life. I wouldn’t be writing this story if I had continued down the path I was on. I am proud to say I will be clean and sober three years next month.

As for the 75 lbs, they’re gone too, along with a bunch extra – 135lbs in total! I reached my highest weight in 2010, when I tipped the scale at 360lbs. I look back on those years and feel so sorry for that guy. My whole life I was defined by my athleticism, even putting myself through university on a football scholarship. When that was taken away I totally gave up on myself, and I gave up on life. I don’t think I would have made it through that dark time without the love and support of my beautiful wife, Kristi.

Kristi is a health coach and she could see how much I was struggling, both physically and emotionally. I just wasn’t open to her advice at the time. It put a major strain on us both, and on our marriage. After my month at The Orchard Recovery Centre, I was ready for a fresh start. I had new hope and was prepared to make changes. I walked out the door determined, with the words of my counselor ringing in my ears, “Suit up and show up.” I continue to live by that piece of advice to this day and it has certainly served me well on the Pickleball court. Mike_Bellis_Pickleball

When I returned home, I told Kristi it was time for me to get healthy, and asked for her help. I fully embraced what has become our health program, and had instant results. I was energized. I gained mental clarity and confidence. After a seven year hiatus, I was reminded how my body is supposed to feel. I also welcomed releasing the extra weight that I’d struggled with my entire life – I’m Haida and have always been “big boned”. I wasn’t capable of going for a jog or doing typical workouts, so you can imagine I was pleasantly surprised to find the pounds falling away easily. I did the activities I could manage. I started with gardening and I walked the dog daily. I got a gym membership and rode the stationary bike. I discovered new workouts I could manage involving core and resistance. And, I watched myself transform.

On a rainy night in November 2012, I had just finished a workout on the bike and was heading home when I heard a voice from the Fairwinds’ gymnasium, “Hey, we need a fourth for Pickleball!” So, I took my motto to heart and joined in – suit up and show up! I figured if I didn’t like it, I wouldn’t play again. Obviously, I loved it!

After that first night playing, I came home and YouTubed every Pickleball video there was. I recall wondering, where has this game been my whole life?! I threw myself into learning the skills, playing at least three times a week. I’ve created strong friendships with my Nanoose Bay playing partners and, more recently, have been charmed by the delightful players at the Nanaimo Pickleball Club. I stay in contact with many of the awesome folks I meet when playing out-of-town, and look forward to seeing their improved games and new tricks at the tournaments.

The picklers have become my social circle, on and off the court. Many of them have their own challenges and we lean on each other for support and take inspiration from one another too. I’ve made some true lifetime friendships.

Pickleball has hugely impacted my life. It got me moving again, dramatically improving my mobility and agility. It played a major role in my weight-loss journey. The physical activity and friendships have supported my sobriety. I have rediscovered the confidence I had ten years ago. I’ve submerged myself in the game, the characters, and the community of this awesome game. It’s so much more than winning matches and medals, although the competitor in me enjoys that part too.

Written by Michael Bellis, Fairwinds Centre member

What’s your handicap?

The Golf Handicap: what is it and how do we calculate it?

The golf handicap calculation is something that most golfers never have to worry about. If you carry an official Golf CanIMG_5738ada Handicap Index, the calculation is performed for you by other people (or a computer).

But you want the nuts and bolts of the handicap formula, don’t you? You want to know the math behind figuring out handicaps. Here is a three step guide on how to calculate your score.

Step 1
A minimum of five scores and a maximum of 20 scores are required to get started. Remember, when posting scores for handicaps, you must use your adjusted gross scores. The Golf Canada Course Rating and Slope Rating for the courses played are also required for each score.

Using those figures, Step 1 is calculating the handicap differential for each round entered using this formula: (Score – Course Rating) x 113 / Slope Rating

For example, let’s say the score is 85, the course rating 72.2, the slope 131. The formula would be (85 – 72.2) x 113 / 131.

This differential is calculated for each round entered.

Note: The number 113 represents the slope rating of a golf course of average difficulty, as set by Golf Canada.

Step 2
Determine how many differentials are being used. Not every differential that results from step one will be used in the next step. If only five rounds are entered, only the lowest differential will be used. If 20 rounds are entered, only the 10 lowest differentials are used. A chart at the bottom of this page shows how many differentials are used based on the number of rounds entered.

Step 3
Get an average of the differentials used by adding them together and dividing by the number used (i.e., if five differentials are used, add them up and divide by five).

Multiply the result by .96 (96%). Drop all the digits after the tenths (do not round off) and the result is the handicap index. To put it in formula form:

(Sum of differentials / number of differentials) x 0.96

Thankfully, you don’t have to do the math on your own. Your golf club’s handicap committee will handle it for you, or the GHIN system, if you log your post scores.

Number of differentials used

Rounds Entered           Differentials Used
5-6                                   1 lowest
7-8                                   2 lowest
9-10                                 3 lowest
11-12                               4 lowest
13-14                               5 lowest
15-16                               6 lowest
17                                    7 lowest
18                                    8 lowest
19                                    9 lowest
20                                   10 lowest

Written by Brett Standerwick, Teaching Professional at Fairwinds Golf Club