A Slippery Slope

Winter golf can have a few of these. Let’s start with the literal ones, the ones that we West Coast golfers encounter as we play our year-round golf. These, of course, are the slopes that we navigate while playing in slightly damper weather and can become a hazard. What can we do to reduce the risk of falling or twisting a knee?

Spikes. Make sure you check and replace them if necessary, as you likely haven’t even thought about them all summer. You might be one of those players that chose comfort over form, but your summer shoes might not be suitable for your winter golf. Do yourself a favour and wear some sensible footwear.

Mist over the pond on #18 at Fairwinds Golf Club

Mist over the pond on #18 at Fairwinds Golf Club

Be aware. Even though you may have played the course many times, be aware of where you are stepping and take a different route from the green to your cart or the next tee if you need to. Take the long way if it has less slope, or use the paths provided as it likely has a better surface for safer footing.

Stay low. Whether you are walking or hitting a shot, you will have better balance if you bend your knees just a little bit. A lot of falls occur when the player gets too straight-legged. Sounds funny but it works.

There are other slippery slopes to watch out for too, like trying to swing harder because you think you are losing yardage. You are losing yardage but not because you aren’t swinging hard enough. The air is cooler, the ground is softer, there is water on the ball and, don’t forget, you are probably wearing more clothes. Your swing is likely shorter and in some cases your body less flexible because of the temperature. All of these reasons can contribute to shorter shots.

So don’t swing harder, swing smarter! Take an extra club or two, focus more on solid contact rather than swing speed and bend your knees to keep your balance. Once you start trying to gain back that yardage by swinging harder… well, you might end up at the bottom of two slippery slopes, literally and figuratively.

Winter golf on the West Coast is such a beautiful thing. It’s challenging and the course different than its summer version. Year-round golfing is a real privilege that we have compared to the rest of the country, so get out and enjoy it!

Ward Stouffer
Director of Golf
Fairwinds Golf Club

Golf and a Blind Monkey

There may be no discernible connection between golf and monkeys, let alone blind ones, but if you think about anything long enough you can find one.

First golf: This game has been around for centuries, invented as a recreation or pass time. One story suggests that golf was invented by the Irish and given the Scots as a joke, but I would give that theory more credence if we were discussing the bagpipes. Another thought was that a couple of shepherds were out whacking the Celtic equivalent of a Prairie Oyster around a field with their crooks and started to keep score. I think one rendition is that there are 18 holes because that’s how many shots are in a bottle of scotch. At any rate, the game is now a tradition and enjoyed at many levels by a good many folk. I teach some of these people and my hope is that they learn just a little more so that they can enjoy the game or at least suffer less frustration. The game is profound in that it only takes one to play and its challenges live, breath and change daily (if not more often).  It has the ability to show strengths and weaknesses in character, and if you are able to walk the course, it provides a healthy dose of cardio.

Now monkeys: Older than the game of golf and even older than man himself. I don’t want to debate evolution but the resemblance is uncanny, more for some than others. I haven’t seen any golfing monkeys so, therefore, I have never taught one but the grip alone would be interesting. I have looked into the eyes of a monkey once, through the bars of a cage (just to clarify the monkey was in the cage), and what I saw was somewhat unsettling. I saw understanding, something that I have rarely seen in a golfer’s eyes. The other thing about monkeys is that they travel in troops so getting a foursome should be pretty easy.

Monkey using a typewriter

Given a typewriter and enough time, a blind monkey will eventually write a word or two.

Anywise, as I looked into the eyes of the monkey and pondered just what thoughts he might be having of me, I heard the voice of the monkey keeper. “That’s Ray, he’s blind.” Hmm, a blind monkey. I wondered if this is the one that they say if given a typewriter and enough time, he can spell a word or two. No wonder he had the look of understanding, the look I rarely see – he couldn’t see me, and so there was no confusion.

So, as we search for truth, justice, understanding, love or simply a Pro VI, the question remains: What do golf and a blind monkey to have in common? Odds. The odds of a golfer hitting that perfect golf shot are about the same as the blind monkey typing a word. These odds increase with each attempt, but for the most part it should be gratifying just to know that both are possible.

Get out there and play golf. Smell the grass, feel the sun on your face and let the wind cool your skin. Enjoy your playing partner and when you hit that perfect shot, admire it and soak it in. It won’t happen often, but it will happen.


Ward Stouffer
Director of Golf

Pace of Play

In a recent article written by Golf Channel’s Brandel Chamblee, a difference was noted between “growing the game” of golf and “preserving the game” of golf. Preserving the game is teaching it and passing it along the passion for it. To quote Brandel, “Generating golf interest instead of generating golf rounds.”

Every player can preserve the game in their own way. Anyone that loves golf and has made it part of their life can certainly share it with new players. Their stories are full of the challenges that golf can provide and the life skills it can develop, like patience, perseverance and respect._67J2425 Cropped

A hot topic in golf is Pace of Play. The length of a round of golf is variable and the perfect time is undefinable. However, no one likes to wait.

The business of golf would have “slow” players removed from the golf course to allow for more rounds, therefore more revenues. The preserver of golf would teach the slower players to becoming faster players while still enjoying the game.

Recently at our golf course, we had a group of green fee players who were visiting our golf club and our Island. They were new golfers. The course was especially challenging that day and, of course, there was the expectation of the group to “keep up”. You could tell these guys were feeling the pressure. Some golf course operators would have decided to remove the group from the course, refund their fees and politely suggest that they come back when they “get better.” We didn’t.

Weathering some criticism, the decision was to let them play and with the help of Jarvis, our marshal, the group carried on. Their round ended up being e about 25 minutes longer than what we post as our expected pace. Of course there were some complaints and even one thr
eat of “never returning again”. Our perspective may have been a little different, but these new players were hooked. They would be back again, and they would play golf again and again and again.

I appreciate Mr. Chamblee’s point of view on this. I am not certain it is always the way to go but in light of decreasing participation rates in golf, I feel preservation is an important key. As a golfer, I hope to be more tolerant of a learning golfer as far as Pace of Play is concerned.  And I am hopeful that you might be as well.

If you are interested, here is a link to Brandel Chamblee’s article:


By Ward Stouffer, Director of Golf

Is it time to change your golf equipment?

There are a few reasons why you would want to change your equipment, the most common being that your clubs are outdated due to the rapid changes in golf technology.  Other reasons you may want to look at changing your gear include:

  • the flex is too soft or too hard,
  • the type of head is not forgiving enough, or
  • the type of shaft should be graphite versus steel, or vice versa.

For wedges, make sure that the grooves are still sharp, as dull grooves will cause your shots to run out of the green instead of spinning. You will see a big difference between the first day you got them and after playing 50 rounds of golf, especially if you practice between rounds. When it comes to putters, make sure it’s the correct length and the right type for you (toe weighted or face balanced).

Measurements to take when having a custom club fitting

Measurements to take when having a custom club fitting

To ensure you have the clubs best suited for you and your style of game, a professional club fitting is recommended. A custom club fitting should include measurements such as:

  • your height,
  • the distance from your wrist to the ground,
  • the club head speed, and
  • the height of your ball flight.

Book a time with any of our Golf Professionals to find out if changing your clubs would improve your game.

Hélène Delisle
Head of Instruction at Fairwinds Golf Club
Class “A” PGA of Canada Member

The Easy Way to Play Hard Fairways

On the West Coast of Canada, we have been experiencing extremely dry weather this season. The number one challenge is keeping the greens and tees alive with limited water. The second challenge, it would seem, is hitting the ball off of hard fairways which have less grass than what our players have been used to.

Golfers are a strange breed indeed. Hardpan  GolfWe want more yardage, and these fairways are definitely providing that. That new driver you bought and adjusted is now bounding down the fairway to spots you didn’t even know existed. So what club do you hit now? Auto pilot off. The golfer now needs to calculate a new yardage and allow for more bounce. It’s a few clubs less, but …

Relax, enjoy that long drive and then work out your next landing area, where you want the next shot to land, not the flag. If you are a laser user, you might have to focus on a bunker or mound. If you are using the yardage markers on the golf course, subtract 20 yards from your yardage and you will generally land near the front of the green.

What about that grassless lie? Simple: play the ball back a few more inches in your stance. Remember to keep the clubface square when you do this. The ball should fly a bit lower but you want that so you get the forward bounce you are looking for. Plus, the downward strike will give you better ball contact. You don’t have to hit it hard either, swing with a smooth tempo.

Try and enjoy the “unique” bounces you will get in these conditions. Accept the bad bounces and enjoy the good ones. This type of weather doesn’t come along very often, and adapting to different conditions will ultimately make you a better golfer.

As far as the golf course itself, golf course superintendents need to be adaptable too and change their maintenance and watering schedules to make things work. They know how much stress greens can or can’t take. They may need to adjust cut heights, and may have to do some unplanned maintenance as well. We golfers need to let the maintenance team do their job, respect the course, and keep power carts out of the dried out areas and the “out of play” long grass. In the long run it is in the best interest of the golf course and, of course, us golfers.

Golf your ball!

By Ward Stouffer, Director of Golf

Choosing the Right Golf Ball

Choosing a golf ball can be a challenge because many manufacturers tout the same claims. They are all the longest and softest on the market. However, buying the most expensive or most popular golf ball doesn’t mean that it’s a good ball for you. Golfers need to consider their skill levels, swing speeds and ball flights. This, along with a basic understanding golf ball design, will help you make an educated choice.

Golf ball makers use different levels of firmness and various core and cover materials to appeal to a wide audience. Modern golf ball covers are typically made of surlyn, urethane or elastomer. Surlyn is a hard, synthetic material that is the cheapest and most durable of the three, and it is usually found in the covers of two-piece golf balls. Urethane is a soft, synthetic material with higher spin characteristics because the club face can “grab” the ball for slightly longer. Urethane covers are used mostly on multi-layered balls. Elastomer is the softest and most expensive choice of cover. This less-durable material covers many of the premium high-performance balls.

Two-Piece Golf Ball
The two-piece golf ball is generally considered to be a game-improvement ball. The ball has a solid rubber core and features a surlyn or urethane cover. Two-piece balls are designed for distance, lower spin and durability. The low-spin characteristics mean less side spin as well, which leads to straighter shots. The harder cover prevents the ball from being cut or scuffed as easily when mishit or when it collides with a tree, cart path, etc. Two-piece balls are the most affordable type on the market because of their low construction cost. All of these traits make the two-piece ball a favorite among beginners and high-handicappers.

Golf Ball Cross Sections

Golf balls can be beautiful on the inside

Multi-Layered Golf Ball
A multi-layered golf ball has a small solid or liquid-injected core surrounded by a rubber outer core and a softer urethane cover. Multi-layered balls have a softer feel and a higher potential spin rate. The softer core allows the ball to compress more upon impact, which means the golfer will not lose significant distance when compared to a two-piece ball. These golf balls are more expensive and are less durable because of the softer cover. Multi-layered golf balls are good for golfers who want a softer feel and more control around the greens.

High-Performance Golf Ball
Most high-performance on hybrid balls have a four-piece construction. A four-piece ball starts with a solid or liquid-injected core, which is surrounded by a layer of rubber and then a thin mantle of ionomer. The cover is made of elastomer and often has a dimple pattern of varying sized dimples. Manufacturers strategically vary the size, shape and placement of the dimples. This encourage low initial spin, which is good for driving distance, and higher spin with the irons, which is good for workability. These balls combine distance, spin-control and feel. High-performance balls are the most expensive on the market and the least durable. This is the ball of choice for professional and low-handicap golfers.

If you have any questions about golf balls or other equipment, just ask any of our PGA of Canada certified golf instructors. Or better yet, come meet us in person at our Summer Open House today (Friday, June 26) from 11:00am-3:00pm at the Fairwinds Learning Centre and Driving Range. This free event is open to everyone, even those who have never golfed before! Our instructors will be on hand to give mini golf lessons, and you try out some of the latest equipment from Taylor Made. Plus free refreshments and door prizes, including a grand prize draw of a limited edition US Open golf bag!

Brett Standerwick
Fairwinds Golf Club
PGA of Canada Class A Professional

The Importance of Lag Putting

Avoiding the Dreaded 3-Putt

Many golfers play the game for a long time before they finally realize that distance control in putting is more important than stroke technique or putt reading. This is because the average length of the first putt that most golfers face is between 20 and 30 feet. Even tour professionals are going to sink only about 1 in 15 of these monsters!

Because of this reality, the objective in putting most of the time is to get the putt close enough to the hole for a tap-in. If a long putt goes in that’s great, but you cannot lose sight of the fact that poor distance control is the surest recipe for three-putting.

So how do we develop “touch”? By developing tempo, a consistent setup, and an appreciation of green speed through experience.

TempPutting Practiceo is the total time your stroke takes from start to finish and its pace, or rhythm. The majority of golfer’s tempos are far too quick. Relax and slow down! A relaxed tempo is the fundamental reason I putt well when I’m “on”.

Your putter has its own tempo. To see it, just hold the putter in one hand, move it back some distance, and let it fall. The smoothest stroke you can have is one that moves by itself. Ben Crenshaw said it took him decades to learn that the putter moves itself.

Your tempo helps you in learning green speed. If the practice green is like the greens on the course, then a one-foot backstroke with the same stroke tempo will result in a level roll that is the same length on each green. Trying a few of these strokes on the practice green in your pre-round warm-up will teach you the basic unit of length for your putting on these greens. Then simply adjust for putts longer or shorter than this basic unit. We obviously have to adjust for uphill or downhill or breaking putts, but keeping that basic unit in mind will ensure your distance control will be sharper and more consistent.    

Brett Standerwick
PGA of Canada Class A Professional
Fairwinds Golf Club

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 smarterlessons.com or by email at hdgolf@shaw.ca.

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