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The Scarlet & Black

Inside golf practice: players and coaches alike improve their game

The men’s golf team prefers a laid back yet focused practice. Even the coaches get in on the action. Photo by Kelly Page.
The men’s golf team prefers a laid back yet focused practice. Even the coaches get in on the action. Photo by Kelly Page.

The Grinnell men’s golf team doesn’t take a green golf course and beautiful afternoon for granted. In fact, weather has been plaguing their ability to practice all spring. When I visited, though, the sun was shining, the wind was breezy and it actually felt like spring. I came to practice on a Thursday, and it was the first time they had the opportunity to practice outside all week.

Normally, the team has six days of golf a week, including days on which they have tournaments. For practice, they either go to the golf course and spend time working on their short game, putting and hitting a couple of holes to get the feeling, or everyone is driven five miles to the Oakland Acres Golf Course to work on their swing technique.

When weather conditions don’t allow the team to go outdoors, they go inside the fieldhouse, where there are a couple of hitting bays and a small putting green. It’s not the most ideal situation in the world, which is why assistant men’s golf coach David Arseneault Jr. ’09 tries his best to get the men outside.

“[Indoors] is a little more challenging because you can’t see the balls’ flights. That’s why when you’re outdoors you can read other factors like the wind, the temperature and where to land the ball. So, even if the weather is only halfway reasonable, we try to go outdoors,” Arseneault said.

Sometimes it’s easy for people to forget how much of an individual game golf is. I was reminded by the sense of autonomy upon arrival at the course. Everybody was doing something different. Evan Bunis ’18 — a Division III All-American Scholar — was working on putting by himself, while Connor Headrick ’21 and Dan Jaques  ’21 — the newest additions to the team — were sharpening their short game. Even the coaches were having a 9-hole scrimmage.

Although there wasn’t much organization, the work ethic was outstanding.

“As I’ve learned from [head men’s golf coach Brian] Jaworski, being a Division III athlete, you have to be very self-motivated. A lot of these guys, not only are they coming out here in practice time, but they’ll be hitting practice balls all the time, whether it’s indoors or outdoors,” Arseneault said.

“I think D-III athletes are some of the most self-motivated people you can find. If you’re willing to come out and play as hard as you can, you’re going to get a lot better,” Jaworski agreed.

Eventually, the team split up into groups of four or fewer so they could start hitting at different holes. I decided to tag along with Arseneault and Jaworski’s group, which included their athletes Owen Craven ’20 and John Zbaracki ’20 as they traversed the course.

Throughout the game, everybody was having fun and talking to each other, but they were very focused when the time came to hit balls. Although the coaches got in on the action, they didn’t forget their roles as mentors, giving tips and encouragements to the players along the way. There was no procrastination either, because each group had to finish their shots at one hole quickly enough to make room for the next groups.

Swing technique is perhaps the most vital skill a golfer needs. That’s why the team dedicates many of their sessions at the local Oakland range to work on it. It’s a great place because they can hit virtually unlimited golf balls and correct their stances in the process, which is a very important part of the game.

“You’d want to get the feel, to get comfortable with the club in your hand, to make sure your tempo is right, and to align everything perfectly,” Arseneault said.

After a while, it came down to the very last hole between the two coaches. Fortunately for Arseneault, Jaworski missed the game-tying putt by a hair.

“I want the guys to come out and have fun,” Jaworski said. “Four years of college can go by so fast, so you never want to take many days off.”

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