At a time when the golf business is stagnant at best, people in the industry are considering all kinds of remedies. The answer might be something revolutionary, such as appealing to one-half of the world's population.
Drawing women to golf is the sort of innovative approach that would qualify as taking a page from teaching pro Kellie Stenzel, who works on Long Island every summer. And she has three distinctive books from which to take pages. Stenzel, one of Golf magazine's Top 100 teachers, has published titles specifically for women golfers.
"It was definitely a forgotten market. I looked to see if there were any women's golf books and there were only a couple," she said from Palm Beach, Fla., where she teaches men and women through winter and early spring before heading to Sebonack Golf Club in Southampton. From June through August this year, she also will hold a golf school for men and women at North Shore Country Club in Glen Head.
She is included in Golf magazine's just-released "The Best Instruction Book Ever!" But she stands apart for her approach in "The Women's Guide to Golf: A Handbook for Beginners," "The Women's Guide to Consistent Golf" and "The Women's Guide to Lower Scores."
Topics include specific and novel recommendations, such as dismissing the dogma that says you have to open the clubface to hit a ball out of sand. "Many women don't generate the clubhead speed to hit it far enough. That's true for a man with low clubhead speed, too," she said, adding that she advises women to set up with a square clubface in a bunker. Her books and her lessons are filled with similar against-the-grain ideas.
Given the state of the game, with women either reticent about playing or staying in it, going against the grain can't hurt. "Women want to feel comfortable," she said. "If they're hitting the ball well and they're happy, maybe they'll say, 'I will play this game a little more.' "
Stenzel, 46, has felt at home on golf courses since she was 3 (her son's current age). Her grandfather was a club pro outside Buffalo and her father played briefly on the PGA Tour. She played for Furman and on various tours, where other pros would seek her advice. "Making people play better fit my personality better," she said. So she has been teaching for 20 years.
Experience tells her Sebonack will be an outstanding venue for the U.S. Women's Open next year. "It's such a great golf course. The greens are really the challenge," she said. "If I were playing, I would pay my regular caddie to take the week off and take a local caddie. When I first played there, I was three-putting all over the place. Sometimes you have to turn your back to the hole [to aim at it]."
Stenzel will have practical advice for amateurs at her North Shore school. She will post information at kelliestenzelgolf.com.
The goal for some golfers is to break par. Stenzel likes breaking myths. "Like the myth that says you have to play 18 holes. Play as many as you have time for," she said. "If you only have a half-hour, just hit balls. Everything doesn't have to be the way it was."