Aspen Lakes pro making golf fun for beginners

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Howie Pruitt devising programs to break down barriers to game

So many novices get discouraged simply because they are intimidated by golf. There should no need to be intimidated, though, especially at Aspen Lakes Golf Course.

Howie Pruitt, Aspen Lakes’ director of player development, has some interesting ideas on how to break down the barriers to the game, while keeping reverence for the game’s traditions.

Pruitt has been devising ways to make golf a bit more fun for those who are willing to give the game a try. From a pressure-free women’s golf clinic to a fun Wednesday night league where the rules are hardly stringent, Aspen Lakes and Pruitt are trying to break down some of the entries to the game.

“Our emphasis is on getting people out and having fun on the golf course so they come back,” says Pruitt, a longtime Central Oregon golf professional.

Nada Clinic for women

Pruitt wants more women to take up golf. His idea? Try the Nada (as in “nothing” in Spanish) Clinic.

Every Friday at 5 p.m., beginning June 19 and lasting through July, Pruitt will host a one-hour clinic on the Aspen Lakes driving range solely for women.

This is no ordinary clinic, though. Pruitt will bring democracy into the equation. The subject matter of the clinic each evening will be based entirely on the consensus of the attendees.

Why is it called “Nada?” Well, there is no formal charge for the clinic.

Pruitt decided that he wants folks who are serious about getting better at golf, but he doesn’t want price to be an excuse.

“If they feel like it is useful they can go into the pro shop and pay something, and if they don’t think it is useful they can pay nada and maybe come back the next week,” Pruitt says.

“We have some new people to the game and also we are trying to re-energize the women golfers in the community,” Pruitt adds. “It is just something novel we want to try to get some people out.

Have fun with the community

The first-ever Community Golf League tournament teed off on Wednesday. While hosting tournaments at Aspen Lakes is nothing new, this kind of tournament was.

The format is a four-person scramble, but nobody will be turned away if they have a smaller (or even larger) team.

The most endearing aspect of the tournament is its interpretation of the rules for beginners.

“It’s OK to do whatever you want,” Pruitt says. “If you don’t want to hit out of the woods, kick it out. If you hit in the bunker and don’t want to hit it out of the bunker, throw it out.

“For people who come out, particularly beginners, I want them to enjoy the game and not be intimidated by the rules.”

Best of all the tournaments, which tee off each Wednesday at 5 p.m. through Aug. 5, are inexpensive. Just $40 for a whole team. Sign up at Sisters Park and Recreation District.

“We’re really encouraged by it,” Pruitt says. “I think it was a big success the first night and I think it will probably grow.”

PGA Sports Academy

Sometimes parents do not necessarily know the best way to introduce golf to their children. One great way is with the PGA Junior Sports Academy, a weeklong clinic for kids through Sisters Park & Rec.

The program begins on Monday, July 6, with the weeklong Level 1 clinic, which is designed for kids age 8 to 13 who have little or no experience in golf. The camp is a broad-based education, dabbling in fitness and nutrition as well as other sports, with a focus on golf, Pruitt says.

Kids then advance to Level 2, which begins July 13, and eventually Level 3, which begins July 20 and should launch golfers into the high school junior varsity ranks.

The clinics run from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. each day, Monday through Friday. Cost is $99 per weeklong level or $240 for all three sessions. Sign up at Sisters Park and Recreation District.

 Get Golf Ready program

For those who are unfamiliar, the Get Golf Ready program has been invaluable for new golfers trying to get more acquainted with the game.

Aspen Lakes’ clinic is held from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. each Thursday from July 16 through Aug. 20, and are meant to be a non-intimidating environment for new golfers who want to learn the basics with similarly skilled players.

The cost is $49 per person.  Sign up at Sisters Park and Recreation District.

Oh, and one more thing. Like all the programs listed above, Get Golf Ready is supposed to be fun. That, after all, is what golf is supposed to be about. Not intimidation.

“We’re trying to take the stuffiness and some of the intensity out of golf, and make it more fun,” Pruitt says. “But we’re also trying to keep it traditional.

“We’re making it easier for people to come out and have some fun.”

Private, group lessons, classes and clinics are all available through the Aspen Lakes PGA Learning Center. Call the Aspen Lakes pro shop at 541-549-4653 for more information.

To book a tee time call the golf shop or book online at www.aspenlakes.com.

Private, group lessons, classes and clinics are all available through the Aspen Lakes PGA Learning Center. Call the Aspen Lakes pro shop at 541-549-4653 for more information.
To book a tee time call the golf shop or book online at www.aspenlakes.com.

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