Par excellence

Chix with Stix aims to help women golfers stay on course

Chix With Stix co-founder Deborah Jones gives a golf lesson at  Northgate Golf Course in Reno.

Chix With Stix co-founder Deborah Jones gives a golf lesson at Northgate Golf Course in Reno.

Photo By David Robert

When Kathy Boyce retired from her career as a financial planner, she probably didn’t realize that an interest in golf would lead to a booming business.

When she learned to play at age 49, she wondered how other women learned the game. Feeling that there weren’t any golf programs that were designed for women players, she formed Chix With Stix Golf School with her friend Deborah Jones.

Jones, the school’s director of instruction, is a Class A Professional Golf Association golf instructor, meaning that she has passed her PGA apprentice program and is a member of the PGA. Boyce says she felt fortunate to have Jones teach her how to play—other women’s beginning golf experiences might not be as enjoyable.

“This is a hard game, and it’s especially hard learning later in life, like I did,” Boyce says.

Boyce cites a survey that found that each year, 40 percent of beginning golfers are women, but by the end of the year only 10 percent continue to play.

“The reason for that, we believe, is that there is not a track for those women to get on to make them feel encouraged, successful [and to help them] have fun,” she says.

Chix With Stix aims to interest women in the sport as well as keep them playing the game. It offers clinics for female golfers of all levels, which are taught mainly by female golf instructors. The formula seems to be working, as classes are quickly filling up.

Now in its third season, the school has seen its registrations increase from about 250 in its first season to an anticipated 600 to 800 students this year, Boyce says.

In its first season, classes were held at the Reno Hilton driving range, and by the second season they were teaching at a few golf courses in the area. This year, Chix With Stix has expanded its season and is offering its Gold Card membership, whereby students can sign up for a whole season of golf clinics. The school holds classes at Northgate Golf Course, Hidden Valley Country Club, Wildcreek Golf Course and Golf Club at Genoa Lakes.

Jones says one of the reasons why women may not feel confident in their game is that they’re often put out on the course too soon. Women may take a class or two, but that’s not enough time to learn the intricacies of the game. When they’re on the course, they may feel intimidated by better players. Also, women are often given conflicting advice on how to play.

“A woman goes to a driving range, and everybody around her becomes a golf professional,” Jones says. “They might be well-meaning, and some may have good tips. But when someone … gets all these tips, she feels that all [this information] has been put in a blender and poured back into her head.”

The physical differences between men and women also affect how women play golf, Jones says. Men have greater upper-body strength, and their center of gravity is higher in the body than it is in women, so they will execute swings differently. Women must learn how to perform in a way that makes up for physical differences by learning a solid foundation in their golf swing, she says.

Jones says she feels their program offers women the support system they need to keep them in the game.

“We’ve designed a program so that women have a gentle, easy, receptive and non-intimidating path to go into golf, and it starts at the very beginning with the golfing swing, putting stroke and chipping stroke,” she explains. “Once they have those fundamentals down and they feel pretty comfortable with that, then and only then do they go out and play, instead of going out [on the course] and trying to figure out what they’re supposed to be doing while they’re playing.”

The key is to start slowly, gradually build up skills and then pick up the pace as they master each step, she says.

“They’ll be able to play the game better later … instead of going fast now and slowing down later,” Jones says.

Class sizes are small, with about six to eight women in each, and classes are offered at convenient times throughout the week. The school has a staff of two professional golf teachers and several assistants. Each clinic, about six hours, is taught over a two- to three-day period. Half of the clinic is done in the classroom, and the rest is out on the field, Boyce says.

Supervised practice sessions are held twice a week, and students are given a list of each other’s phone numbers so that they can call each other if they want to practice together. The school also professionally fits women for clubs and will order custom-fit equipment for them.

Not only is golf a fun recreational activity, but it can also help nurture friendships and develop business relationships, Jones says. She adds that women are beginning to understand that knowing how to play golf can be a useful skill in their professional lives, something that their male counterparts have known for years.

“Men have no problems going out and taking clients golfing or playing in a golf tournament,” she says. “I think women have to be educated to understand that that is as important as having a luncheon with a client—if not more important—to establish business relationships.”

But some women who attended a recent clinic say they want to learn just for fun.

Retiree Karen Williams says she and her husband recently moved to the Sunridge Golf Course near Minden.

“I look out my window every morning and I see the 16th hole, so I figured I better start learning how to play golf,” she says.

Registered nurse Judy Bratcher says she wanted to learn something new as a reward for graduating from nursing school. She was curious about golf and heard about Chix With Stix.

“I heard a lot of good things about Chix With Stix from other women at my gym,” she says. “I tried one lesson and loved it.”

Both women praise Jones as an excellent instructor who teaches the class in an easy-to-understand and thorough manner. They also appreciate the positive teaching atmosphere.

“I get the sense that this is supposed to be fun,” Bratcher says.

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