PHOTOGRAPHY BY MARCO GARCIA
Veteran golf pro Andrew Feldman shares his tips.
HEAD GOLF PROFESSIONAL AT OAHU COUNTRY CLUB is not one of those jobs a guy takes in hopes of landing something bigger and better elsewhere.
“The club was founded in 1906, and I’m just the 12th head professional in all that time,” says Andrew Feldman, who has maintained this position for 14 years. (The first pro stayed just one year.)
Feldman says he is aware every day that OCC is “the cradle of golf in Hawai’i,” and that maintaining the club’s traditions, including the annual Manoa Cup, is as much a part of his job as giving lessons and running the pro shop.
“This is a really special place with great members and a beautiful golf course,” he says.
And the membership can’t help be reminded of what a terrific golfer they have running things every year when Feldman and longtime partner Larry Stubblefield take the tee for the OCC 4-ball Matchplay tournament. Stubblefield, a former pro who regained his amateur status, holds the course record of 60. Feldman’s best round on the hilly Nu’uanu course is 61. Together they’ve won the 4-ball seven straight years.
Born on Long Island but raised in Belen, N.M., outside Albuquerque, since he was 12, young Andrew fell in love with golf at early age.
“My dad, who was an actuary, had some health issues, and the doctor said the dry air of New Mexico would be better for him,” Feldman says. “We lived on a golf course, and I really grew up on the course. I did everything there- worked in the bag room, the front counter, bused tables, washed dishes.”
When it came time for college, Feldman matriculated at Eastern New Mexico University, where he earned a degree in business.
He first came to Hawai’i on something of a fluke. He was trying to get a job as an assistant pro at Kintland Air Force Base course in Albuquerque, but instead was offered a job at Hickam AFB’s Mamala Bay course. It was during that time he met his wife, the former Donna Higa.
From there, he became the head pro at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.
“There were two courses, Silver and Blue, which was a Robert Trent Jones Sr. design,” Feldman says. “Lots of deer and wild turkey, even a herd of elk. A beautiful place.”
The course borders Falcon Stadium, so on football Saturdays, Feldman literally took a golf cart to games. “And those were the days when Fisher DeBerry was the coach and Air Force football was big.”
When longtime OCC pro Bill Schwallie retired in 1998, Feldman applied and got the job.
“All I’ve ever done in my life is work at golf courses,” Feldman says. “I love playing and teaching golf here. It’s a dream job.” He was recognized as the Aloha Section PGA golf professional of the year in 2005.
One of the biggest stroke savers in golf is playing well from bunkers and sand traps. And there is one constant in good bunker play: Do not hit the ball. Hit the sand!
Contacting the ball sends it flying with too much power. When you contact the sand-sliding your club under the ball- the sand actually pushes your ball out of the trap. By playing the shot this way, your ball will exit higher and softer. This makes for a gentler landing on the green, with very little roll. You will have more control on the height and shot, as well as controlling the distance.
Let me say it again: Do not hit the ball. Hit the sand.
Stance When Hitting a Sand Shot
Dig your feet into the bunker; this allows you to maintain balance on the unsure surface, and helps you to carry through a strong and confident swing. Grind your heels into the sand and set up your feet pointing to the left (for a right-hander) of where you’re aiming your shot. Keep your feet close together and at 45-degree angles.
Ball Position During Bunker Shots
When hitting out of the sand like Phil Mickelson, position the ball near the middle of your stance. The ball should be about on line with your left heel, and near the middle or front of your right foot. The ball also should be placed about the distance of a normal wedge shot, so you are almost bending with your head hovering over the ball.
Club Selection from the Sand Trap
The sand wedge, obviously, is the clearest choice for a sand shot. That or the lob wedge will give you the most arc on bunker shots close to the green and close to the pin. Bunker shots of over 20 yards should be attempted with a pitching wedge or 9 iron, and further shots should be attempted with longer irons, depending on the length of your shot. You could generally knock off about 20 to 25 percent of the distance on your clubs when hitting from the sand.
The Swing: Open Club Shot
When you swing at a ball in the sand, open your club the same degree as your feet, like you are hitting a lob/flop shot. Open your club around 45 degrees and practice your swing without hitting the sand (as this is usually a penalty stroke). Aim between 2 and 6 inches behind the ball on your swing, depending on the length of your shot. The shorter your shot, the farther behind the ball you should aim. Take an open club swing between three quarters and full, and be sure not to slow your swing through the zone or on your follow-through. It will feel at first as if you are swinging too hard for such a short shot, but your results will soon tell the truth.
And it all starts with this: Do not hit the ball. Hit the sand.
During almost every round of golf you will be faced with a shot that has an uphill or downhill lie. So it is very important to understand how to hit shots from uneven lies. Even a perfectly struck drive will very rarely end up on flat ground. That’s one reason (among many) why some players hit the ball well at the driving range and then aren’t as precise on the course.
The adjustments aren’t terribly complicated. Understanding how to modify your setup and swing and what the shot tendencies are will help make your results more reliable from uneven lies.
With uphill lies, the main thing to remember is that when you set up to the ball, try to set the angle of your shoulders to the angle of the slope so your shoulder line is parallel to the hill.
Also, the ball should be played slightly forward of your normal position.
You’ll want to use more club because the uphill stance will add loft to the club, making the ball fly shorter.
Make a smooth, balanced swing, trying to make your swing follow the slope. Try to get your weight left (for a right-hander) on the follow-through. Otherwise there will be a tendency to pull the ball left because your lower body turn is restricted and your upper body will outrace it. You can compensate by planning for the shot to go left, or by “holding on” through impact and keeping the club face from shutting down.
Keys for uphill lies:
-Shoulders match the slope
-Ball forward in your stance
-Take more club
-Swing with the slope -Smooth, balanced swing
-Keep the face from shutting down at impact, or allow for the shot to go left
Downhill Lies Downhill lies are similar to uphill lies in that you also should try to match your shoulders to the slope of the hill and swing with the slope.
Take a little wider stance for stability and play the ball a little further back in your stance than normal to encourage ball-first contact. You’ll want to take less club than normal because the ball will come out in a much flatter trajectory with more roll.
As with the uphill lies, take a smooth, balanced swing. Your weight will stay more on your left side during the swing. Plan for the ball to fade to the right some.
Keys for downhill lies:
-Shoulders match the slope
-Ball back in your stance
-Take less club
-Swing with the slope
-Smooth, balanced swing
-Allow for a fade
One thing you don’t want to do in either case is try to kill the ball. If you over swing and get off balance, the result is likely to be bad.
If your driving range has an elevated grass tee, you can simulate uphill and downhill lies on the front and back of the tee. It’s a great way to get in some practice; check with the range operator to make sure that it’s safe.