'My greatest love affair'

05/23/2011 9:52 PM

05/27/2011 3:01 PM

Over the past three decades, women’s golf in Charlotte has evolved from a leisurely pastime to a serious sport – and serious business, too. The Dana Rader School of Golf in Ballantyne continues to perfect the art of teaching women to become better golfers. The school was named No. 13 of the top 25 golf schools in the country and No. 1 in North Carolina by Golf Magazine. The Women’s Golf Academy offers three levels of golf instruction, with each level designed to create a foundation and build upon the golfer’s skills. Dana Rader says she specifically designed the program to introduce beginners to the sport – something she believes is a vital part of her role as a golf pro. “I believe getting new people involved and keeping them interested in the game is a responsibility that comes with being a pro,” she says. “I’ve always been a huge advocate of all people playing the game and have really been involved at the grassroots level getting beginners into the game. I’ve been teaching for 31 years and it’s still a game I love. It’s my greatest love affair.” Rader started teaching golf in 1980 at Myers Park Country Club after she tried unsuccessfully to earn a spot on the Ladies Professional Golf Association Tour. “My heart just wasn’t in it,” she says. “I knew I wanted to learn more about the business of golf, about courses and merchandising, and about teaching the game.” While teaching women’s clinics at Myers Park, Rader says she became intrigued by the high demand. She says after the first day of sign-ups, she had 25 names on the list. “I was surprised to see how excited the women were to learn the game,” says Rader. “Some were more serious than others, but the ones who liked the game stayed with it. I think that’s what’s sustained women’s golf through the years. It’s not been so much a rise in popularity, but that the women who are involved are playing and staying in the game.” Rader opened the Dana Rader Golf School in 1997 after realizing how important structured programs were for cultivating loyalty to the sport. While teaching women’s clinics throughout Charlotte, she realized how intimidating learning the game can be and how providing a safe environment helped women stay with it. “I understand how they feel,” says Rader. “Even as a pro, I still get intimidated when I walk into a shop. When I started playing golf at Pfeiffer University in 1977, I was one of the first women in the school’s history to play golf. I was on the men’s team and sometimes had a hard time keeping up. That’s why I believe so strongly in creating an environment where they feel comfortable, can ask questions and learn.” Rader says she believes women enjoy golf because it’s a social game where they not only play but interact with each other. Most women will spend the day together to play a round of golf, have lunch and drinks and head back out to the course. Rader has used this aspect to encourage women to participate in the sport. “By inviting women in and making it social, we can get them in the game,” she says. “Golf is something they can do for themselves to escape. Women like to be around other women and the game is a nice outlet for that.” Rader enjoys teaching women because of the honesty they show her during the clinics. Rader says she gets a lot of feedback from the women she teaches, which helps her be a better instructor. “The great thing about our gender is that we can be very candid with each other,” she says. “You can’t just communicate the same way to a women as you would to a man. Women tend to learn more from a big picture and use right side of their brain during golf. A woman will agree a good grip will improve her golf swing, but she really wants to know all the benefits and why it’s important to hold (the club) that way. A man may not ask that question. He’ll assume it’s a fundamental and leave it at that.” Rader hopes golf will continue to enjoy steady popularity among women players. At the school, Rader says she and her staff are continuing to take teaching and service to the next level. “We are really starting to look at new ways of attracting and keeping women in game through better instruction and programs that fit into a women’s schedule,” she says. “After all, four hours on the golf course on a bad day is better than four hours in the office on a good day.”

More info: Dana Rader Golf School, 10000 Ballantyne Commons Parkway. 704-542-7635; www.danarader.com.

The Dana Rader Golf School’s Women’s Academy has three programs:

Women’s Intro to Golf: This program is designed to introduce new golfers to the fun of golf by providing them with the fundamental skills and knowledge needed to play the game. Runs Tuesdays-Thursdays from 10 a.m.-11:30 a.m. Tuition is $160. Upcoming programs are June 14-16 and September 13-15. Women’s Intro to Golf II: Follow-up program concentrates on putting, pitching and full swing, includes a computerized video swing analysis, on-course instruction and club fitting. Runs Tuesday-Thursday: July 19-21 and September 27-29 from 10 a.m.-11:30 a.m. and June 14-16, August 9-11 and September 13-15 from 6-7:30 p.m. Tuition is $160. Women’s Three-Day Golf School: This program does not require the previous courses to be taken first and is open to all skill levels. The class consists of extensive full swing instruction and video analysis, skills to improve in the scoring zone around the greens and on-course instruction with the school’s team of professionals. It also includes a clinic with Dana Rader and a personalized copy of her book, "Rock Solid Golf." Includes two lunches as well. Classes run Friday-Sunday. Tuition is $795.

Other new adventures:

TGIF (Thank Golf It’s Friday): The newest program at the school offers golf and networking in a casual learning atmosphere. The clinic features full and short swing instruction, practice on the driving range, chipping, pitching sand play and putting, a short game skills challenge and a video swing analysis. It is open to golfers of all skill levels age 21 and older. Clinic runs 5:30-7 p.m. the first and third Friday April 1-Sep. 16. Tuition is $40 for each event.

Uptown location: The school has opened a second location at the Charlotte Athletic Club, 101 S. Tryon St. The school is an indoor facility with a private simulator room equipped with private and group instruction, video analysis software, advance putting green, world championship golf courses, driving range and a Nike club fitting system. 704-371-5600.

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