Goodbye intimidation. That could be the New Jersey Academy of Golf's rallying theme for beginners and veterans looking to refine their game.
Acclaimed golf instructor Bruce Chelucci - whose clients include LPGA professional Joanna Coe - found an industry niche with a three-pronged teaching program. Chelucci visits some clients at their preferred locations or teaches them at Blue Heron Pines. His instruction at the golf course can occur via the Open Clinic on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sunday nights, or with The Last Hour, by appointment.
Between the clinic and The Last Hour, golfers can learn everything from shot-making to trap-raking under relaxed conditions.
"We create golfers, right out of thin air," Chelucci says with enthusiasm. "Anybody can learn to play golf, anybody can get the rules down. We are a liaison between beginners and the golf course."
The Last Hour segment is different. During the final hour of sunlight, players join Chelucci on the first hole for etiquette pointers under live course conditions.
"In The Last Hour, people find out where you have to stand, when to talk and not talk or how to avoid getting in people's putting lines," Chelucci says. "One of the things people often say is 'Are you kidding me? Is this really a rule?' Yes it is. A beginning player may not mind that someone stepped in the line of his putt, but what happens after that player advances? That could mean a missed putt that affects his score.
"So for instruction purposes, you draw a line between everybody's ball and the hole and make players walk around the lines, avoiding the path of someone's putt."
The nuances of etiquette include knowing when and how to tend the pin, fix ball marks and replace divots. The etiquette is essential because the absence of it slows traffic worse than a holiday weekend on the Garden State Parkway. The lack of these standards extends the time of golf rounds by an hour or more.
Some rules need to be updated because of increased player traffic. Chelucci favors limiting the search for a lost ball to one quick glance rather than the allowed five minutes. Take the penalty stroke, which speeds play and may be more beneficial than finding the lost ball in an unplayable position anyway, such as deep woods.
Time is lost on the greens, too, hence the concept of continuous putting. If a player misses a putt, he doesn't have to re-mark it and wait his next turn. Putt out.
Here's a concept about the flag: don't worry about it. Try to hit the middle of the green, especially when you are shooting from more than 200 yards away. The middle of the green won't be too far from any pin.
The Open Clinic, meanwhile, provides a different realm of instruction. Classes usually have from five to 20 players. Chelucci surveys the group to determine what issue comes up most, then he addresses that question first. A recent class brought the question of topping the ball and hitting dribblers off the tee that make the hole nearly impossible to play.
"Many times it's because the head moves as people swing," he says. "If the head leans back as you bring the club back, you need to get it right back into position when you come back through the ball. That's pretty hard to do. If you move your head, you change the bottom of your swing plane and you won't hit the ball the way you want."
What better place to address this than with a professional, under relaxed circumstances?