Golf Digest’s biennial survey of the best women teachers in the game was released this month, with nine of the top 50 teachers working in Florida.
I caught up with one recently, Kellie Stenzel. At No. 24 on the list (and rising from the last survey, according to Golf Digest), Stenzel splits her time between Long Island, N.Y., and her own Kellie Stenzel Golf Academy at Palm Beach Country Club and Palm Beach Par 3 course.
Stenzel played at Furman University in South Carolina and on professional tours around the world before becoming a full-time teacher.
Q: You’re one of several teachers who work in New York and South Florida. Outside of weather, what’s the difference in terms of golf?
A: The courses are surprisingly different. Like the length of the grass — you get a lot of tight lies in fairways in Florida, and very little rough. You can bump-and-run a lot more, putt from the edge of green. In New York, you have to be very good hitting little pitch shots, getting out of buried lies around the green. And there’s not as many tree-lined fairways here (in Florida).
Q: For vacationers who come here, what’s the biggest adjustment to Florida golf (again, heat aside)?
A: Getting used to seeing a lot of water. I remember, growing up in upstate New York, we didn’t have a lot of water. Then you get to Florida and there’s giant lakes and ponds that you have to get over. It can be intimidating. You have to learn to look past the water, know where you want to go. Your first inclination is to look right at it, you have to get past that. It’s still golf, it’s not that different.
Q: What’s one go-to shot every good player should have down here?
A: The bump-and-run from off the green, where you’re really making a putting motion from a chipping setup. It’s really never a big stroke, so you’re never going to get into a problem. If you’re farther back, take a less-lofted club. I’m pretty conservative, what I like to see is the person hitting a club that even if they miss it, it still goes close to a pin. Even if you’re not perfect, it doesn’t show up on the scorecard.