8 December 2023

Golf pro Joel Shields giving the kids a swinging shot

| James Day
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golf pro Joel Shields holds a club on course

`It’s the game for life. You can pick it up at four years old and play it until you’re 70,’ says Joel Shields on golf. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

From his beginnings on the greens of Young to guiding the next generation of players under Telstra Tower, Joel Shields has learnt plenty of life lessons playing golf. Commitment to the game, communication skills, responsibility for your equipment and actions, but most importantly honesty.

“It’s a game where you need to be honest and truthful, not only to yourself but to the game,” Joel says. “It’s not a game where cheats are welcome. The game owes you nothing.”

Through Gold Creek Country Club’s (GCCC) youth program, Joel hopes to help the kids under his tutelage improve their game and catch the bug that hit him “pretty hard” in his youth.

Joel was introduced to golf by his dad who would take him out on the course every weekend for a swing. It’s an experience Joel likes to mirror in his teaching approach.

“Growing up playing junior golf was all about having fun,” he says. “My approach is just to have fun and encourage them in a good atmosphere while listening to them joke and play.

“Get them to hit some balls and focus on the basic techniques like their grip, swing, chips and putts. Although it’s not all about technique, sometimes it’s just about hitting the ball as far as you possibly can.”

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After years of rugby league that “hurt too much”, Joel started to play golf seriously and “couldn’t get enough of it”. Every Sunday morning he’d compete in the local junior competition until he was old enough to have a handicap and play in the men’s competition.

After completing school, Joel moved to Sydney and played division 1 pennants full time for Mona Vale Golf Club. He then entered a two-year golf program run by the Australian College of Sport (ACS) at the Bonnie Doon Golf Club.

Despite his focus on golf, Joel still appreciates the abilities other sports afforded him and incorporates them into the program.

“Growing up playing many sports helped me a lot. My mum was a pretty decent hockey player back in the day, so I played a bit too and that hand/eye coordination definitely helped.

“We’ve got a couple of spare holes that we might take a footy or soccer ball down to and tie it back into golf somehow. For instance, improving their rotating action by kicking or throwing the ball.”

During a stint in his hometown after completing the ACS program, Joel was fortunate enough to join an amateur competition in the US thanks to a fundraiser run by the locals of Young. Having played most of the amateur competitions around Australia, Joel felt “pretty lucky” to experience American golf for a couple months in the US summer of 2016.

“Australians are very focussed on technique-based golf swings, they want to get into all the right positions. Whereas a lot of the Americans are just coached, and work with what’s natural for them.

“The golf is unbelievable over there, but it does feel completely different.”

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Joel is now being trained by GCCC’s director Craig Smith as an associate in the PGA Membership Pathway Program. But every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon from 4:30 to 5:30 pm, he takes anyone from five to 17 years old out on the course.

“There’s no set routine each day, but it’s something revolved around a bit of competition and just going back through the basics every time.

“It’s pretty rewarding when you see the kids turn up all smiling and ready to have a go. Their enthusiasm constantly reminds me why I got into the game in the first place.”

To find out more about the youth program, contact Gold Creek Country Club on (02) 6123 0600 or through its website.


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