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Returning to Golf
By Anne Marie Goslak


They say doctors make the worst patients. I used to think that was true, but it?s really golf professionals.

I spent the winter recovering from spine fusion surgery. Six screws and two rods later, my L5 and S1 are eternally joined.

If you thought I showed patience and maturity, you were wrong. I turned into a whining 4 year old. ?I want to drive my car. I want to get back to work. When can I start working out again? Why can?t I ride 9 hours to PA for Christmas? Can someone tie my shoe for me??

I spent 6 weeks, stuck at home, unable to lift anything heavier than a milk jug. I had to face the reality that my golf days might be over. The doctor gave me a 50-50 chance. Thankfully, the preverbal coin flipped in my favor. It looks like I might be able to play again if things continue to improve.

Whether a recovery from an injury or just simply returning after a long winter, I?d like to share with you how to return to golf safely.

Start at the putting green. Don?t knock it in the hole. Avoid bending. Just work on putting 5 balls in a row, keeping the tempo and length of stroke the same. If you do this right, all the balls will end up within 1 inch of each other. Try it for 10 minutes or less then QUIT. Give it two days of rest to see how your body responds. The worst thing to do is stand there all day, and say, ?Hey, I feel good!? only to wake up the next morning to ?What on Earth did I DO to myself!?

If that goes well, return in a week and add bump and run shots. Those are putting like strokes, just off the side of the green, using an iron. Try a sand wedge for short shots, a 9 iron when you want it to roll a medium amount, and a 7 iron when you want it to roll a longer distance. Just like in putting, there is no weight shift for this kind of shot.

On all short shots, keep your head down 3 seconds after you hit the ball. If you could start the season never looking up again, you would shave some serious strokes off your game. Use this as a time to develop discipline since you can?t muscle the ball yet.

Every week, add a new skill. Putting, Bump & Run, Pitch Shots. Once you get to the point where you can do those three shots, take it out on the course. Go to the 100 yard marker and drop a ball. Play in from there. This will allow you to get on the course, have fun, but not be too upset with the distance you might have lost.

Tell yourself, ? I am developing a great short game. When I am 100% healed, I will be even better than I was before.? That?s better self talk than, ?I can?t believe how short I am hitting it!? As you feel better, back it up from 100 yards to 150, to 200 and then eventually to your normal tee box.

On the range, hit balls in slow motion off of a tee for at least three weeks before you try anything fast speed. Use this as a time to develop a great swing. The great Payne Stewart, winner of the US Open, used to hit balls in slow motion with a driver, as a practice drill.

If you rehab correctly, you just might emerge a better golfer than you were before. Rush into it too quickly, and your body will find the path of least resistance, creating a swing that is inefficient for the future.

When you have mastered how to be patient and positive during recovery, can you teach me how? Although I won?t be playing any time soon, you can find me in physical therapy. I?ll be the one whining about my inability to tie my own shoe, and dreaming about my return to golf later this year.

-Anne Marie Goslak