Maria Palozola is a high profile LPGA golf instructor based in St. Louis, Missouri. Over the last few years Maria has built up a comprehensive website full of useful advice and online lessons on every part of the game. We decided that it was time to and catch up and find out her latest ideas to help your game and encourage more young women and girls to play golf.
Maria, thank you for making some time for us. Let’s start with the question we always ask – what is it that you most enjoy about golf?
I’m a natural born competitor. The youngest of 7 Italian/Irish children I had to fight to be heard and fight to be noticed. So I do enjoy the competition, but unlike basketball and soccer which were my other sports, I enjoyed the culture of golf. Golf has a mystique and a history that to me is not rivaled in other sports except maybe tennis. When I was young I loved the squish of the hard spikes on the cart path, the smell of the grips, the sound of the sprinklers and even the funny clothes. I wanted to be part of that unique culture and become a fierce competitor like my childhood heroes Jack Nicklaus and Nancy Lopez.
Your advice and lessons are very popular online. What is your general approach to teaching?
My approach has always been to take each lesson as brand new and cater to the individual. I don’t follow a method and don’t force everyone into one swing. Therefore, I don’t know what the lesson is going to entail until I have the student in front of me and have completed the interview process. It’s important to remember each individual brings a body that functions differently, a different build, a unique swing, a unique personality/mindset and their own set of goals to the lesson tee. A lesson with a beginner is obviously going to be different than a lesson with a scratch golfer. As far as principles go I like to see sound fundamentals (grip, posture, alignment) and a golf swing that stays on plane, in balance, has good rhythm and has as few moving parts as possible.
Do you have a favorite tip or assist that always seems to help your students?
BFD! Bow, Flex, Drop.
This is how I get players into good posture and help them remember it! Too often players are slumping from the waist and/or over bending their knees.
To prevent this I say:
- B = Bow (from the hips),
- F = Flex (don’t bend or squat from the knees, just flex a bit); and
- D = Drop (drop your arms and let them hang naturally where they will).
Your posture is the blueprint around which your solid swing is built and is also crucial to the health of your back, shoulders and hips, so it should be something you try to perfect and constantly monitor.
What are the best courses you have played and is there a course where would you love to play in the future?
I would say the best courses I have had the privilege of playing are Cyprus Point, Pebble Beach, Kiawah Island, Bellerive, Colonial and Harbour Town. Cyprus Point is nothing short of magical. Cyprus is my favorite by far. If I could play any course in the future what would it be? You guessed it…Augusta National.
Who is your favorite player/role model (past or present)? Tell us a story about seeing them play or meeting them.
I am a huge Jack Nicklaus fan. I remember when he was winning the 1986 Master’s, I was upstairs doing my homework. My dad was downstairs just screaming his head of for me to come down because he said I would witness “history and one of the greatest moments in sports.” I finally came down to see the last few holes and I have never really gotten over it. When I was competing regularly I would put in the 1986 Master’s the night before a big tournament to get fired up. I was fortunate to meet Jack the following year at his favorite restaurant in Florida where I had qualified for the Junior PGA in West Palm Beach.
We’re very interested to know your ideas for encouraging more young women to take up and enjoy the game?
You know this is always a tough question. Girls just are and have always been late bloomers when it comes to golf. I didn’t care too much about it until the age of 12 (I started at 5) and I was 16 before I really decided to take it full on. I would first and foremost always recommend getting girls into the LPGA -USGA Girls Golf Program. It is such a fantastic and fun way for girls to learn to play and love the game in a non- threatening environment. There are programs throughout the country.
Maria Palozola is a Top 50 Teacher with the LPGA and has been instructing for over 20 years. She is the 2015 LPGA Midwest Section Teacher of the Year and also won the award in 2013, 2011 & 2008. Golf Digest ranks her as a Top 5 Teacher in Missouri.