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New Year’s optimism: Simple tips can help improve scores

Around the holidays, most of us have a little down time to ponder different ideas.

For golfers, some (most?) of that time is spent coming up with ways to knock a few strokes off the score. To help set a solid golf foundation heading into 2020, I enlisted the help a few of Las Vegas’ top instructors.

Matt Henderson, 33, a 2019 Golf Digest Best Teachers in America Under 40 honoree, said improvement starts with a proper outlook.

“You should approach play more like practice,” said the TPC Las Vegas pro. “Not in the sense that we are going to hit multiple balls from the same spot throughout the round, but as a child would; playfully, without judgment and exploring the process.”

Former PGA Tour player Craig Barlow, director of the High Performance Golf Institute at Reflection Bay, said focus on fundamentals.

“Going into 2020, golfers should strive for perfection in four things — alignment, ball position, posture and rhythm,” Barlow said. “Everything else should just be clean, not perfect. Also, have fun and enjoy the journey.”

Nicole Dutt-Roberts, an instructor at Reflection Bay and Arroyo, said short game focus is mandatory.

“Golfers do not spend enough time on their short games and most leave shots short and on the low side of the hole when they chip and putt,” Dutt-Roberts said. “There is no way the ball will go in if it is short. Golfers should change their practice techniques and ensure the ball passes by the high side of the hole.”

City dominates top teacher list

Golf Digest editors recently released their top golf instructors by state for 2019-20, and all Nevada representatives are from the Las Vegas area.

As usual, Butch Harmon, who operates his teaching school at Rio Secco, tops the list. Five Harmon School staff members also were included.

The list: Jeff Smith, TPC Summerlin; Drew Steckel, Southern Highlands; Matt Henderson, TPC Las Vegas; Mario Bevilacqua, TPC Summerlin; Joseph Mayo, TPC Summerlin; Jake Gilmer, Desert Pines; Don Callahan, Harmon School; Tim Sam, GolfTEC; Paul Marchand, The Summit; Vic Wilk, Harmon School; Shawn Callahan, Harmon School; Greg Labelle, Butch Harmon School; Mike Davis, DragonRidge; and Nick Helwig, Harmon School.

Henderson is a UNLV Professional Golf Management alum, and fellow Rebels earning recognition were Jon Horner (Jon Horner Golf Academy, San Martin, California) and Paxton O’ Connor (Desert Mountain, Scottsdale, Arizona)

Weekly deals

■ Buy the Elite Player’s card and get five free rounds plus deals throughout 2020 at Legacy, Primm Valley, Aliante, Wildhorse and Mountain Falls.

■ Locals can play Legacy until 2 p.m. through Dec. 30 for $39 including cart and range balls.

Cascata champs

Southern Nevada Golf Association Cascata Amateur champions were Daren Johnson (Championship), Todd Roberts (Senior) and Mark Dopheide (Silver). Net champs were Dennis Young (Net), Edward Hughes (Senior) and Mark Griffin (Silver).

Stars on, off course

Hall of famers Don Gay (bull rider) and Joe Baumgartner (bull fighter) played in the ProRodeo Hall of Fame Spurs and Spikes tournament at Bali Hai on Friday.

The golf notebook appears Wednesdays. Freelance writer Brian Hurlburt is a two-time author who has covered golf in Las Vegas for more than two decades. He can be reached at bhurlburt5@gmail.com or @LVGolfInsider.

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