In the historically male-dominated game of golf, Cori McAuliffe is breaking stereotypes, leveling the playing field and drawing more people into the sport. Here’s how I benefited from taking a lesson with this winning female pro.
“Do you ever get stuck in the grass and don’t know how to get out?”
The question came from Cori McAuliffe, one of five certified instructors at the Marriott Golf AcademySM at Grande Vista Golf Club at Marriott’s Grande Vista resort in Orlando, Florida. My response: laughter. Yes, of course that happens to me.
Cori was ready to help. She sprung over to the rough, saying, “Come on, I’ll show you!” Then she placed the ball in various lies — sitting high or deep, the grass growing with or against — and showed me how to approach each situation.
Learn Your Lesson
It was a warm spring day at the school’s 35-acre practice facility. Cori and I were in the midst of a one-on-one lesson focusing on my short game. Out in the Florida sunshine, Cori spent time reviewing the fundamentals of chipping, pitching and putting.
“For a quick way to remember the difference between chipping and pitching, think of it like this: A chip shot spends more time on the ground than in the air, and a pitch shot is the opposite — it’s more air than ground,” she said.
Whether she’s giving a private lesson or leading a class or multi-day golf school, Cori’s first priority is reading each student — gauging their experience, demeanor and objectives so she can deliver a fun and beneficial session that flies at the right level. After some quick observation, she read me to a T, working out that I’m a casual golfer with some rounds under my belt but lacking a firm grasp of the basic principles. So, in her approachable and upbeat manner, she refreshed me on the appropriate clubs to use in different scenarios. Then she demonstrated each stroke, explaining the grip, stance and ball position. I practiced each one as Cori provided gentle tips and adjustments.
Students of the Marriott Golf Academy in Orlando can take advantage of amenities such as the TrackMan launch monitor system, the Club Fitter’s Workshop, The Grill restaurant, and a nine-hole, par-32 Ron Garl–designed golf course.
At 28 years old, Cori has achieved a lot: She’s a certified TGA Premier junior golf instructor, a U.S. Kids Golf certified golf instructor and a certified PGA golf coach.
She’s also the only female instructor at the Marriott Golf Academy. The uniqueness of that fact wasn’t lost on me as I looked around; we were definitely in the minority on the practice grounds that day.
“People joke that golf stands for Gentlemen Only, Ladies Forbidden,” I remarked as we strode over to the putting green. “Do you feel like that stereotype has some truth?”
“There was probably a time that it had some truth to it,” she responded, unruffled. “But today, I don’t think it’s true. There are too many really solid women golfers out there — and more developing every day. In fact, female juniors is the fastest-growing segment in golf.”
Cori was referencing a 2017 Golfworld article about the massive success of the LPGA*USGA Girls Golf program, in which girls under 18 are introduced to golf in a setting with other girls their age. The program removes the intimidation factor and ultimately making the game more fun.
Golf for All
Cori is on a similar mission at the Marriott Golf Academy. “My goal is to leave a lasting, positive memory for each student regardless of their level of play,” she said. To that end, she created Marriott’s Golf Experience program, with classes like Pints & Putts and Wine & Wedges, designed to strip away some of the formality of the game and draw in female golfers. To her surprise, the workshops have been equally popular with both men and women.
For my part, everyone I met at the Marriott Golf Academy put me at ease, but Cori in particular was an inspiration — a strong and confident female golfer who’s on par with her male counterparts. For women like me who are looking to take their golf game up a notch, the availability of a female instructor is all at once comfortable, reassuring and emboldening.
“Everyone, male or female, has felt intimidated at times when teeing it up,” she said as we prepared to part ways. “My advice: Find a good PGA professional who can help you build a swing that can stand up to nerves.”
Bring a friend to Pints & Putts on Tuesdays for putting instruction with a craft-beer tasting; Wine & Wedges on Wednesdays focuses on chipping and chardonnay, sand shots and sangria or pitching and pinot grigio. Attendees at Bourbon & Ball Flight on Thursdays compete in a long-drive competition with a bourbon tasting.
Marriott Golf Academy