May 22, 2019

Angel Fire Resort Country Club Golf Pro Don Willingham Says, “I Know Jo, Do You?”

By Jo Mixon

Don Willingham, Head Director of Instruction at Angel Fire Resort Country Club Golf Course

First rule of thumb is to cradle your left thumb in the hollow of your right hand (if you’re right handed), then interlock your pinkies, line up your center knuckle, and pinch in with your right forefinger and right thumb to set your grip on the golf club. I’m not certain if this is the exact terminology or if this is the only way to grip the golf club, but I hope you get the picture. And I am pleased to say I really learned a lot in my golf lesson with Don Willingham, Head Director of Instruction, at the Angel Fire Resort Country Club Golf Course. Since I haven’t really played golf except on miniature golf courses, I was excited to be invited for a lesson with Angel Fire’s new Golf Pro. To my surprise, it wasn’t as hard or complicated as I had envisioned.

Equipped with golf clubs and a bag of balls, Don set me at ease from the very beginning. He explained that if I were to be a serious golf student, he would begin with a few lessons on the putting green to learn shorter chipping, putting, and pitching techniques. These are the most important swings, the score breakers so to speak and its good to start there. But he fast-forwarded me with the information of probably four to five lessons so that I could get the feel quickly.

Don taught me how to be comfortable with the grip as well as how and where to stand in proximity to the golf ball. We started with short swings and progressed into longer swings. He taught me the proper wrist action and how to follow through with my body position. I have to tell you, after hitting a few balls I can understand why this game of golf could become very addicting! My first time out was a great enjoyable experience. Maybe with more lessons and a lot of practice I might be able to become a sophisticated golfer. (No telling how many more lessons and how much more practice that would take!)

Don came to Angel Fire in May 2012 from Granbury, Texas. He has a degree in golf management, and has been a Class A PGA member since 1980. I asked about the degree. He said golfers wanting to get into the field of Golf Management could actually attend one of 20-plus schools which specialize in that field to get a four-year degree. Or they can go through a play-and-ability process to obtain a golf management degree. Courses can be taken online once they have qualified and still takes approximately four years.

PGA professional Don Willingham is more than happy to help you learn the game of golf or help you improve your game by enhancing your natural swing ability. Don’s golf lessons are available to the public, Resort guests and Resort members. He offers one-on-one private lessons and private group lessons for up to four people, as well as junior clinics. After my lesson he taught a junior golf clinic. There were nine participants ages six and up. These young people made it look really easy!

Taking full advantage of the breathtaking Sangre de Cristo Mountains setting, the Angel Fire Golf Course offers amazing views, rolling fairways, meandering streams and plenty of bunkers to challenge every level of golfer. The golf course is open from May 18 to October 21 this season, 7:00 am to 6:00 pm. It is recommended to reserve your lessons. Always call ahead for tee times, although normally single walk-ups can be accommodated. Bill Maitland, who manages both the golf shop which includes both retail and rental lines, told me they are currently offering a large range of demos including Taylor Made, Callaway and Ping.

So whether you are a seasoned player or a beginner like me, the staff of professionals at the Angel Fire Golf Course will provide you with fun instruction and results to boost your playing ability. Demonstrate your prowess by signing up for the weekly “Beat the Pro” challenge.

For more information visit the Angel Fire Resort Country Club Golf Course website at, or call 575-377-3055 or 1-800-633-7463.

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