Golf Instructors Are An Invaluable Part of the Game of Golf
It doesn’t matter if you are just beginning to play golf, or you are an LPGA pro, every golfer needs an instructor to help them fine tune their game. When I first began playing years ago, I thought I could learn the game through absorption. I would go out and tag along with my friends and learn as I played. NOT A GOOD IDEA. Not only did I slow down their play and drive everyone playing behind us crazy, but I became a real annoyance as I had to constantly ask one of my companions “Which club do I use?,” “Where do I aim?,” “Am I doing this right?” They were far more interested in playing their own game than in giving me a free lesson.
I can still remember, on the last hole of the nine we were playing that day, I was so far behind the others, that the only one in sight was the groundskeeper sitting atop his heavy duty lawnmower just off the fairway, patiently waiting for me to move on so he could continue his work. When I whooshed at the ball for the thirteenth time, I finally despaired, reached down and picked it up. The guy on the lawnmower actually stood up in his seat and clapped, loudly. Ugh. Talk about delivering the message. It was time for me to get a golf lesson with a pro.
Whenever you decide it’s time for you to get a lesson, where do you go? How do you choose the right pro? I was recently playing with a group of dedicated golfers and asked them the same question. How do you know who is a good teacher? Their answers varied:
- Ask other golfers you know and find out who they like.
- Visit the pro shop at the club and ask there. Almost every club has a pro on staff or knows one who would be happy for the chance to teach.
- Check out the local golf clubs and see if they have any clinics scheduled. A clinic offers a good chance to check out a pro’s teaching style to see if it’s a good fit for you.
All good answers. My fellow golfers have all received instruction at one time or another and readily recommended a variety of teachers I could consider for myself. In the past few years I’ve tested a number of different teaching styles and formats with mixed results.
My first experience with an instructor was at a local driving range where they offered evening clinics just for women, one night a week, throughout the summer. Combined with a buffet dinner it was a great chance to practice, meet other golfers and get a quick meal after work before heading home. It was a lot of fun, but because the clinic was so popular and the course crowded I was bunched in with a lot of other beginning golfers and did not get any private attention. Any mistakes I made remained mistakes. A large group lesson was not a good fit for me at that time.
I then signed up for semi-private lessons. I thought if the group were limited to two or three people it would be better for me. I needed some clear direction on every aspect of the game. The driving range had an LPGA pro working at the facility for the summer and together we scheduled several appointments. The Pro helped me with ball placement, my swing and taught me to keep my head down so that eventually I could actually hit the ball without slamming the clubface into the ground. With only two other students in the lesson I got enough attention and began to practice some drills. The one thing the teacher did for me was help me realize that the generic clubs I had purchased at the local sports store were the wrong length for my build, and before the lessons were completed she had fitted me for several new irons that helped my game tremendously. (More on this in another post about buying equipment.)
The following year I decided to visit one of the public golf courses in my town. I had heard they were offering free morning clinics for women members. By that time I had decided I really wanted to learn the game. I had purchased new clubs, had new shoes and was committed to improving. I knew I was not ready to join the regular Ladies League. These were women who had been playing golf for years. My enthusiasm could not match their experience so rather than head for the clubhouse on ladies day, I took myself to the driving range where the club pro held a 15 minute free clinic for any woman member who showed up. There were about twelve women in the group. We were all beginners and eager to learn.
After demonstrating just one element of the game, one simple instruction we could all absorb in the 15 minute lesson, the Pro sent the group of us off the back nine of the golf course to play however many holes we could get in before the Ladies League (already out on the course and playing much faster than we newbies) caught up to us. It was a valuable experience. Each week I learned one small lesson I could immediately put into practice. And I was playing with women who were all at the same level of play. There was no intimidation. In fact we all offered encouragement to each other. No matter how I swung the club, or landed my ball in a mudhole, I got positive feedback. Slowly my confidence built and I became a better player.
Over the next few years I took private lessons, group lessons, semi-private lessons with a variety of teachers. Some were better than others. Most were just fine, and in every case, I learned something I did not know. Today I continue to learn and improve.
Bottom Line: Whatever format you choose in which to learn the game of golf, find an instructor who honors where you are right now. You want someone who asks you questions and listens to your answers. You want an instructor who teaches you what you want to know. Tell the person what part of your game you want to concentrate on, and let them teach you. Test the lesson. Practice it. If it works for you, continue. If it does not, then move on and find an instructor who is a better fit. You want a teacher who is also a coach, providing you with encouragement and confidence.
Is there a learning format that you have tried that really works for you? Feel free to share your ideas.