So, you’re thinking about learning the game of golf. Maybe you’ve been to the range a few times, played a few holes with some friends, and finally decided that golf is something you want to try out.
Or, perhaps you’ve been playing for a while, are completely self-taught, and have decided it’s time to fix some bad habits in order to get better and become more consistent.
Whatever the case may be, you’re ready for some golf lessons.
Believe it or not, there are a number of different factors you need to consider when choosing the right instructor.
Stick with me for a couple more minutes through this article. I’ve got some insight I think will get you on the fast track to rapid improvement.
Personality Type – Have a Friendly Conversation
As someone that’s given hundreds (actually thousands) of lessons in my career, I can say that a students’ success is largely dictated by how compatible their personality is with that of their instructor.
Even the best instructors in the world aren’t going to get you the results you’re looking for if your personalities don’t mesh.
Before you schedule a bunch of lessons and swipe your credit card, have a conversation with your instructor. Let them know what your goals are; ask them some questions about their teaching methods and background; get to know them a little bit.
You can almost think about this initial step in the process as a job interview. While you don’t want to grill your instructor and come off hard-nosed and obtuse (this won’t be well-received), there’s absolutely nothing wrong with striking up a warm and enthusiastic conversation to get a feel for who and what your prospective instructor is all about.
As an instructor, I love it when potential students want to know more about golf and who I am!
When the conversation ends, thank the instructor for their time, and let them know you’ll be in touch one way or another.
I always welcome the opportunity to chat with prospective students so they can get to know me. It’s beneficial for me too, as I gain insight into who they are as people, not just golfers.
Learning and Communication Styles
This goes hand in hand with personality type, but gets a little more into the nitty gritty of your decision of whether to work with a certain instructor or not.
I’ll give you an example.
When I first turned professional and started giving lessons, I had a really hard time working with students who were engineers by trade. It wasn’t that I lacked the knowledge to help these people out, or that our personalities didn’t jive, just that their learning styles didn’t at all match with my teaching style.
I was an instructor that liked to use phrases like “I want you to feel this in your takeaway,” or “the sensation should be the clubhead coming from the inside on the downswing.” It didn’t take me long to figure out that most engineers are literal. They want to know the specific mechanics of what’s happening during the golf swing.
On more than one occasion, engineers and I mutually agreed that they’d be better off taking lessons from someone other than me.
On the other hand, I’ve had untold success and breakthroughs with students whose learning and communication styles I’m a perfect match with.
However, if you find that you’re having trouble understanding the concepts your instructor is trying to relate to you, or you just can’t seem to put them into practice, be honest and politely let them know that your learning or communication style might mesh better with someone else.
The best instructors won’t see this as an affront or take it personally. In fact, there’s a good chance they will recommend someone they think might be better suited for your needs.
Beware of Methods
There are more than 27,000 PGA Professionals in the United States. And no two are the same when it comes to their teaching styles and methods.
With that said, there are some instructors that subscribe to a specific method or theory without much room for deviation. It might be Stack and Tilt, Golf Machine, One Plane, or any one of the countless other methods out there.
There’s no question, instructors that prescribe solely to a particular method know more than most. . . about that particular method.
The problem is that trying to fit every golf student into a single method just doesn’t work (the annals of golf instruction literature prove so, as does the shiny object effect of every method in modern instruction).
Golfers come in all shapes and sizes, and each and every one of us swings the club differently.
As such, trying to fit everyone into a singular theory or method of swinging the club just doesn’t work.
When you’re choosing an instructor, look for one that’s well versed in lots of different methods and ideas. Better yet, make sure they have a healthy understanding of fundamentals, ball flight laws, and general cause and effect of golf motions (driver to putter).
In short, the instructor you choose should not only have a grounded and proven understanding of golf and the inherent fundamentals, he or she should be able to readily adapt different ideas and theories to different students based on what is best suited to the individual.
If they don’t, or you get any inkling they’re trying to sell you something, it’s time to move on to someone else.
If the instructor you’re thinking about working with has been in the geographic area for a while, he or she has seen multiple students at your local course.
For this reason alone, there’s a high probability some of your regular partners have taken lessons from this instructor too. These folks are a free resource. Ask their honest opinion about their experience.
Was the instructor welcoming and patient? Did he or she take time to clearly explain everything? Were they engaged and enthusiastic? Did they leave time for questions and clarification?
What You Should Expect
One Step at a Time
More often than I’d like to admit, I get students wanting a series of lessons cram-packed into a single week. While we’re all in a hurry to get better at golf (I totally get it) this is a recipe for disaster.
Respectable instructors will never let this happen. Why? Because getting better at golf is like Rome – it can’t be built in a day. There’s a lot of information and introduction of new concepts that happens in a 60-minute lesson. As such, it’s all too easy for students to fall victim to information overload. Ever heard of paralysis by analysis?
Lessons are best done in a series where edible morsels are bitten off at a time.
Again, getting better is a process. There’s no magic pill.
If your instructor gives you a simple drill or two to work and it seems boring, it’s for a reason. He or she wants you to get better at something specific before you move onto the next step in the process of getting better.
Of course, if you have questions, don’t understand something, or are generally having a hard time during any lesson, let your instructor know. He or she understands that everyone learns at their own pace and will be sensitive to your needs. This is about you, not them.
Stay Patient and Accept Compliments
Golf lessons can be frustrating. Just like working out, you sometimes have to take a step back to move forward.
This is a simple fact you have to accept.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. More often than not, a lot of struggles and hard work on the front end result in monumental strides on the back end.
As an accomplished instructor, these are my favorite moments. We both smile, exchange high-fives, and get in a groove that can be earth-shattering. It’s these moments that make my job, and those of other instructors so worthwhile. We want to share these moments with you!
Golf instruction can get really complicated, really quick. That’s why I sound like a broken record when I say Keep It Simple Stupid.
Whether it’s my first time seeing someone or my 60th, I make it known at the beginning of every lesson that the goal is for my student to come away with one or two basic ideas that they can go work on and incorporate before our next lesson. If we can come away with that, the lesson has been a success.
From there we can continue to build, and build, until we have that breakthrough high-five moment.
And yes, those do happen!
We’ve come to a mutual understanding that taking six lessons in seven days isn’t going to work.
From that premise, it’s safe to say that you’re going to need to put in some practice.
My rule for students is two practice sessions between each lesson. Whether that means 15 minutes on the putting green, two medium buckets of balls, or a quick nine, the point is you need to put in the work.
There’s No Such Thing as Buying a Golf Game.
That said, reputable instructors know that you have a lot going on off the golf course. Jobs, families, practice, appointments, outside interests, etc. are all part of living a well-balanced and complete existence.
Any reasonable instructor is going to be sensitive to this reality. And they’ll make your homework assignments (practice) more than reasonable.
At the end of the day though, it’s up to you to put in the work.
Trying to learn the game of golf on your own is a stout ambition at best (not recommended). I can count on one hand the number of accomplished players I know that are completely self-taught. And I’ve been around some of the best.
That’s why I recommend golf lessons from a qualified professional, especially for beginners or my self-taught enthusiasts.
I couldn’t be more excited that you’ve decided to take up the game of golf. It truly is the game of a lifetime, and one that can be forever enjoyed, but never perfected.
But before you go hire any old bloke for lessons, keep in mind the dynamics discussed in this article. And be ready to put in some work on your own.
If you can do both these things, you’ll be all smiles strolling down the center stripe of the fairway for years to come.