CALGARY, Alberta - Let’s face it, nobody’s perfect. But while few golf students demand perfection from their golf instructor, there are understandably high expectations associated with the instructor’s ability to deliver a good lesson.
Why else would students give instructors their money? Obviously the onus is on the golf instructor to teach sound principles without making major mistakes.
As a golf instructor for 13 years, I, too, have made my fair share of mistakes. However, I’d like to think that I’ve learned from some of them. I know I’ve also learned from some of the deadly sins that I’ve seen some golf instructors commit.
Obviously, instructors who earn a reputation for delivering solid, “sin free” lessons stand a much better chance of being successful in what has become a fairly competitive market place. Those are the golf instructors who you want to trust with your time and money. You want to avoid a golf instructor who commits these deadly sins!
“Analysis is what this business is all about,” says Terry Carter, a popular instructor in Calgary, Alberta. “But wherever there is analysis, there is always the risk of over-analysis.” As instructors we look at grips, positions, posture, movements (or lack there of) and soak in hundreds of variables. It is easy to try t bite off more than we can chew.
“Clear, concise, and simple direction is all that anyone wants in a golf lesson – including professional players,” says Carter. “Instructors should go to the root of the problem and address it. They should stay away from working on too many things at once.” No instructor can fix everything in one lesson.
Webster’s definition of a “game” is, an activity providing entertainment and amusement, a pastime. Golf lessons should resonate with the fact that golf is supposed to be a source of enjoyment (no matter how well it’s played). And they should never be curse-filled, frustration-fests.
Does your golf instructor laugh with you? Do you walk away saying that that lesson was a lot of fun? You should every time. Or you – and your instructor – are not being true to the game.
”Assembly line teaching” doesn’t really have a nice ring to it, does it? Unfortunately, many teachers only acquire the invaluable skill of adapting to the individual student after they have taught for many years. It is all too easy for instructors to let a student’s envy of their teacher’s swing – or that of another student or a Tour pro – determine the course of instruction.
In the introduction to Harvey Pennick’s Little Red Book, Tom Kite states, “Harvey allowed the swing to fit the student – his or her personality.” Kite went on to say that Pennick would never allow a student to watch another student’s lesson for fear that they would try to apply something that wasn’t relevant for them. Your instructor should be working to develop your swing, not a copy of someone else’s, no matter how desperately you yearn to look like Ernie Els on the tee.
Some things are out of golf instructor’s control. How much a student practices, various learning disabilities, and the weather are all things that we have little or no say in. However, keeping accurate records of students and their progress is not one of them. Sadly, many instructors fall short in this area. Keeping accurate information on goals, assigned drills, contact information, things worked on, etc., are all pertinent to a student’s success. How is your instructor with the books?
The idea of marketing is, in my opinion, a grossly overlooked and underutilized tool among golf instructors. Why don’t golf instructors market themselves more? The answers vary from plain laziness to pride. Many often feel that good instructors should have students seeking them out.
Is your instructor “branding” his service? Is he finding new ways to get people in the doors, especially during slow periods? Does he have a workable marketing plan for his teaching business? These are questions that students can ask of their instructors. It says a lot about their competency, their desire, and their effectiveness as an instructor.
We all love to bust a big drive. And the full swing is seductively beautiful and powerful. But it’s only a part of the game.
The best players in the world average about 30 putts per round with a 70-stroke average. That’s about 40 percent of their stroke total (not including chipping, pitching, and greenside bunker shots – which would make the total over 50 percent). “Neglecting the short game is the equivalent of teaching a baseball player how to hit the ball while foregoing the skills of fielding it,” says Brad Delay, an instructor with the Terry Carter Golf Academy in Calgary. “Instructors should not make the mistake of producing golfers only half-skilled to play the game,” no matter how alluring the long-ball is.
Any instructor who makes you feel like you’re infringing on his or her precious time is not worth a second lesson. Remember, the lesson is the student’s time, not the instructor’s. On those long days with numerous lessons, some instructors can take on a robotic approach and make students feel like a nuisance. If the instructor appears more concerned with squeezing in extra lesson to make more money or schmoozing with the club members on your dime, find another teacher.
So how virtuous is your pro? Perhaps he should be folding his hands and getting down on his knees. Or perhaps, if he doesn’t, you should be giving your money to the guy with the halo who’s teaching down the street.
September 13, 2004
Andrew Penner is a longtime member of the Canadian PGA. Author of "One Flew Over the Caddyshack," he also writes for a number of magazines throughout Canada and the U.S.