CHARLOTTE, N.C. - In the last two articles, we discussed what you should and shouldn't expect from a golf instructional school, and we provided a list of ten questions to ask before you shell out your hard earned money on a week's worth of lessons.
Now we can get into some of the specifics. Assuming that you've decided that golf instructional school is the thing for you, you'll have to make a decision about what type of school is best for you.
The sheer number of school schools available for public consumption is overwhelming, and it would take an editorial lifetime for us to cover them all here. Instead, we'll examine a cross section of schools based upon teaching methodologies and philosophies.
Jack Nicklaus and Jim Flick have been teaming together for years to provide players with one of the most sought-after and intensive golf schools in the world. The teaching philosophy is traditional, in that Nicklaus and Flick adhere to the fundamentals of the golf swing as practiced by Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson, Sam Snead, Bobby Jones, and other legends.
While the subject matter may be traditional, the teaching tools are technologically advanced and state-of-the-art. All students can expect a videotape analysis of their swings, and computer simulation is being used at some locations.
You can expect to pay between $2000 and $3000 for a three-day Nicklaus/Flick school, and you can also count on shoring up at some of the country's finest resorts. Schools are conducted at the Boca Raton Resort and Club in Boca Raton, Florida; Superstition Mountain Golf and Country Club in Phoenix, Arizona; and Lake Las Vegas in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The three-day resort schools are Nicklaus/Flick's bread and butter, but they also offer corporate schools, women only schools, and two-day playing and scoring schools. Nicklaus/Flick's simple mantra is to teach golfers to "play their best," so don't expect anything quirky from this camp. For more information, check out www.nicklausflick.com.
John Jacob's Golf School has long been one of the industry leaders in golf instructional schools, primarily due to Jacob and his staff's philosophy of "teaching people to play golf," rather than "teaching golf to people."
Sounds like a simple difference in semantics, but the Jacobs camp claims it goes much further than that. Essentially what they are espousing is that they will not attempt to make you a golfer that you simply can't be. They will not try and teach you Tiger Woods' hip turn, Fred Couples' gravity golf swing, or Loren Woods' putting stroke.
Instead, Jacob's staff will spend a day analyzing your physical parameters, swing and body type, and experience level to develop an approach to the game that is right for you. Full golf instructional schools last five days, with four hours a day devoted to instruction and four hours a day devoted to playing.
This method is popular with students, in that they can be assured that they won't be sitting in a classroom or just banging balls on the range the entire time. Jacobs' golf schools are available across the U.S. at a variety of golf resorts and courses.
In addition to the golf instructional school, Jacobs Academy offers mini courses in the short game, playing and scoring, refresher courses, schools for juniors and corporate programs. For more information, log on at www.jacobsgolf.com.
As we pointed out in the previous two articles, golf instructional schools are not golf vacations. But let's face it; these guys are trying to lure you out to ridiculously posh resorts for three to five days of golf and golf instruction.
That sounds like a vacation to many golfers, no matter how much "work" is involved.
Resort Golf Schools have capitalized on this notion, and provide some of the most attractive locations for rigorous golf instruction. Resort Golf Schools have "classrooms" in California, Arizona, Florida, Chicago, Las Vegas and New York at such resorts as Gold Canyon in Mesa, Arizona, The Golf Club at Vistoso in Tucson, Arizona, the World Golf Village in St. Augustine, Florida, and Angel Park at Summerlin in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Similar to Nicklaus/Flick and John Jacobs, Resort Golf Schools retain a number of the game's top instructors, and follow a fundamentally traditional school of thought when it comes to the golf swing. Resort Golf offers three, four, and five-day schools, as well as some of the most technologically advanced swing analysis on the market.
Golfers are "shocked" into reality upon first arriving when their swings are matched up with those of professional golfers using stop-action computer analysis. Its not all fun and games at the Resort Golf Schools either. Students are issued a 300-page instructional manual to sort through and memorize. For more information, log on at www.resortgolf.com.
Moving from the traditional to those golf instructional schools that exist slightly outside of the box, we get to Gravity Golf Schools. Gravity Golf is a unique philosophy developed by instructor David Lee, and practiced by such playing professionals as Lee Trevino and Fred Couples.
The concept is that the weight of the golf club, combined with the inertia of the earth's gravitational pull, provides enough clubhead speed to produce an effortless golf swing that is just as long and accurate as the traditional version, but easier on the body.
Lee's teachings are somewhat controversial, in that his method requires a rerouting of the club and a change in swing plane. Think about Couples or even' Jim Furyk's swing and you'll get a general picture in your mind's eye.
Gravity golf flies in the face of Hogan's timeless traditional preaching on the golf swing, and with the exception of the three players mentioned above, the method is not utilized by playing professionals. This nuance alone raises a red flag for many golfers.
Lee also claims that players can gain more distance by using his Gravity Golf techniques, but the jury is still out on whether or not any gains can be directly attributed to this philosophy. Still, Gravity Golf has numerous testimonials. For more information, log on to www.gravitygolf.net.
Hold onto your visor, because if you thought Gravity Golf sounded off the wall, Natural Golf may seem like completely foreign concept.
What if everything we'd come to learn about the golf swing was wrong? That is not necessarily what the Natural Golf philosophy states, but it challenges many of the traditional elements of the golf swing. For one, Natural Golf holds that the traditional golf swing is made up of one too many planes. For Natural Golf instructors, there exists just one plane, and that is achieved by gripping the club in the palm of the hand.
Why the grip change? Natural Golf is grounded in the idea that the traditional golf swing is just too difficult for 90 percent of golfers to execute. The technique, first applied by Canadian golfer Moe Norman, centers on simplifying the swing so that the clubface is always square with the ball. In addition to the grip change, Natural Golf also calls for a wider stand and an entirely new set of golf clubs.
Once again, if playing pro's are your litmus test, there are absolutely zero golfers adhering to the Natural Golf philosophy on the PGA Tour, and just one on the Senior Tour. For more information, log on to www.naturalgolf.net.
Here's the run down on some other popular golf instruction schools …
Recognized by Golf Magazine as one of the Top 25 Golf Schools in the country. Ritson/Sole has academies in five locations across the U.S. including Wilmington, N.C. and Myrtle Beach, S.C. Three-day schools start every Monday and Thursday, and include instruction on all aspects of your long and short game, utilizing the appropriate practice areas. Also included is on-course instruction with your teaching Pro in the afternoon of Day 2. Focus is on course management, club selection and strategies needed to maximize scoring opportunities. One and two day schools and private lessons are booked subject to availability. For more information, www.ritsonsole.com
Traditional school that focuses on improving strengths and shoring up weaknesses. Goals and suggested practice routines are geared to your temperament, your ability and your desire. Three locations include Palmer's Bay Hill Club in Orlando, Castle Hills in Lewisville, Texas, and Saddlebrook Resort in Wesley Chapel, Florida. For more information, www.apga.com.
Classic Swing Golf School in Myrtle Beach, S.C. does not rebuild or tear down swings but reprograms them through proper information. They evaluate every student's body type, personality, skill level, and golf goals. Instructors then factor in LAWS of force and motion as they apply to every golf swing. These LAWS have remained constant for over 450 years. Classic Swing uses state-of-the-art-technology, such as high-speed video analysis, and the latest teaching aids. For more information, www.clasicswing.com.
You've seen his stroke savers on television, but this ex-touring professional and current commentator offers the whole ball of wax. Venturi can make a strong claim to having one of the most traditional schools around: He actually spent time learning the golf swing from Hogan and Byron Nelson. Instruction is divided up into the address, the grip, backswing, tempo, downswing, total swing, practicing the swing and the short game. For more information, www.kenventuri.com.
November 19, 2001
Shane Sharp is vice president of Buffalo Communications, a golf and lifestyle media agency. He was a writer, senior writer and managing editor of TravelGolf.com from 1997 to 2003.