PHOENIX, AZ It never fails. The average golfer, who plays between ten and 20 rounds per year, signs up for a golf instructional school convinced that he is going to shave 20 strokes off his game. No doubt about it, he is going to check in on Monday morning and by the time he leaves Thursday afternoon, he's going to be a single digit handicapper.
Wrong, wrong, wrong, says certified golf instructor Art Jensen.
"A lot of people actually expect to be great players by the time they leave," Jensen says. "They will leave and they might play two or three times in the next couple of months and they wonder why they aren't shooting in the 80's. Golf instructional schools are just the beginning."
Jensen, a former instructor for Resort Golf Schools, says there are a host of misconceptions surrounding golf instructional schools, not the least of which is that the experience is often viewed as a golf vacation. Feeding this illusion is the fact that the schools, such as Resort Golf, are often set at posh resorts in dream destinations like Scottsdale, Ariz. or Palm Springs, Calif.
"This is not a golf vacation and lot of students don't realize this," Jensen says. I hear comments like, 'I don't want to go out and play golf because I am too tired.' You are going to spend up to eight hours a day in these schools. Out of eight hours you will hit balls five or six of those hours. It is more work on golf than they have ever done."
Here are some other popular misplaced expectations, according to Jensen:
If you want individual lessons, you should seek out a golf professional independent of an instructional school. Jensen says that the average student to instructor ratio at most golf schools is five to one. Resort Golf kept its ratio at four to one, but some larger franchises will stretch it to six to one.
"The entire experience is a group environment," Jensen says. "It's no place to be a maverick. You practice together, play together, and you can even dine and socialize together."
And better players should not get jealous or bitter when instructors start spending more time with the 30 handicapper. In group lessons, instructors are naturally going to have to spend more time with the hackers, just to get them up to speed. If this unequal treatment is going to be a problem for you, you might want to consider individual lessons, or find out of the school groups players of a certain caliber together.
As mentioned above, many people equate golf schools with golf vacations. Not only are you going to work your soft spikes off, but you'll rarely get the opportunity to play 18 holes a day.
"A lot of golf schools will leave time for nine holes, and 18 at the most," Jensen says. "But its not like you are going to play 36 a day for four days. There are some playing schools out there, but if that is really your desire, just take a vacation."
Yes, that is your golf swing
Golf swings are like people's pets, or children. No matter how ugly they are, they tend to love their own. So if your golf swing is often mistaken for a martial arts move, a gardening technique, or an epileptic seizure, don't worry about having your precious baby embarrassed in front of the group.
Golf Instructional schools rely on word of mouth advertising, and no golfer is going to recommend a school to a friend if he was made to look like a goat by the instructor. Video tapes or computerized renditions of your swing will typically be viewed in private with the instructors, Jensen says.
"Sure, it's a group endeavor, but this is not boot camp for golfers," he says. "Also, you are not going to be placed in a group with a tour caliber player."
What to Bring
The majority of golfers underpack for golf instructional schools. Hours spent on the range and the option of walking nine holes at the end of the day lead to some sweaty golf apparel. Bring at least one shirt and pair of pants for each day of your school, plus you may want to keep an extra cotton shirt in your bag if its summer or your school is in a hot or humid location.
You may not consider playing in the rain on your home course, but if some showers should drench your golf school, the show must go on (sans lightening.) As such, come equipped with some rain gear, most importantly a pull over, and waterproof pants and hat. Also, don't think you'll get through school on one golf glove bring two or three and if you have more than one set of shoes, bring them too.
Other must have items include: aspirin or ibuprofen, sun glasses, sunscreen, lip sunscreen, bandages and a watch.
November 16, 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.