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Golf Schools: Expect to Work your Soft Spikes Off

Shane SharpBy Shane Sharp,

PHOENIX – Golf instructional schools are all fun and games, right? Not necessarily. Sure, you are "required" to show up to some masterfully designed golf facility at some posh resort and ensconce yourself in the game of golf.

But what you may not realize is that golf instructional schools can seem a lot like work. After all, the instructors have about 72 hours to drastically improve your golf game and make you feel that the college tuition sized payment you dished out for admittance was worth it. We've taken the time to pick the brains of some of the game's best teachers and the golf schools they represent in order to get an idea of what the average player should and should not expect from a stint in golf instructional school.

Golf schools run the gamut in terms of philosophy, location, methodologies, and prices. Later in this series, we'll examine some of the different types of schools, such as Gravity Golf and Natural Golf, as well as some of the games big name schools (think Pelz, Harmon and Nicklaus/Flick).

For now, let's focus on some of the commonalities among schools.

Great Expectations

Check your ego with your golf bag

Remember, you are at golf instruction school because you want to get better, or something is seriously wrong with your game. Whatever you do, be humble and expect your game to be analyzed, critiqued, even poked fun at!

"We are here to help, and the sooner the student realizes that we have to break some things down before we build them back up, the better," says Dana Rader, a Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher and frontwoman for Dana Raders' Golf Schools.

Rader and other instructors advise that students formulate a clear idea of why they have decided on golf school and how they can articulate their basic issues. Make a list, write it down and carry it with you. Some students will go so far as to make a chart and follow their progress.

I'll have the complete overhaul, please

Some golf instructional schools, such as Dave Pelz's Short Game School focus on one area of your game. But most schools will completely assess and even overhaul your entire golf game. Short game, putting, driving, bunker play, course management… its all fair game. Another thing to expect for sure is to see your swing on video.

Video analysis was once the exception and not the norm in golf instruction. Most instructors agree that video is the best way to point out their students' swing flaws. For the average golfer who possesses a swing only a mother could love, seeing his or her unorthodox stroke on video can be shocking at first! Some of the more sophisticated schools are even offering courses on nutrition and fitness, and the mental side of the game. Oftentimes, a school might be associated with a one or more club makers. Some players will take the new knowledge about their golf swings and parlay it into a new set of custom clubs.

Are you getting all of this?

You wanted more information on the game of golf and you are going to get it at a golf school. At times it will come at you at a breakneck pace and in encyclopedic volumes. Golf instruction schools are nothing short of crash courses on the game with subject matter and methodologies that are dictated by particular philosophies.

There was a time when golf schools were primarily limited to the practice range, and the classroom. But these days, you can certainly expect video analysis and typically you can count on some type of computer-based breakdown of your swing as well.

It's not a triathlon, but…

The notion that outsiders have of golf being a game dominated by out of shape couch potatoes with potbellies is antiquated, at best. Anyone who has ever played 18 holes, especially walking, knows that the game requires a fitness level that goes beyond the ability to get up from a seated position to grab another cold beverage.

Golf schools can make 18 holes on a mountain course look like a walk in the park. Itineraries often run from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and require that students hit hundreds of range balls. Most schools require that you play at least nine holes a day to work on the day's lessons and many conclude with 18-hole rounds.

Also, this isn't like a day of classes back at "Drunken State." Most schools have schedules that have sessions running right up against one another with little or no breaks in between. Hit 100 balls, stand over 200 putts, blast 100 bunker shots and play nine holes and then let the naysayers know how sedentary the game of golf really is.

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.

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