SCOTTSDALE, AZ - With a name like Resort Golf Schools, you might expect to get rid of your slice and get a sun tan all in the same trip.
This notion, while not entirely true, isn't totally off base either.
Resort Golf Schools, one of Golf Magazines top instructional academies, has outposts in 29 locations in six different states. As you might guess, we're talking first class, sun shining 360 days a year type locations that will send you home bronzed, and better.
Scott Sackett, Director of Instruction at PGA Tour Golf Academy and one of the founders of Resort Golf Schools, said the concept of first rate golf instruction coupled with some fun in the sun came to him while he was an instructor at Jim McLean's golf academy in Miami, FL.
"What we have tried to do is come up with all-inclusive packages at great facilities and a world-class teaching program," Sackett says. "We use state-of-the-art video, and we have a four to one student ratio which is better than most schools five to one."
Many instructors warn students that golf academies are nothing like golf vacations. Five to eight hours a day are typically dedicated to classroom and practice range instruction. But Sackett says that Resort Golf Schools take a bit of a different approach, one that might appeal to more practical golfers.
"Let's face it, a majority of people that come to a golf school are actually taking a vacation to get here, so why not give them some good times?" he says. "Ninety-five percent of our students are staying at a hotel or on a property nearby. We also have commuter rates, but that is not a huge market. Basically, people are taking their hard earned vacation days and coming to these schools."
Resort Golf Schools limits instruction to five hours a day. At 3 p.m., golfers are free to head out and play as much golf as they want. In the summer months, this typically means at least 18 holes a day. In the five-day version of the school, students end up playing a lot of golf on a lot of great golf courses.
"Hey, we even do cocktail parties and the works," Sackett says. "Our first time students might come here alone, but the next year they will attend a different school with a group from the first time around. These are very social settings. You are with the same people all day, for three to five days."
Being social is a key component of golf school, since most players in attendance are suffering from a common affliction the dreaded slice. Sackett says that nearly 85 percent of golfers that attend Resort Golf Schools for the first time slice the ball so badly, they can't really enjoy a round of golf.
"What we emphasize is mastering the basics like grip, posture, and alignment as well as balance," Sackett says. "Then and only then does a student have the chance to make a perfect golf swing. Everyone knows what perfect looks like, but when one of those four things is off, you are in a state of compensation."
Even after years spent in the golf instruction business, Sackett (at right) says the number of homemade swings and funky grips that he sees still shocks him. He says that most golfers have weak grips and stand with their head directly over the ball two flaws that will always lead to slices and the dreaded coming over the top manuever.
No matter how bad the golfer, however, Sackett says that Resort Golf staff can have you looking good within a couple of days.
"There is no reason you can't look like Tour pro within a couple of hours if you have the right set up," he says.
While the majority of Resort Golf School clients are average golfers, hundreds of low-handicappers have also taken advantage of the school's top flight of instructors to improve their games. Typically, the better players don't have to worry about slicing the ball, so Sackett and his staff focus on shaping shots and the short game.
"There are five ways people learn, visual, verbal, feel, drills, and how much time do you have to put forth on what you are trying to work on," he says.
What to Expect
In a five-day school, the first two hours of the first day will be devoted to videotaping. These tapes will form the basis of the next four day's instruction. If you are in a two-day school, expect the emphasis of the subject matter to be on the full swing. Five-day schools get into the short game, and even the mental game.
What not to Expect
Don't expect easy street. Five hours of banging balls on the range, blasting out of bunkers, and standing bent over putts isn't exactly basking in the sun with a frozen drink. Come equipped with plenty of extra golf gloves, an extra pair of shoes, rain gear (unless you are in Vegas), and some aspirin or ibuprofen.
Did you Know?
The next time you see New Jersey Nets All-Star point guard Jason Kidd posting a low number in a celebrity tournament, Sackett is to blame.
Sackett worked regularly with Kidd (pictured) at Legend Trail in Scottsdale when the former Cal hoops standout was playing for the Phoenix Suns. He also worked with Suns shooting guard Penny Hardaway, Charles Barkley, Hall-of-Fame shortstop Ernie Banks, and Yankees hurler Andy Pettite.
"Jason is a legitimate golfer," Sackett says. "He is a solid 11 handicap, last time I was with him. He is a much better golfer than Penny, because he is something of a natural and he works at it so hard."
As for Barkley, whose awkward hack is a veritable "what not to do" with the golf swing, Sackett claims no ownership.
"I have just about given up on him," Sackett says laughing. "In fact, I really don't even claim him anymore."
November 27, 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.