The Informed Consumer
What You Should Know If You’re Searching For a Golf Teacher/Coach
Finding the right golf teacher/coach for you or your child is a very important process and should not be done in haste. Because the industry is not monitored or regulated, any one person can wake up one day and start teaching at a driving range or golf course. And don’t think it doesn’t happen - it is common practice for golf academies to employ teachers who have never given a lesson. They are often disguised by showing their playing abilities but in fact have no teaching experience. It is for these reasons that you need to do your homework and we hope the following information helps you find a qualified teacher and coach as well as a facility worthy of making the time and financial investment you’ll be making.
A great teacher/coach does more than identify areas of improvement in your setup or swing. He should have communication skills that are unparalleled! That is critical to not only your improvement but also your enjoyment of your time together. He should first find out what is the weakest link in that student’s game and tackle that first. The teacher helps people improve by helping them understand the learning process. They then help the student understand his current swing/stroke and how that relates to the shots he’s experiencing. Next the teacher explains what TO DO and they go work on it together as a team developing a simple and clear plan. Additionally, the teacher/coach should show the student how to practice properly, how to evaluate his own swing so that he can eventually become his own coach all without losing focus on the real goal which is to shoot lower scores. And all throughout this process the teacher/coach will encourage and support his students through the ups-and-downs of this game.
To begin the process, you should expect an invitation from the teacher to meet and take a tour of the facility. You should be expecting some questions directed at you during this initial meeting or in the form of a questionnaire. You might want to ask the teacher if you can watch him or her give several lessons and don’t be afraid to ask for the names and contact information of several students so that you can inquire about their experience with that particular instructor. When you sit down with a teacher to interview him or her, it will be easy for you to recognize those who go above and beyond to help his students, who will care about you and are quite concerned about your progress.
You should have questions for the teacher as you’ll be doing much of the interviewing. The following information should help arm you with a few questions and help in your decision-making process.
There are a number of golf academies that aren’t owned by the person whose name it bears. Some teachers franchise their name while having nothing to do with the training of teachers or operations of business. Often times the real owner(s) typically take a larger than normal percentage of the instructor’s pay. Such practices don’t attract the best staff of instructors. Finding who the actual owner is can simply be found out by asking if you can get a lesson from him. Regardless, it is of the utmost importance to you to know the instructor who will be teaching you. Just because the name on the building may be famous doesn’t mean that that person or the teacher you will get will be an extraordinary guide in your improvement process. You have to do your homework but doing so will pay off.
An instructor belonging to an association relating to golf or teaching means nothing to you unless he or she can help you. Don’t place too much weight on the instructor’s golf associations. More important is his or her experience. Instructors learn from each other and because of this, the instructor you’re seeking should have taught with several top instructors not just one or certainly not with other inexperienced teachers. Ask for a resume and ask who the instructor has worked under in the past. Ask for an exact past history and experience – this should be laid out in a resume and verified. Experience alone doesn’t make a teacher good however. They need knowledge and other skills like communication and proper diagnosis to help you improve.
It may be important to you to ask the teacher about the progress and accomplishments of those students whose handicap or ability resembles yours. This is one way to confirm whether that person has the experience, knowledge and skills to teach you. You should not feel embarrassed at all to ask for those names and contact information. If you’re concerned with being taught by a professional of a certain gender this is a great tool to utilize. Those students you contact will open up and share their experience both pros and cons about the particular instructor - this is an extremely useful process and one that should be taken advantage of.
Exclusivity to Teaching
Many golf professionals aren’t teachers or coaches. Everyone who is in the instructional side of the golf business has playing experience so just because they won a golf tournament doesn’t make them a great communicator or someone who holds the knowledge to help you improve. Other pros have too many other duties at their facility to spend the necessary time teaching, growing as a teacher or checking up on their students’ progress. Most spend countless hours merchandising, running tournaments, hiring and maintaining a staff, budgeting, putting out fires and frankly, many other duties that they tend to be centered on. While this is certainly not a blanket scenario, it is quite common. You should be looking for a person who can relate to you, communicate to you, who is dedicated to your progress and perhaps whose entire career revolves around the instruction side of golf.
Does the teacher have a philosophy? Does it match what you would like to accomplish in your game? Is the philosophy versatile enough to work with every ability level, person, gender, age, et cetera or is it a one-for-all approach in which you may not fit into? You can gain this information from talking with his or her students. If each student is working on the same thing, then it is likely you’ll be doing the same thing regardless of your need for it. Do you prefer instruction and communication to be non-mechanical and picture-like or do you prefer very technical terms? A great instructor is able to accommodate to the learner and find out which process is most beneficial to the student.
Access & Lesson Scheduling
Conversing with your teacher will be important as you progress. You will have questions and you want to be able to have them answered in a timely fashion. Your instructor should provide you with a high level of customer service. When you contact several of his or her students ask them the instructor’s timeliness in returning a call or email. Additionally, what process should be taken when booking a lesson? Is it done solely online, via telephone, email or are any an option? Will the instructor give out his or her personal email address to you and cell phone number? Ask yourself what mode of communication you prefer when away from the facility and make sure your teacher accommodates you.
Hours of Operation
It should be important to you to know what days and times the instructor works and if those times match your schedule. How far in advance can a lesson be booked would be a valid question. The answer will dictate how busy the instructor is which can work two ways - perhaps the teacher is too busy to serve you at a level that is comfortable to you or perhaps the teacher is so open that it should raise a red flag.
Your teacher should be continually learning and growing as a teacher, coach, communicator and business person. It’s one of the attributes of being a great teacher – they never stop learning. Your instructor should obviously be skilled in improving one’s mechanics but also be educated in the learning process, have superior communication skills, understand how the body moves and maybe even have some experience or knowledge about the psychology of golf. Inquire about what the teacher does to increase his own education of the many facets of instruction. The truly educated never graduate!
The facility in which you take instruction has great value in your experience and your ability to learn effectively. While you will ultimately decide where you go and who you see, you should weigh the benefits of a particular teaching facility to that of others. Something that has been studied and confirmed by many experts in the study of how humans learn, is that people tend to learn best when it takes place in the same environment in which one performs. Ultimately, that would be the golf course. Unfortunately, many facilities don’t allow for instruction to take place on the course due to the number of people playing. Some facilities have practice holes where on-course instruction of all sorts can be applied without any speed-of-play considerations. Outside of instruction on the course, the next best place is in an outdoor environment. You should certainly look at the versatility of the facility where you will be learning. The following will expand on that core issue.
Many indoor golf teaching centers have popped up over the past several years. While there is some advantages to taking swings indoors or even without a golf ball, to solely take lessons indoors is very limiting. When you decide to invest in your golf game, you should consider the versatility to work on your full swing with your teacher and yet also shift to hitting bunker shots, enhancing your green reading ability, go play a hole with your teacher or go roll a couple putts on the green before your lesson is over. You should be able to work on one aspect of your game and move on to another. Hitting off of real grass, being able to hit bunker shots, experiencing varied terrain, seeing how the ball reacts on the green with short game shots and seeing the flight of the ball are vital to connecting your swing improvements with what actually happens outdoors and is also a crucial step in your ability to successfully transfer your game to the course.
Taking a lesson at a golf facility that also has an indoor facility may be important to you. By having an indoor facility you will always know you can work on your mechanics indoors. Indoor instruction can obviously be done year-round but to see the flight of the ball, learn distance control with your wedges, learning to curve the ball, gain better touch with your putter, et cetera will all have to wait until you can get outside. If you have something in your swing that requires your ball flight to take a step backward and you can’t seem to improve due to your concern of seeing that ball fly poorly then temporary indoor instruction could be great for you. If you want to work on your game during the colder months finding a facility that has an indoor aspect blended with the right instructor could be a huge asset to improving your game come warmer weather. One other question you may pose, is if the indoor facility has the option to hit from inside the building out onto the range or will you only have to hit balls into a net?
Can you practice at this facility? As part of taking lessons, is that practice free or is there a charge? Can you drop by to ask questions if the teacher is not in a lesson? Does the facility have range memberships?
A huge number of people are visual learners and video analysis can be extremely helpful to those people. Some though don’t care to see their swing on video and sometimes the teacher can overuse it. Your teacher should be able to use such technology and yet also know when it’s best for the student to veer away from it. During your tour of the facility you should be shown the technology that can accelerate your learning and the tools that you’ll go home with after each lesson. These typically consist of sending your lesson to the internet where you can privately view it from any computer, personal notes, a DVD/CD of your swing and/or take-home photos. These don’t mean much though without an experienced instructor telling you what to look at, what to work on first and how best to work on your improvements. REMEMBER ... technology should be used to enhance the art of communicating and coaching!
What happens during inclement weather? Is the lesson cancelled? Should you expect the teacher to call you? Is an indoor center available at this location? On-course lessons, bunker lessons or the like are typically weather dependent but you need to inquire as each facility is different.
For some golfers the privacy of the learning environment is important. Take a tour so you can see how close you will be hitting balls next to someone else. There needs to be enough space not only for safety and your comfort but also for the teacher to move around and video you if need be.