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Start the New Golf Season With a Lesson
By Snyper on 2/17/11
Matt is an opinionated* golf enthusiast from Pennsylvania. He coaches at the high school level, molding the minds and swings of our next generation. His column will appear each Monday on ClubSG. Feel free to chime in with your thoughts and opinions of Matt in the comments. Don't hold back- because Matt won't.

One of the most popular ways for people to start a new season of golf is with some lessons. I get questions all the time about when to take lessons, who to take them from, and even if I think they are worth taking at all. Well, the answers aren’t always as obvious as they may seem.

First of all, if you are thinking about taking lessons, there really isn’t such a thing as a bad time to sign up for some help from a professional. That being said, the best time to take lessons is in the spring. For those of you who are fortunate enough to live in a climate that allows for golf all year around, the timing isn’t nearly as important. However, if you have a time of year that you begin to play much more often, then it is at the start of this season that you should schedule your instruction. The obvious reasons are reason enough for this timing, but there are still a lot of people that will wait to take a lesson until things start going poorly. While a lesson is not necessarily a bad way to turn things around, starting your season with a good foundation is an even better approach.

Secondly, and probably most importantly, spend some time talking to people about the instructors in the area before you decide with whom to schedule your lessons. There are usually quite a few qualified instructors in most regions, but choosing the best one can make all the difference. That statement begs the question of, how do you know who is the best? Good question and the answer isn’t the same for everyone. The best teacher is not always the pro at the most expensive course or the guy that shoots the best scores in the local pro-ams. Playing good golf is very different from being a good golf instructor. I recommend getting some feedback from your playing partners on whom they have worked with and how they felt about it. Just like anything else, it’s good to know some information about the person you are hiring before you commit to them.

To help you know what to look and listen for in your search for a good teacher, let me describe what I think good instruction looks like. The first key to properly helping someone improve at the game of golf is not trying to make them a scratch golfer in one lesson, but instead working on their swing one step at a time. Because a lot of golfers want to leave a lesson totally cured of all mistakes, pro’s will sometimes give their student too many things to change right away. While they may have some instant success with the instructor standing their reminding them of everything, they will soon forget most of what they were told and return right back to where they were before. So, do your best to find someone who works in small steps and focuses on one or two things at a time.

Another key to good instruction is being able to explain to the player the reasons for the drills and adjustments that they are asking him or her to make. Some instructors are much better at helping golfers to understand the fundamentals of the golf swing. That element of understanding is crucial to long term improvement. In other words, anyone can teach you how to repeat a process and sooner or later, you will be able to do it. But if you don’t understand why you are doing it, you are more likely to forget how to do it and also less able to realize when you are doing the process correctly. It’s not good enough to say “Your problem is your swing plane. Try this drill and it should help your slice.” While that may be true, I believe that in order for someone to truly make corrections, they have to understand why their swing plane is causing them to hit a slice and also why that drill helps to correct their swing plane. So, if you are asking someone about their lessons, ask them what they learned. It is not a good sign if they don’t remember or can’t really explain why they did what they did.

In conclusion, if you are thinking about taking lessons, I recommend that you do it, but be smart about it. Just like you wouldn’t hire a contractor without a good reference, don’t hire a pro until you hear the right things. The most expensive or best player does not mean the best teacher. Find someone that you will work well with and that will take the time to explain to you the changes he/she is making to your swing. If you can schedule a series of lessons at the start of your golfing season, that is a great way to set yourself up for success. And, if you are willing to take lessons, you must also be willing to practice. Don’t bother spending the money on instruction if you aren’t willing to spend time on the range working on what you learned. You won’t see the benefits on the course until you have put in the time on the range and that is not the fault of the instructor. Money spent on a good teacher and some baskets of range balls is money very well spent!

* Matt's views and opinions are his own do not necessarily reflect those of SkyGolf.

photo source


[ comments ]
scottishguyiniowa says:
I'd have to agree Matt, growing up I got a lot of coaching from my Dad who was a two handicapper at one point. He was very good technically at explaining what to do to correct a problem but wasn't good at showing. I eventually got very frustrated and refused to take any coaching off him anymore because I could no longer just enjoy a round of golf without him trying to 'help' me. Through the Golf Foundation there I did get coached though from some of the golf pro's in the area and they made it sound a lot simpler and so I gained so much more! Another I learned is don't just book one lesson or two and expect miracles, book a few and let the pro and yourself of course see how you are progressing between each lesson. Finally don't just think playing the course is going to set those changes the pro gives you into your swing, remember to Practice!!
2/18/11
 
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