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What to Look for in a Golf Instructor

December 17th, 2013

If you want to improve your golf game it can be frustrating trying to identify the mistakes you are making. Getting professional help from an instructor can go a long way to lowering your handicap and developing your skills out on the fairway.

Before researching instructors in your local area, you should consider several factors. Think about how much you can afford to spend on golf lessons and how much time you can set aside specifically for golf. You should also think about what type of instruction best suits your personality, learning style and commitment level.

The more expensive instructors are often those who have more experience, more awards or accolades and are usually associated with a more upscale golf facility. However, there are lots of experiences and reputable instructors that are more affordable. Be wary of exaggerated claims on how well they can improve your score in a small time frame. Decide how much you are willing to spend before your start looking into companies and stick to your budget.

A golf instructor cannot help you improve your skills without you having to practise in between lessons. To make golf lessons worthwhile, you must be able to follow up on them by continuing to work on the instructors suggestions in your own time. The higher your goals, the more work will be required. Be realistic in your targets and make sure you can dedicate the commitment necessary to achieve them.

There are two options when seeking lessons and instruction in the golfing world. You can choose to have one on one, individual lessons with a private instructor over a longer time period. If this seems too time consuming for you, many golf schools offer a retreat package, lasting two to three days where you are taught in groups. Private lessons offer a building block approach which is a more gradual learning process and can be tailored to your needs. Golf schools give intensive training, which gives you the knowledge immediately, but is usually quite broad and general.

Private individual lessons.

Allow for practice and improvement time between lessons. You will need to work on techniques and moves before your next lesson, especially when mastering the basics. A series of lessons over time with a top instructor will often be more expensive than a golf school. This element of cost can act as an incentive to follow up on the lessons by working on your own and practicing the new techniques. Private lessons also provide the option of follow-up instruction over time.

When choosing a golf instructor, it is always best to ask around your golfing friends to see if they can refer someone. Every golf instructor’s best advertising is their past students. To get an idea of the best teachers in your area, ask as many golfers as you know for their recommendation. Good tutors will often build up a good reputation within the local golfing community. It is likely a handful of names will continue to be mentioned, which makes a good starting point. You may find someone who has previously taken lessons and can give you a glowing recommendation or warn you away from a certain tutor. It is sometimes worthwhile posting on local forums to reach a wider audience and read reviews of golf schools. Following golf blogs can also help you get a good idea of what to expect from your tutor.

Interviewing the tutors before you commit to lessons can give you a valuable insight into their approach and attitude towards teaching. Remember it is your business they want and need. Here are some good points to cover:

• Ask them about their teaching experience and background.
• Is golf tutoring their full time occupation or simply a side-line?
• What is their teaching philosophy?
• Do they use video to demonstrate mistakes or techniques?
• Do lessons include on course training as well as in the practice areas?
• Do they offer additional resources for you to study between lessons?

This should give you a good idea of how your personality and learning style will match up with theirs. It is an investment into your golfing skills so it needs to be worthwhile, rather than wasted money. Attending lessons with a teacher you don’t like will impede your learning ability and a bad experience may spoil your enjoyment of golf all together.

Golf school

Usually at golf schools, attendees are put into groups depending on their ability. This allows them to get appropriate tutoring and coaching. It also offers the opportunity to learn from others, which is a benefit that individual lessons cannot provide.

Golf schools are a great option for people who want to improve their golf game but are too busy to schedule regular slots for tuition over several weeks. It can sometimes be easier to put aside specific dates and take time off over a few days. They are a good option if you a looking for a retreat or golf vacation, so you can combine a relaxing holiday with improving your game.

A drawback of this type of group teaching is that there is generally no follow up help from an instructor, meaning you’ll be on your own once you leave the school. Also in group sessions, the tutor can try to cram too much into one day. This means students are often bombarded with lots of information given to them at one time, meaning they cannot process and learn from it efficiently.

Research your golf school carefully, including its facilities. Usually the better the facilities, the more the school costs but you may also get a better education out of the deal. A top-notch school will have an excellent teaching facility alongside weatherproof hitting shelters, several putting and chipping greens in addition to trouble shot improvement areas. A high end school will also have indoor classrooms with state of the art golf video equipment for swing analysis. Golf videos will immensely help you in getting your swing right. Try to find a scheme with a low student-to-teacher ratio. Be aware if the teacher will bombard you with unnecessary information or focus on giving a handful of important tactics. Opt for somewhere that will give you personalised feedback on your performance. They should also help you learn the mechanics of a golf swing, as it will help you analyse, understand and implement good technique during your game.

What to expect from your golf lessons

Each instructor will have their own style and format of teaching. Here is a guide to the format many teachers use with new students.

Most courses of lessons will start off with an introduction. It can be intimidating for a new student to work with a professional, and tutors will often try to build a sense of rapport with them before lessons begin. This helps to put the student at ease and makes it easier for them to relax during the sessions, as well as leading to more effective communication between the tutor and student.

A teacher will need certain background information from the student to help them tailor the instruction so they gain the maximum benefit during the lessons. This often includes:

• the student’s previous golf and other sporting history
• any serious injuries which have led to ongoing health issues
• simple movement screens to detect any physical limitations
• if the student has had any golf lessons before
• ultimate golfing targets and goals they wish to achieve over the tuition
• ball flight characteristics
• how far the golfer hits each club
• strengths and weaknesses in various aspect of golf
• practice habits
• motivation for playing golf (e.g. competition, hobby, spouse activity, work)
• motivation for taking golf lessons

Once this information has been shared, the tutor can create a tailored lesson plan and will be able to set realistic targets for you to work towards.

A golf instructor will often ask you to hit shots with various clubs so they can analyse your technique. It is not uncommon for them to film this process to allow you to watch it back while they point out any incorrect movements or swing flaws. Explanation and error correction normally follow so you can learn what changes need to be made to accomplish better techniques. Making practice swings can help you feel the difference and then make the transition into actual ball striking. At the end of the session the tutor should summarise and re-cap what has been covered. They may re-film you once you have grasped the correct posture and technique, enabling you to make a comparison from before and after the correction.

More advanced, experienced golfers generally want error correction and this can usually be achieved in one to three lessons. For players who want a complete game makeover, a series of lessons with a custom curriculum will be created to extend over several months. A practice plan and regular communication with the student will aid the overall learning process.

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