Choosing a Coach
I'm a big fan of having a coach/teacher on your "team" if you are really serious about playing better golf. There is a lot to be learned about the golf swing, the short game, putting and the mental side from books and videos, but there is no substitute for a trained pair of eyes and a teacher who can help you in real time. This subject is prompted today by a question from Dan F., who is contemplating making the leap to professional instruction. Dan's inquiry:
"I have decided that it is time to get serious and get some lessons. If I am going to invest the kind of money an instructor/coach costs, I want to make sure I get what I pay for and that he/she and I can work well together. How do I find a good instructor, what questions should I ask before starting with an instructor, and what things should I make sure I include in my lessons?"
Dan, that's a big leap forward to forever improving your golf game. I am continually amazed at how many golfers spend thousands on equipment and play all the time, but make no investment at all in learning more about the technique when a stable full of golf professionals is available to them. It’s agonizing to me to see those at my own club who toil in the 90s and 100s, but will not engage our staff to help them improve. And I certainly don’t understand it.

The key to choosing a coach/teacher, Dan, is to find someone who connects with you in a communication sense, and who fully understands your own personal goals and desires from the relationship. Very few golfers want to make the commitment to completely overhaul their golf swing, nor do many of us aspire to be “tour quality”. What most are looking for is a gradual improvement of technique that minimizes the “uglies” that cost multiple strokes, and to just hit the ball a little more solidly, consistently. And I’d suggest that most recreational golfers could benefit greatly by building a more solid short game technique, improving their putting and learning more about course management. A good golf professional can help you with all three.

If you are making this plunge, the starting point is to write down your own personal objectives, so that you can discuss them with your coach/teacher prospect. Be honest with the commitment you are willing to make in practice time, financial investment and your willingness to change your approach to the swing and the game. The most frustrating thing for a golf professional is a student who won’t listen and/or who is resistant to change. You won’t get the results you are after if you won’t take the coach’s advice and work to ingrain the new learning.

On that note, finding the right coach/teacher is a process. I suggest you begin by engaging your own home golf professional into a conversation about your goals, and see if there is a “click” there. If not, ask around your area to see what local golf professionals get mentioned as being good. Interview them, as you are about to make an investment of time and money into the process. Ask them about their fee structure, and get their opinion as to what commitment you need to make to achieve your stated objectives. Ask them for referrals of students they’ve worked with in the past. Do your homework.

Understand that learning better golf is not a quick fix. These men and women are not miracle workers. They cannot transform your game overnight. New swing moves are learned only through repetition and practice. Also accept that once you enter the learning process, you will often find yourself stuck between old and new. If your regular outing is a gambling game with your buddies, it will be even harder to trust the new when your bucks are on the line. Think about all that before you embark on this journey.

And finally, realize that if the first lesson with a pro doesn’t go so well, you have to decide if it’s them or you. And be honest in that assessment. And share it with the pro. If there is no connection in communication style or personality, it is probably a waste of time for both of you. Sometimes you have to try out a few before you find the right one. But when you do, you are well on the way to the best golf of your life.

Your take, readers?


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[ comments ]
SD Charlie says:
As a relatively new golfer (1.5 years), I am starting to get to the point where I am
A)hooked enough on golf to want to keep playing and improving
B)comfortable enough with my swing, that I won't get too nervous in front of a pro
and C) thinking about visiting a teaching professional myself.

That being said, I think this is great advice, Wedge Guy. It's like any other relationship - good communication, honesty and a good rapport and everyone's happy. If one or more of those things is missing, then no one benefits. I'm looking forward to starting this journey early next year.
11/16/10
 
KVSmith59 says:
I went and took a lesson earlier this year. First one in a long time. It shaved 5 strokes off my average score. The funny thing is that I took it at Golf Galaxy instead of a local course. You can see the video recap of my lesson here: www.rivercityhackers.com/Training-Aid-Reviews/go

Don't laugh too hard at my "before" swing! lol
11/16/10
 
SteveS says:
I been playing 5 years, currently a 13 hdcp, and have been seeing a "coach" for two; about every six weeks, I forego a round of golf to pay for my lesson. I have some physical issues; i.e. severe arthritis; artificial knuckles in right hand, metal plate in right wrist; fusing my wrist so that it doesn't move, BTW I'm right handed. Joe, my swing coach, had me make some changes to accomodate my issues and can't say how valuable his lessons have been. At last week's lesson, he gave me an impact drill to use over the next six weeks, at which time I will go back and re-evaluate for the next drill. My golf season is over, and this begins my off-season routine to break 80 next year.
11/16/10
 
dsferris says:
As usual I have learned something from a Wedge Guy column. Thanks Terry. I have talked to the money people in my family, my Mom and Dad, and told them that lessons are what I want for Christmas. (yes I am 33 and mommy and daddy still buy me awesome Christmas presents) I know one thing I won't need for Christmas, a new PW.
11/16/10
 
ericmgaston says:
In Response to SD Charlie's post about being comfortable with your swing. As a teaching pro I can tell you that you don't need to be worried about that. Pros aren't going to laugh at you or think anything negative about you. Pros understand better than anyone that everyone goes through the growing pains of getting better. No one just picks up a golf club and shoots par. It takes years of practice. That's like not going to the dentist because your teeth are too bad.
Pros genuinely want to help you. That's why they are in the business....Trust me, it's not for the money.
11/16/10
 
Kurt the Knife says:
I'm trying something similar to KV at a place called GolfTec.
First videos I saw of myself were mortifying.
I mean, I was all over the place. Severe sway, huge right hip rotation, the list goes on.
Bought a series of lessons in hopes I can one day hit some straight.
In 15 minutes we had one fatal flaw isolated and nearly cured.
11/16/10
 
brian575 says:
I have had 2 instructors so far. One that recorded me and told me how I was doing everything right (which did not help at all sense I still stink). He did not give me one thing to work on. And then one who told me that my fundamental swing was flawed and that I needed to totally start over. I did not want to start over, something had to be worth keeping. Anyway that was about 1 year ago and I really want to start taking lessons again, but every time I approach a pro I never have a good conversation. I am young (30) and look younger, maybe they think I don't have money (I am not rich but make a good living). For lack of a better comparison I am looking for a Michael Breed type, high energy and likes to hear himself speak. I want to feel excited when I am learning, you know positive reenforcement. If any one knows of an instructor like that in HOUSTON, TX please let me know.
11/16/10
 
sepfeiff says:
OOBgolf is a great site for this article, discussing your stats with your teacher is a good way for a teaching pro to help develop a plan for your game and get your scores lower.
11/16/10
 
Lazkir says:
Like dsferris, I'll be getting some lessons this Christmas. I hope to focus on the short game and get that right since it's about 70% of the game.
11/16/10
 
aaronm04 says:
I think the hardest part is that the golf swing, at first, is unnatural for people. You have to be able to feel yourself doing something instead of seeing it. The teaching pro is extremely helpful because he can see your faults and the guy I use is very helpful at trying to make me feel things and develop my own swing thoughts which are more likely to help me get back to that point than ones he may give me. Finding the right pro for you is probably as important as being a good student. Find a good one and give his process a chance. It's not easy or quick but ultimately worth it.

I can also say from experience that I've gone through everything that Terry mentioned and he is on the money with it.
11/16/10
 
lcgolfer64 says:
Agree with Sepfeiff, my instructor used my Oob stats took focus on what I needed in my lessons.

A lot of great comments on here and also Ericmgaston, I've seen two different instructors - neither of them 'belittled' me or my swing [Wow, they could have though, haha. Looked at my 1st slo-mo of my first lesson - oh man was I horrible, LOL!]
The change lessons later was dramatic and the scores on the course moved in the right direction!
11/16/10
 
jev says:
Right now is a great time to select a pro and work on your swing. The most important thing indeed is "the click" - I've worked with a very good pro but the style he used and the way he defined his objectives just didn't match with mine.
11/16/10
 
TravisMiller says:
I have wanted to invest into lessons; however, right now I am only playing once a month and it could drop back to once every 2. So I am going to forgoe lessons at this time and wait until i can play on a more consistent basis. Great Article though
11/16/10
 
larrynjr says:
As much as I'd like to take lessons I will continue at least through next season on my own. I dropped from a high 30's handicapper to mid 20's this season and was scoring closer to the low 20's. Once my handicap catches up to my self taught ability, then I'll start considering a coach / instructor.
On that note, have any of you used the Dancin Dogg Opishot for self correction / training? www.dancindogg.com
11/16/10
 
Banker85 says:
@larrnjr: no but at $400 it looks freaking awesome.
11/16/10
 
larrynjr says:
The reviews of the Optishot are pretty good and impossible to beat at that price point.
11/16/10
 
brian575 says:
I just emailed dangingdogg/Optishot and asked them to send one to obbgolf. I have wanted one of these for a long time but am scarred of the results. I am sure the guys at obb will do a good job with the review and if they like it my check will be in the mail.
11/16/10
 
rmumph1 says:
I heard with optishot you had to pay an alot for additional courses. I would like oob to do a review as well and then give it away.
11/16/10
 
Kurt the Knife says:
Yeah,
Lets hear a review from the oobermeisters
11/16/10
 
Kurt the Knife says:
I mean, I'm using a thing that tells me:
tempo
head speed
ball speed
swing path
face contact
face angle
carry distance
And prolly some other things I wouldn't know what to do with.
If this shoptipot-thing can report stuff like that then I'm in for one.
11/16/10
 
dsferris says:
Terry now that I am home and can think straight, I want to thank you publicly for answering my question and the wedge. I have learned a lot from reading your columns. Thank you again.
11/16/10
 
lcgolfer64 says:
Cool looking software [Optishot] Would love to see a review by the guys and see what they say - it would definitley be something I'd buy to get me through the winter!
11/17/10
 
brian575 says:
this was the best review I could find.
www.zenchili.com/2009/12/10/dancin-dogg-optishot

looks semi unbiased. I would still like oob to review it so I know it is unbiased.
11/17/10
 
KVSmith59 says:
this website has info on all sorts of simulators: forum.ottawagolf.com/forumdisplay.php?f=101
11/17/10
 
legitimatebeef says:
I'm doing alright without a coach.
11/18/10
 
oobscott2 says:
Terry, question for you:
I am currently 27. My goal is to play golf on the PGA tour. I tried for one tour event this past summer but missed the pre-qualifier cut. I improved a lot over the last year without any lessons (from a 3 to 0 handicap). I first took lessons at 16 and continued until a year ago. I improved quite a bit the first few years but stagnated for the last few while I was taking lessons. I took this year off lessons and decided to focus more on playing golf and less focus on thinking about "golf swing" (unless I was hitting it bad on the range, then I would self correct and this usually worked). My question to you is, do you think it is worth my time/money to start up lessons again? I have moved from where I used to live so taking lessons with the last pro is impractical. Or do you think I should continue working on my game myself and seeing where it goes for some amount of time first?
11/18/10
 
lcgolfer64 says:
@KVSmith
Thanks for the link - checking it out now
11/18/10
 
azgolfcoach says:
Terry: Great post on golf instruction. Communication is key, from both sides. Update: I shot my lowest round, a 66 with my Eidolon wedges. Thank you - Terry!
11/22/10
 
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Terry Koehler is "The Wedge Guy" and President of SCOR Golf- The Short Game Company.

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