Part of my challenge in writing these articles is finding topics that aren’t commonly covered. The internet grows exponentially by the hour with countless tips and tricks that are promised to revolutionize your game and add another 30 yards to your driver.
I think we can all agree that the majority of these videos aren’t very good and of the ones that are, it’s really hard to tell if the information being provided is suited for your issue. This is why golf lessons are still the best way to improve your game and will be for a long time to come.
The average golfer that plays once a week, buys only used clubs and plays golf balls they found in the trees last week, will only put aside enough money for one or two lessons each year. This article will help you learn how to make the most of those two hours and the money you are investing.
choosing a coach
Choosing a coach may or may not be an issue for you depending on a number of factors. If you don’t have one already, finding a coach may be simple if you are in a small town with limited options. Conversely, if you’re in a popular golf town with a lot of options, you may have a bit more of a challenge. Finally, if you are open to an online lesson, this route may create some options for you, and I’ll dive deeper into this option in my next blog.
When looking for a coach in your area, there are a few factors to consider:
- Personality – golf is a game of interaction. If you are going to spend a hundred dollars or more to learn for an hour form someone, it will help if you like them.
- Cost – cheaper is rarely better. Nobody shares pictures of the $9 steak they ate at Chili’s. They rave about the total experience they had at Ruth’s Chris. Understand what your budget is versus what it is you want to achieve and adjust if necessary.
- Facility – Are there ample areas to practice different aspects of the game?
- Technology – Any coach not at least using video on a regular basis is doing their students a disservice. Things such as launch monitors aren’t a must, but when diagnosing problems I would never want to guess what I can measure.
- On-course time – does the coach offer to take you on the golf course? This can be a challenge at some facilities, but seeing how the game performs in the context of a round of golf is very different from only hitting on a range.
- Referrals – has a friend of yours taken a lesson from them before? Do they have rave reviews online? Do they have a stable of high level players they work with? Beware of marketers posing as coaches, you want someone who is in the trenches on a daily basis.
Why are you here?
The first question I ask any golfer in the interview portion of the first lesson is “why are you here?” The worst thing a coach can do is assume that a player will always want to work on their swing and the worst thing a player can do is just follow the coach’s lead with blind faith.
Much like when you see a doctor, you have a very specific issue you want them to address. The more precise a golfer can be when describing their issue, the quicker solutions will present themselves for the coach. An example of a poor assessment of a golfer’s game would be, “I’m inconsistent” or “I’m a bad putter.”
Being very clear on your objective from the beginning will give you the best results with your coach, as it will identify the desired outcome. Are you looking to lower your handicap? Are you wishing to turn your slice in to a draw? Do you want to want to learn to control your spin on green-side wedge shots? These are all very different requests and need to be treated as such.
before the lesson
The day before the lesson, confirming the lesson time and address is always a great idea. Schedules change and things come up, but no coach wants to be left waiting at the lesson tee for an hour while they planned to be helping you.
The day of the lesson, arrive 30 minutes early to stretch and hit a few golf balls – Not 100. If you’re exhausted from the 3-hour practice session you crammed in before the lesson, you might as well not have booked the lesson. That hour is going to be both mentally and physically taxing as you work with your coach. You want to be ready to learn, not ready for a nap.
during the lesson
The best golfers always ask the best questions. The best golfers write the answers to a few of those questions down in a note book or in their phone. This is your hour and you want to get exactly what YOU paid for.
During the interview process, I will always lay out for the student how the lesson will flow in terms of time frames.
- They will start by hitting their shots/chips/putts while I take some video and capture launch monitor data. This is a chance for me to observe patterns and ask a few preliminary questions to gauge their level of understanding.
- Next we’ll go over the data and video and discuss the good and areas where they can improve. This is a chance for me to answer questions and grow their understanding.
- Once we have narrowed down the primary issue, we get to work on the solutions. There isn’t one way to solve the problem, we’re going to explore a few options to see what resonates with the player best. Some players are auditory, some are visual, etc. and tailoring the approach to suit a player’s learning style will help create results sooner.
- The last five minutes of the session is to summarize and record a brief video of me recapping the lesson for the student. This is recorded on their phone so when they return to practice they can have the best chance to practice correctly.
after the lesson
I said before that the best golfers ask the best questions and then record the answers somewhere. They also review those notes often and apply the information on a regular basis in their own practice sessions. If necessary, your coach can send you a before and after comparison to remind you of what to look for in your practice.
The most important thing to do after the lesson, is to block out your practice sessions for the next two weeks. On a calendar, block out the days and times you will spend at the range or at home working on your corrections. A rule of thumb is, “little and often” meaning that you are better off practicing for smaller time frames more often, rather than once a week for three hours.
If you purchased a series of lessons, schedule your next lesson with your coach two to four weeks from your first one, allowing you enough time to understand the pieces you are working on and to be able to perform them 80% of the time.
what not to do
In my eight years of coaching I have seen a number of interesting approaches to taking a golf lesson. Here are a few words of wisdom for those who are still new to the world of golf instruction.
- Don’t ask the coach to cram three different areas of the game into one lesson. There isn’t enough time for them to provide you meaningful, measured feedback and not enough time for you to adopt any recommendation they might make.
- Don’t play immediately following your golf lesson. As in, if your lesson ends at 10:00 AM and you are “feeling it” don’t run to the pro shop and book a 10:15 tee time so you can get in 18 holes before the feeling of ball striking nirvana leaves your body.
- Don’t show up to the next lesson not having practiced the material covered in the first lesson. The golf swing is learned in a progression of details. Think about setting up scaffolding. Until the first level is in place, you can’t build anything on top of it. Practicing what you learned helps to build a solid foundation.
Taking a golf lesson can be a gateway to improvement you didn’t know existed. So many people don’t do their homework beforehand which leaves them regretful that they even took the lesson in the first place. They leave playing worse than when they showed up, confused and $100 poorer.
A great coach will give you an experience that will leave you with an understanding of what to do, why to do it and the ability to do it on command. A great student knows what they want, chooses someone capable of helping them achieve it and works their you-know-what off to own it.
There are lots of great coaches out there, with this information I hope I’ve helped you learn how to be a better student.