Too Many Choices
We live in the golden era of golf instruction. We live in the worst era of golf instruction.
Anyone with a computer or smartphone can go online and find thousands of videos or articles on any aspect of the game. Anyone with a computer or smartphone can go online and post videos or articles about any aspect of the game.
The problem is information overload and loads of bad information. How do you sift through the mountains of garbage to find the gems? The answer is to find a coach who will give you the best information for your game. But how do you do that?
This Lesson Is For You If:
You want to take lessons, but don’t know how to get started
Step #1: What Do You Want?
Why do you want to take golf lessons? What are your goals? And what do you want from a coach?
These questions are not easy, but without clear answers, you’re searching in the dark.
Start with your goals. Be honest with yourself, and be thorough. If you just want to drive the ball farther, that’s fine. If you really care about your score and want to shave off 5 strokes, that’s great, too. No matter what your goal is, define it clearly and let that drive your search.
Next, consider what you want from a coach. Again, be honest and thorough. There are dozens, perhaps hundreds, of factors to consider. Here are a few questions you might consider:
Do PGA credentials matter to you?
Does it matter if the coach has played competitively or if they can still play at a high level?
Do you care about how personable they are? What kind of personality do you work well with?
Do they need to have a truckload of technology (launch monitors, cameras, etc) at their disposal?
Do you want to take lessons indoors or outdoors? How far are you willing to drive to get to your lessons?
How often do you want to take lessons? How much do you want to pay for lessons?
Once you understand your goals and what you want from a coach, it’s time to start your search.
Do Your Homework
The internet really helps golfers by making it easy to research instructors. With a bit of googling, you can find a list of coaches in your area, and you can probably learn a good deal about them. If the coach has her own website, it’s likely that it will answer many of your questions about credentials, technology, location, and rates. I’d recommend putting together a spreadsheet or page of notes with all your information so that you can easily compare instructors.
Once you’ve taken all the information you can from the web and narrowed your list of candidates, it’s time to make some calls. Get the answers to the questions that the internet didn’t answer, and try to get a sense of what the coach is like. Is this a person you want to work with?
Many coaches are going to try to get you to schedule a lesson rather than answer your questions. Fight this. If they’re not willing to take the time to answer some (hopefully good) questions, they’re probably not someone you want to work with.
By this point you have one instructor, maybe two or three, who fit your criteria and seem personable. It’s time to book a lesson.
View this first lesson as a try out. Go in to find out how the instructor uses his technology and how he structures the lesson. Ask about how he plans to get you to your goal: what is the timeline, how many lessons will it take, what changes will he make, and what does he need you to do outside of the lessons? Ask “Why” a lot. Why does this change have to be made? Why does this change have to come before that one? Why is he using or not using certain technology? If the coach can’t explain these things to your satisfaction, you may want to reconsider working with him.
After your trial lesson(s), reevaluate. Based on what you’ve experienced, do you want to pick one of these coaches and go forward with regular lessons? Have the trial lessons made you reevaluate what is important in an instructor?
After this trial lesson, and every subsequent lesson, remember that it’s your game, and you need to be actively in control of it.
The Biggest Problem
Even after all of your research and phone calls, there is one unavoidable problem: the knowledge gap.
Think about taking your car in for service. You can research the mechanic and read all the Yelp reviews, but at the end of the day, when he says that you need to replace your radiator, you just have to trust him. You can ask him to show you the old radiator and explain why it’s broken, but ultimately he’s an expert, you’re not, and you don’t know if he’s feeding you a line of garbage.
The same is true in golf instruction. Anyone who has survived as a golf instructor for more than a few months has proven successful at selling their methods. Whether or not their method is good, however, is the unknown. I’ve seen players work with the same instructor for months and make no progress. I’ll be the first to acknowledge that change takes time and sometimes you need to get worse to get better, but there’s also a time for pulling your head out of the sand and saying, “This isn’t working for me.”
This probably makes finding a coach seem like hard work. It is. But, just like the game itself, it can also be immensely rewarding.
With very few exceptions, the best players in the world rely heavily on their coaches to maximize their abilities. If you can find your Butch Harmon or your Cameron McCormick, you’ll be much closer to playing your best golf. Good luck.