Reflections on Teaching at the Ryder Cup

Originally written September 30, 2012


I had the privilege of teaching at the Ryder Cup this on Saturday, giving 10 minute lessons to anyone who wanted one.  I got the chance to work with a lot of people, see a lot of golf swings, and, hopefully, make a few people a little bit better.  I also left with a lot of food for thought.  Here’s a short list:

1) Most people come into a golf lesson with no idea of what they want.  Despite the time constraints, I tried to ask my normal set of questions to every student: “What’s your current ball flight?  What are you looking to change?  What are you goals?”  It was shocking to me how many people answered, “Straight.  I don’t know.  More consistency/just see what I’m doing wrong.”  This leads me to my second point:

2) There is no “right” in the golf swing.  There is orthodox or conventional in terms of the look of the swing, and there is optimal and sub-optimal when you talk about impact conditions and distance, but there is no universal “right” in the golf swing.  Does your current swing produce results that make you happy?  Then it’s right for you right now.  If not, you need to figure out what results you want to see, then work on changes that will get those results.
I usually frustrate people who ask me, “What’s wrong with my swing?”  My answer is always going to be, “What’s wrong with your ball flight?”  You can show me a swing that is miles from conventional, but if it produces results that you like, I’m not going to touch it.  This leads me to my final point:

3) Most golf instructors are method teachers, whether they know it or not.  If you’re taking a lesson and your instructor starts telling you what to do or change without asking you what you’re trying to improve, you are likely working with a method instructor.  The thing that shocks me is that people not only tolerate this, but they seem to like it.  They like the certainty that method instructors bring to the table.  And if the method they teach is working for you, that’s fantastic.  I just think that the odds are against it.

I could certainly go on about these topics for quite a bit longer, but I think that’s enough for now.  Please feel free to post any thoughts, comments, or critiques below.

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Matt Saternus

Founder, Editor In Chief at
Matt is the Founder and Editor in Chief of Plugged In Golf. He's worked in nearly every job in the golf industry from club fitting to instruction to writing and speaking. Matt lives in the northwest suburbs of Chicago with his wife and two daughters.

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One Comment

  1. That’s an excellent point Matt. If you don’t know what a students goals are, where are you leading them and what steps are you going to take to get them there? The problem is, people know they need lessons because they’re obviously not getting better. However, they don’t know what they need to work on to get better. Usually it’s- consistency with the driver- but then they hit five 6-irons for you and one is a pull/slice, the next topped, the third chunked, the fourth push/slice, and the last dead pull left. Ummm are you sure you just want to work on driver??? Or they’ll shoot 100 and had zero one putts, four 2 putts, and the other 13 holes they three or four putted. They’re putting is “okay.”

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