Choosing the Best Form of Instruction - Then Making the Most of It

Rick DePamphilis
PGA Master Professional
Sun ‘N Air Driving Range - Danvers, MA

Interested in improving your golf game but don’t know where to start?
Confused about all the instructional choices from videotapes to video taping analysis?

Getting a handle on how to choose the best form of golf instruction involves some caveats that each individual needs to consider – but before we “let the buyer beware,” ask yourself these knockout questions:

1 - Where am I in my golf game? Where do I want to go with it?
2 - What are my wants, needs, goals, and objectives?
3 - What amount of time, effort, energy and expense do I want to commit to the improvement process?
4 - Do I want the instructor’s undivided attention, or would I feel more comfortable taking golf instruction with family, fiends, in a private group, or among strangers?
5 - Do I want golf instruction that utilizes the latest in cutting edge advances in state of the art technology, or do I want a more traditional approach?
6 - Will I be seeking a “second opinion” during my golf instruction combining many forms simultaneously, or do I want to develop a single, long-lasting relationship?

The way you honestly answer these questions will shape the course of your decision in choosing what the best form of golf instruction is for you. Many golfers have not asked themselves these questions, or do not have a clear picture of their answers. Listed are some of the many forms of golf instruction, the inherent characteristics of each type, and recommended matching of instructional forms to ability levels.

The most intense, one on one, individual attention a golfer can receive from golf instruction is the private lesson. This form of golf instruction accommodates the individual who wants highly personalized, individual attention with a constant flow of information, exchange of thoughts, feelings, perceptions, feedback and reinforcement. This is an ideal instructional form to establish a lasting learning relationship, and tends to be the most beneficial bonding when working with one instructor over the long run.

Not recommended for the novice beginner or brand new player who tends to feel more comfortable blending in with a more sociable group, private individual instruction is not for the faint hearted, and demands complete surrender to the instructor’s philosophies and methodologies to achieve maximum results.

Best when done over the long term, more than one lesson is oftentimes needed and can be both time consuming and expensive. It is, however, the most productive form of golf instruction when a student is able to find one instructor whose style, methods and philosophies are closely matched and well suited to the student’s ways of learning.

Most of the great players you recognize on tour today have such “mentors;” Kite and Crenshaw have Pennick, Faldo has Leadbetter, and Nicklaus always had Grout. Find one instructor and stick with him (or her) – the rewards will be great and the successes many.
Recommended For: Intermediates, Advanced Intermediates, Advanced Players and Professionals

A Somewhat scaled down version of private individual golf instruction; private group instruction combines the benefits of a more personalized instructional form with the flexibility of hand picking a private group, in both number and makeup. Collectively, the private group determines the itinerary and lesson content. This is ideal for a group of friends, relatives or business associates who socialize together and would like to learn more about golf given the latitude of choosing the areas of game improvement desired. As a private group, the members have total control over what is to be instructed based on their ultimate goals and objectives. To assemble candidates for private group instruction, find between two to six fellow golfers who are at or near the same ability level. Mixing ability levels in the same group is awkward for both the student and the instructor. The instruction can only go as fast as the least experienced member of the group. With all group members being at or near the same level of ability, continuity, cohesiveness and understanding prevail. Private groups normally arrange themselves as a result of some daily life associations be it family, friends or business associates, and would not only like to learn, but also play together. Frequently, this association leads to helping one another improve during the lessons and on the golf course.
Recommended For: Novice Beginners, New Players

Normally, golf clinics are geared toward special interest groups of people with a structured itinerary, based on the needs of the targeted audience. Traditionally designed for the novice beginner, golf clinics generally serve as an introduction to golf and may act as a springboard for junior/adult beginners to further the educational aspects of learning to play better golf. Golf clinics are administered in the form of class sessions, on day exhibitions, demonstrations, or special group arrangements such as corporate outings, field trips or promotions tied in with a tournament event. Most golf facilities offer some form of special interest golf clinics during the golf season.
Recommended For: Novices, Beginners, New Players, Special Interest Groups and Corporate Outings

Available to just about any golfer looking to improve, golf schools take on many forms, all seeming to offer the most unique approach, proven techniques, and proprietary methodologies that promise you long lasting game improvement results. Although one-day golf schools/academies are uncommon, multi-day schools from 2-5 day total sessions typically combine golf range practice/learning with on course play/instruction. Some schools boast luxurious venues, championship golf courses, and state of the art learning aids with prominent instructors. Be prepared, regardless of the venue or quality of the golf course and instructional staff, to hit lots of golf balls for extended periods of time. This form of instruction is best for combining a vacation with a golf package of instruction, play and camaraderie. Expect your fair share of ups and downs, trails and tribulations, especially at a five-day golf school. Lock onto a golf instructor who understands your learning style, speaks your language and whom you relate to. Characteristic to large instruction staffs may be loads of instructional confusion. While each instructor attempts to help you, instructional styles, methods of communication, and student interpretation may not be consistent. Latch onto a consistent diagnosis, one that rings true and has a reoccurring theme among all instructors. Otherwise, you will become a victim of paralysis through too much conflicting analysis. Whatever is done on the practice range, pace yourself both physically and mentally. Rapid machine gun fire practice leads to blisters, body aches and discouragement.
Recommended For: New Players, Intermediates, Advanced Intermediates, Vacationers, Couples

Making the Most of Your Choice

  • Come with and keep an open mind
  • Be as relaxed as possible
  • Have trust and confidence in the instructor by compiling references, recommendations, and ascertaining the instructor’s reputation
  • Be prepared physically (warm up before lessons) and mentally (ask questions, relate comments, thoughts, problems freely)
  • Be honest with yourself and the instructor
  • Stick to one instructor and give the process a chance (conflicting advice or styles lead to confusion)
  • Ask for (if not offered) a recommended game plan for overall improvement including frequency of practice sessions, swing/drill repetitions, spacing of lesson appointments
  • Write down and log all your thoughts, feelings, impressions and lesson content immediately following each lesson

  • Put together a group of golfers who are at/near same ability
  • Determine the wants, needs, goals and objectives of group
  • Clearly communicate what group wants out of instruction
  • Keep in mind instruction can only go as fast as least experienced

  • Watch and observe instructor’s demonstrations closely
  • Try to “mimic” instructor’s demonstrations as closely as possible
  • Keep perceptions simple and basic
  • Be encouraged by and thoroughly enjoy good shots
  • Ask questions if/when confused

  • Do your homework – know as much as possible about the golf school staff, itinerary, teaching methods / philosophy, success rate and reputation to avoid disappointment
  • Pace yourself! Hitting too many golf balls too fast leads to lots of blisters, body aches and discouragement
  • Pick out tone instructor to whom you relate and who relates well with you. Concentrate and focus on his/her direction (Too Much instruction from various sources leads to loads of uncertainty)

    Rick DePamphilis
    PGA Master Professional
    Sun ‘N Air Driving Range

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