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ncwoz

What should be my next golf investment?

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I'm basically trying to improve as much as I can in the most cost effective way possible. Working with a bit of a budget here...

I'm wondering what y'all think would be the most impactful investment I could make to help me lower my scores. Think most strokes gained per dollar spent. I'll list a few of my options below, feel free to add others you may think of.

Lessons - pretty self explanatory. I've never had any before

Upgrade driver - current driver is old and never fit to me. I know I'm leaving sooner strokes on the course using my current model

Upgrade irons - current set is old and never was fit for, but is also a mismatch of different shafts. Received an incomplete set and completed it with eBay purchases, not realizing at the time that shafts were (or even could be) different

Stat tracking system - arccos or similar, to help understand where on the course I'm really losing strokes, and where to focus practice (currently use the Grint for limited stats)

The Strike Plan - golfing instruction program to help ball striking...I could certainly benefit from some consistency there

Wedges - my 2 current gamers are old and were also given to me for free. Not fit to me, and have some noticeable wear

Rangefinder - currently use the Grint app gps and sprinkler heads

 

What are your thoughts? I think I might already know where the general consensus is going to lean...but let me hear it for sure!

(Fairway wood and putter are the only clubs I can confidently say are staying in the bag)

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Wow!  With a handicap of <15 and old worn, mismatched equipment and no lessons, You are doing very well!!  Congratulations!

You don't specify a budget, but from what I read, it sounds like it should be bigger than you have.  😂  Seriously, my first comment is that you aren't giving us much information to work with.  Using The Grint and keeping their stats, you should have an idea of what your strengths and weaknesses are.  

Are you hitting fairways?  What %?
Are you hitting greens?  What %?  Do you miss L, R, long or short?
Penalty shots?  Why?
How's the short game?  No 2-chips, 2-pitches, 2-bunkers shots, or 3-putts.
What's your big miss?

If you have a swing issue resulting in penalties and playing from the rough, then I would seek out a teaching pro for a swing evaluation.  I would think you could get an evaluation for less than the price a dozen golf balls.  A series of 4-5 lessons, about $150.  Many of us see a pro periodically because we all have a tendency to slip back into bad habits.

You don't say how old the driver is, but if more than 5 years old, you would probably gain some yardage and very likely with better dispersion.  If you have a swing flaw though, a newer driver won't give you the best chance to lower scores.  The irons can definitely be a problem is they are mismatched and you don't have good gaps between clubs. The irons need to feel the same from club to club, otherwise it's difficult to put a consistent swing on the ball.

As a 15 you likely miss a lot of greens.  If your wedges are old, worn and don't fit, you aren't giving yourself the best chance to get up and down.  Depending on the irons you have, you probably need more than 2 wedges.  Some players can get by with a couple, but wedges are scoring clubs around the green and get you out of bad lies.  I have always said that if you are a decent putter and practice your short game, your scores will come down very quickly.  Lessons will help here too.

I know this doesn't help a whole lot, but unless you have a bunch of natural talent, trying to improve to single digits will likely need help from a "qualified" instructor.  I say qualified because they are not all good teachers.  You have to basically interview them to find one that you like and explains what you are doing and why you need to do it differently.  I tried it on my own for a couple of years, then I spent several more years having an instructor help me "unlearn" all my bad habits.   

Best of luck, and definitely get a bigger budget!!  😀

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I can't add too much to what @Kenny B states above.  If you don't have a handle on your weaknesses, a stat tracking system will help to pinpoint them, which should make lessons that much more effective.  If you have a limited budget and you don't mind pulling your phone out of your pocket on every shot, GolfPad GPS can give you stats similar to Arccos and Shot Scope for far less money.  Or if you don't mind logging every shot on paper and keying into a spreadsheet, you can use one of the Strokes Gained spreadsheets floating around on the internet.

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7 hours ago, Kenny B said:

Wow!  With a handicap of <15 and old worn, mismatched equipment and no lessons, You are doing very well!!  Congratulations!

You don't specify a budget, but from what I read, it sounds like it should be bigger than you have.  😂  Seriously, my first comment is that you aren't giving us much information to work with.  Using The Grint and keeping their stats, you should have an idea of what your strengths and weaknesses are.  

Are you hitting fairways?  What %?
Are you hitting greens?  What %?  Do you miss L, R, long or short?
Penalty shots?  Why?
How's the short game?  No 2-chips, 2-pitches, 2-bunkers shots, or 3-putts.
What's your big miss?

If you have a swing issue resulting in penalties and playing from the rough, then I would seek out a teaching pro for a swing evaluation.  I would think you could get an evaluation for less than the price a dozen golf balls.  A series of 4-5 lessons, about $150.  Many of us see a pro periodically because we all have a tendency to slip back into bad habits.

You don't say how old the driver is, but if more than 5 years old, you would probably gain some yardage and very likely with better dispersion.  If you have a swing flaw though, a newer driver won't give you the best chance to lower scores.  The irons can definitely be a problem is they are mismatched and you don't have good gaps between clubs. The irons need to feel the same from club to club, otherwise it's difficult to put a consistent swing on the ball.

As a 15 you likely miss a lot of greens.  If your wedges are old, worn and don't fit, you aren't giving yourself the best chance to get up and down.  Depending on the irons you have, you probably need more than 2 wedges.  Some players can get by with a couple, but wedges are scoring clubs around the green and get you out of bad lies.  I have always said that if you are a decent putter and practice your short game, your scores will come down very quickly.  Lessons will help here too.

I know this doesn't help a whole lot, but unless you have a bunch of natural talent, trying to improve to single digits will likely need help from a "qualified" instructor.  I say qualified because they are not all good teachers.  You have to basically interview them to find one that you like and explains what you are doing and why you need to do it differently.  I tried it on my own for a couple of years, then I spent several more years having an instructor help me "unlearn" all my bad habits.   

Best of luck, and definitely get a bigger budget!!  😀

Thanks for the direction! And here I thought I was being thorough 😉 Let me try to fill in some of those gaps.

Budget is probably somewhere around $200-$300 for a one-time purchase. Buuut, I think  if I had a few smaller purchases just spread out I might be able to stretch that a little more. And if I know I'm saving up for a big one and warn my wife ahead of time she's usually pretty understanding.

I'm averaging 34.6 putts per round, 27.1% GIR, 39% FIR. Miss more fairways left than right, but not by a ton (35% - L, 25% - R). 34.9% par saves after missing a GIR.

I'm averaging about 6.69 penalty shots. (Yikes, didn't realize it was that high until just now.) I think The Grint counts bunkers as 0.5 penalty strokes, but I don't seem to find myself in the sand too often.

2 chips (from <30yds) are pretty non-existent, but I don't chip as close to the hole as I'd like. 2 pitches (<100yds) are a little more common. I probably 3-putt on average 3ish holes per 18. I can usually get out of the sand okay.

Big miss is a pull hook, especially with my longer irons and driver.

My driver (Taylormade R9) is coming up on 10 years old. Irons are Eye 2's, so about 30 years old, but decent clubs. Wedges are about 5 years old, but from what I can tell have probably 2 - 3 seasons worth of wear on them.

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22 minutes ago, ncwoz said:

Thanks for the direction! And here I thought I was being thorough 😉 Let me try to fill in some of those gaps.

Budget is probably somewhere around $200-$300 for a one-time purchase. Buuut, I think  if I had a few smaller purchases just spread out I might be able to stretch that a little more. And if I know I'm saving up for a big one and warn my wife ahead of time she's usually pretty understanding.

I'm averaging 34.6 putts per round, 27.1% GIR, 39% FIR. Miss more fairways left than right, but not by a ton (35% - L, 25% - R). 34.9% par saves after missing a GIR.

I'm averaging about 6.69 penalty shots. (Yikes, didn't realize it was that high until just now.) I think The Grint counts bunkers as 0.5 penalty strokes, but I don't seem to find myself in the sand too often.

2 chips (from <30yds) are pretty non-existent, but I don't chip as close to the hole as I'd like. 2 pitches (<100yds) are a little more common. I probably 3-putt on average 3ish holes per 18. I can usually get out of the sand okay.

Big miss is a pull hook, especially with my longer irons and driver.

My driver (Taylormade R9) is coming up on 10 years old. Irons are Eye 2's, so about 30 years old, but decent clubs. Wedges are about 5 years old, but from what I can tell have probably 2 - 3 seasons worth of wear on them.

With the equipment and budget constraints you currently have, I think I'd start there. While I would normally make the argument for lessons, the outdated and mismatched equipment is going to hold you back regardless - any instructor worth their salt will recommend an upgrade.

Now, your budget is pretty tight for a 100% bag makeover, but you can easily get most of the way there. If it were me personally, I'd start with the irons. The Eye 2's are a great iron, but by today's standards don't offer a ton of help, are weak lofted, and probably don't fit you well for lie angle - that's before getting to the shaft issue. I'm not going to make any hard and fast recommendations on a set, but one of the most popular sets of the last decade (and for good reason) is the Taylormade Burner 2.0 which can be had for a very reasonable price. The only drawback of that particular set is that they are notoriously difficult to bend if a lie adjustment is needed.

For the driver, you'll probably need to go beyond the past 5 years. You'll sacrifice some distance and forgiveness, but there are still older models available with plenty of pop - I've not had any trouble keeping up with all but the longest hitters (guys with 120+ MPH swing speeds) using my Ping G25 which was released in February 2013. If you can get anything with an adjustable hosel, it will make life a little easier for you - easier to swap shafts and change lie/loft/face angle.

I'd hold onto whatever putter and wedges you have for now and spend any remaining dollars on things like a putting mirror or putting rail - to help establish a good setup and repeatable stroke, new grips (if needed), or a solid instruction book - something that will help you with the fundamentals. For this, I personally like Ben Hogan's 5 Lessons, but I'll caution that it is not a one-size-fits-all approach and you shouldn't take it as such. What it is good for though, is making you more aware of things like grip, posture, and stance and will get you to a fairly decent neutral setup that can be tweaked from there.

If you really do your homework, you might find that you're just barely able to squeeze in a lesson prior to any purchases and get some input from the instructor what to look for - things like shaft flex, and lie angle for instance - so definitely do your homework before forking over any cash. With a budget as tight as yours (I've been there too - and wasn't smart enough to ask for tips) doing some research ahead of time is crucial.

 

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I found Dallas Golf on Ebay when I was looking to replace my 10 year old box-set clubs. They had NOS (New old stock) Nike VR-S Forged Irons for $249.

I sacrificed newer club technology for peace of mind knowing I was the first person to swing the clubs.

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I was a few shots better than bogey golfer and played Pe2s until last year. Currently a 6.9 (been lower) and not a club in my bag that has been there longer than 16 months. 

Lesson: I took a few a couple years ago. I have bad habits I fall back on and really need to go back.  Lessons did give me some great help and got me practicing with a purpose. When practice wirh a purpose, you save range money as you are very specific thus burning less balls. I fall back on some lesson drils from time to time and thsts priceless imo.

Apps: Lots of free or cheap ones. Nice way for yardage. I look at stats to see what I shouod work on if time gets short. 

Rangefinder: Bought this spring and not sure if it has helped over walking off yardage or an app. I do think it helps out on tee shots and lay ups especially on courses Ive never played. Stroke saver for sure, but not at the top of purchase by any means. 

Driver: Dont bother replacing until your hdcp falls. 

Wedges: First clubs in my new and improved bag June 2018. Went and got fitted for irons but budget was tight so I left with 2 new Vokeys. Id suggest irons first over wedges as I have a slight gapping issue as my iron choice changed. Before I bought these I was seeing low 80s thanks to lessons and playing a TON. When I started playing these wedges I started seeing the 70s. Worth 2-4 strokes and confidence soared. I play a 47, 51, 54, and 58 today.

Irons: I played standard length and lie  PE2s for many years in the EZ LITE shaft. When I was fitted they put me at stiff, half over, 2 degree upright. I found new in wrapper 2 year old 716 AP1s at Carls for dirt cheap so I bought them. Went from a 9.8 to 5.9 in the next couple months. 

Putter: Always played old Pings and lost all confidence. Had a real nice mini spider offeted to me August 18. Snatched it up and love it. Buddy told me few weeks ago how much bettet of a putter I am wirh it. It certainly aided in my hdcp drop.

For me getting properly fitted irons was a huge factor in my game improvement with a quality well balanced putter next. 

Id suggest a few lessons before getting fitted. 

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4 hours ago, ncwoz said:

Budget is probably somewhere around $200-$300 for a one-time purchase. Buuut, I think  if I had a few smaller purchases just spread out I might be able to stretch that a little more. And if I know I'm saving up for a big one and warn my wife ahead of time she's usually pretty understanding.

My instincts say lessons. Perhaps you might know of a good instructor or someone you know  - knows of one. Of course finding a good instructor that you like and one you can work with can be a crap shoot too. I've never really found that buying new equipment solves a problem with my game. Your equipment is somewhat dated. But remember, at one time it was the latest and greatest on the market. Golf clubs don't go bad/expire and stop working after a period of time. I suspect you (like most of us) have some basic swing flaws that might actually be fixable quite easily. Perhaps for $100 leaving you with $200 for something else like an upgrade driver or putter or.... another lesson even. Personally, I've gotten more bang for my buck with lessons than buying new equipment.

Good luck

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15 hours ago, ncwoz said:

I'm basically trying to improve as much as I can in the most cost effective way possible. Working with a bit of a budget here...

I'm wondering what y'all think would be the most impactful investment I could make to help me lower my scores. Think most strokes gained per dollar spent. I'll list a few of my options below, feel free to add others you may think of.

Lessons - pretty self explanatory. I've never had any before

Upgrade driver - current driver is old and never fit to me. I know I'm leaving sooner strokes on the course using my current model

Upgrade irons - current set is old and never was fit for, but is also a mismatch of different shafts. Received an incomplete set and completed it with eBay purchases, not realizing at the time that shafts were (or even could be) different

Stat tracking system - arccos or similar, to help understand where on the course I'm really losing strokes, and where to focus practice (currently use the Grint for limited stats)

The Strike Plan - golfing instruction program to help ball striking...I could certainly benefit from some consistency there

Wedges - my 2 current gamers are old and were also given to me for free. Not fit to me, and have some noticeable wear

Rangefinder - currently use the Grint app gps and sprinkler heads

 

What are your thoughts? I think I might already know where the general consensus is going to lean...but let me hear it for sure!

(Fairway wood and putter are the only clubs I can confidently say are staying in the bag)

Most strokes gained per dollar spent will be lessons and there won't be anything that could come remotely close to that. You could upgrade you equipment and see improvements but if you are serious about lowering your scores start with lessons and go from there. 

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12 minutes ago, THEZIPR23 said:

Most strokes gained per dollar spent will be lessons and there won't be anything that could come remotely close to that. You could upgrade you equipment and see improvements but if you are serious about lowering your scores start with lessons and go from there. 

One thing that might be overlooked with an instructor is that they may have other students who have old gear you could pickup for a good deal and the instructor would know what your game needs. So perhaps Student A has ill-fitting clubs, but they might be great for you; instructor recommends new clubs for Student A and then they facilitate a sale of old clubs to you. This is actually what happened to me year ago, so it's worth a shot.

 

Also, before buying clubs, a lesson is good to get an idea of what type of club you even need. There are so many choices out there, it's a bit like hunting for a needle in a haystack and since your budget is lower, a bad purchase could only set you back further. 

 

So, that's a long winded way to say - "Get Some Lessons!"

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I think (and the responses here have shown) the common wisdom/recommendation would be to get lessons, but that's a decision you need to make. I've never taken a formal lesson and instead digest most of my golf-related learning through online videos. Combined with a tripod for my cell phone, YouTube and occasionally recording myself at the range has gotten me to where I am at this point.

I have shelled out about $70 for two video series from Monte Scheinblum/Rebellion Golf. They have been really helpful, especially "The Efficient Swing" series which covers building a swing from scratch and not just "what not to do."

Would lessons have gotten me further than I am now? Probably. And I may take some in the future. But the instructor I'm interested in is $90/hour and that's more than I've been willing to spend in the past, though my attitude is changing. The caveat with self-teaching is that you need to be able to self-diagnose as well. Monte's videos have really helped me with that. Otherwise, aimlessly applying the mess of "swing tips" on YouTube is a recipe for disaster.

Outside of what you decide to do about lessons, my thoughts would be to prioritize the irons first. I'd shoot to get over to Maple Hill and demo as many irons as you can to get a feel for what you like to look at and what you can hit consistently. And it won't set you back more than $10 or so dollars for a bucket of balls. 

EDIT: Forgot to add, spend $10 on eBay and pick up Dr. Bob Rotella's Golf is Not a Game of Perfect and Putting Out of Your Mind. For $10 they will save you at least a stroke a round if you apply them to your mental strategy.

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I would say a lesson or two at least as a starting point.  Then see how it goes, you csn then get more lessons and/or pointers as to what equipment would be your best options.

 

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@Tarheelvolvo @THEZIPR23 @PlaidJacket @KurtActual @pulledabill @TR1PTIK Thanks for the insight! I'm gonna be honest, I was fully expecting everyone to just say lessons is the way to go.

I think I'm going to really look hard at lessons, maybe a set of 3-5 and after that, I think getting fit to irons will be next. @pulledabill hearing how much of an impact those equipment changes made for your game is definitely encouraging, and helps me figure out what equipment is going to be next on the chopping block! Irons it is...

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1 minute ago, ncwoz said:

@Tarheelvolvo @THEZIPR23 @PlaidJacket @KurtActual @pulledabill @TR1PTIK Thanks for the insight! I'm gonna be honest, I was fully expecting everyone to just say lessons is the way to go.

I think I'm going to really look hard at lessons, maybe a set of 3-5 and after that, I think getting fit to irons will be next. @pulledabill hearing how much of an impact those equipment changes made for your game is definitely encouraging, and helps me figure out what equipment is going to be next on the chopping block! Irons it is...

Smart move. Irons and wedges are most important to fit IMO because lie angle plays such a crucial factor in the direction of the ball. I went to a fitter in 2016 to have my lie angle adjusted because I was missing everything left, and it fixed it right up by bending everything 2-degrees flat. Went back at the beginning of this season to verify it hasn't changed and I'll continue to do that as it has made a tremendous difference for me.

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@edingc @Pandaman You guys slipped in while I was typing my response haha.

Thanks for the pointers. I've definitely been tempted to just self-teach myself, but I think I'm leaning more towards just giving lessons a go. I just don't quite trust that my body is doing what I think it is in my head and want someone with better knowledge telling me what's going on.

Just outta curiosity, who is the instructor you're thinking about? I just spoke with a co-worker who used to be in the golf industry and is a low handicapper, he pointed me to Patti Butcher, Charley Vandenberg, or just Maple Hill folks in general

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If you are fitted for same specs you are currently playing, I doubt it makes a huge difference in your score. 

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Lessons will certainly help you improve quicker than trying to improve on your own using tips and videos.  Whatever you think you are doing incorrectly may not be the actual cause of your problem.  Fixing the symptom and not the cause leads to more issues.  Making videos of your swing as suggested by @edingc is a good idea.  Great for showing an instructor and comparing your swing before/after any changes suggested by an instructor.  

I would check around at various courses in your area to see if a pro will evaluate your swing and make bag recommendations.  I have found that pros can look at a swing or two and provide a starting point without even charging you for it.  PGA Pros are there to help us, so check it out.

I agree that irons should be a priority after lessons.  You can play very good golf using your fairway wood and decent irons.  The driver should come after you've worked out the big miss.

I loved my Ping Eye 2's; they were great irons, but I've moved on.  You can find lots of deals on decent irons with more recent technology.  That's another area that the pro can help.  Identify what type of iron would suit your game the best, then try them out.  Finding good used clubs locally is hit 'n miss, but Callaway Golf Preowned and 2nd Swing both have a playability period where you can try out clubs for 30 days, and if you don't like them, you can return for credit.

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12 hours ago, ncwoz said:

Irons are Eye 2's, so about 30 years old, but decent clubs

Yes they are indeed.  If you've read my Former PE2 Players thread and subsequent journey through two iron fittings plus a PING Demo Day fitting, ultimately just recently purchasing the G410's, you know I struggled with the decision.  Having been fortunate enough to get selected for the G410 driver tester/review, that really got my "ok latest technology what can you do for me" mojo cranking.  Those results, while not an order of magnitude in difference (at least as compared to my Callaway Razr-Fit), were better nonetheless.  Likewise, the G410, JPX 900, and M3 irons offered improvement over the PE2; both distance and dispersion.  Accounting for the more aggressive loft, once again not an order of magnitude, but definitely better.  I do think being able to hit my 7i when I use to have to grab my PE2 6i (or even 5i) helps as most hit shorter irons more consistently.

So why am I telling you this?  Because I think it is important to keep in mind that, IMHO, club changes are likely only going to result in a small piece of your goal - which I believe to be lowering your index.  Most will agree it's the archer not the quivers that make the biggest difference. In my case, the recent changes in clubs has resulted in lowering my scores by 2 or 3 strokes.  Doesn't sound like much does it?  Perhaps, but it is also my belief that score improvement follows an asymptotic curve and you and I are both at that point where it starts to really go vertical.

So what is the right answer to your question?  Well, I think @Kenny Bdefinitely drilled down to the detail needed to help answer it, and based on your response, I would suggest both an iron fitting and a swing analysis/lesson.  I would also suggest finding a fitter who is an accomplished teaching pro (mine was).  The reason I say that is because he/she will be able to watch and gather details about your swing while you are doing the fitting.  So in a way, you'll get added mileage from the subsequent evaluation/lesson.  You should be able to cover both for a $300 bill.  Good luck and have fun! 👍

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2 hours ago, ncwoz said:

@edingc @Pandaman You guys slipped in while I was typing my response haha.

Thanks for the pointers. I've definitely been tempted to just self-teach myself, but I think I'm leaning more towards just giving lessons a go. I just don't quite trust that my body is doing what I think it is in my head and want someone with better knowledge telling me what's going on.

Just outta curiosity, who is the instructor you're thinking about? I just spoke with a co-worker who used to be in the golf industry and is a low handicapper, he pointed me to Patti Butcher, Charley Vandenberg, or just Maple Hill folks in general

It would be with Gary Bissell, who is the GVSU men's golf coach. He charges $90/hour for private lessons, including video and Trackman. He worked under Rick Smith prior to coming to GVSU. I've heard Vandenberg's name mentioned often, but I think his packages start at $400 something. Not familiar with Butcher, looks like she works out of Scott Lake, which I know has a pretty nice practice facility.

Maple Hill is definitely not that expensive, and I know people who have had good experiences there as well. 

Obviously, proximity has something to do with my wanting to try out Bissell. I could do the lesson over my lunch break.

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2 hours ago, edingc said:

It would be with Gary Bissell, who is the GVSU men's golf coach. He charges $90/hour for private lessons, including video and Trackman. He worked under Rick Smith prior to coming to GVSU. I've heard Vandenberg's name mentioned often, but I think his packages start at $400 something. Not familiar with Butcher, looks like she works out of Scott Lake, which I know has a pretty nice practice facility.

Maple Hill is definitely not that expensive, and I know people who have had good experiences there as well. 

Obviously, proximity has something to do with my wanting to try out Bissell. I could do the lesson over my lunch break.

Ahh, okay that's a new name for me. Yeah, Vandenberg has quite the track record, multiple Coach of the year in Michigan I believe. Which unfortunately has his prices (rightly so) wayy up there

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