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Matt Saternus

Best and Worst Things about Lessons

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Just as all of us strive to be the best in our field, I am always looking to be a better golf instructor. It occurred to me this morning that I have, thus far, ignored the best resource I have: the MGS community. If you have some time, please let me know:

 

What makes a great golf lesson/instructor?

 

What are some things that you hate about golf instruction?

 

What was the best lesson you ever took? The worst? What made them each the best or worst?

 

If you have any other things to add in, please do, but I think these should get the ball rolling. Thanks in advance.

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I'm taking a lesson on Monday with someone who was ranked PGA teacher of the year, so I'll reply to this later to compare it to the lessons I've taken at Golf Town and lessons I took when I first started with some kid at the local muni.

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I hate when golf instructors take a "one size fits all" approach to instruction. Not every golf swing looks the same and not all golfers look the same. Older golfers have physical limitations that young golfers do not.

 

Also, don't shower me with ten things to work on. Work on one specific aspect or maybe a couple and let's fix that. Hopefully something that can result in a measurable improvement to my game (yes, I know it's a process and you want me to sign up for ten lessons). Then we can move onto something else. Nobody is going to be successful thinking about 10 swing thoughts over a golf ball and a student isn't going to stick with it if they get frustrated out of the gate.

 

Recognize that there are mechanics and feel golfers out there. I'm a feel golfer. I have to feel the positions. Video doesn't help me unless used in the right way. Others are different.

 

Oh, and quit putting up Ernie Freaking Els to compare against my swing on video. Yes, I know I'm tall. Aren't there any other tall golfers worth a damn out there? No? Then maybe I should quit right now. The odds are against me.

 

Phew, I feel better now. Thanks Matt. LOL.

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I've been pretty fortunate, I've taken lessons from 3 different teachers at 3 different stages of my golf development and have had good experiences with all of them.

 

I think the one thing I will say that I disliked about the most recent sessions were the instructors insistence on spending quite a bit of time on "the fundamentals", you know, grip, ball position, posture, etc. Not that I don't realize that that is very important and I did take some things away from his instruction on these topics that I still use.

 

But, my take on that was that I was coming to him as a 6 handicap. I have a swing and I know how to use it to get myself around the golf course. I was looking for more of an individualistic approach to what I have and how to make what I have work better. I wasn't seeking a magic bullet, I just was hoping for a bit more of a working within what I have, I guess more geared toward me and my game and not so much geared toward "this is the right way to do it from the ground up".

 

For example, I KNOW I go back past parallel and I KNOW that isn't what is recommended. But after 10 years of knowing that and working to shorten it (and I have, some) it just simply doesn't work for me. I don't want to spend $300 for someone to tell me that my backswing is past parallel at the top and work on shortening it up for 5 weeks! And he did do that to some extent, just perhaps not as much as I wanted or had hoped.

 

That being said, its not that I think instructors are wrong to point that out. I think at a certain level being an instructor must be pretty difficult, its probably easier to take a 20 handicap to a 10 than take a 6 to a 4! Once you're a single digit, it becomes more and more about slight changes and small improvements, the "Eureka!" moments have all been used up I guess!

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Finding someone who talks to you and whom you can understand is difficult.

 

 

Shambles

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Great feedback so far, please keep it coming.

 

Another set of questions: When you have gone in for instruction, what questions were you asked? What were your answers? What were you looking for? Did you have specific goals?

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I have never actually had a lesson. Unless you count the two minutes I spent with our golf pro when we were actually talking about clubs and shafts, and some how the subject of my swing came up and he said move the ball up or back, I do remember which, and that solved my problem.

 

I have been planning to take lessons but have not gotten around to it. I certainly needed some today.

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I've only had 2 lessons in my life, with 2 different instructors and both to fix the same problem (driver slice).

 

The first one was the pro at my club and it was about 2 years ago. After "fixing" my swing, I couldn't hit the ball anymore. My swing was recorded on video, but I felt he wasn't pointing out my problem. I still didn't know why I was slicing. It's funny, cause he is supposed to be one of David Leadbetter's top instructors. So by the end of the lesson, I still didn't know what to work on or what drill to practice by myself. At that time, I didn't think much of it, because I was still new to the game. Now I look back and feel it was a waste of time. Not to mention the guy was constantly on his mobile phone. I see this guy on the range every time I go play and it just feels like he is there watching his students hit ball after ball.

 

The second guy was recently, about a couple of months ago. We had a session with Trackman and the pro was just great. He had no credentials like the guy above, but he managed to play scratch 2 years after grabbing a club for the first time, so he is still a junior pro.

He was friendly and took his time to explain everything in detail. We analyzed Trackman numbers, he brought a bunch of demo drivers for me to test and compare to my current gamer, recorded my swing on video to point out my flaws and reasons why I was slicing. He did it in a way that I could feel the difference. He gave me pointers about turning my wrist, inside-out feel, etc.

This was also the time I discovered I was spinning the ball too much. He changed the shafts and heads around for about 15 combinations and had me hit all of them. He really wanted to find the perfect driver for me.

When the lesson was over, he gave me a voucher for range balls and a Trackman session and told me if I decided to get a new driver, I could just come here and test it myself.

 

I know a lot of instructors don't give away their secrets right away, they want you to take a few more lessons ($$$) before fixing your problem. That's pretty sad. I look for an instructor who can attack the problem efficiently. If I come to you and tell you I have a dreaded slice, then please analyze it, point out where the problems are and give me some drills and pointers that I can practice when I'm alone.

 

Hope this helps!

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To me, a good golf teacher does the following:

 

1. Don't rush through the lesson - let's work on one thing today

 

2. Leave me with something to think about - the guy I use always says "it has to feel different, otherwise you can't change it"

 

3. LOGIC - stuff happens for a reason, tell me the reason and what the fix will entail

 

4. Let's have some fun - yeah, I'm paying you for your time, but I'll learn better if we connect on a personal level and have a few laughs

 

5. Give me drills and games to make practicing what you've taught me more fun

 

6. If we're on a launch monitor - explain to me what the numbers mean. I'm just a hack, this is my hobby, not my day job - help me understand the numbers and why they are what they are, and how the numbers show themselves on the course

 

7. Let me ask all the dumb questions I want -- 'cause there's no such thing as a dumb question.

 

8. Make it easy to schedule -- online purchase and scheduling is GREAT!

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I've had two teachers (one for just a couple of lessons), attended a golf school, had one subsequent related lesson to that and recently had a swing eval from a pro duing my club fitting. I'm not an expert in this area but will certainly give some feedback.

 

My first teacher was in college as I was transitioning from being a baseball player to a more serious golfer. He was the head pro at a very prestigious course and he was aweful - he had in mind what he wanted me to do and that was going to be that - of course this was the norm in that day - teacher's were method teachers who had a one swing fits all kind of idea. At the time I could hit the ball a mile with a typical baseball player's mentality, I had an open stance, dropped the club in the slot and hit long high hooks. He wanted to square my stance, strengthen my grip, basically rebuild my swing and I was playing to a 4 - I was 22, didn't have the patience for it and didn't understand what he was trying to do anyway. It soured me from taking a lesson for a long, long time.

 

After I hit 30 my body wouldn't let me swing that way anymore. I had an injured back that caused me to take some time off. At the end of that time I was clueless, couldn't break 80, sometimes couldn't even break 85 so I went to the Jimmy Ballard golf school at Doral. Learned a lot about the game there and had my swing rebuilt - his theories made sense - I especially enjoyed the analogy of Bobby Knight throwing the chair and used that often as a visual image for my swing. It all took time to sink in and frankly I was starting to have children and retool my life by going to seminary so there wasn't the time to let it all sink in. That changed at my first church. After my first year I had plenty of chance to play and found a great group of guys and club to compete at - it was just what I needed. I learned to accept that I was no longer very long (long enough though) but I was very accurate and I was getting fairly tough mentally - my handicap was a solid 5 at that point - I could really play to it.

 

Moved to Wisconsin and the first couple of years were tough on the golf game - the weather stunk, the church was large and I was expected to be a workaholic (something I easily fall into). I had lost my group of golfing friends as well but after those first two years I got used to the work pace and met some golfers plus started to become friends with a member who was a class A teacher and club pro at Pinehills in Sheboygan WI - a great little track!!!!! John really helped my game - clubs were transitioning to the big headed drivers, the Pro VI had taken the world by storm. We talked a lot about what I wanted to do with my game - he said if you want to play on the senior tour there's one approach that would include fitness, etc., etc. (he was partly kidding) but if you want to get a little bit better and maximize your ability while maintaining your standing as a pastor and a dad I have a few simple suggestions. Among those were more loft on the driver, using a proline ball, a small swing tweek and a player's iron - I resisted the move to the players iron because it makes the game harder - did try it when I came to Florida and even here I didn't like it - I go through streaks where I'm too busy to play golf and don't like needing a couple of weeks to get back into the swing of things. John got me to a solid 4 and by playing with me a number of times gave my the course management skills I might need to get lower. I shot my lowest score ever with him as my coach, a competitive 66. I also had some scores in the low 70's on the Blackwolf run/Whistling Straits courses. He gave me a game that was versital and could travel.

 

I've been away from him for six years now in Florida - my swing is really simple, folks remark about how simple and repeatable it is, even Brittany Lincicome remarked about how much she liked it. Since I can play year round I rarely get rusty and I have time most days to hit a few putts and/or chips - that work on the short game has gotten me down to a 2/3. My goal this year is to get my index down below 1.0 for an extended period of time and to win the Senior Division of the St Petersburg city tournament this October - I finished T5 last year. I tried to qualify for the US Senior Open a couple of years ago but that was a bucket list type of thing to try and play in a National USGA event - I have a low enough index to do the Senior Amateur and might consider it if it's on a course that appeals to me at some point in the next few years. For now I figure it's better to try and win something locally rather than nationally given my lack of that type of experience. St. Petersburg FL has lots of good golfers in it - I never thought I'd be someone who could compete with them the way I do.

 

In the next few months I want to take a lesson or two on distance control on shots from 120 to 50 from the guy who evaluated my swing along with my clubfitter - he's another don't fool too much with what works type of guy - I think those are the best teachers frankly.

 

So for me I think that teachers are best if they listen to their students, aren't cookie cutter guys, keep it simple and include course management in their teaching - it might even be best if they hit the course from time to time with their students - you might be shocked at what you see them doing out there Matt - really, really shocked - I know I am whenever I play with mid and higher level handicappers. I bet you could look like a genius without changing a thing about their swings - wait a minute didn't RP say that too?

 

Hope I didn't bore you all with my golfing life's history! I hate not being able to go out and at least hit balls - tomorrow after work!!!!! And Tuesday I get to play.

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Communication is the most important thing in the lesson. Once you figure out what type of learner the student is then it'll be much easier for you to communicate with them what you want them to do. Give your student 2 things 3 MAX to work on. Then give them a drill that will help them practice the things they need to work on. Identify the big problem first Matt and then figure out what steps you're going to have make to fix the big mistake. If a guy swings over the top chances are there are ten things causing that over the top move- don't just tell them to make their downswing inside out instead of outside in. I have all of my students set goals for themselves and then I'll tailor a plan so that they can achieve those goals.

 

*Also be sure to ask if they have any ailments or disabilities before you begin as that can through a wrench in the operation if you don't know it.

 

**dont try and reinvent the wheel

Edited by apprenti23

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I've always gone into lessons with a pretty open mind about what I'm there to learn. My goal is pretty simple, I want to get better. I don't really care what part of my game gets better, I like working on everything. I've also never really struggled with one specific aspect of my game either, I do everything pretty well most of the time, I can do anything really well some of the time, and on any given swing I can look like an idiot that has never swung a golf club!

 

I figure any teacher has something to offer and I just try to find what they are good at and absorb it. My first lessons with our course pro I didn't have a handicap, I'd been playing golf for 10 years and never broken 90. I went up to him and said "I'm tired of sucking at this game, teach me to not suck". By the end of that season, and only 5 full lessons, I was a 12.

 

I went to another teacher a year later, he'd started teaching at our course and had helped me a bit just talking with him so I figured I'd get another perspective. Again, the goal was "help me get better". He really worked on ball striking with me and by the end of that season I was an 8.

 

I went a couple years with no lessons and kept hanging around between an 8 and a 4 handicap, only visiting that 4 number once and only keeping it for a couple revisions. Then last year I decided to get a jump start on the season with 3 buddies and we signed up for a "Spring Tune Up" series of lessons with a teacher at a big local range. He's the one I was talking about earlier, and even though I felt like I got less out of that series of lessons than I had hoped, I still use a lot of his methods on the course and when I swing.

 

I'm starting to feel like my game is really getting primed for a breakthrough, which is kind of how I've always gotten better. I stall out for a while and my game marinates a bit, and then something just seems to click and suddenly my whole measurement of success on the course has changed. I've been looking for that moment for a couple seasons but I think it is building momentum now!

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What makes a great golf lesson/instructor?

 

In short I think it is someone that can relate to the student and in my case I am such a pain in the a$$ I'll start to question you as to why, you better have a good dang answer for me. If you are a very knowledgeable person, can relate to me in some way it is a relaxing fun lesson where we are not so serious about things, the last piece is getting my learning style down to cater to my needs to learn something faster and more efficiently.

 

I am a hands-on learner, I have to see it and do it for it to be effective, I can pick a few things up in text but it is best if i get a visual image with that text. I don't mind a instructor making me get into a position for example a top position that they need it to be by moving me around, it helps me feel the positions in my muscles and try to replicate that feel.

 

For example I am correctly working on my top position as many of you know that i have a bit of an over swing and my right arm is well behind my body at the top this means i can easily get stuck on the way down, working on getting my right arm isolated and in front of my body. I wouldn't mind if my instructor made me stop at the top position and moved me around where I needed to be so i could feel it. Some people don't like that though being pulled and pushed around by others, it makes them feel weird, to me it works to others it might not.

 

 

What are some things that you hate about golf instruction?

 

Instructors that think one method is the best method, sure some aspects of that method might be great ideas but golf is not one fit all.

 

 

What was the best lesson you ever took? The worst? What made them each the best or worst?

 

Well this sounds really silly, I think the best thus far has been with Burnt Edges Consulting, I think we are working really well as a team tossing ideas back and forth about my golf swing and understanding in what I need to focus on and forget about everything else or mainstream instruction. Bruce has gotten me out of the thinking that I can do it alone and into the thinking i need a trained pair of eyes to pick out the little things in my swing. It really has been an enlightening experience.

 

The worst ever came from a instructor that will remain nameless that worked for PGA Superstore in Myrtle Beach. This guy couldn't pick out a swing flaw if I slapped him in the face with it, I literally knew more about what the person was doing wrong then the instructor. That is bad when someone that is not paid or working in the industry knows more about a persons swing then the instructor. One of my friends in that store wanted to pay for me to take a lesson with the guy as a joke, The plan was for me to wildly set up closed and then cast the club or set up open and flip it depending on the day just to see what he actually claimed this instructor knew. You get some real hacks out there that have credentials that well I should say don't live up to expectations.

 

 

If you have any other things to add in, please do, but I think these should get the ball rolling. Thanks in advance.

 

Honestly, at the end of the day I want to be able to feel that who I am talking to knows more about the subject then I do and as a Single digit handicap you better have a very trained eye and a lot of experience to help me fine tune my golf swing. I don't need a rebuild I need a checkup and a fine tune, that is where Bruce and I stand and are on the same page about it.

 

I think that teacher and student just has to build a trust relationship, I have to be able to trust you are giving me good advice for my swing in the long run . If I don't trust the advice I won't take it and attempt to implement it.

 

EDIT: I tend to go to older instructors, I like the old school way of teaching, I like to work the ball and have control over my shoots. I think that it is important to have a feel on how to be able to hit different shot shapes rather then just primary one shot all of the time. This is something that I look for in a teacher are they giving me advice that will allow me to just play my game more efficiently.

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Had a lesson today - tune-up to get the swing back on track. Thought about this thread the whole time -- my pro has an interesting method - he explains what he sees in a swing and then asks me questions to help me figure out what I'm doing. Today we worked on a problem I've been having on and off for as long as I can remember -- the "starts left, goes letter" shots. He said it looked like I was starting the swing from the arms and shoulders down instead of the feet, legs and hips up -- had me do a swing and asked "what's the only thing the club can do?"

 

Well, duh.

 

Makes sense to me. A few minor tweaks and even my misses were looking pretty good.

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The method barbajo mentions was used by my second instructor.

 

On my back swing, my head was tilting forward. Then he told me to swing down slowly and when my arms bumped against my ribs, I realized what he meant. You can't swing inside-out if your ribs are in the way. So how do you get them out of the way? Tilt the head to the opposite side. Now I could feel my arms swiping around my ribs and through the ball.

 

If you are guided step by step, I think the learning effect stays longer compared to the guy telling you "tilt your head the other way" and you don't know why.

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If I had to add one thing, I think it is important for an instructor to know my goals in golf, where I want to take my game and how much time I can put into the game. I like the sounds of what RP said his old instructor used to do with all his students is first two times get information from them before developing a lesson plan. I think that is what I have enjoyed the most about Bruce where he has general information, it still prompts me to give him a lot of details about my game and where i want to go so that he can fine tune where to guide me and give me information. I think that is more an old school way to teach someone but I like that concept.

 

I have done a few free clinics and every time the PGA Pro doing the clinic just looks at my swing and doesn't really give me anything to work on, It is normally a focus on the worst golfer in the group the most. That is why as a good player I don't bother doing clinics unless it is a 2:1 or 3:1 ratio at most you get into the 5:1 or more ratio their is really no point in it unless you are the bad golfer of the group lol.

 

I have been working with video for the first time really in a long time, I only really look at my position at the top and my downswing sequence. I am a better golfer that is all I really have to worry about at this point, some people might have more pressing issues then I do obviously, but if you are going to look at video then make sure to send it to a person with a good trained eye with a lot of experience that can give you analysis and a way to work to the fix.

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I was really surprised to hear that you do group teaching..Of anyone on this thread, I would say that you would be the last one that I'd think would do groups...Two major reasons why...First, you're an accomplished player...You've been to scratch and you'll probably be there again..While I haven't seen your swing, I have no doubt that it a smooth, classical scratch-level swing...Now take the average person that gets a group lesson...

 

I took a Golf Class in college lol, It was about 10 students one instructor, I also did a couple free clinics (right place right time when they started) for kicks to see what the club pro had to say about the swing to the beginners. No they are not a good idea for accomplished golfers if you are directly paying for them :)

 

One question though, have you benefited from any of the group lessons?...Did any of them give you something that improved your swing/game?....How would you recommend someone use the group setting to benefit themselves & their swing/game?....The Best......

 

negative, I think they are a bad idea personally, golf schools are like this normally have a 2:1 or 3:1 student to teacher ratio of some kind, you better make sure everyone is about the same level of golfer if you plan to do a group thing.

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Hi everyone - My name is James and I am the resident PGA Teaching Pro over at Golf Circuit, a new forum sponsor. I've been reading through some of the responses in this thread and I though I would throw in my 2 cents!

 

I've given hundreds of lessons throughout my career, and I've learned that many of the traditional techniques practiced by golf instructors tend to be ineffective at best, and can even end up making you worse. Here's a few of the problems I have noticed with traditional golf lessons:

 

  • When you head to the driving range with an instructor and they try to change your swing, what they are really doing is trying to reprogram your movement patterns. Unfortunately, modern sports science has shown that in adult humans it can take tens of thousands of repetitions to successfully reprogram a movement pattern or motor program. This is the reason why you often get worse after a lesson - you have not had nearly enough repetitions to make the swing change a permanent and subconsciously repeatable movement.

  • Often I see instructors telling their students to do things that they are physically not be able to do. The golf swing requires an amazing amount of coordination, balance, and strength. In my teaching I often find that my students cannot perform the basic physical movements that are the building blocks of the golf swing. If your instructor does not evaluate you to determine what your body is capable of your lessons can be extremely frustrating, and it often ruins the student / teacher relationship.

  • Most instructors establish relationships with their students without any clear goals in mind, and they do not track improvement or progress. They simply give a lesson here, and a lesson there with no plan of attack. This may seem like a simple concept, but I challenge you to find an instructor who will actually help you track the improvements in your scores and work with you to help set and achieve goals. I also recommend instructors charge recurring monthly fees for unlimited lessons (most students will realistically only have time for 1-2 lessons per week, and if they have time for more the instructor should be honored to work with such a dedicated player). This gives the student and the instructor a chance to make long term plans and work toward some serious improvement together.

These are just some of the things I have noticed during my teaching career. Hopefully this knowledge will help you seek out the best teachers and coaches, and avoid the ones who aren't up to snuff. If you've got any questions please don't hesitate to ask!

 

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