Golf lessons have traditionally gone like this: A struggling golfer comes to the teaching professional for help, hoping to find a cure for whatever ails his game. The teacher observes the student hitting some shots, eventually diagnosing the problem and prescribing a cure. The student is then expected to practice what was taught and to improve.
USGTF Hall of Fame member David Vaught wrote an excellent article in the last edition of Golf Teaching Pro titled “Teaching Outside the Box,” where he detailed four ways to update your lesson repertoire in terms of offering new ways to provide instruction. It is imperative that teachers innovate and evolve with the times, and Vaught’s article reminds us of the value of doing so.
Vaught’s description of “Pile of balls, a set amount of time, teacher one-on-one with a golfer hoping to improve, or at least enjoy the game more” reminds us that if all we offer is a traditional lesson, we are certain to be left in the dust behind those teachers who embrace newer and more effective ways to impart instruction. This is not to say that the traditional lesson is obsolete, but should only be one part of our overall lesson offerings.
The traditional lesson still has its place, but many students today are expecting more than just observation and dispensed advice by the golf teaching professional. Hi-tech devices such as TrackMan, FlightScope and GC Quad provide invaluable data for both the teacher and student, as such aspects as angle of attack and exact swing path through impact can be detected to the tenth of a degree. Hi-speed video gives us insight into the moving parts of the swing that are too quick for the naked eye to see, where previously we were only left to make our best educated guess based on experience in determining if the student is executing correctly. So if you’re going to give traditional lessons, at the very least you need to have some sort of video capability.
There are teachers who are limited at their facilities, to be sure, but it’s important to reach out to golf courses in your area. Two of Vaught’s ideas, creating a league and having students observe the teacher playing two or three holes, require a golf course. Don’t be afraid to make arrangements with the course! Most golf course managers will welcome you if you approach them and explain it is a win-win situation and you’re not there to take away business from the course pros. In fact, you may be able to enlist the help of the course professionals and reward them accordingly.
What about teachers who are just starting out, teaching at a range-only facility, and may not have the funds for hi-tech equipment? Fortunately, there are still a large percentage of teaching professionals who give traditional lessons without hi-tech equipment, so the beginning teacher may not be at that much of a disadvantage as you may think. But too many teaching professionals get stuck in the rut of offering only a traditional lesson without video or any other hi-tech products, and never update the way they do things. Teachers who are willing to plow their earnings back into their business and make modest investments in technical equipment (e.g. video, inexpensive launch monitor, training aids) can soon separate themselves from their low-tech colleagues and are likely to reap the financial benefits sooner rather than later.
Another traditional lesson idea is the clinic, where a topic is chosen and the teacher imparts instruction to a group of students. Instead of merely handing out advice and correcting a flaw or two in each participant, teachers can create more interest by borrowing Vaught’s idea of competition, where the winner might receive a lesson or series of lessons. Perhaps a reward could also be discounted golf for all participants at a local course, or even a free round for one of the participants. In this day and age, people are expecting more bang for their buck, and we have to make it worthwhile for them.
Yes, there still is a place for the traditional lesson, simply based on the concept of supply and demand. Most golfers believe that their troubles with their games are technique-related, and want to have their technique problem identified with a way to fix it. From that perspective, the traditional lesson can fit the bill. But if that’s all that is offered, a teacher is limited in his or her ability to not only increase revenue, but help their students, as well.