By: Mark Harman, USGTF National Course Director It’s a dilemma I’ve faced countless times in my golf teaching career, and it’s one that, 28 years later, I still have no good way of handling. I’m referring to how honest I can or should be with some of my students. One of the things that breaks my heart – although only in a teaching sense as this is far from a tragedy – is when a student of mine wants to accomplish something and comes to me for my help, and I can clearly see that they have no hope of doing so. A good example is a former low-handicap older golfer with physical ailments wanting to increase distance and regain their glory days, when it is obvious to me that they cannot do so without undergoing some intense physical therapy and a lot of work away from the driving range. They come to me, hopeful that I can give them the magic move that will instantly create 10-20 more yards off the tee. I collect their clubhead data on my GC Quad (a TrackMan-type device) and look at their video, and see that, well, they pretty much have a decent-enough move that really cannot be improved all that much, especially in their currently-compromised physical state. I ask them if they are in a conditioning program, and the usual response is “no.” When I advise them to see their doctor and start one, they tell me “I will” but I know they probably won’t. I know from firsthand experience that getting motivated at an older age to work hard on a physical regimen to achieve better golf is difficult. A couple of years ago, I suffered a fall from about eight feet off the ground, landing right on my back and rear end. The fall permanently damaged my hip and lower back, and I have great soreness in my hip and tightness in my back virtually every day. So I can’t really get on my older students too much if they don’t do what is necessary to reach their goals. Sometimes I see people who lack coordination to the extent that they frankly will never be able to play anywhere near the level they desire. In these cases, I remain encouraging and help them as much as I can, but again, it breaks my heart (in a golf sense) that I know they cannot reach their goals. Now, some teachers might say that no one is unteachable, and that’s not what I’m saying. Yes, I can give them a plan that will improve their games, and that’s my job and I gladly do it. My dilemma is in how honest can I be. To my fellow teachers, how do you handle such situations? Please write me at mark@usgtf.com, and I will discuss your answers in another editorial later on.
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