Imagine you’re about to take on a great adventure with many unknowns. You’re probably looking forward to it with a mix of excitement and trepidation, and everything in between. You think about how much you’ll get out of it and the benefits and joys, but you may also be thinking about any potential negative aspects and pitfalls that could arise.
Students, especially beginners, who are taking golf lessons for the first time may experience all of these emotions, since for them, the beginning of their golf career may well be that great adventure on which they are embarking. Unfortunately, there are too many true stories about intimidating instructors and unfriendly golf staff which only serve to turn people off from the game which we all know to be wonderful, one that provides lifetime memories and friendships.
As golf teaching professionals, it’s our responsibility to make sure that students enjoy the lesson program that we set up for them, and enjoy the learning process, as well. There are some basic things we can do to insure this.
The most obvious is to be friendly and happy to see our clients. You might be having a bad day due to various factors, such as an argument with your spouse prior to leaving the house, but these negative emotions must be set aside. Dwelling on some negative and unpleasant happening while giving the lesson surely comes across. In effect, you’re an actor playing a role. If you’re not feeling so great mentally, you must do your best to play the role of the positive and cheerful teaching professional. Again, all of this may sound obvious, but most of us have certainly heard stories of teaching professionals who can’t seem to separate their personal life from their professional and bring their negative demeanors to the lesson tee. In fairness, we’re all human, and emotions are sometimes difficult to keep in check. But it’s something we should all be aware of as ambassadors to the game.
When it comes to the learning environment itself, we may be limited in certain situations, but it’s best to take advantage of what we can. For example, many driving range tees have portions that are in the shade. On a hot sunny day, give your students a break and give the lesson there, even if that portion of the driving range tee may be closed to the public. Conversely, some lesson tees are separate from the public portion, and the public portion may be in the shade while the lesson tee is in the sun. Some teachers – and students – may prefer to be away from the public during the lesson to insure some privacy, so in this case we need to ask our students where they prefer to be.
Wind is a factor that is out of our control, but some ranges have tees on opposite ends. America’s Favorite Golf Schools had a location at a course in Palm Coast, Florida, where the range faced north and south, with the main tee area facing north. In the winter, often a cold wind would blow from the north right into the faces of the people hitting range balls, but fortunately the back end of the range had some tall pine trees that completely blocked the wind. Needless to say, the instructors took advantage of the southward-facing tee in these situations.
Some situations are completely un-avoidable, such as a driving range located near a major highway. In these cases, you do the best you can. There are also driving ranges near airports, such as a certification course site located at a particular course in Florida. When a loud plane takes off, you have two choices: wait until the plane leaves, or start shouting to be heard. Now, you may think it’s common sense to do the former, but you’d be surprised at the number of instructors we saw at this course giving lessons who preferred to shout over the loud noise of the plane. There’s just no point in this. Maybe some teachers are uncomfortable with silence during the lesson.
Which brings us to another point – silence during the lesson! Some teachers simply have to keep a running monologue up the entire time. Maybe they think they owe their students their expertise at all moments to not shortchange the student, or perhaps it’s some other factor, but whatever the case, moments of silence during a lesson are indeed golden. As Thomas Jefferson so aptly put it, “The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do.”
Finally, in our modern age, it seems everyone constantly has a cell phone with them. Some teachers, more than a few, have been observed texting and actually taking phone calls while giving a lesson. Oh, for the days of yore when teachers wore watches and had to actually go back to the pro shop and talk on a land line if they wanted to use the telephone! But since those days are gone, a bit of courtesy and common sense is owed to each and every student we teach. That bit of advice applies not only to cell phones, but every aspect of the lesson, and if we focus on courtesy and common sense, we can’t help but be successful.