By David Vaught USGTF Master Golf Teaching Professional® – Vista, California
As often happens in other sports or even walks of life, humans tend to naturally repeat behaviors or actions they see at a young age. Far too often, we accept the “way it’s always been done” as our excuse for continuing to do things the same way we have experienced it or seen it done.
As this relates to golf, and more specifically golf instruction, we should ask ourselves why the average lesson looks basically the same today as it did in 1950: 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. For the most part, it is like getting your haircut or getting a manicure. Granted, we do have more technology and more crazy devices than our golf teaching ancestors did, yet essentially, we have just accepted that the 30- to 45-minute lesson on the range is the way you do it. Why do it differently than it has always been done?
If we are truly honest with ourselves, it is just easier to follow the herd. Yet, we see professors and successful instructors in our schools and universities changing and evolving instruction every day. Go into an accomplished teacher’s classroom today and you may not recognize it is school! Your first reaction is to think, what is wrong with the way I learned English or math, a book, a teacher talking at me and me learning verbally? My answer is a lot iswrong with that! People learn all sorts of ways, and golf instructors need to recognize that.
Golf has a history of being behind the times in many aspects. I often like to joke that in golf we are now at about 1980. As an example, we see the USGA and the R&A contemplating big rules changes today, which is very refreshing.
It is important that instruction continues to improve and develop. Challenge old teaching techniques and ideas. That should be your objective as an instructor. How can I reach and assist more students? How can I get them to be excited about learning? How can I improve the experience?
We often think of technique expertise when we imagine what the substance of a good lesson is. And that is valid. But the structure of the lesson, the environment, the adaptive teaching style to the student is just as important. Contemplate your lessons and think outside the box. Help move golf forward into the 21stcentury. After all, we are 18 years in already.
Supervised Practice Times:
Post the times that your paying clients can practice with your supervision. Maybe it’s 6-7p.m., three days a week. Whatever works. Charge a small fee if you feel the need. You are verifying how and what they should be practicing, not giving a personal lesson.
Begin a once- or twice-a-month play league with your paying clients:
Create competition, which will allow you to observe them in a playing setting. That alone will help you tremendously as an instructor if your goal is to help them improve. Nothing brings out “real” like some competition. Plus, they have a great time.
Short Game Competitions:
Use your imagination and set up games, leagues, etc., around the short game for your regular clients. Give away free lessons if they bring a friend. Maybe even putting leagues and challenges. Everyone loves to putt, and you could video their technique under pressure to sell more putting lessons.
Playing the Game Observations:
For beginners or curious golfers, create a once-or twice-a-month follow-along, with the teacher actively on the golf course. They come out to watch you play as you explain the basics of the game for two or three holes. Bring your favorite student along who will help you and be your best advocate. They learn more about what the game is all about, and you create new students.
From these ideas, you get the point. The possibilities are endless. Supervised practice is a great way to help them and to create loyalty with your students. Just use your imagination and remember it is not 1950.