What All Teaching Pros Need To Know

What All Teaching Pros Need To Know

What All Teaching Pros Need To Know

Beyond the obvious technical knowledge needed to teach the game effectively, golf teaching professionals need to know a myriad of other things to be a well-rounded professional. Seeing what someone is doing wrong and what the correction should be is often the easy part. The hard part is finding the right fix or program that will help students play their best golf, or the right way to communicate it.

These are some of the aspects that are necessary for teaching professionals to be as good as they can be:

What All Teaching Pros Need To KnowTechnical knowledge

Every bit of instruction we give should focus on five things: clubface angle, clubhead path, solidness of contact, angle of approach and clubhead speed. Sound familiar? These are the five aspects of the ball flight laws, and all teaching professionals know what they are and their cause and effect. But getting students to execute certain movements in order to get the club to move correctly through impact is imperative.

In general, on the backswing the body should respond to the movement of the arms and hands, and vice versa on the downswing. The plague of amateur golfers everywhere is the arms and hands getting active far too soon in the downswing. As Ben Hogan said in his book Five Lessons, the hands “do nothing active until after the arms have moved on the downswing to a position just above the level of the hips.” This is probably the hardest thing for amateur golfers to not only execute, but wrap their heads around. The SwingRite training aid, endorsed by the USGTF, is a wonderful tool for helping students to understand and execute this concept.

What All Teaching Pros Need To KnowEquipment knowledge

If you don’t have a good working knowledge of what launch angle, spin rate and ball speed are and how equipment affects them, then now is the time to get going on this. You don’t need a launch monitor such as TrackMan for FlightScope to fit equipment to your students, but it certainly doesn’t hurt. Yes, we realize these launch monitors are quite expensive, but as we go forward, teachers who aren’t using such technology will be left behind. Fortunately, there are less expensive options such as mevo by FlightScope, along with other bargain launch monitors, available.

Almost all drivers sold today have some sort of adjustability. Moveable weights can help to promote a draw or fade, or mitigate a slice or hook. Lofts and centers of gravity can be adjusted, both of which can affect launch angle and spin rate.

When it comes to irons, the correct lie angle is paramount in helping our students hit straight shots. Simply watching the divot shape is instructional. Divots that are toe deep mean the lie angle is too flat, and heel-deep divots mean the lie angle is too upright (the latter situation is far less common). Ironically, “incorrect” lie angles may be needed for some students. For example, if you have a student who is hooking the ball and you have come to a technique impasse, having that student play with a lie angle that is one or two degrees too flat can help to overcome this. The key here is making sure the student is still making center-face contact.

What All Teaching Pros Need To KnowMotor learning knowledge

Studies have shown that when using a drill, the best course of action is to have the student execute the drill movement (whether striking the ball or not), hit the ball with the desired “real” swing, then repeat. Most teachers will have their students do the drill a number of consecutive times and then hit a number of real shots consecutively, but this is not as effective as alternating the drill with the real shot.

“Random” practice, which in golf means hitting a different shot or using a different club every time, has been found to be better in most cases than “blocked” practice, where the same exact shot and club are used over and over. There is evidence that “random blocks,” where a movement is executed for two or three repetitions before changing to something different, are also effective. In other words, the student should hit the same shot no more than three times consecutively before changing it up.

Students are notorious for making great practice swings that look nothing like their hitting-the-ball swing. Sam Snead famously said the problem with most amateurs is they don’t hit the ball with their practice swing. If you have a student who makes great practice swings but then comes over the top when hitting a ball, have them duplicate their over the-top swing as a practice swing, have them make a good practice swing, and then have them tell you the differences they perceive. This has been proven to be effective in getting students to feel the flaw in their swing.

What All Teaching Pros Need To KnowYou cannot help everyone

It happens to every teacher: You have failed to help a student improve. No less than David Leadbetter and USGTF professional Bob Toski have had the same thing happen to them. Whether your teaching and/or communication style doesn’t match up with what the student needs, or they are too ingrained in what they are doing to make any sort of change, we need to accept that not everyone who comes to us will get better. Some students may not practice enough to allow the changes to take. Maybe it was our fault as we were asking the student to do something they weren’t physically capable of. Maybe they don’t want to feel something different for the length of time it may take to change. Maybe they don’t want to get worse before getting better, a common happening with people taking lessons. Whatever the reason, it is our responsibility to accurately figure out what went wrong.

What All Teaching Pros Need To KnowBusiness acumen

Teaching golf is a business, and unless our reputation is such that people will seek us out with no effort on our part, we have to go get students. Using social media and having a website are critical for today’s teacher to maximize revenue. Then there is the aspect of finding a facility or location in which to teach. Being able to show the general manager or owner how you are going to positively affect their bottom line is what they are looking for.

What All Teaching Pros Need To KnowSummary

There are more things teachers need to know than what was present in this article, but due to space constraints, it would be impossible to list all of them. However, having a good working knowledge of what was presented here should put any teacher in good stead.
Clubfitting Tweaks That Work

Clubfitting Tweaks That Work

As golf teachers and coaches, we work on technique and the mental game, but often overlooked is the equipment that our students are using. Most of us farm that aspect of their games out to clubfitting experts, and that’s okay. And most of us have a good basic understanding of equipment, such as shaft flex, driver loft, etc., but there are some often-overlooked and subtle equipment tweaks that will benefit some of our students for whom traditional teaching instruction isn’t helping them as we think it should.

The problem may indeed lie in their equipment. Here are some considerations for certain problems that we see time and time again:

Driver length

Driver lengths for men today average 45 ½ inches (116 cm). However, did you know the average driver length for male tour players is 44 ½ inches? Now, why is it that the best players in the world don’t play drivers the same length that are sold to everyday players at retail stores?

Korn Ferry Tour player Corey Pereira said he plays a 44 ½ inch driver “…for control. I already hit it far enough.” If you were to ask any other tour player who plays a shorter driver, they likely would say the same thing. Think about this: If a tour player has a hard time controlling a 45 ½ inch driver, then many our students will, too.

In the days of the persimmon driver, the standard length was just 43 inches. Today, that’s the standard length of most companies’ 3-woods. While we’re not advocating a return to the 43-inch driver, consideration should be made to cut the driver length for our students who have control issues. If a driver is cut down one inch, that would lighten the driver by six swingweight points. To restore the swingweight to the original, 12 grams of lead tape would have to be added to the clubhead. The problem then is that the shaft dynamically may be too flexible, even though by shortening it the shaft dynamically is stiffened. So instead of restoring the club to its original swingweight, adding six grams of lead tape – a compromise – should keep the feel of the shaft nearly the same.

Using a 3-wood

In the late 1980s, Golf Digest printed some at the-time astonishing information. They said that if someone could not carry their driver at least 150 yards, they would be better off hitting a 3-wood as it would provide more distance.

Today we know why. Lower ball speeds mean that a ball not launched high enough would fall out of the air more quickly than desired, as the aerodynamic properties of the ball are not being utilized as they would with higher ball speeds. If the ball speed is high enough, the backspin of the ball would provide enough lift to keep the ball airborne at lower launch angles.

While that 150-yard number may be up for debate, the fact is that many of our students need either a driver with a lot of loft – perhaps in the 15° range – or a 3-wood off the tee. And speaking of a 3-wood, many of our low-ball-speed students would probably do well to ditch it when hitting off the fairway in favor of a 5-wood for the same reason.

Iron lie angle

We’ve all been told that it is desirable to have the iron’s leading edge lie level at impact. This works for more skilled golfers, or golfers who hit the ball fairly straight. But what about those golfers who consistently hit a draw or fade with more curvature than is desired?

There’s nothing wrong with adjusting the lie angle a maximum of +/- 2° to help mitigate the problem. On his Sirius/XM radio show, former tour player Larry Rinker said that many tour players deliberately play their irons 1° too flat to help eliminate the dreaded leftward shot (for a right-hander), and they often flatten the lie angles on their wedges 2° for crisper contact and greater control. Most irons have a cambered (rounded) sole, so even if the iron isn’t perfectly level at impact, turf interaction should still be good. Lie angles that are more than 2° off from a level leading edge at impact run the risk of making centered contact too difficult, and for some players, even 2° is too much of a difference. But almost everyone can be 1° from a level lie angle at impact with little problem.

Toe-hang vs. face-balanced putters

According to Ping, if a player is consistently missing putts to the right (for a right-hander) and they are using a toe-hang putter, they should use a face-balanced putter. Their theory is that, in this case, since a toe-hang putter tends to open on the backswing, the golfer is unable to adequately square it at impact. And if a player is consistently missing putts to the left with a face-balanced putter, they should use a toe-hang putter. This makes sense, except that…

Callaway/Odyssey says the exact opposite! So, whom are we to believe? The best course of action is to have one putter of each design handy and see how your students use them. It is still thought by both, and other, companies that a straight-back and straight-through stroke would benefit most with a face-balanced putter, and an arcing stroke would benefit from a toe-hang putter. But if misses are consistently one way or the other, having a student try a putter with different characteristics is a good option to see what works best for them.

Grip sizing

Many of us have been told that grips that are too large will prevent golfers from adequately releasing the club through impact, and grips that are too small will promote too much hand rotation. This may or may not be the case; individual results may vary, as they say. Longtime USGTF professional Leslie Duke has said that if he uses grips that are too small, he actually tends to hit push shots as he’s conscious that the smaller grip may make him pull shots!

Professional golfers for years have had the lower-hand part of their grips built up with extra wraps of tape, but now that trend has come to grip design. Golf Pride has a series of “+4” grips, which feature less taper and are built with the equivalent of four extra wraps of tape under the lower-hand portion. These grips can be especially beneficial to our students who fight a hook.

There are also many resources online that further delve into the topic, so we would do well to explore them. For example, a lot of good information is available at www.GolfWrx.com, as many industry leaders hang out there. The bottom line is it benefits us to learn as much as we can about how equipment works and the tweaks that can help our students.
NEW Rules: What’s Working, What’s Not

NEW Rules: What’s Working, What’s Not

NEW RULES: WHAT’S WORKING, WHAT’S NOTThe start of 2019 brought the most extensive changes to the Rules of Golf in perhaps their entire history. Many of the longstanding ways the Rules were understood and executed were turned on their heads.

Controversy also reigned on the professional tours at the beginning of the year, but largely died down in the second half. The USGA hired professional golfer Jason Gore to be a liaison between the USGA and the players on tour to smooth things over and allow the players to have a real-time conduit back to the higher-ups. For the average player, the new Rules of Golf have had mixed success. Here are some of the more commonly used new Rules that we believe are working…and some that are not:

Reference point drops

One of the lesser-known Rules changes, but one that is critical, involves establishing a reference point from which to drop the ball. When taking a drop, the ball must come to rest within a specified distance of the reference point. Under the old Rules, when a ball was dropped, it remained in play if it rolled no more than two club lengths from where the ball first struck the ground. An example of how this would work is with a stroke and-distance penalty taken from the fairway. Prior to 2019, the player had to drop a ball as near as possible to the spot from which the last shot was played. This year, the player may drop within one club length of that spot, but the ball must remain within that one club length.

Another example is dropping straight back on the line from the hole, as with the old regular water hazards or unplayable lies. Previously, the ball had to be dropped right on that line, but now the ball merely has to be dropped within one club length of that line. For a red penalty area (formerly called a lateral water hazard), one option allows the ball to be dropped within two club lengths of the point where the ball last crossed the margin of the hazard. This is the same as prior to 2019, but now the ball must remain within those two club lengths. Verdict on reference points: Working.

Penalty areas vs. water hazards

Under the old Rules, a water hazard could only be established if there was actually water (at least some of the time) in the designated area. This didn’t stop some courses from marking their dry wooded areas as lateral water hazards, but that practice was actually not allowed by USGA and R&A Rules. Now, any area can be labeled as a penalty area. Verdict on penalty areas: Working.

Allowing club to be grounded in penalty area

In years past, it was against the Rules to ground your club in a hazard, be it a bunker or a water hazard. While it’s still illegal to ground your club in a bunker, you may now do so in a penalty area. Frankly, under the previous Rules it made little sense to call this a penalty. Verdict on allowing the club to be grounded in penalty areas: Working.

Allow removal of loose impediments in bunkers and penalty areas

Again, a rule that previously made little sense. Verdict: Working.

Allowing players to fix any damage on the putting green

We all remember how we could only fix old ball marks and old hole plugs. Spike marks? Forget it. But the kinder and gentler USGA and R&A now allow us to fix any damage. In 2019, this makes sense, as almost no one wears traditional metal spikes, so damage to putting greens today is limited. Back in 1976, the European Tour employed a local rule allowing players to fix spike marks. Play got so bogged down that the rule was quickly rescinded. Today, that isn’t much of a problem, and allowing damage to be repaired is more than fair. Verdict on allowing putting green damage to be fixed: Working.

Leaving the flagstick in the hole while putting

To be picky, it has always been legal to leave the flagstick in the hole on putts. What used to be illegal was for the ball to strike such flagstick. Now it’s not, and players everywhere are leaving the flagstick in to putt. One good aspect is that longer putts no longer require someone to tend the flag. But now we have some situations that negatively override the benefits, in our estimation. You have the awkward verbal dance of, “Do you want the flagstick in or out?” Then, within the same group, you might have two players who want the flagstick out and two who want it in. This leads to a waste of time putting the flagstick in or taking it out. Finally, many players, when taking the ball out of the hole with the flagstick still in it, damage the edge of the cup, sometimes severely. When you’re playing late in the day, this can be a real problem. Verdict on no penalty for a putted ball striking the flagstick: Not working.

Caddies cannot be on the line of play when a player is taking his stance

This rule mainly applies only to tour players, but at the club level, there are a number of competitions where caddies are employed. Haotong Li was famously penalized two strokes early in 2019 in Dubai for having his caddie on the extension of his line of play while he was allegedly in the process of taking his stance. The problem is that the replay did not conclusively show this, but Li was penalized anyway. Some other penalties were handed out and some were rescinded, too. While tour players are now very aware of this rule and no problems have arisen recently, there is still enough gray area for this to be a problem going forward. Verdict on caddie position during taking stance: Not working.

Dropping the ball from knee height

Rickie Fowler was penalized two strokes at Phoenix early in the year for absent-mindedly dropping from shoulder height and not correcting his mistake. Others, like Bryson DeChambeau, made fun of the new rule with dramatic theatrics while taking their drop. At the local level, some less-than-flexible golfers have trouble even taking the drop properly. The new rule was put in place so that the ball was less likely to roll more than two club lengths, thus requiring re-drops. But a much better solution, and one employing common sense, simply would have been to require any drops to be taken from knee height or higher. For most people, dropping a ball from hip-height or slightly lower is far more natural, so it makes sense to allow this instead. Verdict on dropping from knee-height: Not working.

The USGA and R&A are to be commended for trying something bold, and they also had a lengthy input period which must also receive kudos. Hopefully, they’ll keep an open mind and continue to adjust the Rules of Golf when warranted.
Positive Thinking At Work: Not Being A “Glass Half-Fool”

Positive Thinking At Work: Not Being A “Glass Half-Fool”

POSITIVE THINKING AT WORK: NOT BEING A “GLASS HALF-FOOL”By Steve Yacovelli, Ed.D. USGTF Contributing Writer, Orlando, Florida

So many people in the modern workplace try to operate from a glass-half-full mindset. But these days, it’s getting tougher to see that glass of _____ (insert your beverage of choice) as being alf-full versus half-empty. There’s so much negativity in the world today, so much polarization, so many 24/7 news outlets that need something to pull our eyeballs and get our clicks. It gets exhausting looking at your Twitter feed, Facebook wall, your Instagram pics, or tuning into the evening news and seeing/hearing so much “downer fodder.”

There’s a heap of studies out in the world that show that negativity – specifically negative thoughts – can greatly impact your physical and mental well being. From lowering your immune system to impacting your ability to focus to creating severe depression, chronic negativity can be a disaster for us humans. Studies show time and again that those who have a more positive view  of the world tend to be more resilient or “bounce back” in the face of changing times – especially negative times. Even in those more terrible-horrible, no-good, very-bad days (the title of a great children’s book, FYI), if you force yourself to see the good things that happened (“I had good luck driving home today!” “My co-workers acknowledged I did awesome on that project!” They had pork roll in the office cafeteria today!”), you tend to see the broader world in a more “silver lining” kinda way (more on this later).

So, what can you do to remain a bit more positive at work, and not just build up your Teflon-coating to the negativity in the world, but combat it by sending out some good ol’ positive vibes? Here are five ideas you can apply today to help shape your view of the world to be a bit more positive:

1. Keep a “What-Went-Well” Journal… At the end of your day, open up a note app on your phone and identify five things that went well for you during that day and why. This could be things big (“promotion!”) or small (“found a parking spot!”), but force yourself to think of five. Why? On some days it’s pretty easy to find the things that went well. However, when you have that rough day at work, but still force yourself to find five good things, that’s when the magic happens. Neuroscientists have found that, by doing this exercise over the course of about 2-3 months, you actually begin to rewire your brain to see things more positively. Try it and see if it works for you.

2. Notice the Negative and Positive People in Your Professional Life…Become more aware of the types of energy that coworkers around you tend to emit. Sure, everyone has those “off” days where they’re teetering on the more negative side, but for most folks their true disposition is pretty consistent. Listen to what your colleagues say, watch what they do, and see what they post on social media. Then, try to be around those who are more “sunny” versus more “cloudy.” Emotions are contagious, so choose your company wisely so you’re catching the good rays versus the clouds.

3. Limit Your Daily Exposure to Social Media and News… Similar to #2, reflect on how much social media you’re being exposed to and what types. Also be aware of the news stations/programs you tend to listen to or watch and understand their own bias level or level of objectivity (on both sides of the spectrum). Be mindful of the concept of “confirmation bias” (where we tend to surround ourselves with those who support our world view, adding fuel to our personal flames), and honestly reflect on how you consume those Tweets, Facebook, and Instagram posts. Have an addiction to social media? Look for apps or built-in smartphone features that limit the number of minutes you can socialize online.

4. Understand Control vs. Influence vs. No Control… In any situation at work, think about the actions you can control, what you can’t directly control but can influence, and those things where you have zero control or influence over. It’s like a three-ring bullseye (where the center is your control area and the outer ring is what you have no control over, the middle the influence part). Where are you spending the vast amount of your energy? The middle? The outer ring? Too many people dump their energy into that “control” ring when really they have no control, thus wasting their time and energy. Sometimes the best thing you can do to stay positive is to pull an Elsa from Frozen and “let it go,” which is easier said than done for some but much more helpful to your physical and mental health in the long run.

5. Ask Yourself: “What’s the Worst that Can Happen?”… In any stressful situation: stop, take a breath, and put things into a greater context. Ask yourself, “What’s the worst that can happen if …” and insert your current focus here (like, “… if I’m late for work this morning”). This helps put situations in the right perspective and context, helps avoid negativity, and allows you to embrace the positive of what you’re doing. Chances are you get yourself worked up even when “the worst that can happen” really isn’t all that bad.

Being more positive takes practice for many people. And yes, acknowledge that things can get crummy at times. Ultimately, you cannot control everything that happens to you in this crazy world, but you can indeed control how you react to it. Take the challenge to be that glass half-full kinda person (and not a half-fool), and help others be a little more half-full, too.

Dr. Steve Yacovelli is owner and principal of TopDog Learning Group, LLC, a learning and development, leadership, change management, and diversity and consulting firm based in Orlando, Florida, USA, with affiliates across the globe. With over 25 years’ experience, Steve is a rare breed that understands the power of using academic theory and applying it to the “real” world for better results. His latest book, Pride Leadership: Strategies for the LGBTQ+ Leader to be the King or Queen of their Jungle came out June 2019. www.topdoglearning.biz.
Daily Junior Golf Clinics: Discover These New All-the-Rage Tactics to Teach Golf to Kids

Daily Junior Golf Clinics: Discover These New All-the-Rage Tactics to Teach Golf to Kids

Daily Junior Golf Clinics: Discover These New All-the-Rage Tactics to Teach Golf to KidsBy Jordan Fuller USGTF Contributing Writer, Omaha, Nebraska

It’s important to the growth and continued success of golf to introduce children to the game in a way that allows them to enjoy it and succeed quickly. Golf can be a very difficult game to learn at any age, but kids are actually uniquely suited to understand and develop good swing habits. So, it’s incredibly important to make sure they’re having fun while learning the building blocks that will translate into a lifetime of fun and success on the golf course.

Here are a few tactics to make sure your junior clinics keep everyone entertained while teaching them important golf lessons!

Putting contests

The classic putting contest is still one of the best ways to foster friendly competition and teach kids the importance of getting the ball close to the hole on their first putts. However, a traditional method of simply pitting children head-to-head is best reserved for the last day of a clinic. Prior to that, the contests should be more individually focused, so kids can set a baseline of performance and improve on it through the week.

I like to use large rings to create a 2-3 foot circle around the hole, and set up “tees” for them to start from. You can also use strings on tees to guide them around the putting green on a specific “course.”

They’ll receive a point for getting the first putt inside the big circle, then three more points for making their second putt. If they actually hole the first putt, they get ten points. If they take three putts, they’ll get a single additional point. This scoring system where they accumulate points is easier to explain than trying to have them make a “par” of two or three on each hole. It also gives them a high number to shoot for the next time, and drives them to try the course again and again to achieve more points.

It’s also important to reward each child for their performance. While you can have a cool prize for the single highest point total, you can also give a reward (maybe a sleeve of balls or a towel) for improving their score, or making the most one-putts.

While “everyone gets a trophy” is often ridiculed, golf is a game that most of us play for fun. Sure, some of the kids may grow up to be tournament winners, but for most of them you’re trying to develop a lifelong love affair with the game. It’s important to reward improvement as much as achievement.

Individual instruction

When demonstrating a basic skill, such as a bump-and-run chip, it’s tempting to simply explain it and demonstrate it a few times before letting the kids loose to try it themselves. But while they’re out there working on it, take a few minutes with each child individually to lightly direct and heavily praise the job they’re doing.

With very young kids, too much technical input will just muddy the issue; it’s best to give them minimal direction (just enough to make sure they’re making half-decent contact) and praise their good instincts. For older kids (8 and up), you can start drilling down on fundamentals (such as how to hit the ball properly) to make sure they’re not developing any bad habits that will take years to undo.

This extra level of individual instruction and praise is what the kids will tell their parents about: “Coach Jones helped me with my chipping grip, and I won this sleeve of balls when I chipped one into the hole!” is much better feedback than “Billy and I got to play a lot of Fortnite.” One-on-one time is key to keeping kids engaged and letting their parents know that you’re really interested in developing their kids’ skills.

Once kids have been to a few clinics and are ready to hit the links, the PGA Junior League has great programs for innovative competitions and tournaments that appeal to particular ages and skill levels. Rather than sticking to traditional 18-hole stroke play formats, PGA Junior League tournaments have different scoring systems and are played on fewer holes. Kids learn about golf, but also teamwork and self-reliance. It’s a great program to move them from beginner clinics to championship golf.

The Wisdom of Julius Richardson

The Wisdom of Julius Richardson

The Wisdom of Julius RichardsonHe came to a USGTF certification course in January 1993 in Naples, Florida. It wasn’t long before he captivated everyone with his demeanor: confident yet humble, quiet yet with plenty to say, and dignified yet playful.

“He” was the late Julius Richardson, whose legacy lives on in the thousands of students he’s taught over the years. Richardson was named the USGTF’s Teacher of the 20th Century. He also is a member of the USGTF Hall of Fame and the African-American Golfers Hall of Fame, and was part of the USGTF’s first Master Golf Teaching Professional class in 1995. He is also the first – and so far only – African-American to be named to Golf Magazine’s Top 100 Teachers list.

Born in 1921, Richardson enlisted in the U.S. Army during World War II and learned to play golf while in the service. When the war ended, Richardson entered a number of military tournaments, winning many of them. He earned the nickname “Sprinkler Head” because of his unerring accuracy with the driver, reflective of a time when sprinklers were in a single row down the middle of the fairway.

Because the PGA had a Caucasians-only clause in its constitution until 1961, Richardson was unable to join that organization. But it didn’t stop him from teaching as a sideline while he forged a career as an insurance agent. Upon retiring in 1986, he moved to Chicago, Illinois, and began to give lessons there.

Richardson’s teaching style was reminiscent of Harvey Penick’s in that he did not impart a whole lot of technical advice. But don’t be fooled: Richardson knew the mechanics of the swing as well as anyone and he could speak in-depth on the most intricate areas of the swing. Then touring professional Eric Booker was a student of Richardson’s, and Booker had previously had instruction from David Leadbetter and Ken Venturi. Booker wrote a letter of praise about Richardson, saying he was the equal to those two teaching greats.

What made Richardson’s approach unique is that beginning golfers never hit a ball for the first four lessons they took with him. He showed them the fundamentals of a proper setup, and made sure his students put their hands on the grip correctly. He then had his students go through a whole program which consisted of making movements which mimicked the proper golf swing. (Think of the movie The Karate Kid, where Mr. Miyagi had Daniel execute a series of chores with specific motions that seemingly had nothing to do with karate, but in the end had everything to do with  that discipline.)

After those first four lessons, only then would Richardson allow his students to hit a golf ball. Now some would question this teaching approach, and certainly it wasn’t for everyone. But Richardson was adamant that this was the best way to learn to play golf as correctly as possible, likening it to the way he was taught skills in the Army. He outlined his approach in his book Better Golf: A Skill Building Approach. While the book is out of print, it is readily available on the internet and it is a highly worthwhile read.

Although Richardson was successful teaching golf prior to 1993, after he earned his USGTF certification was when his career really took off. In addition to getting his instruction book published and being named to the Golf Magazine Top 100 Teachers list, Richardson appeared on Golf Channel’s Golf Academy Live in 2001 with host Peter Kessler. Richardson was able to present his teaching approach to a live national television audience, and his appearance drew much positive feedback. Also, as the result of his ascending career, Richardson was asked to teach at the prestigious Pine Meadow Golf Club outside Chicago. The club is owned by the famous Jemsek golf family and featured a stable of top teachers. Richardson fit right in and soon earned a loyal following.

Richardson had a keen eye and seemed to be able to diagnose any golfer’s problem quickly. He wintered in Florida and often could be seen at USGTF certification courses held in the winter there. He once observed a struggling female golfer on the range and went over to see if she could use some help. After Richardson advised her to loosen up her shoulders, the lady immediately started hitting solid shot after solid shot. The lady was thrilled beyond belief. In the tech-laden world of golf instruction, Richardson’s simple advice worked wonders and left onlookers in awe of his teaching prowess.

He eventually began slowing down and learned that he had throat cancer, a disease that would take his life in 2007. If there is any testament to the greatness that is the American dream, Richardson certainly personified it.
Follow The Sun

Follow The Sun

By Thomas T Wartelle, USGTF Master Golf Teaching Professional Washington, Louisiana

I was a kid who loved sports and the outdoors. For me, every season had a sport assigned. Baseball gloves that were soft from use in the summer became cold in the winter. Basketballs were worn out in the winter, but hardly moved in July. Sports and the outdoors were a way of life. If I wasn’t playing some game, I was trekking in the forest.

Although I played every sport offered in our area, I was always drawn to individual games like tennis. I was also a huge John McEnroe fan, mostly because he was left-handed. After baseball season was finished, my morning summer routine was to wake up as early as possible. I would eat breakfast on the fly. Then, I would ride my bike to the public park a few miles away. I would literally play tennis from sunrise to sunset. Most of this time was spent on the cracked courts at the park creating tennis mischief with my best friend Bo. He would later become influential in my golf life, and he even caddied for me on several tours around the world.

My life changed dramatically one day. I saw the shimmer of a silver shaft in the trash can near the gate. I was hoping it was some tennis-related treasure. A few months earlier in that same trash can, I found a wooden Wilson Jack Kramer tennis racquet that just needed a new grip. I was anxious to discover this day’s new find. To my surprise, it was not a tennis racquet this time. It was a golf club with the shaft broken 3/4 of the way up. What a score!

Follow The SunWhen I got home, I wrapped duct tape on the end and formed a grip. The neighbor had a few old balls in his storeroom. I took a few swings and was instantly hooked. There was one minor issue: I was left-handed and this club was for a righty. Oh well, at least it was free!

I started carrying that little five-iron everywhere, even to school. I would sneak away at recess to hit balls in the field behind the gym. I think the coach must have said something to Pop, because he asked me about it. Pop said that I needed a proper set. We drove to JCPenney and he bought me a set of Northwestern golf clubs. It was a full set, including a bag. He probably didn’t spend more than $100 for the lot. But I was so proud of that set of golf clubs. It was “high cotton” for this kid who grew up in rural Louisiana.

I decided to join my school’s golf team. During the tryouts, I shot 68 for nine holes! The coach told me I was not a golfer and to go back to baseball and tennis. A little over a year later, I was a scratch golfer. That coach sure welcomed me back with open arms.

One day, Pop decided that driving 20 miles to the public golf course was too far. He brought me down to the local private country club. Even though it was a basic small town goat ranch, one would have thought it was Augusta National. The members thought highly of themselves and the club, as well. I was an outsider around the affluent kids with their Hogan Apex irons. My homemade swing and cheap golf clubs would soon conquer their terrain.

In those days there were still a few caddies, and there were plenty of odd jobs for a 14-year-old kid to do. I occasionally caddied, picked up range balls, and became head cart boy and shoeshine expert. Along the way, I hit a lot of balls and played every chance I could get. I read every golf book at the public library twice. I wore the pages out of the books Golf with Tony Jacklin and Ben Hogan’s Five Lessons. My golf journey had begun.

Follow The SunMy Pop was truly a special man and one of a kind. Pop liked to let you figure things out on your own. He guided and mentored, but never dictated. His sense of humor was amazing. Most of all, he was always passively supportive. When I finished my last final exam in college, I told Pop that I was going to turn pro and fly over to Europe to play the European Tour. He told me to follow my dreams. I didn’t even go to my college graduation. I turned pro the next day and drove to Florida to play mini-tour events until my venture to Europe that autumn. For the next 30 years, the game of golf took me to over 40 countries playing and teaching with some of the most influential people in my life. Pop gave me that gift with a cheap set of golf clubs from JCPenney. What an investment he had made!

Fast forward 30 years: spring turns to summer; summer turns to fall; fall turns to winter. Pop passed away late this summer. He was 90 years old. Pop had a good run and a colorful life. He was a cowboy as a kid; always had a great story, served his country, drank beer with Hank Williams, the country-and-western legend; raised six children and was married 60-plus years. He was a revered local legend in the community. Pop was the best of men. He was like the sun to me, always shining, even in his last days. His youngest son decided to pursue a passion. Pop always encouraged this pursuit. I am proud to be a professional golfer. Although Pop didn’t really play the game, he gave it to me as a lifetime gift.

With Pop gone, I now look at my own 14-year old son in a different light. I try to mentor my son the same way Pop taught me. It is funny; when I see my son from afar, I see my Pop’s mannerisms. There is definitely a genetic component at work. He inherited many of Pop’s qualities. My son loves the game of golf and works really hard. He even plays left-handed, mirroring his father’s right-handed swing. This boy (young man) has new dreams and aspirations. He will have to follow his own path in life. I will be there to caddy and to occasionally suggest the right shot. However, I have no doubt that he will follow the sun.
Good and Bad News

Good and Bad News

By Norm Crerar
USGTF Contributing Writer, Vernon, British Columbia

As I write this article, I am sitting at my computer on a bright sunny day in the Okanagan Valley in southern British Columbia. The wine grape harvest is on; apples are being picked; golf is winding down, and here in Canada it is Thanksgiving Day. And what a lot to be thankful for! As I said, the sun is shining after a very wet and cool fall. Snow has already arrived at our ski resort just 25 minutes away and 4,000 feet higher in elevation. That will probably disappear, but we could be cross-country skiing by early November and alpine skiing by the end of November. This is truly a great place to live!

On the bad news front, I was at a bagpiping event May 5th and, walking up some old concrete steps, I caught my toe on the top step and fell on my face. My left arm extended, and I landed toward that side. I stretched all of the ligaments in my rotator cuff and am now just able to take a bit of a backswing (I am a lefthanded golfer), so I have not been able to play golf at all this past summer season. The good news is that my wife more than made up for my lack of playing with her more than twice-a-week outings and is now a certified golf fanatic. The bad news is that I have been in a position of having to applaud her every high point: longest drive on one hole; closest to the pin on another hole; winning the deuce pot, and on and on. For someone who used to wonder how pro golfers being interviewed could remember every shot they made going back multiple years, she has certainly mastered the art. My reward for being such a good and attentive listener and staying at home with a massive to-do list: I am now caught up and way ahead on the ever-important marital points!

On the bad news front, I have to admit to having an addiction. I am addicted to big events! The good news is, I have run into and continue to have great friends who believed in the vision and are committed to what we are doing. Thank-fully, they also believed that it is as easy to do something big as it is to do something small, and we are all rewarded for our efforts. We also believe that what we are doing is great, but if we stand still and don’t strive to be bigger and better, someone else will pass us or come up with something to replace us.

And so it is with the golf teaching business. Thankfully, the USGTF technical committee is constantly analyzing teaching techniques and new equipment, and how to make use of it to get more people golfing more often. Are you as good as you are going to get? Of course not. Even as we get older, we want to stay engaged, and thankfully we continue to learn from our peers, the teachers who have gone before us, and from the young, new thinkers coming up behind us that now make up the technical squad.

On the trivia front, I was entertained the other day listening to a radio program that featured an English-language specialist. He and the host were talking about “collective nouns.” You may not have heard of the term, but you have certainly used many. Here are some examples: A flock of birds; a flock of sheep; a herd of deer; a hive of bees; a litter of puppies; a murder of crows and a pack of hounds. As I listened, I realized there was nothing pertaining to golf. So here goes: Students standing around on the lesson tee waiting for the golf pro – a slice of golfers. The foursome of old guys holding you up – a cart of fogies. The locker room after the senior Stableford – a sag of butts. The 20 ladies from the health resort next door out for a trek – a babble of walkers. Members of your teaching federation at a gathering – a company of USGTFs. I know there are bigger minds out there than mine that can come up with similar or more creative offerings. Send them in to your editor! I am sure there will be a prize waiting.

The last bad news is that my wife and I are without a TV in the summer. Perhaps that is good news, as both Canada and the USA are in the throes of national elections. Perhaps that is good news and something else to be thankful for. If you feel good about things, do not turn on cable news. But there is an antidote for feeling the world is going to end in a few years. Standing in a lift line last winter, the lift operators had a radio on the outdoor speakers, and a psychologist was explaining to listeners that if they were in the midst of a Christmas crisis, take a walk in the woods. The quiet and refreshing solitude would fix them right up. How lucky are we with golf in that most golf courses are just that, solitude in nature.

For me, the good news is that I am usually really deep in the woods, a lot!

Must-Have Apps For All Golfers

Must-Have Apps For All Golfers

By Ben Bryant, MA
USGTF Teaching Professional
Tampa, Florida

There’s a lot of junk in the Apple and Android app stores. Far too often, when we search for the right app, we end up with a list of knockoffs or shoddy apps that fill our phones with ads or bloatware and aren’t worth the bandwidth to download. But there are a few gems out there. These apps are the “diamonds-in-the-rough” that can be indispensable for the serious golfer.

The Official Rules of Golf by the USGA
Every golfer needs a copy of the rules, and now it’s easier than ever to keep it right in your phone. This app features a shortened version of the rule book, covering the most common situations on the golf course. It also has the full Rules of Golf available if you really need it. The app contains high-quality videos demonstrating the proper interpretations of everything from movable obstructions to abnormal course conditions. Best of all, there are no ads on this app, and it’s entirely free.

GolfLogix GPS + Putt Line
There are a lot of GPS apps out there. Pretty much all of them are going to help with yardage and scorekeeping. What sets the GolfLogix app apart is their Putt Line feature. It shows a 3-D contoured map of your green, complete with arrows showing which way your ball will break. By drawing a line on your phone’s screen, you’ll get an arrow showing you the direction you need to putt. It basically makes the read for you. The app is free to download, but you’ll need to pay $9.99 a month to continue using the Putt Line feature.

Zepp Golf Swing Analyzer
The Zepp Golf Swing Analyzer app is free to download and features a great video library of professional swings and swing analyses. To really make use of it, you’ll need to buy a $150 sensor sold by Zepp which attaches to the back of your golf glove. Through the sensor, you’ll be able to track all manner of swing metrics like club plane, tempo, hip rotation, and backswing positioning. The cost of the sensor makes this app by far the most expensive on this list, but this kind of powerful swing analysis can be an invaluable training aid. As a nice bonus, the sensor can be used for a variety of other sports like tennis or baseball.

The Master’s App
You might not keep it on your phone year-round, or you might. Honestly, it’s one of the best apps covering any sporting event. Sure, you can watch the main CBS telecast, or with this app you can stick with coverage of your favorite player or you can relax and watch live feed of groups coming around Amen Corner. Download it now and relive Tiger’s historic 2019 Masters win one more time.

Golden Tee
That’s right! The ubiquitous track ball arcade game – a mainstay of sports bars and family restaurants across the United States – is coming to your phone. Prepare to see your work productivity fall off a cliff as you spend countless hours competing against players around the world on five authentic 18-hole courses. Customize your avatar in traditional golf attire or make them wear a scuba diving mask and a cape! Slated for release in the last quarter of 2019, Golden Tee will be free to play, but like all video games these days, will contain in-app purchases.
Using Group Lessons to Grow a Teaching Business and The Game

Using Group Lessons to Grow a Teaching Business and The Game

By David Vaught
USGTF Teaching Professional, Bradenton, Florida

The private one-on-one golf lesson is the staple and the generally accepted image instructors rely on to build a teaching business. Too often, talented golf instructors overlook an obvious tool to grow their base of students and promote themselves while producing revenue without using a chunk of financial resources – that tool being group lessons. Group lessons can be a major component of a well-thought-out teaching program, especially in the slower months of the season, to generate revenue or to take advantage of the golfers’ enthusiasm at the beginning of the season. Also, having the time to plan in the winter can pay off in the spring.

Planning is the key to incorporating group lessons into a good teaching program. Let’s examine a few key points to consider.

Marketing is always a consideration for attaining students. The first hurdle instructors must overcome is how to come up with a student rate. Keep in mind our target audience is the on-the-fence golfer who may not have or want to spend significant money on golf lessons, or they are not confident that the money spent will return an investment in their improvement. Therefore, keeping costs down is imperative. I find most instructors over-price their group lessons. A simple formula is to take the hourly rate and divide it by the number of students targeted for the lesson. For example, if the average rate is $90 per hour and the number of students is six, our result is $15 per session per student. For an eight-week class, we would be at $120 for the entire series up front. If you decide to make each session 90 minutes, which I recommend, you can adjust the rate proportionately. You may claim the work is more for group lessons, thereby justifying a higher rate. Keep reading; we will get to that. I have seen many instructors charge high persession rates, only to see interest not be there and the idea fail.


After establishing this base rate, you can market the program efficiently. Community centers are the most effective outreach. They are always looking for economical programs for their flyers. The cost to the teacher is zero. As an example, let’s say you charge $20 per student for each session. That is a safe and comfortable investment for the recreational golfer. Another mechanism that is popular and effective are phone apps like Meetup. Tennis instructors have been using this tool heavily for the last few years. Another free marketing tool for group lessons are Facebook golf groups. It is worth the time to research this tool extensively, because the return can be tremendous. Groupon or something similar is another effective option. I would highly recommend capping a group lesson at a 6-to-1 ratio.

Even though the initial revenue from the group lesson is not substantial, the real benefits can be in the math. That initial $720 revenue stream can turn into several thousand dollars easily with very little marketing outlay financially. The reasoning is sound, based on the facts that the golfers will develop faith in the instructor, see the benefits for their game and enjoyment of, and be anxious to pursue private lessons. From my experience, at least half of the group will pursue private lessons. Obviously, those students have friends and people they play with, which further expands the equation. For the instructor, you are building a wider base and expanding your image, as well as establishing yourself as a resource for a wider audience of golfers.

Not to be overlooked are the nuts and bolts of operating and structuring the lessons. Do the research and plan accordingly. As great as the potential is for this component of the teaching program can be, not executing the lessons well can be a detriment to the teaching business. Where to begin the lessons, what the content and structure should be, how to execute the lesson so that all the participants feel it was worthwhile, as well as how to approach upselling to another program or private lessons, are just a few of the details the instructor has to work out. When done right, personal experience has proven to me that group lessons are well worth the time.

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