Teaching In Today's Environment
By Mark Harman, USGTF Contributing Writer

Years ago, the only way lessons were given was for a student to show up on the driving range and an instructor would dispense advice after seeing a few balls hit.  This was usually accomplished by fixing, or attempting to fix, the student’s most glaring visual flaw.  Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t.

As the video recorder age came about in the 1980s, it allowed teachers to break down the swing frame by frame.  The emphasis became fixing not only the most glaring visual fault, but trying to correct as many as possible during the allotted time.  While instructors knew about the ball flight laws, their knowledge was incorrect, as it was taught that the clubhead path through impact determined the ball’s starting direction.  We know now that this is wrong, that the clubface angle mainly determines the starting direction.  But with incorrect knowledge and methodology in full force, some players improved, but many didn’t.

Today in 2020, any student who wants to go see a teacher who has a launch monitor can usually find one within a reasonable drive of their home.  Teachers who use launch monitors focus less on what the swing looks like and more on what the numbers say.  We’ve seen this manifest itself on the pro tours, where Matthew Wolfe’s homemade swing makes Jim Furyk’s look downright conventional.  But Wolfe’s teacher, George Gankas, was astute enough to know he had a talent on his hands who could repeat his swing  time and time again. And since Wolfe could repeat the numbers, no changes were necessary.

While it’s not mandatory to have a launch monitor to teach, it’s becoming almost crucial.  The days of a teacher going to the range to help someone without any technology are fast coming to a close.  While most every teacher has access to a video system through their smartphone, it also wouldn’t hurt to invest in launch monitor technology.  Any teacher who plans on teaching making a full-time career of it must have it to be competitive.  Part-time teachers who can’t recoup a large investment should at least look into lower-cost options, such as FlightScope’s mevo, which is around $500.

The golf teaching industry has always evolved and will continue to do so.  Teachers who stay current have the best chance of succeeding.
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