By Douglas Gray
USGTF Member, Fife, Scotland

I have taught this wonderful game in many parts of the world. I have also been privileged to be a “teacher of teachers,” combining my knowledge, my ongoing learning and studying from the best and “not so best.” I have tried-and-tested methods that get long-term results.

This leads me to my theme for today. I teach at the Home of Golf in St Andrews, Fife, Scotland. A lady of more mature years came to me recently for a lesson. Jean is a very fit lady, attends the gym regularly and is a competitive tennis player. The lady is a member of a prestigious ladies’ golf club in St Andrews and had just attended a ladies group coaching session at a golf academy in the town. My general fact-finding included, “What were you working on? What was the theme of the lesson? Any drill to work on at the end?” This enables me as a teacher/coach to see whatever has been learnt, can be reenforced if applicable, and allows us to move on to the next stage.

Jean informed me that during the one-hour class there was no theme, next to nil instruction, 17 ladies in the group and two teachers, one of whom spent 20 minutes with one pupil. This came as no surprise to me. Wherever I have traveled in the world, I source out driving ranges and study at a distance what is happening in that area on a teaching level, whether it be group or individual tuition. On the whole, the standard of group coaching is not of the quality it should be. How many of you have been educated in how to instruct groups? A group can be a couple where “one half plays and the other wants to learn,” children of all ages and abilities, ladies and gents of all standards, and so much more.

Here is an example of a typical one-hour lesson for a group of golfers new to the game, using a six pupils-to-one teacher ratio:
  • Introduction
  • Demonstration
  • How we stand
  • How we hold the golf club (hands together/touching will suffice at this stage)
  • Demonstrate full swing/half swing, shorter the better to begin
  • Explain that the hold and the stance are priority. This should take five minutes. The group then has practice time, and the teacher can help individually with equal attention to each student. This should take 10 minutes. Bring the group together and demonstrate the half-swing, using words like, “Point the club at the sky on both sides of the ball or make an ‘L’ shape with your lead arm and the club,” or whatever method you feel applicable. This should take five minutes.

    The group then has practice time and the teacher helps individually as previous. This should take 10 minutes.

    Bring the group together and demonstrate the half-swing finish, using words like, “Point your trail knee at the target. You should be able to tap your trail toe on the ground at the finish,” or whatever method you feel applicable. This should take five minutes. The group then has practice time and the teacher helps individually as previous. This should take 10 minutes.

    Bring the group together and demonstrate by putting it all together. “Hold, take your stance, half-swing with trail knee pointing toward the target at the finish (balance).” This is a wonderful sequence, and you have given the new golfer a routine which is invaluable at this stage and very simple to learn and absorb. This should take five minutes. The group then has practice time and the teacher helps individually as previous. This should take 10 minutes.

    Success and lots of fun. Now you sign all your new golfers up for the next session and some will want individual lessons.

    This is an example of a group lesson for six pupils new to the game for a duration of one hour and delivered by one competent teacher. The next lesson would be reinforcing fundamentals with a lesson plan to hand out. Preparation, knowledge of the subject and time management are paramount. Give brief, simple instruction the students can apply. Keep explanation and demonstration brief. Break this up during the lesson for application, practice and correction. Do not get involved with one student longer than the others. Individual help is necessary, but has to be brief so others are not neglected.

    I spend as much time away from the course/driving range as necessary in preparing for future lessons, and also recording information from recent lessons for analysis, enabling me to help my pupils’ next stage of development. As previously mentioned, group coaching is a specialist subject and can be very satisfying and lucrative. If any of the group are dissatisfied and if any of your pupils have not progressed, you must reassess your methods of teaching more than one golfer.

    As we often tell our pupils that all the hard work is done after the lesson, we as teachers/coaches must do our job thoroughly before we enter the arena. As one wise teacher said to me one day, “Douglas, you never get a second chance to make a first impression.”

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