Why Some Golf Instructors Are Successful

The Facebook group "Old School Golf with New Tools" has thousands of followers.
The Facebook group “Old School Golf with New Tools” has thousands of followers.

In Advanced Teaching with PGA Professional Jay Friedman, we’re always talking about the art and science of golf instruction. As this semester has unfolded, I’ve come to believe good golf instruction is more art than science, and by science, I mean technology. While K-Vest and TrackMan are great teaching tools, again, they’re simply tools, and should be treated as such.

Jay follows and is one of only 400+ members of the “Old School Golf with New Tools” group on Facebook. The group has thousands of followers and features posts from several of the game’s top teachers. It’s amazing insight into a very interesting profession.

Just like every golf swing is different, every golf instructor has a different way of teaching, but there are commonalities. The great thing about this group is that its contest is all free of charge. What a great resources for someone thinking about pursuing a career as a golf instructor.

The following article was recently posted to the group by Sam Adams. Adams is one of only a few left-handers ever to win an event on the PGA Tour, the 1973 Quad Cities Open, and was the first American lefty ever to win a Tour event. Adams is a Life Member of the PGA of America and is currently a contributor to the web site Pro Golf Now. Sam says while the post is primarily for golf instructors, if you’re thinking about getting a golf lesson, it may help you choose the right instructor. I’ve included a few of my comments in parentheses:

Sam Adam was the first left to win a PGA Tour event, the 1973 Quad Cities Open.
Sam Adams was the first lefty to win on the PGA Tour.

Why Some Golf Instructors Are Successful
By Sam Adams

I have been researching the topic of why some golf instructors are successful and why others struggle for some time now. I have also been trying to figure why the great instructors of the past and present were so much better than others who knew as much about the golf swing as they did and had great results before the advent of technology.

Many of you may already be aware of this, and I have suspected it for a long time. I just never took the time to research it, and I can’t find where anyone has talked or written about it.

Before I go any further, I need to give my definition of successful. By successful, I mean truly helping people to improve their games over time. I do not mean having a full appointment book only because you have great marketing skills and can constantly bring in new students. I also don’t mean people that have a great success rate on the lesson tee, and two days later, their student is no better or maybe even worse than before. Almost any teacher should be able to do that.

I have also spent a lot of time learning more about how people actually learn complex motor skills and reading a lot of Michael Hebron’s posts about the role of the brain in the learning process. I have also paid particular attention to the posts and comments of golf professionals whose opinions I really respect.

I have read countless comments by teachers who say they are successful and therefore their methods or theories are the way it should be done. My strong sense and appreciation for logic tells me immediately that that’s not necessarily true.

The one common denominator I have found that all good/great teachers past and present share is highly developed communication skills. They are natural communicators. What they are teaching is not nearly as important as how they are teaching it.

Adams says all great teachers have highly developed communication skills.

That really resonated with me when I read a line from Michael’s opening statement at a conference where he was speaking. Said Michael, “Throughout this conference, keep in mind that information does not produce good learning any more than paint produces good art.” Buying more brushes and paint (in this case, technology) are not going to make you a better artist.

No matter how much knowledge or certifications you have, if you cannot communicate well, you’re going to have limited success. Here are a few keys I’ve picked up:

* Build the relationship first… always! (This is something we talked about in the first 15 minutes of Advanced Teaching at the beginning of the semester.)

* Have empathy for your students

* Know what you’re talking about – this is about depth of knowledge, not breadth. As Albert Einstein once said, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t know the subject well enough.”

* Listen more than you speak – great communicators listen more than they talk.

* Focus on understanding what your student is saying – focus your mind on listening and comprehending.

* Open your mind to new ideas – never stop learning

* Never tell your student more than they s/he needs to know – talking a lot just to cover all the points is counterproductive. (At the Golf Academy, we learned that most people only remember 1-3 things from any lesson.)

* Never talk down to your students for any reason – this is one of the most damaging things a teacher can do, and it’s entirely different than speaking with authority and confidence.

If I could give a young teacher any advice today, it would be to focus on learning to be a good communicator and learning how people actually learn.

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