How Do You Choose A Teaching Pro?

As we look at the new season, I’ve made a resolution to spend the equivalent of the price of a new set of clubs on golf lessons. While I have played well enough by reading and studying training videos, and with the occasional short lesson from a PGA friend of mine, I think I could be much better. I’m a 15 handicap most of the summer, but am convinced that I can get into the single digits (I’m led to this conclusion by some brilliant stretches of golf over the last couple of summers)

But here’s a question that has been vexing me: How do I choose a pro?

It is, I think, a bit like choosing a doctor. Only more complicated. If I were looking for a new physician, I would ask some friends, check certifications and consult with the Union’s medical insurance representative. I’d also make an initial consultation to see if I liked her (or him).

I could do some similar things while searching for a golf pro. But the golf swing is more complicated and varied than medicine. With all of the different “methods” out there, I think I’ve got to find someone whose swing philosophy matches my needs.

For my pro friend, for example, it’s all about the setup. He believes that if your grip, alignment and ball position are all good, you don’t need to worry about the actual swing. The pro at my club, on the other hand, teaches an “armsy” swing. There are one plane and two plane teachers; AJ Bonar disciples; X-Factor teachers … the list is endless.  And I’m sure they’re all equally valid for different types of golfers.

What worries me is that I’ll go to a pro who will teach me his “method” but that the “method” won’t be the best one for me. Look at Tiger. He’s gone to both Harmon and Haney, and while both worked, Haney’s method looks to be the better choice.

So who do I go to?

I don’t really want to bother my friend (although he is a superb teacher), because he won’t take my money and what I have in mind is going to take some time. And I also don’t really want to use the pro at my club, because after taking a couple of lessons from him, I’ve decided that he’s just too nice. I want some serious criticism.

What I really need is a “general pro” like I have a “general physician.” If it’s anything other than a minor or routine ailment, my general physician takes a look at my overall condition, and then refers me to a couple of specialists. He tells me what the specialists are like, and I get to pick one.

A golf generalist would diagnose my overall condition and then send me to the appropriate teacher.

It’s a pretty tough conundrum. Does anyone have any thoughts?

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13 thoughts on “How Do You Choose A Teaching Pro?”

  1. And that’s just the problem. How do I find the guy (or gal) who’s going to do that. I know that I’m stuck with my fade … but nearly every teacher I hear about is trying to get their students to hit a draw. If I do that, I’ll be hopelessly lost.

    I suppose I could call a bunch on the phone and query them about their teaching philosophy, but in my area I’m sure that they all have enough clients that they don’t really need any new ones and thus there is no incentive to talk to me about their ideas.

  2. What I would do is go out to see a few of them.  Call them up and ask them if you can discuss their thoughts in person and to give them feedback on what you want to accomplish.

    If they are unwilling to give you a few minutes of their time, then move on.

    You can also ask them if you can speak with any of their students as well, just to see how they like the instructor etc.

    I have never taken lessons either.  Not that I don’t want to, but that I have never found one I liked.

  3. If you’re willing to commit to a series of lessons, the pro you ‘interview’ should be able to devote 30 minutes about her/his methodology. As a matter of fact, I just wrote a short piece on that today. Also, visit area clubs public and private and don’t forget driving ranges. There’s one in Irving (about 25 miles from where I live) and the pro there is booked months in advance. Also, don’t dismiss the female PGA pros. The one at my club is excellent.

  4. Gary: I’ve actually been seriously considering going to a female teaching pro. The University of Michigan’s women’s golf pro has had some flyers out at the UM Golf Course saying she is available.

  5. I’m actually a great putter and have a solid short game—and my pro friend confirms this. Distance is not really a concern either. I’m not at all long 9although in those brilliant stretches, I’m hitting eight irons from 150 and hitting the green), but my game isn’t suffering becuase I’m falling short. My game suffers becuase I don’t make consistent contact.

    More distance would be nice, but I really want to develop a really consistent, repeatable swing. My suspicion is that the solution is to simplify things and that may mean working on a one plane swing.

    But maybe not.

  6. Ask your club pro to recommend someone else.  You wouldn’t hesitate to ask your doctor to recommend someone else for a second opinion.  This is no different.

  7. Good comments, all. Because we’re in the business of matching students with golf professionals (at it for four decades), I can tell you it’s not magic. But when it comes to picking the right professional, definitely leave the ego behind if you seriously want to get better. And look out for the ones who are too smooth.

    As one commenter noted, it’s like a relationship with a doctor. Do you like the guy or gal’s attitude? Does the person’s philosophy appeal to you? As long as you respect the individual’s credentials, when the “chemistry” is right you’ve got the best chance of maximizing the benefit of your experience, so first, trust your research, and second, trust your instincts.

  8. To me you should find a pro who is going to teach you how to use your swing better.

    I read an article a number of years ago that asked the question, “Are you stuck with your swing?”  I have to believe that we are.

    Too many people end up looking for that perfect swing in the hopes of getting better.  Well, look at mister Duval, he chose to chase the holy grail of swings and it pretty nearly ruined his career.  Now he’s putting on some weight and going back to what works.

    Just one golfers opinion, take it for what it’s worth.  smile

  9. One great way to find an outstanding teaching pro is to ask any other pro’s who they work with. I know in my area, there are a lot of us that teach, but very few who actually teach other professionals. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of pros that teach…but there are some that really stand out.

  10. I think the University of Michigan pro is worth following up on.  You’re not some much looking or a teacher as a coach.  Any good coach is going to be use to working with the players (and swings) they have on their team, not the ones they wish they had.


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