By Bruce Meadows
What do you expect of a teaching pro?
A few readers felt I was a little tough on pro golf instructors in my last GOLF 707.
I’ll admit that by far most of those pros I’ve seen teaching are first-rate, quality instructors, worth the price of lessons, although I have seen some that I don’t think have a student’s best interests in mind. Strictly personal opinion based on years of observation.
There are various levels of “teaching pros,” including those with PGA credentials, those on the path to get those credentials and some who are good players with some good ideas who charge for lessons despite not being credentialed.
That third group is composed of individuals who no doubt have some good advice to offer, so you can judge for yourself if that person should be putting a price tag on that advice. Some of the best advice I’ve gotten is from friends, not golf pros.
I have always believed – as probably most golfers do – that you should get what you pay for and be satisfied with the instruction. If not, you would be wise to move on, although pros might not agree with that.
I also believe that there are some people who simply are never going to be much better. My question is: Do you thank that player and suggest an alternative or do you figure you are the one to work a miracle?
Jess Stimack, pro at Bennett Valley and golf coach of the successful Montgomery High Vikings, sent me his thoughts on teaching.
“So students are teachable or coachable. Some students are stuck in their ways, and if swing philosophies between student and teacher clash, it will not be frustrating for both parties.
“I find with most of my students that they focus on the wrong things, and when reminded that without a sound set-up and good balance throughout the swing, nothing else matters.
“As for working with students that “can’t” get any better, I don’t believe that is ever the case. If a student is not improving, then take a different approach. There are a ton of ways to get a student to improve.
Jess offers some teaching thoughts:
- Focus on the mental approach.
- Develop a strong and repeatable pre-shot routine( both physically and mentally).
- Relate the golf swing to something else they have done in their past, whether it be hitting a baseball, throwing a softball, shooting a free throw, or tossing a dart. There are a lot of parallels.
- Get them to mentally put less importance on every shot, if players pretended there were a bucket of balls next to them on all of their on-course golf shots, they might be able to bring their range game to the course.
- Devote the correct amount of time to each aspect of the game, over 50-60% of the strokes on the course will be played from inside 75-100 yards. Do the math!
I like Stimack’s thinking, especial No. 4. How many times have you made a bad shot, agonized over it and followed up with another stinker ?
Head pro Jason Schmuhl, celebrating his 20th year at Windsor, sent his opinions on teaching:
“Giving lessons is definitely an art and I do believe that there are different instructors for different students.
“As a whole I believe that most teaching professionals give students too much information. For those of us that have played a lot of golf we know that it is nearly impossible to hit a good shot when you are thinking about five different things.
“To answer some of your questions, yes, I have discouraged many people from taking too many lessons, but I have not told anyone that golf is not for them, that would something they have to determine themselves. Some people can go out and have a good time while shooting 120 and others are miserable shooting 75. I think that whether golf is a good sport for someone often doesn’t depend upon their ability.
“As far as golf instruction goes, I think that pros need to work on keeping things simple and fun for our students, especially when teaching kids.”
I like Jason’s thinking, too, especially the part about “too much information.” I usually try to concentrate on one swing key at a time . . . more than that can often cause brain freeze – and bad results.
Will Karnofsky teaches golf at Peacock Gap in San Rafael, and is a very outspoken guy with unique ideas on golf and lots of things.
“I read your piece about golf instruction and I wonder if maybe, just possibly, you have only been exposed to the stereotypical type of golf teachers. May I point you toward some real trailblazers?
“There has been a new breed of instructors who for years have called themselves “coaches”; not the recent guys who have jumped on the bandwagon labelling themselves a golf coach but real coaches who have been bringing a new type of learning to students and players. Fred Shoemaker is one of the founding creators in this new paradigm of golf learning. You can read about his program at extraordinarygolf.com
“Fred’s school has been ranked in the top 25 programs in the nation for years and he has never advertised or solicited students to achieve this. Although not in the PGA he has spoken at the various PGA summits and coached worldwide since the 70’s. His book Extraordinary Golf – the Art of the Possible has been an Amazon bestseller since coming out in 1996. It’s a must read for all of my students and a book that changed my life.
“Two other coaches who have made tremendous contributions to the game are Michael Hebron, PGA ( article: http://golfinthelifeof.com/michael-hebron/ ) whose books are many and Dr. Glen Albaugh writer of Winning the Battle Within. http://wbwgolf.com Dr. Glen, you may know, is a sport psychologist but a fantastic coach who has helped me not to mention continues to coach Scott McCarron and Kirk Triplett.
“Anyway, as a golf coach myself who is committed to help shift the culture of golf learning I offer this brief explanation of how I work.
“I am happy to have a conversation about this type of coaching in contrast to the traditional way of golf instruction.
“As it turns out I started playing at age 26 taking lessons immediately. My first 10 years I initially learned through the traditional golf teaching methods. I worked with a wonderful long-time amateur competitive golfer, Art Nelson, age 72. A wonderful man and inspiration he helped me learn the basics through a tremendous amount of patience and devotion. I only had about two years under his kind tutelage before he passed away.
Eventually I began reading books and even taking a couple of lessons from two of the “top 100 teacher’s” in the country. Those so-called lessons were two of the worst lesson experiences I have ever had.
“I realized I needed help . . . I loved the game but wasn’t improving and I was constantly in my head trying to remember things. Mostly I was miserable because I equated my performance as the measure of my pleasure in the game.
“The turning point for me was reading Fred’s book and eventually going to one of the schools. Here was a compassionate group of coaches committed to helping you get the things you wanted in golf and interestingly, life itself.
“I developed a friendship with the coaches and asked, after several years, if Fred would coach me in preparation for taking the PGA player ability test. He let me know that he had never known anybody in his life who has jumped from a 12 index in 8 months to be able to shoot the score that I would need to accomplish in the 36-hole test. I told him I have heard of people doing it and he said he heard the same thing but personally he knew of no one. I said neither do I but I believe I can do it with your help. He graciously agreed to work with me. He generously worked with me eight times. Less than 20% of first-time players make the grade. The rest is history and has become one of Fred’s favorite stories to tell. So a major part of my becoming a Class A PGA Professional is due to Fred and the coaches of Extraordinary Golf.
“Helping others learning golf is a big part of what I love to do. I have been fortunate to have some fantastic people in my life who have helped me along the way. I will always remember this.”
Will can be reached at [email protected]
SSU MEN ALL-CONFERENCE
Sonoma State men’s golfers Dexter Simonds, Spencer Clapp and Devin Gregg have each named to the California Collegiate Athletic Association All-Conference team.
Simonds, who finished Top 5 in three of his six tournaments this spring earned All-CCAA First-Team recognition and was also selected as the conference’s Newcomer of the Year. The 6-7 junior out of Bellevue, Wash. shot his season-best 71+73+71=215 (-1) at the Tim Tierney Pioneer Shootout, where he tied for fifth. Simonds led his team in stroke average this season with a 73.83 mark.
Clapp takes home his second straight All-CCAA honor, with a 2018 Honorable Mention. His 75.17 stroke average marks third best for Sonoma State through his 29 rounds this season. The 5-9 junior out of Federal Way, Wash. placed Top 5 in two tournaments this season, including a third-place finish at the CCAA Championship with a 75+69+66=210 (-6) performance.
Gregg catpured an All-Conference Honorable Mention for a season in which he placed Top 10 twice. He played to par — and a tie for seventh place finish — at the Tim Tierney Pioneer Shootout and ranked second for the Seawolves this season with a 75.07 stroke average.
News from Napa . . .
David Knox at Napa Golf Course at Kennedy Park wants to let you know what’s on the menu at his course.
Get Golf Ready Classes for adults: Starting May 10. Register online at https://www.playnapa.com/lessons/instructional-offerings
Get Golf Ready 1, Get Golf Ready 2, Get Golf Ready 3 classes all available – five week group class series all start on May 10.
Cobra Demo Day: Saturday: June 2, 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Free club fittings with Track Man launch monitor. Fitting session appointments preferred in advance by contacting PGA Director of Instruction David Knox at [email protected].
School’s Out – Napa Junior Golf League: Starts June 2. The Napa Junior Golf League is a month-long commitment for participants, which allows junior golfers to compete in five Saturday afternoon league matches in a comfortable 2-person scramble format.
Additionally, league participants learn directly from PGA Director of Instruction Knox once weekly on Thursday evening in one-hour practices. Some prior golf experience is preferred, however this league is for beginners as well. Golf equipment not required but encouraged if the junior player has clubs. This league is available to juniors ages 7 – 15. Our School’s Out Summer League has room for up to 36 participating junior golfers.
Cost $225 per participant; Includes five practices and five matches as well as league shirt. Email Knox to enroll your junior golfer or call him at 916-533-4108.
What are your favorites?
In my last GOLF 707, I asked for your thoughts on a number of golf-related things, such as “best course,” “best pro,” etc. I heard back from a few of you but would love to have more people check the list and give me your opinion.
Here’s the list:
Best Par 3
Best Par 4
Best Par 5
Best 18-hole Course
Best 9-hole Course
Best 19th Hole
Best Pro Shop
Friendliest, most helpful pro shop staff
Best Golf Instructor
Best Junior Program
Best Women’s Program
Best Senior Program
Best Golf Course Food, Drink
Best Driving Range
Best “Bang for your Buck”
Best Practice Facility (putting green, chipping green, etc.)
Best Golf Shop (well-stocked, sales, etc.)
Best Golf Repair
Best Maintained Course
Please take time to respond to as many of the items on the list as you can, and send them to [email protected]
And if you have any questions about golf, in our area or beyond, please let me know.