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Sunday, January 29, 2017

How (and Why) to Choose a Good Golf Instructor

Today I've got a new guest post for you folks. It's from Charles Borden, a freelance writer and golfer at Raleigh NC, a couple of hours east of me, on how to find a good instructor. He loves playing great area courses like the ones in Myrtle Beach, Southern Pines, and, of course, Pinehurst. This article will give you the basics of how to determine what you need from an instructor, interview them to make sure they can really help you, and then assess their effectiveness as your lessons progress.

This is a good article and I hope you pick up some useful tips from it.
Every golfer wants to improve his or her game. Whether you play casually once a month with friends, treat it as a regular weekend activity, or pursue the sport with the aim of winning competitions, it’s always fun to feel your swing working more smoothly and see your scores dropping down. The trouble is that the best way to improve is usually through private instruction, and finding a good coach can be pretty difficult.

In this article we’ll look at how to make that process a little easier, as well as what you can hope to learn once you find the right coach.

Player hitting from rough

Finding The Right Instructor

The process of finding the right instructor involves a balance of self-analysis and thorough exploration. By getting the best possible feel for your own game, locating options in your area, and determining what those options have to offer, you can best ensure that you’ll wind up with a coach who can advance your game.

Gauging Your Game

When you’re considering finding a new golf instructor it may seem as if you should simply leave the analysis of your own talents and abilities up to them. There’s some logic to this, but you should also remember that when you seek out private coaching you’re usually asked to label yourself. Are you a beginner? Are you an experienced player who’s a beginner with coaching? Is your game at the intermediate level or higher? Often, the answers to these questions will help to determine which coach you wind up with, or how that coach approaches lessons.

You can always start by calculating your handicap as explained by American Golf. You’ll need to have an average of your last several rounds of golf on a given course. From that number you simply subtract the course rating (a number that should be available), multiply the result by 113, and divide that result by the slope rating of the course. The result provides you with a numerical representation of your ability.

You should also be prepared to describe your confidence level -- not just in your game as a whole, but in specific aspects of it. Take the time to really consider which strokes and clubs you’re most comfortable with, or which aspects of a course seem to challenge you the most. Basically, the more information you can express about your own game, the better an instructor will be able to assist you. This is wise to consider before you actually start looking for a coach.

Finding Your Instructor

There are plenty of ways to start your actual search for an instructor. If you’re lucky, you may have a friend or family member who’s already using an instructor that he or she would recommend. Alternatively, you may be a member at a course or a club where you have access to private instruction, or can at least get pointed in the right direction. Even these easy methods are often simply pairing you with the most convenient option, rather than a coach who’s necessarily best for you.

More and more, people are turning to the internet for ways to get around that issue and find an instructor who feels like a custom fit. For example, Play Your Course has an online search tool with a database of golf instructors that can help to handpick a coach for a given player based on that player’s set of goals, location, and course preferences. It may sound a bit impersonal, but keep in mind that it’s merely a search mechanism. It is meant to provide you with the best and most affordable options in your area, after which you can start a more specific selection process.

Interviewing Your Coach

In any relationship with a coach or instructor, you’re handing over control to some extent. You’re asking someone to direct your actions and help you improve. That can make it seem like you’re subjecting yourself to a prospective instructor’s approval as soon as you meet. But this isn’t the case! Keep in mind that you’re paying for the lessons and you should have multiple options for instruction. Before you commit long-term to a coaching relationship, you should sit down with your potential instructor and have an interview of sorts. Go over your game (based on the tips mentioned previously for how to gauge your level), discuss your goals, and ask for details of the instructor’s approach. This should help to ensure that you wind up in a productive and enjoyable situation.

What You Can Hope To Learn

Naturally, you’re hoping for an instructor to boost your ability and lower your scores, but this can only happen through improvement in the smaller parts that comprise your golf game. These are just a few areas to keep in mind as places you can expect to see improvement with the right coach.

Proper Preparation

A lot of golfers, and particularly those who approach the sport more casually, tend to simply walk out on the course and start swinging. There’s nothing wrong with this, but a little more preparation can only help. Life Fitness put together a list of golf stretching exercises that can help improve your range of motion, strength, and handicap. As with any sport, it’s necessary to prime your body (and mind) for competition. You can learn how to address this online by reading over tips, but an experienced coach can quickly help you to develop a preparation routine that will help you to be a more comfortable and more successful player.

Swing Mechanics

A good golf instructor will be able to help you with the specifics of your swing, whether you’re driving the ball down range or trying to sink a putt from five feet out. This is the main aspect of the game that most people hope to improve and it’s where your primary focus should lie.

It’s also important to recognize that you need to observe and ask questions where swing mechanics are concerned. You can’t always expect even an expert instructor to simply dissect your game from swing to swing. You should watch him or her play, watch professional players on television, or even record yourself playing golf. This should give you a better idea of what it looks like to be “doing it right,” and hopefully it should help you to be more aware of when something isn’t quite right with your own movements. You can ask about these little imperfections and work them out together with your coach.

Course Management

Finally, you should also expect a good coach to help you with the different factors that go into gauging and managing a course as you play. That means handling different conditions, adjusting to different terrains, and perhaps most importantly, knowing which clubs to use at which times. These are all things that even a beginner can do by feel, to some extent. But you might be surprised at the tips a professional can offer. You may find out that you’ve been using the wrong club for your own skills and tendencies from a given distance, or that you never realized how far out you could pitch a ball onto the green. The right coach will effectively teach you how to read a course.

Without getting into the specifics of your individual game, that’s about it! Of course, the requirements for a good instructor and the lessons you hope to learn depend on your own experience, ability, circumstances, and goals. But in a general sense, these are the things to keep in mind as you start the process of seeking private instruction. Best of luck improving your game this year!

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