The game of golf has 34 rules and numerous interpretations in order to help all players post an honest score and protect playing partners and competitors from indiscretions or even honest mistakes. The number one rule in golf is “Play the course as you find it, and play your ball as it lies”. This simply means, don’t complain about the course setup, it’s the same for everyone, and don’t touch your ball unless you’re on the teeing ground or the putting green. I find that if you follow this rule, everything else will fall into place. It’s a good idea to own a $3.00 rule book and have a look at it from time to time; you might be surprised at how many times in a round of golf the rules will work in your favor. The largest abuse of the rules of golf and the honor system is the current state of the handicapping practice. The system itself isn’t flawed; the computerized handicapping system in my club works great when players enter their information correctly. The problem lies in what information goes in the system for computation, and what information never makes it in. The handicap system is designed to create an equal playing field for all levels of players in competition. This will allow an occasional player the opportunity to compete on a head to head basis with a champion golfer and will also group players of the same golfing abilities together for competition. This can’t happen in any other sport, tennis, hockey, football…there is no way an average athlete could compete head to head with the top players in any of these sports, this is one of the reasons golf is the greatest participation sport. There are two kinds of “Rules infractions” associated with handicapping, the first being the player who is too proud to enter a poor score for fear of ridicule from peers. This player is really only cheating him, or herself when competition time comes and they are paired with much better players. The other player is the one who omits his/her best scores from the handicap computer in order to inflate their factor and give them an edge in the competition. This practice is no different from an Olympic athlete using a banned substance in order to gain an advantage over his peers. This habit is wrong, and if caught, the athlete will always be branded as a cheater. As a Golf Professional, I am asked often to verify handicaps for competition and on some occasions have refused to sign player’s cards at the handicap they have posted as it may compromise my reputation as an honest professional.
As a fellow golfer and lover of the game, I ask everyone to do three things; 1. Post all your scores to your handicap system, good or bad. 2. Ask your Pro about “equitable stroke control” and apply it to your scores. 3. Ask your playing partners to do the same.
If everyone will do these three simple things, the RCGA Handicapping system will sort everything else out and our competitions will be fair, and more fun. For more information on your handicapping system, ask your local Pro or your local RCGA official. Have a great rest of the season, and keep it on course.
Okay…It’s true, you do get what you pay for…but only to a point.
Why am I writing about the cost of golf lessons?…Because they range from “free” to “ridiculous” and everywhere in-between. I remember as a newly minted (small p) “golf pro” I would listen to other Pros, read some books, study magazine articles, and try and make sense out of what I was hearing before regurgitating it to an unsuspecting client, who trusted me with his $40 bucks, and his golf game. This was in the early 90s and for the life of me I didn’t understand how I warranted $40.00/hour. Yes…I went to golf school, graduated on time, acquired my Class “A” status and became a Head Professional in the shortest amount of time you could do it, (in the present system). So why did I feel this way as an apprentice / assistant pro?
I remember honing my communication skills on Jr.s and beginners, I had written out a basic lesson plan, based on every other basic lesson plan I ever saw, (Grip / Stance / posture, blah blah) and while the lesson plans were similar, I made it up from there…I had to. Now I’m not knocking the educational system for Professional Golf Instructors (or maybe I am) we did learn how to run a Pro-Shop, buy from the merchandise show and suppliers, run a golf tournament, tee sheet, do books, keep track of inventory, fix and sell equipment, and most everything else required to run a golf shop for an owner or a board, or a committee…including food and beverage, but there was (is) one glaring omission.
Nobody EVER taught me (us) how to teach, what to teach first, in what sequence we should teach it for optimum retention, what words we should use and why, and what is the fastest way to create a level of competency in a new (or seasoned) golfer. After graduation, I was hired to teach in the program I just graduated from, so I got an inside view of the process. Now after you graduate your 3 year course, you can take a teaching and coaching certification course, of which I became a facilitator. OK here we go, let’s go learn how to do this!
Disappointing is the word I use to describe the process; not that it was wrong, or made false statements, but it was more about the psychology of teaching than the act of teaching itself. We discussed how we would talk to a Lawyer as compared to a Plumber, which approach would work best with an endomorph, vs. an ectomorph, (body styles and shapes). We discussed coaching of elite athletes, nutrition, cross training exercises etc…but nothing on why we grip the club the way we do, or anything else actually. We did have a guest lecturer or 2 on teaching, I remember one Pro said (and I never forgot this) “never do anything at the expense of balance”. Excellent advice, but nothing on how to maintain balance, or what things throw it off…
At the conclusion of the course, I left the new instructors with the only piece of advice I could (that was not in the curriculum) “When you say anything to a client, be prepared to have an immediate, solid, and common sense answer when the student asks…why?” something I’ve prided myself on as a teacher of the game.
I think we should have our own Hippocratic Oath…”First, do no harm” , but I believe that ship has sailed. A golf instructor (like any professional instructor) should be able to back up what is said, in easy to understand terms that make sense to the client, without contradicting or convoluting the message.
Anyone who wears the PGA logo is “allowed” to teach and charge (what the market will bear) for golf lessons, but only about 10% are classified as Teaching Professionals, who make it their business to know their craft well enough to to warrant the designation “Teaching Professional”.
Just because you’re getting paid, does not make you a Professional in all cases. Then there are the federations of “Golf Teachers”, who take a course, shoot a score, and are then certified to charge (what the market will bear) to pass the knowledge along. Now I have met, and am friends with a few these teachers, and I have to say some of them are great teachers, who hone their craft, design templates and follow specific teaching guidelines to get from A to B…and stick to their guns…but they are very much in the minority. It has been my experience, most are after the quick $50 bucks and really don’t know why they say what they say. (just an observation)
So how does this translate to price? The FREE teacher, the low (and sometimes medium) handicap players who read an article and is now an expert I feel do the most harm in our industry. If I help my buddy out by changing the brakes on his car, he’d better be careful cause there will always be parts left over, and adding insult to injury, the message is second or third hand and most likely inaccurate. (the nicest way I can say that). If you want / need golf lessons, at least ask for referrals, try and understand the teacher’s process…if there is one, and ask a lot of WHY questions, especially if you don’t fully understand.
Then there is the Elite Teacher…who charges anywhere from $500.00 / hour, to $30,000.00 / day…really?! What super secret, magic, potion are they doling out for 30 grand a day…But; they get it, and more power to them.
So how much is a Golf Lesson worth? It seems whatever you will pay…will the lessons work for you?…maybe, if you stick to the message and don’t continue the search for the silver bullet. What’s a fair price to pay for a lesson?…again, consider the source.
It is my opinion, that we start injecting some common sense and consistency into the quagmire of golf instruction available to us today. Mainstream golf media shows and tells us all about the best players in the world, how they do what they do, and why we all should try and emulate them…I can’t and don’t want to try to swing like any player on any tour…why? I’m not them…muscle structure, flexibility, strength,…all variables. Learn the fundamentals…there are 3, learn the swing sequence…there are 3 pieces, craft a scoring plan for ALL shots based on a repeatable series of moves that does not contradict anything you learned prior, and stick to your guns. That formula will guarantee success and your lessons (whatever you paid) will be more than worth the time and dollar investments.