Player Development and Beyond

By Karen Tucker, PGA | Pelican Hill Resort | Southern California Player Development Award Recipient

As a PGA Golf Professional with a Marketing degree, I have always asked myself “How can I maximize my instructional services to my students with the same understanding and comprehension of who I am, what I have to offer and who is nearby that would benefit the most”? I believe when these things come together with passion and excitement there is growth beyond measure.

Offering time windows or alternate technology that differ with your local competing instructors can create more student interest for your programs. I have a growing number of students who appreciate having more than the traditional one hour to work on short-game and full-swing. This also creates a more relaxed lesson environment and secures a full schedule for me.

I am also a Woman surrounded by families and Resort guests that want to enjoy their experience with me while learning or improving their game. I enjoy working with juniors, beginners, and high handicap golfers. Other instructors may focus on elite players who strive for competitive success, and that’s fine for them. It is rewarding to see your students improve their tournament play and share the wins. And there is huge competition within the industry to coach these athletic and talented golfers, or unicorns. But when it comes to Growing the Game, working with the other segments of golfers and potential golfers is to me more gratifying and productive. Taking a novice and creating a unicorn is a wonderful thing.

With juniors, fun is extremely important. Creating interest in improvement with colorful and fun alignment sticks and noodles to teach with along with the fun games to earn a special golf ball, ball markers, and different colored hats can offer students a positive take away. Playing golf games for prizes ignites my student’s competitive nature and gives me insight into their determination to be a winner. Their athletic ability and determination to excel for these small rewards shows me clearly their capability to want to improve and develop, which is crucial to becoming a unicorn. Offering up this same reward program to my adults is having the same effect. If you have a stable of Stallions, then your unicorns are playing tournaments and have already developed into players. These students will keep you learning as much as you need to teach them how to compete. PGA.Coach has implemented these ideas and plans, and I highly recommend this resource to all new apprentices joining the teaching world.

I’m writing this article to open up the idea that it may or may not be an essential aspect for most unicorns or stallions but for many of my Women, Juniors and Resort guests, it seems essential to create a comfortable, entertaining environment. It’s also vital to understand the sensitivity a student may have being directed into awkward positions with the legs, hips, the pelvic region and chest. Allowing myself to switch roles and become the student while the student takes my place, holding a stick in a particular focused part of the swing, allows more comfort and visual understanding than making them try to repeat awkward and very challenging movements. After 20 years of teaching, I have found that juniors especially like taking on the teacher role. And finally, when you are both doing the movements together, like warm up exercises, there is less performance anxiety and less focus on them feeling alone in their movements.

At the end of the day, there are only so many hours one can possibly teach and earn. How can you develop more players within the hour constraints of the day? You can have 8-16 students in an 8-hour day or go beyond with Clinics, Corporate Events and Zoom sessions where many can gather and learn together. It was one of my student mentors that recommended duplicating my efforts that helped me focus on the group clinics and corporate events that have led me down a path of teaching that I enjoy and prefer. I love a fun gathering and miss it so much since COVID-19 hit, and want my students to see and experience the camaraderie golf can offer without the fears or anxiety of performing on the golf course. It serves as a pre-curser for playing with others that fills the gap between being on the driving range alone and playing on the golf course with strangers. When everyone let’s their hair down or sees a friend they haven’t seen in a while at a golf event, it becomes the comfortable learning environment that some may need. Junior golf camps show us the path to what may work and could be desirable for our adults to enjoy, similarly. The idea of making thousands of dollars in a few hours rather than a few days doing individual lessons doesn’t hurt either, when it comes to why you may want to create more events. I also found including my fellow Instructors into the mix could expand my value to them and the club when it comes to daily confidence and personal growth. I found early on that the comfort of learning together in a group environment allowed others not to feel alone in the awkward mistakes it takes to improve, as I find myself to be one in the same. Even my more focused lower handicap individuals appreciated the shared time to check in on a drill they were doing or having a chance to ask about a new club they just purchased. Formal, organized events are a great outline for a clinic or corporate event, but the less formal and fun filled instructional events with short-game winners and drawings for prizes seemed to have a more memorable and repeatable effect. (Don’t forget to add Food & Beverage when it comes to having an event).

If you know what works for you and you can expand your like groups, then you can expand your income while leading to more player development. My final thought is that after developing more relationship time with a student, it was apparent that one student was in tune with many. When I taught an organization leader, they wanted to share the enjoyment with their organization, and so we planned successful, weekly clinics. If a CEO of a company enjoyed and improved their golf game, they wanted their team or clients to also improve together, and so we planned and created monthly, corporate instructional events. Stay in tune to growth and be open to creating your own special instructional event that could work best with a student you may already know.