Teacher’s Forum – What Students Think a Good Golf Lesson Is
By: Bill McKinney, PGA
So you’ve got 60 minutes with someone who is paying you to give them a lesson. You solve the problem in your head in 5 minutes and get them to understand it and feel it within another 5 or 10 minutes. So what do you do with the next 45 minutes to earn your fee? We all know we can’t just throw the book at them or even just keep them beating balls for 45 minutes straight working on the one idea. That would be too much of a bore or even drudgery for most people.
As I’ve further delved into the latest coaching science, I’ve found a list of ideas I’ll share with you here that help me to spend the time effectively.
Interview your student to find out what they want out of the session. Ask about injuries or physical limitations, experience, previous lessons, how much they are willing to practice, and look through their bag of clubs to see if they’re appropriate for them. I find they’re usually not.
Put them at ease about being scrutinized. Have a laugh and let them know you realize how hard the game is too. I’ll usually say something like, “Ok, the pressure’s on—to be as bad as possible at the beginning so I look really smart at the end when you’re hitting it better.” Or if they hit a really lousy one after you’ve offered a suggestion, I’ll jokingly say: “Can you imagine how bad that would’ve been without my awesome coaching?!” Read your audience, of course. Jokes are misunderstood by some people. The key is to develop rapport and to get them un-intimidated.
As they start hitting, put yourself into their body mentally. Find out that ONE important CAUSE(or fewest possible, anyway) on which everything hinges. It could be just about anything. This is one of my favorite parts of our craft—solving the puzzle. Or maybe you use elaborate measurement instruments like 3D or Radar or force plates. Find their particular key instead of going in with your preconceptions. Be especially aware not to think that the issue you are working on in your own swing will work for them too.
Let’s say their problem is a dip in the transition. Tell them. Show them. Put your hands on their bodies to give them the feeling. Get them to make the new swing without a ball. Have them hit shots with relatively few verbal cues so they can get comfortable with it. Maybe even put the ball on the tee so they can get a little confidence in the idea. They can now do it, like it, and can repeat it. And again, maybe all this only took 15 minutes or so. Now what?
Design a productive training session for them. Explain that if you don’t put them under stress, it will create the “Illusion of Competence” instead of real competence that transfers to the course. Give them targets, change clubs, make games with scores, bet a dime or whatever, give them hilly lies, and take them on the course if possible. Don’t forget to take short breaks to simulate the way the game is actually played. Rehearse their favorite course or at least the next course they are going to play. These concepts will add immense value to their lesson experience, keep them entertained, and most importantly, will be a much more productive session than they’ve ever had. You’ve now got a new student who has a deeper connection to the game. Everyone is happy.
For a bonus, I’ve copied a few responses to a question that was posed on my friend, Brian Manzella’s website forum Survey: What makes a golf lesson a success?”
A few answers:
“Hitting it better and understand why you are hitting it better.”
“Leaving with something I want to work to make permanent.”
“Still hitting it better even some days AFTER the lesson took place.”
“Clear modeling by the teacher and understanding on the part of the student of the desired learning/student outcome; clear guided practice, clear feedback, review and “homework” in the form of drills, exercises, key thoughts.”
“Leaving with an idea of WHAT to work on, WHY i am working on it, HOW to work on it, and a desire to work on it.”
“Golf is all about the “hope meter”. As a teacher my main goal is to get every player’s HOPE up. It comes from instruction that is competent, quantifiable, and most importantly inspiring.”
“For me as a student….. it is leaving the lesson with a feel that I can carry to practice and play.”
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