What makes a Great Instructor?
This week at The Masters, there was a lot of talk about instructors and their roles with tour players. Watching the golf channel, the analysis were mixed on whether it was a good thing that instructors are following the players around the day before the biggest tournament of the year and certainly they wouldn’t be making any major adjustments to their games, right? It got me thinking, what makes them great instructors?
Now, the average student won’t need their instructor following them everywhere, tuning their games up at every turn (even though you may want to!) There are tons of golf instructors out there, but what makes some better than others, and most importantly how can you determine who you should invest your time and money with. Here are some of my thoughts as to what makes an instructor really good:
Knowledge of Swing Mechanics – This seems obvious, a good instructor must understand the golf swing. A lot of players just think, “He / She is a pro, they are PGA, they know about the golf swing.” WRONG. The PGA teaches very basic swing mechanics and most of them are circa 1970, at least when I went through the program in 2010. Unfortunately, many professionals, especially young professionals don’t know enough about the mechanics of the golf swing and therefor teach to the picture of a good swing rather than trying to help you build a functional move. Next time you’re in a lesson, ask the instructor “why?” They should be able to answer your question, if they stumble or don’t know, they may just be going through the motions.
WHY & HOW, not WHAT – I preach this to my students all the time. My value isn’t telling you what’s wrong with your golf swing, it’s telling you why it’s wrong and how were are going to fix it. Anyone walking down the range can tell most players what is wrong with their golf swing, but not many can explain why or develop a path to fix it.
Process Focused – Good instructors should be upfront and honest. For you to make significant improvements, you are going to have to go through some pain. Just like with anything, improving your golf is hard and it is a process. Good instructors will keep you focused on the process and not feel pressured to have you leave hitting the ball perfect. Be weary of the instructor who runs off after you hit one good one.
Part Mechanic, Part Psychologist – One of my students recently returned from the desert where they took part in a clinic from a world renowned instructor. The instructor told him he had a “terrible swing.” Wow, great way to encourage a student to play more and improve. It’s no secret that you hire a pro to help improve your swing, but there is more to it than that, we must encourage, be positive and build confidence as well. Making sure that at some point you stop thinking about swing and start playing golf is critical to your success.
Proper Use of Technology – Technology can be tricky. Everyone has access to a phone that can video, but then there are other items, like launch monitors, weight assessment mats, putting analysis, etc… Can they all help your game, yes. Will they help your game, maybe. Not all students need technology and not all students should have access to them. I have been know to not take videos of students because they tend to over analyze themselves. A good instructor know when, where and most importantly how to properly use technology to convey the message they are trying to address.
COMMUNICATION – Without a doubt, communication is the single most important attribute of a good instructor. When I was an assistant at a club in Seattle, we had a new teaching professional come in. He was by far the most knowledgeable professional I had ever met, he knew EVERYTHING about the golf swing, I was mesmerized just listening to him break down a swing. Then after a few months, I began having students come to me saying the same thing. “The teaching pro is great, he told me everything, I just don’t know what he is talking about!” Point is, it doesn’t matter how much an instructor knows if they can’t get it in your head. Great instructors adapt to you and can personalize their message to your ears. Are you a visual learning, do you learn by feel or can you just listen and go? A good instructor will be figuring this out right away.
In any case, find an instructor that works for you and trust them. Your best chance to play the golf you want is to stick to a game plan.