How To

How to take a lesson and get better

Deciding to take some golf lessons is easy enough. Any medium-size city has at least a dozen qualified instructors. But how do you find the right teacher for the job? Lessons can cost $100 an hour, so it’s important that you make a good decision.

Most people start with three criteria–cost, reputation and convenience. Those are considerations, but secondary ones. These things should be most important to you:

BEFORE THE LESSON

1. Find a teacher whose personality suits you. Some people learn best by watching and trying to copy. Others need a lot of hands-on attention. Some people want a precise lesson plan, but others like something a little more laid back. It’s important to understand what kind of student you are, and to pick a teacher who meshes with that style. I’m the first to admit that my teaching style may not be right for everyone.

2. See that teacher regularly. By that I mean once every two or three weeks. It won’t do you much good to see a teacher one time, because you can’t follow up with questions or tweak what you’re working on. The opposite is also true. I won’t even give the most talented members at my club more than one lesson every few weeks. You can’t digest any more than that. I might see a tour player a few days in a row, but after that, I tell him to go work on it and come back in a month.

3. Prepare for a lesson by playing. Once you’ve scheduled your first lesson with a teacher, prepare for the lesson the right way, so you can get the most for your money. How? Simple: Play a lot. Don’t go in trying to impress the teacher with how well you can swing. I want to see what you do in real life, so I can help you fix any issues and become a better player. You also need to come with a specific goal–not something general like, “I want to be more consistent.” If you tell me you want to be a better ball-striker, we’ll spend a lot of time on the practice tee. If you tell me you want to reduce your swing, but then we’ll beat a path to the short-game area.

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DURING THE LESSON

1. Speak up. I’ve heard some instructors say, “Be quiet” to a student and expect to do all the talking. That’s not right. You need to tell the instructor what you feel, so he or she can use that information to get a point across. A common teaching mistake–and I fight it myself–is to get diarrhea of the mouth and talk without listening. It’s hard for the student to keep up, and you might move on to the next thing too quickly.

2. Know your limitations. Even tour players can’t absorb more than three “ideas” per lesson. That usually means an address-position adjustment, a swing correction and some kind of swing thought. If your teacher tries to give you more than that, speak up. Then, take those three things and practice them–seriously. If you get stuck, don’t go scheduling another lesson for the next day. Get on the phone with your teacher and talk it over. You don’t have to go broke to get better.