in Golf

I’ve been hanging out, talking, and working with golf instructors since the winter of 2012. In that time I’ve literally talked with hundreds of instructors from all around the world.

I got my start by working on a software product called Scheduling Ace. We had a great vision and purpose but unfortunately ran out of funding 16 months into the project. Although most would view it as a failure, through that I was able to launch the Golf in the Life of podcast.

Since it’s launch we’ve published well over 100 episodes and been listened to over 50,000 times. Directly changing the lives of dozens of instructors I’ve personally talked to and heard their story.

Along this time I had a blurry picture of what the goal was but it’s become clear over the past couple of months.

Here’s my mission statement:

Change the way golf is taught and learned.

It’s not a selfish statement, or simply wanting change for the sake of change. I truly believe that the stereotype of golf instruction and learning does not work effectively or efficiently.

The Way Golf is Taught.

A 30 or 60 minute golf lesson working on driver swing technique is not going to change the game of golf and keep someone playing. In fact the effects of that lesson or most likely only going to last a short while.

Reality is research has proven that most learning that improves short term performance does not last. Meaning that new move and slice going away in the lesson are probably coming back next week.

Golf instruction needs to be a holistic experience that creates an AMAZING learning environment for students and helps them actually improve results (lower scores). To do that focus and model of instruction needs to change.

*Note – there are A LOT of awesome teachers out there doing amazing work.

“A Golf Lesson”

You pull up to the golf course. Get out of the car grab your bag from the trunk and head up toward the clubhouse. You walk around to the pro shop head inside saying hi to the attendant at the counter and announce that you’re here for a lesson with the pro. They give him a call… (We’ll call him Sam for this story)

Sam takes a couple minutes to make his way out of his office but finally appears and leads the way out to the driving range. On the way we have the polite banter about how things are going. How’s the family. Nothing much really.

As you get to the range grab a couple of balls warm up and Sam starts taking a look at your 7 iron swing. He starts telling a story about his youth when he played with [insert name was on tour] and how he did this and that.

Sam gives you some concepts on how you should do this or that with the club. And shows you hitting a couple balls with the technique he’d prefer you using.

You spend time hitting some balls hearing how each shot went with the 7 iron. Sam says you’ve got the new move down and the ball starts going a little straighter and a little more consistent. Then switch the driver and try to do the same for another 10-15 shots.

The lesson ends with a trip back to the club house to pay for the lesson. More polite banter on what a good job I did and how I’m really going to see some better results. After I pay for the lesson we part ways with the final phrase of “give me call when you want to work on that some more”

That’s it.

Let’s talk about this from a couple points of view…

#1 Teaching

#2 Business

Were either of those effective. Not really.

That’s why at Golf in the Life of we’re sharing new ideas and helping people build better businesses and be better instructors.

#1 Teaching:

Golf isn’t just about golf swing. There are so many aspects as a teacher how can you help someone improved by focusing on just one very narrow aspect.

If you continue to teach lessons this way how do you work on the short game, putting, mental techniques, on course strategy, and even helping students learn how to practice and train?

For one – When you’re charging a premium in on a 1-1 interactions students can only afford to work with you so often so they can’t see you enough to work on all the aspects.

And when they do… They want to work on what they want to work on. Students shouldn’t have the responsibility to decide what they need to learn and practice. They need a coach to help direct them to the results they’re looking to achieve.

#2 Business
Is it going to be easy making money that way? No way!

You have no recurring revenue.
You’re strictly tied to how many blocks of time you can fill up with people.
You’ll have lot’s of inefficiency (space between apts)
Your potential is directly tied to how much you work.

So let’s look at group coaching environments and other ways to leverage the instructors time to make more per hour and work less. Because if this is your long term career you don’t want to get burnt out on the driving range.

The Way Golf is Learned

The typical way we think about improvement and practice is totally broken. I believe this is one of the biggest reasons golf is on the decline.

People don’t understand the struggle or the reality of practice and learning.

And let me be clear. This IS NOT just a golf thing. There simply isn’t enough education and proliferation on the concepts of training and learning. The research has been done and the concepts are out there… Not many have heard about it though.

We need to set the right expectations, equip people with better strategies, and change the way that people train to get better.

In other sports falling down, failing, and getting beat up is part of the culture. But in golf we focus so much on the perfection the failure and the investment of time and energy is not the focus.

One of my favorite phrases I’ve heard from some highly successful coaches…

We want our students to be comfortable being uncomfortable.

Which is completely opposite from the current paradigm but where we need to be if we want to encourage a new culture of golf and golfers.

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  • Todd Dugan

    I agree with you, Cordie. Traditional golf instruction has not been very effective. But its not because players need better on-course strategy (I can explain strategy fully in under 10 minutes). And its not because players don’t know how to practice (there is really not a right or wrong way to practice). And its not because your clubs don’t fit you either (the performance benefits of “fitted” clubs are greatly exaggerated). No, the problem primarily is that the majority of golf pros who teach golf are not very good at it. We (I’m a pro) are not like doctors. Or even plumbers. The sad reality is that the golf profession is unskilled labor. Perhaps the biggest mistake I see is that the pro thinks that the keys to his game are the keys to everyone’s game, not relating at all to the plight of the common player. Being poorly-educated and close-minded doesn’t help either. You have to go out and get an education on the golf swing on your own. You sure won’t get it from the PGA of America. You are helping in that area, Cordie. So thanks for that. Another problem, to a lesser extent, is that students don’t always bring the right outlook to the table. There is often a sort of phenomenal built-in resistance to treating the golf swing as a discipline to be learned, like dancing or playing an instrument. When you get together an educated, experienced teacher and an open-minded student, eager to learn, the conditions are ripe to prove that golf isn’t such a hard game after all.