by Rolf Deming, Head Instructor, Arnold Palmer Golf Academy at Saddlebrook Resort. With the onset of winter, many people have time to contemplate the possible improvement in their golf game, and wonder whether going to a golf school might be the best avenue to lower scores. No question, attending a school will improve ones game, but with so many different schools and programs available it is difficult to really consider all the possible factors involved.
To utilize this valuable tool and derive the maximum benefit from your participation, one needs to consider a few factors; (1) matching the school and course to your needs, (2) follow up work after completing the school, and (3) having selected a school, communicating your needs to your instructor.
Selecting the right school
Fortunately, golf schools abound in the warmer climes during the cold months, so finding one in your price range should not be difficult. You should also be able to locate one where there are activities available for any non-golfing family or friends who accompany you. You may enjoy your school, but if the wife & kids don’t have a pool, amusement park, fitness center, etc. to visit while you are laboring on the range the vacation could turn out to be a real bummer.
Selecting the right course offering could be a bit trickier. Many schools offer a beginners course for new players, stressing not only swing development but also rules, etiquette, and procedure to make you feel at home on the course. Valuable stuff for a new player! A more advanced player should search out a school that combines swing techniques with the mental aspects of the game. A less serious player might want to enroll in a school that specializes in an area of the game that this student perceives as weak. (I have, however, seen lots of students who wish to work only on their full swing, yet experience rapid and dramatic improvement in their scores when they work on their short game.)
The necessity of follow up work
During our class sessions, I frequently ask the class, “How often will you be practicing when you return home?” The looks on the assembled faces tells me what I already knew. Very few students plan past the school. Golf, like any sport, is a motor skill. The muscles swing the club, and the muscles are controlled by the brain. It takes days of repetition before the brain will be able to repeat your new, improved swing.
Would you agree, for instance, to have your appendix removed by a surgeon who had never performed an operation before? What if he had read the appendectomy manual four times? I don’t think you would. Yet far too many golfers take a class, and then fail to practice what they have learned.
A practice session needn’t be long and brutal to be effective. A forty or fifty ball session, repeated every other day, should do. Be sure to schedule practice time following your class, or you will never realize your maximum potential benefit. Don’t worry if it is winter and your practice is done inside, hitting the ball off a mat into a screen. This type of workout can be very effective, since you don’t see the ball fly and consequently won’t be nearly as distracted away from focusing on the feel of your new swing.
Communicate with your instructor.
Most golf schools will send their students a form when they book their class in an effort to profile that student. Sadly, the majority of my students do not return that form.
I consider several factors that will help me to be a more effective instructor;
a. What is the student’s greatest area of need? This will be my number one area of focus.
b. Does my student have any physical condition or limitation that might have to be considered?
c. What does the student shoot and how often does he/she play?
d. Are bad shots usually caused by poor contact, bad direction, or both?
Knowing the characteristics of my student and their game will help me to more completely fill their needs. If your school does not supply you with such a questionnaire prior to class, give careful thought to all the factors that might be helpful to your teacher, and either write them down and bring your analysis with you or be prepared to verbally provide the information when you arrive. Golf instruction, like any instruction, is best done when there is frequent and honest communication between student and teacher.
For more information visit Arnold Palmer Golf Academy at Saddlebrook Resort
Rolf Deming – Head Instructor
Arnold Palmer Golf Academy
Saddlebrook Resort – Tampa