A Lesson On Learning

How to be a good student at your next golf lesson

A Lesson On LearningWhy is it that some golfers improve dramatically and rapidly while others, no matter what they do, fail to advance beyond the level of novice? As a golf instructor who has given more than 10,000 golf lessons over the past eight years, I'm here to tell you why: Achieving successful results from a golf lesson begins and ends with you, not the instructor._Ê An effective golf instructor can only do so much and is only as good as the student allows him or her to be. Hence, the first step to becoming a better golfer begins with becoming a better student.

Play First The next time you schedule a lesson, try to play nine or 18 holes before your session with the pro. This will not only help you feel more relaxed and comfortable, but will also help you gauge what part of your game needs improvement. One of the most common mistakes golfers make is not doing enough between lessons to make their next session productive. Remember, golf lessons are supposed to help you_Ê improve your game, and without enough time on the course, all the lessons in the world won't help a bit.

The Bad Tell me if this sounds familiar: You roll into the golf course parking lot one minute before the lesson, or even late, with no time available for stretching or warm-ups. Upon arriving at the practice tee, you immediately pull the driver from your bag and begin taking monstrous full swings. You're stressed out from work, and the traffic didn't help. During the lesson, you inform the instructor that you can't change your grip or swing because it's uncomfortable. You perform prescribed drills in front of the teacher, but never on your own. You demand instant improvement and, frankly, you talk often and listen little.

The Good Unfortunately, many students resemble the one described above. These circumstances cause too many distractions and make quality time with a golf instructor less effective than it could be. The solution? Well, let's start by looking at students who do the right thing when receiving lessons.

Most successful students arrive early. They begin their warm-ups before the scheduled lesson time. They stretch, hit some wedge shots and work their way through the bag. They leave stress in the parking lot and know that for the next 30 to 60 minutes, they aren't going to challenge any preconceived notions or feelings about their golf swing. Instead, they'll be open and receptive to trying new things.

They bring a notebook to record important points made during the lesson. They inform the instructor of their golf history and with what parts of the swing they tend to struggle. They maintain a positive attitude throughout the lesson.

Good students are willing to experiment and work to change flaws. They never say can't and, more importantly, they know that improvements are the result of not only careful instruction, but also diligent practice. They work on drills that will continue to shape a correct swing long after the lesson. They listen much more than they talk.

Successful students know that to get better, they may need to make some uncomfortable changes, but they continue to practice, knowing that these changes will help them improve in the long run. Rather than getting frustrated, they simply understand that it's change that's most important. The Answer Perseverance. Determination. Diligence. Students with these qualities, along with an open mind, are the students who develop into the best golfers.

I also notice that the best students have no problem working on fundamentals. For example, a very low-handicap student of mine worked simply on developing a more upright backswing position for the better part of a year. And PGA Tour pro Mike Standly, who's quite a player, has worked for years on making certain his clubface isn't closed or hooded in his takeaway.

InstructionDo yourself a favor and strive to be the best student you can possibly be. Arrive on time, be prepared, relaxed and willing to make changes. This will give your teacher the best opportunity to pass along his or her knowledge and wisdom to you.

What To Expect From A Good Golf Teacher Like any other profession, it's not easy to find a good golf instructor, but you'll find most of the good ones share a lot of similar qualities. And when you find a great teacher, you'll reap the benefits.

First of all, expect them to have a passion for teaching the game. It's quite easy to tell a teacher who simply goes through the motions from one who's truly interested in seeing you improve. Find a teacher who's fired up to help the student, and odds are this teacher will get good results.

You should also look for a teacher who has been trained to teach. Those of us who have enjoyed success in the golf instruction field haven't achieved success accidentally. We've had the fortune to learn from the best teachers in the industry. For example, I learned more about teaching from legendary instructor Jimmy Ballard than I ever learned on my own. Your local pro may be a nice person and fine manager of the pro shop, but if he or she hasn't had the fortune to learn and train under a knowledgeable instructor, you'll most likely be wasting your money.

Finally, make certain the teacher on whom you're going to spend your hard-earned money is an excellent communicator. If the teacher can get you to understand what you're attempting to do, you've found a teacher who can help you improve. I pride myself on relating to golfers of all abilities. As a teacher, I always keep in mind that it's you, the student, who needs to understand what we're trying to accomplish. Any good instructor understands this to the fullest.

PGA professional Barry Goldstein instructs at Polar Shot Golf Center in Johnson City, N.Y., and Inverrary Golf Club in Lauderfill, Fla. Special thanks to instruction model Bobby Hinds.

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