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Golf Instructors "Don't Want You to Improve"


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A RANT FOR THOSE OF US WHO AREN'T NATURALLY GOOD AT GOLF:

I think I've posted on this before. But it always amazes me. I'm going to start this post by saying I'm a big believer in golf instruction. Golf is hard. Calculus in hard. If you wanted to learn calculus would you seek instruction or would you just "Figure it out on your own." Then once you started your calculus instruction would get a week or two into it and decide you know calculus better than your instructor? Would at any time you assume your teacher doesn't want you to learn calculus for fear that you will stop coming to class once you learn? 

Here's where I'm going with this. Yesterday I tried out a new indoor range. I'm looking for a place where I can work on my putting in the off-season. Anyway, while I'm in there I take some video of my swing. I look over some stuff Yoda sent me to work on. I'm basically trying to improve. The only other guy who was there at the time asks me what I'm doing. I explain to him that have a golf coach, he's in Erie, PA and I send him stuff electronically to supplement my lessons etc...

He says this to me. "I never take golf lessons." 

I'm like fine what ever. But he's looking at me like he expects something from me. So, I eventually say. "Okay"

Which I guess he took as the trigger for him to go into his golf lesson spiel. 

He went into his whole thing about first of all, you need to learn golf on your own. Figuring things out on your own so that you "own it". Then he talked about how modern golf instructors are just trying to fit you into a preconceived exact swing and not "your swing". He said golf is all about finding "Your swing". Then he said the line that I've heard before and absolutely cannot believe anyone thinks this is true but "Golf instructors don't want you to get better, because then you will stop coming to them for lessons." 

I've heard all of this before mind you, but I'm always amazed that people think this way. This guy seems like a perfectly normal person. 
Here's the thing. There are some poor golf instructors out there. By definition in any profession half the people doing it are below average. 

So I'm thinking this guy either had some less than great golf lessons in his past or he's one of those people that's just tough to teach. He seemed like a nice enough guy. 

Anyway, this guy is not even close to the first person I've met who is "anti-golf-instruction". But I still find it weird. I know guys who will go to range 6 days a week or even more, yet refuse to get instruction. It seems crazy to me. Maybe because a long time ago I came to terms with the fact that I lack natural skill and realize I'm not going to get better left to my own devices. In my 30 years of playing I've crept down to, or close to single digits a couple of times. Every time was after working with the same coach for an extended period of time. When ever I stop seeking good instruction and rely on "my swing" or "owning my swing" it doesn't take long for my handicap to creep up to around 30. Which tells me "My Swing", as defined by this gentleman, kinda sucks. 

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I’m not sure if there are a lot of really good instructors out there. Before I met Erik and Dave, my experience was off-putting. But I know there are a lot of poor students out there. You have to want to learn. You have to accept that you don’t know everything.

Most golfers I know think they know more than they do. They are reasonably smart people and read stuff or see videos and think, “Hey! I have that issue. Now I can fix it!”  But they are terrible at self analysis, don’t know their real issue and don’t know how to practice. I am that way at times due to impatience. We work on priorities and see improvement in practice, but not on the course and get frustrated. But change takes time.

A good instructor has the difficult job of showing you that they know how to teach golf, they see what your issues are and can provide a path to make changes in a 30 minute to hour first lesson. That’s a tough sell. Without a reputation to start, only the really good, personable instructors have a chance. And the students have to want to change.

Scott

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A golf instructor I had here was very good.   Video review, before and after the lesson was emailed to each student.  He was patient, efficient and available.    Pre-Covid, he decided to quit teaching to take up First Tee full time.    I did ask him if he could recommend another local instructor and he said he couldn't think of another local instructor to recommend.    

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3 hours ago, ChetlovesMer said:

So I'm thinking this guy either had some less than great golf lessons in his past or he's one of those people that's just tough to teach.

It’s also entirely possible he’s never taken a single lesson in his life and simply formed his opinions on golf instruction based on his own preconceived notions.

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Bill

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If you were draw a Venn diagram of all the subsets that makes for successful instruction, the intersection, the promised land, of all right subsets is very very small. Some folks never find it and yes there are times when it's their own fault. I feel lucky in that sense. 

Vishal S.

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4 hours ago, ChetlovesMer said:

Anyway, this guy is not even close to the first person I've met who is "anti-golf-instruction".

Never ran into that guy before. I've had people ask me what my cell phone is, not realizing it is a cell phone I use to take video. Most of them just go like, "Oh, that's a good idea" and go on their way. You must live in the anti-golf-instruction capital to have this happen more than once 😉

 

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2 hours ago, billchao said:

It’s also entirely possible he’s never taken a single lesson in his life and simply formed his opinions on golf instruction based on his own preconceived notions.

Being a naturally curious guy I'm always in search of good questions to ask fellow golfers.  This will be my new, personal poll: "Have you ever had a golf lesson?  Do you believe in golf lessons?"

I do play with a lot of guys, and gals, who have nice swings and hit the ball fairly well... just wondering if they've ever had lessons.

As soon as this snow melts I will get my answers.

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3 hours ago, billchao said:

It’s also entirely possible he’s never taken a single lesson in his life and simply formed his opinions on golf instruction based on his own preconceived notions.

I was going to say the same thing.

Something like only 14% of golfers ever take a lesson. And that’s fine (though I do hope it grows to maybe 25%). Some of that 86% are new to the game, some were taught by their dad or maybe only play twice a month as an excuse to play with their buds and drink some Buds. That’s fine.

But golf instructors want you to get better. Tiger freaking Woods takes lessons (or did). Rory takes lessons. There’s no worry on my end that someone will “learn all they need to learn” because there are always challenges out there.

Point that kind of stuff out to the guy the next time he tells you that golf instructors don’t want you to get better. Point out that PGA Tour players still take lessons, and he’s definitely not as good as they are.

Erik J. Barzeski —  I knock a ball. It goes in a gopher hole. 🏌🏼‍♂️
Director of Instructor Development, 5 Simple Keys®/Golf Evolution • Owner, The Sand Trap .com • AuthorLowest Score Wins • Golf Digest "Best Young Teachers in America" 2016-17 • "Best in State" 2017-20 • WNY Section PGA Teacher of the Year 2019 • Penn-State Behrend Head Coach • • • • • • • • • • :aimpoint: :edel: :true_linkswear:

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When making a career move a dozen or so years ago, an executive I respected told me in our exit meeting “you are going to meet a few people at the firm that you can learn a lot from, and you are going to meet a lot of people who you should ignore.”  He was 100% on.  I think this advice/comment holds true across most of our involvements, including sports.

I recall I’ve had 5 golf instructors over the years I’ve been golfing.  I really like the current pro I’m working with so far, and we’ll be working together weekly all off season.  There was another one I liked as well, but we didn’t do much together.  The other 3, waste of time and money.

Getting with the right pro makes a big difference.  It’s motivating when you feel good about the fit.  Otherwise, I tend to learn by spending time in the dirt.  So I can understand why some people can come to that conclusion if they haven’t had a good experience.

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16 hours ago, Double Mocha Man said:

That's the best point of all, right there.  How can a guy topping his drives argue against that?!

They’ll find a way.

Scott

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On 12/3/2022 at 7:28 AM, ChetlovesMer said:

He says this to me. "I never take golf lessons." 

I'm like fine what ever.

That would be where I ended it. I don't have the time or patience to really go down a rabbit hole with some rando. 

On 12/3/2022 at 7:28 AM, ChetlovesMer said:

He went into his whole thing about first of all, you need to learn golf on your own. Figuring things out on your own so that you "own it". Then he talked about how modern golf instructors are just trying to fit you into a preconceived exact swing and not "your swing". He said golf is all about finding "Your swing". Then he said the line that I've heard before and absolutely cannot believe anyone thinks this is true but "Golf instructors don't want you to get better, because then you will stop coming to them for lessons." 

If I got this far, I would be looking for a fork to stab my eyes with. I practice with a purpose and will chat it up on occasion, but I refuse to have someone feed me something in opposition of an innocent statement I made. I would have started asking the guy if he would like to sponsor my kid's walk-a-thon at that point. And my kids are grown, lol. 

Some guys I know get lessons or have other people look at their swings. Some guys don't.  I don't have a huge opposition to those who want to find the answer in the dirt. From that group, I have yet to hear about someone that actually found it. 

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I am a believer in golf instruction, but I'm not the best student. I much prefer to play rather than practice, and when the off season comes I get pretty busy and don't take the time to practice. I've had instructions from 2 different people and I've liked both, but I had my back issues start up when I just started with one.

I find people like the gentleman in the op exasperating. I don't care if you don't want to bother with golf instruction, but I also don't want to listen to your rant. Read the room, so to speak.

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While I’ve not had formal lessons, I have had the opportunity to get informal help from a couple of former course pros.  They were generous with their time and information, they were invested for sure in my benefit which leads me to think that paid instruction would be even more so.  And as so many have commented above, the best pros still take instruction. If they have need, shouldn’t the average need it even more.  Even protégés have coaches, which means no matter how good you are there is always someone who can help you get better. 

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  • 2 weeks later...

I've had lessons a couple times.  I think that lessons are really good in the beginning.  I think they can help you learn the basic fundamentals of the swing.  But for me, I needed to expand the fundamentals on my own so I understood why I was making a change.  If you go for a lesson and the instructor is changing things but you don't understand why, I think that is a recipe for frustration.  Even if they explain it to you, it might not make sense from a feel perspective or cause a mismatch in other aspects of your swing.  Changing more than one thing in an hour is really hard.  Especially when making a switch initially leads to poorer ball striking.  Then you feel like you spent money and an hour on messing everything up.  Lessons are expensive.  But then a year later, once you've gotten over a number of humps and changes, start to realize everything they said was right.

Other times, when you go for a lesson and you want to change X, but the instructor says Y, some can start to question is this the right instructor?  Am I wrong?  Is the instructor wrong?

I think lessons can be really good if you want to tweak things or want to explore what you're doing wrong.  So I think you have to know yourself what you are after and then find an instructor who can match your expectation and your pace.  

I'll probably try lessons again this summer.  But not on a schedule.  Maybe once at the beginning of the season and then only book others when I have a real goal of something I want to change (either swing change or addressing a ball flight issue).  Use them more strategically when I'm stuck.

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1 hour ago, tickbomb said:

I've had lessons a couple times.  I think that lessons are really good in the beginning.  I think they can help you learn the basic fundamentals of the swing.  But for me, I needed to expand the fundamentals on my own so I understood why I was making a change.  

Lessons might be more beneficial for a better player than a new player. Honestly, I could find a few youtube videos that would give them the basics. For a better golfer, who wants to take the next step, and needs a keen eye to figure out why. It is very hard for a golfer to look at their swing and understand why, by them selves. 

1 hour ago, tickbomb said:

If you go for a lesson and the instructor is changing things but you don't understand why, I think that is a recipe for frustration. 

Depends on the golfer. Some golfers do better with no why, because they might get into their own head with to much information. 

1 hour ago, tickbomb said:

Even if they explain it to you, it might not make sense from a feel perspective or cause a mismatch in other aspects of your swing. 

The instructor should know how a piece will influence other pieces.  They should have a plan of, they need to work on this because it will lead into the next piece. Just throwing random stuff at the wall is bad instruction.

1 hour ago, tickbomb said:

Other times, when you go for a lesson and you want to change X, but the instructor says Y, some can start to question is this the right instructor?  Am I wrong?  Is the instructor wrong?

This is an issue with people in general. They think they know a solution, when provided with a different solution, they do not consider it as a viable option and challenge it because they think it is an attack on the solution they came up with. Pending the solution, that is a student problem to get over themselves and take instruction with an open mind. It could also be an instructor problem if they do not have an open mind for an idea from a student. It is a two way street. 

 

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Matt "Dough", P.E.
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2 hours ago, tickbomb said:

Other times, when you go for a lesson and you want to change X, but the instructor says Y, some can start to question is this the right instructor?  Am I wrong?  Is the instructor wrong?

I used to think that I could identify what I needed to change only to find out that I was looking at a result or symptom instead of the core issue.  It is like the guy who gets steep on the downswing thinking he should just drop his hands coming down and then gets stuck. The instructor worked on keeping the clubhead from working too far inside, which led to an arm lift, which then allowed the club to cross the line and weak wrist positions, which set up the steep move down. By changing the backswing path, he fixed the resultant issues that followed. 

I had an instructor once that looked at me and asked what I thought was wrong. I gave him a list, and he said, "Let's fix your set-up position and see what that takes care of." After he fixed my stance and weight distribution, most of the issues were no longer issues and we moved on to something else. 

Now the instructor should be able to tell the student what the core issue is, and how it relates to becoming a better golfer. If your instructor cannot find root causes, then you need to move on and find someone who understands the golf swing.

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I'll try to be brief, but y'all know how that goes…

FIrst, thank you to anyone who contributes. Even though we may agree or disagree, I'm glad to have something to discuss. And I try to keep in mind, as everyone should, that these are opinions. Just as we can like different flavors of ice cream, we can have different opinions on golf.

5 hours ago, tickbomb said:

I think that lessons are really good in the beginning.  I think they can help you learn the basic fundamentals of the swing.

I'm with @saevel25: I think lessons are good for better players, particularly. A few early are good, but then more as you get better are very valuable. A golfer who gets off track can waste a LOT of time going down some wrong roads.

5 hours ago, tickbomb said:

But for me, I needed to expand the fundamentals on my own so I understood why I was making a change.

An instructor can help you understand why you're making a change, and help assure you that it's the correct change.

5 hours ago, tickbomb said:

If you go for a lesson and the instructor is changing things but you don't understand why, I think that is a recipe for frustration.

Well, that's not a reason not to go get instruction, that's a reason to either:

  • Ask the instructor questions and tell him that you don't understand.
  • Find a different (better?) instructor who can explain it to you.
5 hours ago, tickbomb said:

Even if they explain it to you, it might not make sense from a feel perspective or cause a mismatch in other aspects of your swing.

Not if they're good… within reason. There are times students have a "double compensation" and you can only really work on one thing at a time, so they'll hit some weird shots for awhile. But you can explain that to them and they'll still understand.

5 hours ago, tickbomb said:

Changing more than one thing in an hour is really hard.

Feels off topic here, really.

5 hours ago, tickbomb said:

Especially when making a switch initially leads to poorer ball striking.

Meh. Doesn't happen as often as I think people think it does.

5 hours ago, tickbomb said:

Other times, when you go for a lesson and you want to change X, but the instructor says Y, some can start to question is this the right instructor?  Am I wrong?  Is the instructor wrong?

Same bullet list as above:

  • Talk to the person. They may have a reason why they're going that route, or maybe you weren't clear that you wanted to work on X.
  • Find a different instructor.

It's not a reason to avoid instruction.

5 hours ago, tickbomb said:

I think lessons can be really good if you want to tweak things or want to explore what you're doing wrong.  So I think you have to know yourself what you are after and then find an instructor who can match your expectation and your pace.

That feels like saying something without saying something. Quite often I'm SLOWING people down. They think they're going to come in and do this one week, schedule another lesson a week later, and then another one two weeks after that… and then they'll be good to go.

5 hours ago, tickbomb said:

I'll probably try lessons again this summer.  But not on a schedule.  Maybe once at the beginning of the season and then only book others when I have a real goal of something I want to change (either swing change or addressing a ball flight issue).  Use them more strategically when I'm stuck.

I'd recommend semi-regular lessons to keep you between the gutters. Maybe some longer (90 minutes or so) lessons every 6 weeks, with 30-minute check-ups every two weeks in between.

4 hours ago, saevel25 said:

For a better golfer, who wants to take the next step, and needs a keen eye to figure out why. It is very hard for a golfer to look at their swing and understand why, by themselves.

Yes.

You can think you know "your golf swing," but if you're taking lessons you don't want your swing, you want a better swing. A better swing is a different swing. A good golf instructor understands every swing, not just "your current" swing.

4 hours ago, saevel25 said:

Depends on the golfer. Some golfers do better with no why, because they might get into their own head with to much information.

Also true.

4 hours ago, saevel25 said:

This is an issue with people in general. They think they know a solution, when provided with a different solution, they do not consider it as a viable option and challenge it because they think it is an attack on the solution they came up with. Pending the solution, that is a student problem to get over themselves and take instruction with an open mind. It could also be an instructor problem if they do not have an open mind for an idea from a student. It is a two way street.

Yep. Well said.

It's a two-way street, and how do you navigate those? With communication.

3 hours ago, TourSpoon said:

I used to think that I could identify what I needed to change only to find out that I was looking at a result or symptom instead of the core issue.

Often true. "I flip." "Yes, you do… because of these two things you do during your setup and backswing."

3 hours ago, TourSpoon said:

I had an instructor once that looked at me and asked what I thought was wrong. I gave him a list, and he said, "Let's fix your set-up position and see what that takes care of." After he fixed my stance and weight distribution, most of the issues were no longer issues and we moved on to something else.

Happens all the time. I will have a student tell me the nine things they don't like about their golf swing. Might even be right about six of them.

Then I attack one thing (often not something they listed), and a few of them almost melt away.


To the original point… I want my students to improve just because them not would be boring as hell. I don't want to work on the same things with the same students forever. I want them to learn that thing, learn the "windows" in which they can play good golf (i.e. club somewhere between here and there, left arm somewhere between this spot and this other spot, whatever), and we can move on to other things. Or enter maintenance mode while we work on developing different shots, or learning to putt better, etc.

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