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iacas

Over-Stating the Value of a Playing Lesson

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The results of this poll astound me. There's absolutely no way the average golfer (or 30% of average golfers) should choose a playing lesson for 4x the cost of a regular lesson. This is largely true because there's absolutely no way that a playing lesson offers 4x the value of a regular lesson. I don't care if the regular lessons are a great value - 4x that for a playing lesson is, for the vast majority of golfers, not a reasonable choice.

Let's assume that the lessons are an hour, and the playing lesson is four hours and 18 holes. If you have 4x the cost of a regular lesson burning a hole in your pocket, here's what I suggest: take four regular lessons! This is an even wiser choice if you can spend a few minutes to assess your strengths and weaknesses. You don't have to be perfect… you just have to have a general idea what types of shots give you trouble, what your miss tends to be, and what areas of your game are truly costing you strokes. Even if you're close, it's helpful information that the instructor can blend with what he sees with his own eyes.

Golfers love playing lessons, though. To their detriment.

I enjoy and recommend playing lessons in two cases.

  1. With new students, so I can assess their game myself. This isn't necessary if they can provide even a reasonable assessment and that aligns with what I see from them when teaching them.
  2. With long-time students, so I can see how they're taking the lessons to the course, and so we can talk about strategy a little and to re-inforce what we've learned on the lesson tee.

For the first, it's pretty obvious what the deal is there… I want to see how they play, the shots that trouble them, etc. This means it's not really a playing lesson so much as it is an assessment.

The second, well, long-time students typically fall back into their same two, three, five "things" that they always do. They typically know the causes and fixes, and though we can sometimes create different feels to work on them, it's rare for a "new" problem to pop up. So, occasionally, getting them out on the course to see how their mind works during a round is a valuable use of time.

But not at full rate for four hours.

I'll often take two people out at a time for playing lessons, on the rare case I give them. I'll charge then for a single lesson… or less. And hey, not to brag too much, but I literally wrote a very popular book which includes a huge section on course strategy, so… the students are getting something of value out of those.

And yet I still don't recommend them that much. They can just buy the book and read and internalize a lot of what's in there. Their time - and mine helping them - is most often better spent on the range, or the short game facility, or working with SAM PuttLab… or whatever.

A lesson provides numerous benefits over being on the course, including:

  • Ready access to the full arsenal of technology - cameras, FlightScope, SAM PuttLab, levels, training aids, extra clubs, mirrors, etc.
  • No time wasted driving around from shot to shot, collecting balls, etc. This results in a much higher balls-per-minute rate.
  • No pressure to hit a target, so, easier to make actual changes to the motion, to try things, to actually improve.
  • No small sample sizes. In a playing lesson, what, you might have someone "try something" two or three times before you have to get in the cart and drive off to collect the balls? If they hit them badly, what's that tell you? What if they hit them well?
  • Lack of ability to write down notes. What are you going to really take away from a playing lesson? You'll forget at least half of what you talk about during the round.
  • Lack of ability to focus. You're on the tee and the guy says "I hate water right." So you talk about that. Then he hits a shot in the left rough, and chunk-pulls his 8I, so you talk about that. Then he's in the bunker, so you talk about that. Then he has a 30-footer, so you talk about putting or green reading or something… who learns like that?

What part of that is worth 4x the cost of a regular lesson?

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It feels like they either think that playing lessons are valuable to their game or they just think it's cool the also play golf as well as taking a lesson. I think it is more the later. 

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18 minutes ago, saevel25 said:

It feels like they either think that playing lessons are valuable to their game or they just think it's cool the also play golf as well as taking a lesson. I think it is more the later. 

For 4x the cost? :-)

Playing Lessons are easy to teach, too… you're just out driving around the golf course with people.

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I always thought the value in a playing lesson was being able to learn strategy (which there's a pretty good book out there) or how to hit a particular shot in a certain lie in a real situation. No way it's worth 4x the amount of a regular lesson though.

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I don't know about 4x, but I do see the value. I can hit pretty well during the lesson on the range. It's a totally different world on the course.

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1 hour ago, billchao said:

I always thought the value in a playing lesson was being able to learn strategy (which there's a pretty good book out there) or how to hit a particular shot in a certain lie in a real situation. No way it's worth 4x the amount of a regular lesson though.

Yeah, you can create those situations in the practice facility (if you're able to get outside, that is).

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5 minutes ago, iacas said:

Yeah, you can create those situations in the practice facility (if you're able to get outside, that is).

In one lesson, where you can practice and repeat the motions and actually learn something from it. Then you can take the other 3x you saved and take lessons on your full swing, short game, and putting.

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I would chose outdoor with launch monitor and video if the choice was there.

However, I would love to play a round with my instructor if I had the chance. I wouldn't ask for advice or teaching, but would watch them and see how they approach things. Most of the people I play with are at my level.

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Before reading this thread, I would have been one to over-value a playing lesson. As is usually the case, there's plenty of logic to show why they have less value than I thought.

In my defense, a playing lesson (to me) should consist of the instructor watching and assessing nine holes of fast golf (one hour) by the student and giving few tips until after the round.  

I think the two reasons listed in the OP make sense. Most of us aren't as good at evaluating our strengths and weaknesses. If asked by a new instructor how my short game is, I might reply that it's "ok" when in fact it may be horrible.

@iacas, I see you're listed as an instructor in GameGolf. Do you feel GameGolf has helped in any way evaluate a new student's on-course game or reduced the need for playing lessons?

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8 minutes ago, BallStriker said:

I would spend the $$$ on green fees......its about the journey, not the destination

For many, that "journey" is one of improvement and learning.

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I liked that the instructor I most recently took lessons from, several years ago, would let me choose whether I wanted my lesson to be on the course or on the range. It was a 1 hour lesson either way, or I could pay ~1.5x more to do a 2 hour 9-hole lesson, but I could choose if I wanted a playing lesson or a lesson more focused on the mechanics of my swing. 

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Interesting topic.

I was a S&T student, but drifted aeay from that a bit. Really liked the teacher, but could not find the time to take a lesson, practise and get back to check if the info and practise gave results. When I got the time, i wanted to play. Got some injuries and could only pratice small motions like putting or chipping. Last year I got a lesson from Trackmanmaestro when he was in Holland. Spent the afternoon talking with him. Had the time of my life!! He set me in positions which felt very, very uncomfortable at first but I was hitting draws within 15 minutes. Since then, I never sliced a ball and never looked back. I now take lessons from a teacher who also spend the day with trackmanmaestro that day and who knows what to do in general, more specific with my swing (he filmed it, was there the whole lesson). I take a lesson, get 2 drills, practise, come back within 6-8 weeks. And we compare and talk about the progress. I do not mind the practise, might even more like it than playing itself! Within my possibillity's, trying tonget better! The impact sound off a well struck ball, it is amazing!! It changed my position on lessons. 

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35 minutes ago, iacas said:

For many, that "journey" is one of improvement and learning.

Actually, I totally agree....improvement and learning is a huge part of the journey....that said, I am not convinced that there are many "good" instructors out there....and I would NEVER pay for a playing lesson....I do think evolver is a brilliant idea and do think you guys do a great job...and, to be quite honest, I am trying to work on my swing before signing up ....which is totally stupid and vain, but is what it is...LOL...

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1 hour ago, Pretzel said:

I liked that the instructor I most recently took lessons from, several years ago, would let me choose whether I wanted my lesson to be on the course or on the range. It was a 1 hour lesson either way, or I could pay ~1.5x more to do a 2 hour 9-hole lesson, but I could choose if I wanted a playing lesson or a lesson more focused on the mechanics of my swing. 

At 1.5x the value is closer. But there's still a lot of driving around. :-)

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1 hour ago, iacas said:

At 1.5x the value is closer. But there's still a lot of driving around. :-)

That there is. It was a nice way to add some variety into the lessons and it was helpful to do sometimes if I felt like I was hitting good shots and not scoring, since it would give me an outside opinion of what I was doing poorly while playing. 

The 1.5x was only if it was a full nine holes. Otherwise the hour I had paid for could be spent wherever I wanted, the chipping/putting green, the range, or the course. On the course (if it was pretty open) we'd sometimes toss a bunch of golf balls in weird trouble spots reachable from the tee and I would try to hit the green from there, or we would play something like worst ball.

It was fun and it was really helpful because he was pretty good at thinking of things that I wouldn't normally practice despite finding myself needing every so often. I think most of all it was a nice change of pace from just being on the range hitting at the flags they have marked, even though swing mechanics were still a pretty big focus. 

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I took a playing lesson a few years ago. The instructor was the new manager of the course and didn't charge me as much as he should have (probably because he knew I'd be playing a lot of golf at the course and needed to generate more business).

I asked him if it was ok for him to just observe and afterwards tell me what he thought my biggest need or priority was. He agreed, but that lasted until the first green where he gave some quick advice on the short game. Throughout the 9 hole lesson, he continued to give some pointers on chipping and reading putts - which I was very grateful for. 

My full swing was actually pretty good during the round but he did give me one thing to work on. Two or three days later, I broke 90 for the first time with an 88. The good play didn't carry over to the next round, but I felt very fortunate that he was willing to spend that much time and effort with me.

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Note: This thread is 946 days old. We appreciate that you found this thread instead of starting a new one, but if you plan to post here please make sure it's still relevant. If not, please start a new topic. Thank you!

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