Every serious golfer knows that to improve his or her game, at some point,
instruction from a golf professional is required. By now you should know to ignore
gratuitous critiques from your golf buddies (unless they happen to be PGA professionals).
And if you think that playing in itself, even frequently, will improve your game,
think again. While the most fun is in the playing, by doing so, whatever bad habits
you possess now are just being repeated, which ingrains them further. While you
may already know this, you may also find that time or budget constraints make it
impractical for you to take regular one-on-one lessons with a local pro.
One popular alternative (or addition) to regular private golf instruction is to attend a
Once the Spartan boot camps of top tier amateurs, the newer and broader
range of offerings can benefit golfers of every level and ability. In the U.S. and
Canada alone, there are nearly 200 golf schools. So many options, so little time. How do you choose?
All programs have certain aspects in common. Golf schools typically involve taking
lessons from a professional in a small group (of people with similar ability) in the mornings,
with an opportunity later in the day to practice on the golf course. Some schools also
offer, for an additional charge, one-on-one instruction on the course with a professional
to help you with your course management skills. Longer programs may also offer cocktail
receptions and dinners, and golf related seminars and presentations. While this is a
general description, the focus and length of golf schools can vary widely. Golf schools run
anywhere from a half day or a weekend to five days, or even a week, depending
on the intensity of the program.
Some are more specialized than others. The most common specialty programs
are those just for women or just for corporate groups, those that focus only on the
short game, or the mental aspects of the game, and even some that offer
programs for left-handed golfers.
Many others are more general and focus on both the short game and full swing.
Some have a balanced approach that divides time among short game, full swing,
mental game, and playing on the course. Balanced programs such as these can
really lower your scores. Keep in mind, however, that any program, in order to
help you improve your score, should devote at least one third of instruction time to the
short game. Whether you seek a more specialized focus or training on specific aspects
of your game, or a general improvement on all areas, be sure to find out if the program
matches your needs. In addition, find out what kind of practice facilities the school has.
Without solid practice time, you're not going to improve much.
Aside from what aspects of your game you wish to work on, you need to decide
whether you wish to (and can) attend a school as part of a vacation, or as a commuter.
Commuter sessions are usually held on weekends, and are less costly alternatives that
involve traveling from home to attend half or full day sessions. Some golf schools have
locations in several states, and with the number of choices available, most people can find a
school within commuting distance from their home.
Another important factor in choosing the right school is how much you want to utilize
the high-tech teaching aids available at most golf schools. A great selling point
of many schools is that they offer computer swing models and sophisticated video
analysis (equipment too costly to be within the means of most golf professionals).
Teaching professionals agree that the ability to record and analyze your swing is a
terrific way for a golfer to actually see his or her weaknesses, and swing models can help
golfers get a feel for what their swing should be like, which will help enable them to
work on specific problems.
How much of this type of analysis do you expect? When
shopping around for schools, you need to find out what type of equipment they have,
what it will do, and how much they will use the equipment during the program.
Tech figures more prominently in some programs than others, so if this is important
to you, ask about it.
Many programs send you home with a video of yourself (or a print out of the
analysis based on your taped swing), as well as materials detailing your goals
for progress. Some also allow students to contact instructors by phone or e-mail
with follow-up questions and feedback, and some also allow students to send in a
video for further analysis after they've had time to practice and reinforce what they
learned at the school. Be sure to find out what they offer as far as follow-up after
you return home.
At least as important is the quality of your instructors. Most schools today have
instructors experienced with players of many levels of ability and temperaments. Some of
the "brand name" schools with well-known PGA tour pros or instructors to the PGA tour
professionals heading them up will have a team of other instructors on staff. The odds
of your getting instruction from the head honcho are low unless you specifically ask what
classes they will be teaching (and are prepared to pay more in most cases for working with
them). However, the other staff has been thoroughly trained in that instructor's methods
and philosophy. (Of course, at any golf school, if you are assigned an instructor that you
truly feel is not meeting your needs, you can go to the program coordinator and request
to work with a different instructor.)
Aside from the instructors themselves, an important part of your school experience will be
the teacher/student ratio. Most schools break the numbers into groups based on ability,
and rarely do class sizes go above a half dozen per instructor, but obviously, the lower
the ratio, the better. Whatever ratio is quoted by the school will be the maximum, so you may
have even fewer depending on attendance. As a general rule, it's best to choose a school
with a low ratio. If you really want one-on-one attention from your instructor, then private
lessons may be what you're looking for instead. At name schools, even a brand name
teacher can be avail for this type of instruction during the course of the school session.
Again, demand will be high and the price will rise accordingly.
Another important question to ask is what the fees are and what they include. Some
include lodging and meals. Even commuter rates may or may not include meals, so
you'll need to find this out. Some schools have on-site accommodations, while others have
arrangements with nearby hotels. Obviously, multi-day programs will be more costly than
short ones, but many golf schools have lower off-season rates. It never hurts to inquire.
If you are attending a
as part of a vacation, you will need to narrow down the
field yourself, and make the arrangements to attend the school, as travel agents do not
handle them. (With one notable exception: the John Jacobs' golf schools have schools all
over the country and have their own travel service which can help arrange air transportation,
accommodations, and even sightseeing trips.)
Whatever your expectations and needs for golf instruction, you're bound to find a golf
school that's right for you. A little time spent researching different schools and
asking about particular programs you're interested is all it takes.
As with any golf instruction, don't expect miracles or quick fixes. Expect to get worse
before you get better after you return home from school. You must devote regular practice
time, targeting the most time to your particular weak areas, in order to improve
significantly. Without commitment on your part, golf school will only be a temporary fix,
at best. On the other hand, if you put in the effort, you will not only enjoy your "working
vacation," you'll bring home a valuable souvenir indeed - the means to lower
Where to find more information on golf schools
Shawguides, Inc. publishes golf school directories that give detailed information. They also have a website: www.shawguides.com.
You'll also find information on several golf schools on GolfLink
Though hardly an exhaustive list, if you're seeking some top-notch schools in the U.S.,
you may wish to consult Golf Magazine's list of the top 25 golf schools.
Some are located in one place, and others have sites in two or more locations, which
increases your odds of finding a course convenient to you or your travel destination.