I was asked recently what I had done to become a successful golf instructor. I quickly realized there were many things I have done.
First, I think swing theory is important, but more important than that is what you need to do to learn or develop a swing model, how to teach it and the process you go through to learn how to become a better instructor. I teach the way I do because it is the best way I’ve found. This means I need to continue to do research so I can learn and grow as a golf instructor.
The two keys to improving my ability as a golf instructor are motivation and the knowledge I gained from other top instructors.
Motivation – My motivation to become a better instructor came from the lessons I received as a youngster. During those lessons, I didn’t know very much about the golf swing, but I didn’t like what I was hearing or the results I was getting from the lessons. I decided there had to be a better way. Another motivation came from some of the golf instructors I watched giving lessons. I realized that there was a big difference in those instructors who were highly enthusiastic. I saw very few teachers who were excited about what they were doing or teaching.
Other Instructors – Role models have always been important to me. Successful people don’t have secrets, but they do have reasons for their success. I was fortunate to have as role models two great instructors. Jim Vaughan and Hank Haney.
I worked for Jim when he was the Head Golf Professional at Detroit Golf Club. Besides my father he has had the biggest influence in shaping me as a person and a golf professional/instructor. He hired me as his assistant golf professional and took a personal interest in helping me develop as a teacher. He encouraged me to watch him teach, and I did that whenever I could.
While Jim was giving a lesson he would talk to me, sharing his thoughts. I then would watch what he did to get the student to achieve what he wanted them to do. He helped me develop an understanding of what should happen in a good golf swing, a model of the golf swing. From there I was able to really help my students improve their golf games.
Jim gave me a great start. He really got me enthused about teaching. For the first time I understood what was suppose to happen in a golf swing, and the way you go about getting someone to improve their swing. I started to really get some good results in my lessons. This only made me hungry to learn more.
On the advice of Jim, I went to see one of the men he had learned from, Hank Haney. After watching Hank teach I soon realized why Jim was such a great instructor. He had learned from a genius.
Hank is the most knowledgeable, imaginative and talented golf instructor I have met. He is a great analyzer of the golf swing. He goes deeper than just analysis – he investigates and researches. I learned how to analyze ball flight and what it mean in terms of what the golf club is doing at impact. Hank also helped me understand that the swing plane is the most important aspect of the swing.
However, I learned more than just how to analyze a golf swing and swing theory from Hank, I learned what to do after you decided what was wrong with someone’s swing and planned what you needed to do to fix it.
When you are one-on-one with a student you save the speeches and rely largely on sight and touch. Hank showed me how to move students – pushing and pulling them into position, moving them around, stopping occasionally to explain, and giving them the “feel” of what to do. To quote Hank, “I’m not trying to impress these people with how much I know. I’ve got a plan of what them to do, but in an hour lesson I don’t want to talk for 40 minutes.” This something you cannot learn fully from watching a video or reading a book or going to a seminar. You need to watch the teacher in action.
I learned many more things from Hank. How to use cameras, monitors and video. My indoor teaching center is modeled after the one he designed. I also learned how to market myself as a golf instructor. He was very kind with the time and information he shared with me. He is a large part of my knowledge and one of the reasons I am in the position I am today.
There is nothing new in golf instruction, only the way it is presented to the student. I learned from Jim and Hank. Jim learned from Hank and others. Hank learned from two other great golf instructors, Jim Hardy and John Jacobs. I am sure they can credit other instructors who helped them. The point is you cannot do it alone. Success breeds success.