There are many tips and tricks to find the perfect match for you and a golf instructor.
If you don’t want to read this entire article, just do this: ask local golfers or people in the golf industry, find out what they are known for, stick to PGA pros, ask them questions, know their rates, and learn the basics of their theories.
Don’t be afraid to take trial lessons from multiple instructors, but make sure you eventually pick the best one for you and commit to them 100%.
Ask Local Golfers and Those in the Golf Scene Around You
Lots of golfers have tried multiple PGA pros out there, and they can offer some insight as to what they liked and disliked about different instructors.
For example, I have taken lessons or had long discussions with 5 or 6 golf instructions in my town. I can pinpoint exactly what I liked and what I disliked when it came to their teaching methods or styles.
For example, let’s call one pro Mr. Smith. Mr. Smith is great at simplifying the golf swing. It is clear to me that he has an abundant amount of knowledge on the game of golf, but he only communicates things in a way that everyone can understand. That is a HUGE plus!
While I tend to think of the golf swing as a very complex string of different movements, he keeps my mind on simple swing mantras like “turn and hinge” or “keep the lead shoulder low”.
Turning the golf swing into a simple phrase is a great way for me to declutter my brain from all of the swing information and tips that are often thrown at golfers.
However, Mr. Smith is near impossible to get a lesson with, and he is not good with keeping up with everyone. I had two lessons with him, each of which he had to reschedule once.
He charged way more than I (or most people) can afford, and I’m pretty sure he doesn’t know anyone’s name. He doesn’t make you feel like a big priority for him. For the amount that he is charging, he should!
I wouldn’t feel confident that I could call him before a tournament to ask him a question about the course or to ask him a quick clarification on a swing concept before hitting a long practice session.
All in all, if someone came to me and asked for a golf instructor, I would recommend him to many golfers that overthink the golf swing and have a decent budget to work with. However, I would not recommend him to golfers that are looking for more of a mentor.
The point is: you need to ask around. Start with the people you are very close with. Ask your tight buddy group what their experiences have been with teaching pros.
Then ask those that are more well known in your local golf community like some of the better players, any professional club fitters, golf course managers, course marshals that have been in that area for years, etc.
There was a guy that distributes golf balls for Callaway to courses in my area. He has taken from a lot of great PGA pros, and he was able to offer some insight on who would be a good fit for me.
Even when I moved 4 hours away, he knew lots of different teachers and eventually led me to find my current swing coach, mentor, and friend where I currently live.
Don’t just ask people, “Is ____ a good teacher?”. Black and white answers will not help very much. Every instructor will have pros and cons.
Ask people why they keep using a certain swing coach or why they left one recently. This will give you better info to work with.
Tell them what you are looking for and see if they can recommend someone.
Find Out What Each Instructor Is Known For
Each golf instructor, whether they want to believe it or not, specializes or is much better at teaching a certain aspect of the game or to a certain student.
For example, I can pinpoint exactly who the “junior golf developer” or the “short game guru” or the “golf swing genius” or the “video, trackman, and other tech” pros are. They are known for these things because they have specialized their teaching.
All juniors know that Mr. Brown is the guy that is great at turning junior golfers into high school champs. If someone is wanting to fix their terrible chipping motion and bunker play, most will go to Mrs. Scott. Oh, and those technical guys that love looking at Trackman numbers and having perfectly sound swing mechanics on camera? They will typically go to Mr. Green.
The more experience those pros have with these niche groups, the better they get, and the more business from the niche they get.
So, find out what different pros are known for, and make sure the one you pick aligns with your ambitions.
Know Instructor’s Rates for Lessons
Depending on your budget, you can’t just go after the most well known instructor in your area.
They might cost $100+ an hour. If this is out of your budget, you’d be wasting your time trying to find out if that pro is a good fit for it. He doesn’t fit your budget!
Call around and ask how much the golf instructors in your area are charging. You might even be able to find out their rates on the home course’s or instructor’s website.
Remember, there is always going to be ONE best value instructor, so your goal should be to find them.
The best value golf instructor is one that has lots of experience, probably doesn’t work at a super expensive course, offers discounts on lesson packages, and isn’t stringy with his time.
As a side note, remember that to save money on golf lessons, feel free to book group lessons ($30 each person for three people instead of $90 for one person), take 30 min lessons, or just schedule lessons less often to give you time to truly make the swing changes needed.
Also, feel free to ask about lesson package deals. If you can pay upfront, you will probably get an even better deal.
Stick to PGA Teaching Professionals
I would hope that this would be obvious advice, but you see people listen to the random guy on the driving range all of the time.
I can’t stress enough how big of a problem unsolicited advice is in golf. Everyone feels the need to help someone, and they think they know the perfect tip to fix every problem.
Everyone’s golf swing is different. (Most) real PGA teaching pros know that.
The weekend duffer on the driving range though? No, he thinks that “you need a bigger shoulder turn, but make sure you keep your head down” is the best advice for anyone that just hit a wayward shot.
Don’t be like him. Don’t forcibly give your opinion on people’s golf swings without them asking, and don’t listen to people that do.
Only consider pros if they have been through the PGA program and can be found here on the PGA Professional database.
If you do not know anyone that plays golf in your area, this is a good place to start.
How about the local mini tour player that just shot a 66 last weekend? Great, that’s awesome! But he might not know a single thing about how everything works in your golf swing.
He might know his golf swing like the back of his hand, but that doesn’t mean he is adept in teaching and working with different swings.
So, yeah, make sure your pro is certified by the PGA.
Take Some Trial Lessons & Ask Questions
Once you have narrowed it down to a few teachers, ask them to take trials lessons. Because you will ideally be having trial lessons with more than one teacher, ask if you can take just a 30 minute lesson to see their teaching style (and save you money).
Tell them your thoughts on your golf game. What are your strengths and weaknesses? Tell them your goals and ambitions for golf.
Ask then what they think about your game. What would they focus on improving? Ask them to try to explain their teaching style. They might be taken back by this, but if they can’t do this, I wouldn’t want another lesson with them.
Ask them if they would be open to working on short game and on course teaching as well, if you are interested in that.
Remember, you are paying them, so you should decide where you want the improvement to be, and they should focus their time and expertise on the areas that you choose.
Examine how he communicates to you. Does he do so respectfully and clearly? Or is he not good at communicating his knowledge?
Many instructors know incredible amounts of information about the golf swing, but they can’t teach or explain it to people in a way that others can.
Did he explain one or two things that you need to work on? Or did he try to get you to change 3+ things about your swing.
Every golfer will have lots of “imperfections” in their swings. If they had to, most instructors could (but obviously won’t) list 10 things in order of priority to fix in a golf swing.
All good pros know that you have to work on one or two things max at a time. If they are the TRUE top priority fixes, these changes they will help fix priorities #3-10 as well.
So, you need to find a pro that will start with these #1 priorities in your game, and they can’t overload you with info while doing it.
If your trial lesson does not meet these needs, you need to try someone else.
Determine Your Priorities When it Comes to A Golf Instructor
Alright, so you have taken lessons with different local golf swing coaches, and now you have to pick which one you are most comfortable with and most confident about.
You might think: “Mr. John was the nicest man I’ve ever met. He was great at working on my biggest flaw, my wrist hinge. He showed me lots of different ways to improve it, one of which helps tremendously. He teaches at a great facility with a lot of amenities and a gorgeous driving range. However, he costs too much money and he works an hour away from me.”
Then you might compare him to Mr. Jimmy. “Mr. Jimmy was very clear and precise when teaching me. He taught me a lot about how simple the golf swing should be, and I really liked the way he put me in the correct position and showed exactly how I was doing it incorrectly. His prices were much less when compared to Mr. John. However, the facility that Mr. Jimmy teaches at is a little run down.”
So, to put it in simple terms, you are left with the decision of choosing Mr. John or Mr. Jimmy. Do you value saving time money with Mr. Jimmy more? Or would you rather have the great driving range and more in depth teaching from Mr. John?
That’s up for you to decide. You are already did the hard part of figuring out each instructor’s pros and cons, so now you just need to decide.
Pick a Golf Instructor and Stick With Them
Don’t be the guy that goes back and forth to multiple different teachers at a time.
Different instructors have different opinions on what is the priority in your golf swing. If you go back and forth between different PGA teaching pros, you will be working on different things each time and will get confused.
Or, you will be given completely different advice and lose confidence in the path that your golf swing should go down.
One teacher might work on flattening your backswing to take some wrist action out of your swing, while another might be working on getting your hands more in front of you in your backswing to create room for a shallower downswing. Both could potentially be a great move for your golf swing, but not when combined with the other instructor’s advice.
If the goal is to get better at golf (which, umm, it should be), do what the pro golfers do. They stick with instructors for a long period of time.
They make the changes their teacher wants them to make. If after multiple off-seasons working on the changes and many tournaments have passed without good results, THEN it might be time to try someone else.
The cold hard truth, though, is that making any changes in golf are hard. Your golf swing will feel odd. You won’t play well at first. You’ll want to fight the changes. You’ll deep down want to think that you know better or that your old swing was just fine.
Put your trust where your money is going though. You’re paying them for their expertise, so listen to them and do what they encourage you to work on.
Commit to their teaching for at least a year. I bet you will be surprised at how much better you can become.