“JJ is a golf instructor, all he does is practice and play golf all day.”
This is comment is something I hear regularly. Fact is, I never, NEVER, hit balls on a driving range and maybe once per week I will hit some chips and putts on the practice are when I need a break from work. Honestly, when the golf course is your place of work, it becomes like any other office and you don’t want to spend your free time at the office.
Not all golf professionals are built the same. When I enrolled in the PGA Professional Apprentice Program, I was amazed at how little emphasis was placed on player development. Player development is golf lessons, how to make golfers better. In my first 2 levels (there are 3 levels total to complete the program), we spent roughly 1 hour out of 40 classroom hours on player development. This should be more of a focus point for the PGA of America and they are starting to change the curriculum to implement more coaching and player development strategies.
Perception. The perception is that PGA Golf Professionals are “professional golfers”. There is a HUGE difference. The playing ability test for the PGA of America is set at a very low standard. At my “PAT”, we played the course from 6300 yards, pins in the middle of every green and the target score was 158 for 2 rounds (78 each round or +12). High school golfers play from 7,000 yards. That being said, most likely, the head golf professional at your home course is closer to being a 18 handicap than a scratch player. And a scratch player is closer to a 10 handicap than a PGA Tour player.
Golf Professional = Business Professional in Golf Industry
Professional Golfer = Earns his living playing golf (but you’re not making a living unless you are on one of the worlds major tours)
Golf Coaches, Teaching Professionals and Performance Coaches = Coach (for the most part) I suggest asking for a coaches resume to see who their mentors were and what playing experiences they had. The best coaches in the business have a great track record of playing at least collegiate golf, mentored by great coaches before them. Just because they are a “PGA Professional” does not mean they are qualified to teach you how to play golf better.
I am a full time coach and small business owner, who plays 2 rounds of golf per month. So how did I manage to qualify for a PGA Tour Major Championship? The average person believes that those that work in the golf industry have the greatest job in the world, just play golf all day! The average assistant golf professional works 50-60 hours per week for nearly minimum wage. You better be passionate about the game if you are going to work in customer service at that pay rate!
I am passionate about growing the game of golf, but more passionate about educating all golfers on the TRUTH about game improvement. Old school, 1 hour golf lessons are the reason that the average USGA handicap has not improved in 30 years with the advancement of equipment and teaching technology.
My beliefs is that golf is not a sport that requires much physical talent to play well. Making the PGA Tour, or NCAA College Golf – yes that requires some talent. To become a very good amateur golfer, shooting mid to high 70’s at your local golf course, in my opinion does not require much time practicing at the golf course.
My golf practice style as a player I was a hard worker, spent long hours on the driving range and practice area. I was always guessing and experimenting with what to work on. How good could I have been if I spent 40 hours per week practicing correctly?
The recreational avid golfer most likely spends 1-2 hours at most at the practice area during the week. They rehearse their swing positions on the range, developing a technical-mechanical mindset for when they go on the course. This leads to frustration and inconsistent golf.
How you should practice at the golf course. Work on aspects you can control. It doesn’t take an elite athlete or rocket scientist to set up to a golf shot correctly. Unfortunately, most players over look the most import aspects that are simple and we can control, such as:
- Set up – stance width, ball position, alignment grip and posture
- Consistent tempo
- Pre shot routine – go through it on every shot when practicing
- Start small! You can take 5 balls and hit different shots around the green. I like to hit 5 shots from one spot, pick them up and hit 5 shots from another spot. That way you are not just hitting the same shot over and over again. Below are some of the benefits:
- Proper Impact
- Establish feel around the green to save shots during the round
Benefits of practicing smart
- Less time at the golf course
- When you make it to the golf course, you are certain to improve on one aspect of your game
- Understand your game better
- Establish different shots for your game
- Improve key elements in your game all great golfers possess
Bonus Practice for the Golf Course
Start Small, Pitch Shots
IMPACT This allows you to ingrain the impact zone. Impact is one of the most important aspect of the golf swing that all great players do correctly. Amateurs have a very poor impact, which is the main difference between a good ball striker and inconsistent ball striker. You can only develop impact through small, slow rehearsal swings, drills and pitch shots.
FEEL you are using your time efficiently by hitting pitch shots around the green. You build feel for short shots around the greens while you are improving impact for your full swing.
Full Swing Tempo
If you understand what creates a draw or a fade ball flight, you can hit any shot you want or need when playing on the golf course. By hitting a different type of shot each time you are simulating golf course as well as keeping your swing in balance.
Keeping your swing in balance means that your swing will never get too far off. Many players rehearse the "perfect swing", which is not possible by the way. They may learn swing flaws they need to fix in a golf lesson, which is probably something they need to work on, but not on a driving range going full speed. Figure out how to make the ball curve to the left, then to the right, then you can find the middle and hit it straight!