Readers of this space may have noticed I’ve been somewhat missing in action over the last couple of months. Work has kept me extremely busy; too busy, and I hate when that happens. Earlier this month I did manage to make my way to the beach for my annual fall mini tour of the Delmarva and played three straight days in some of the best fall weather imaginable. A course review for Ocean City Golf (Seaside course) will be coming. But I also wanted to bring you up to date on a very rewarding experience I’ve undertaken.
A couple of weeks ago, a friend of my wife asked me if I’d show her how to play golf. She is a pure beginner and had never touched a ball, club, or tee. I used to teach golf for a living back in the late 1980s, and the last actual golf lesson I gave was around 20 years ago to a fellow that used to supervise me at work. Once or twice I’ve had requests from readers (complete strangers who live in the Washington DC area) to provide lessons but I politely refused because I didn’t feel right taking money for instruction. Receiving compensation for lessons would violate my amateur status as well as funnel income away from the local professionals who make their living giving golf lessons.
But in this instance, I decided to work pro-Bono and agreed to help her because she was a friend and wanted a simple introduction to the game before deciding if professional instruction was worth an investment. I tried to recall the most successful lesson I ever gave to a beginner and thought back to a time where I taught a Japanese lady who spoke no English and had never played the game. I had to demonstrate and manipulate the fundamentals and movements to get my points across. After several lessons, she got it and I remember the feeling of satisfaction having just taught someone to hit the ball who I could not verbally communicate with.
What I discovered this time was that I was a much better equipped to teach after having accumulated several decades of knowledge and experience, then I was in the 1980s when I was an apprentice fresh out of PGA Business school and armed only with the latest teaching techniques. Instructing beginners hasn’t changed much over the years. If you keep it simple and limit what your student has to think about, you can be successful. I didn’t have the latest golf clubs to teach with, had no swing monitor to measure swing speed, launch angle, and a dozen other diagnostics, and no camera to record her swing, but at the end of an hour, I had her making a competent move and hitting it consistently about 100 yards with an old ladies 5-iron. She was thrilled.
My approach was the same after many years. I was taught to teach Grip, Aim, Setup (GAS) first, and that’s what I focused on. I showed her how to grip it and told her the grip was the most important thing to focus on while she learned and that I would be correcting her, sometimes before every swing to ensure she got that right. When we got to making the swing, I focused her on her making the biggest turn possible going back and turning her hips hard to the target on the downswing to get the most possible power out of her core. This wasn’t how I was taught, but is more of a modern day approach of teaching power first, then finesse.
So this experience was very satisfying and we are set up for another session this weekend. I’ve clearly got the bug again and volunteered yesterday with my local First Tee chapter to mentor youngsters on golf and hopefully give back a little to my community.
Feeling real good about the prospects of helping other people and will provide an update on how things are going shortly.