What are the Do’s and Don’ts of taking a golf lesson?

World class instructor Hank Haney with Charles Barkley.
Photo by Associated Press

As golf season gets ramped up, many of us will be investing in lessons in an effort to improve.  High handicappers right down to touring professionals all benefit from formal instruction.  I took my first lesson of the season last weekend and have scheduled a series every two weeks for the balance of the spring.  I’m reminded of a few Do’s and Don’ts when taking lessons:

Do:

  1. When you sign up for lessons, ensure your instructor has the “PGA” acronym after his/her name.  Some courses and training facilities employ instructors or managers who give golf lessons at a discounted price.  If they aren’t PGA certified, don’t go for it.  Membership in the Professional Golfers Association is an indicator that your instructor has spent the necessary time in the business, has been formally trained on how to teach, and has given many lessons.
  2. Prior to or during your first lesson, set clear expectations with your instructor.  Let them know your skill level, current handicap (if you keep one), what your goals are, and how much time you have to devote to practice.  You may get a completely different lesson if you indicate you plan on practicing every day, compared to if you can only devote one day per week.
  3. During instruction, ask questions!  Your level of engagement will often get you a better lesson.  Golf pros are human.  They get bored at work too and often perform better when fully engaged with their students.  If something doesn’t feel right or if you’re getting it and enjoying the success, dialog it.
  4. Take full swing lessons outdoors on the range.  Some instructors will teach at indoor facilities and you can make improvements using a simulator, but there is no substitute for seeing actual ball flight.  Sometimes what feels good on a simulator may not be the shot pattern you want.
  5. At the completion of your lesson, reiterate with your instructor two or three key points that you’re going to work on until the next lesson.
  6. Practice between lessons.  Sometimes during a lesson, you may perform poorly because the changes you’re making are difficult to implement.  Try and get out multiple times between lessons and reinforce what you’ve been shown, and do it at your own pace.  Often, you will “get it” during practice, because you’re able to take your time and you won’t feel like you’re being watched.
  7. World class instructor Hank Haney advocates taking 100 swings per day in your back yard.  Do this even if you can’t hit balls and try to feel the change you’re working on.  It’s the fastest way to ingrain the new feel.

Don’t:

  1. Try and change too much at once.  Learning can be confusing, and we learn best by focusing on one concept at a time.  Sometimes even a seasoned professional will give you too much to think about.  The pro wants you to succeed and if the first or second swing change doesn’t immediately work, they can introduce more in an effort to find something that resonates.  When this happens, tell your pro you’d like to focus on one concept and ask what that should be.
  2. Play the day after a lesson and expect to score well.  Your mind will be in mechanical mode and you will be playing “golf swing” not golf.  Forget your score and just focus on enjoying your time in the outdoors and trying to focus on the changes you’re trying to implement.
  3. Seek swing tips from your inexperienced playing partners.  Best to stick with your pro’s advice and remember the old axiom, “Amateurs teach amateurs to play like amateurs.”
  4. Fail to practice between lessons and then claim you got a bad lesson when the changes don’t work on the golf course.
  5. Forget about short game and putting.  Instruction is not all about full swing, although the vast majority of lessons are given on the practice tee.  Ask your professional about a short game lesson or if they’ll take you out on the course and play a few holes to help you with your course management.

Got any more Do’s and Don’ts?  Please share and good luck if you’re taking lessons.  Play well!

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About Brian Penn

Avid sports fan and golf nut. I am a lifelong resident of the Washington D.C. area and love to follow the local teams. Also worked as a golf professional in the Middle Atlantic PGA for several years and am intrigued by the game to no end. I love to play and practice and am dedicated to continual improvement.
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10 Responses to What are the Do’s and Don’ts of taking a golf lesson?

  1. C. Baker says:

    Great Tips. I think another one is to find a pro that understands how YOU learn. Do you need to see how to do it, feel how to do it, or are you analytical and need to understand the reasons for what is being taught? If a Pro can’t teach the way you learn, find a new Pro!

  2. Brian

    Fantastic post. I fully endorse all your points. I would also emphasize to be patient. You mention it, but players learning something new have a tendency to give up way to early! Thanks for bringing this important topic together in one post.

    Cheers
    Jim

    • Brian Penn says:

      Jim, good point about being patient. It’s extra hard for the weekend only players because of their infrequent engagement. I count myself as one now😊

      Thanks!

      Brian

  3. Brian,

    Great advice here all around! I guess the only one I would add, which is sort of a mental thing, is to remind yourself there is no reason to be intimidated by getting a lesson. I think a lot of people freeze up and are self conscious when a pro is watching their swing, but they’re there to help you not to judge you. No matter how bad you think your swing is they’ve definitely seen worse 😉

    Cheers!
    Josh

    • Brian Penn says:

      Josh, awesome point and I never thought of that! My view may be a bit myopic since I’ve never had an issue hitting in front of someone or getting feedback, but I can see how others might.

      Thanks for the eye opener!

      Brian

  4. P.S. Good on you for scheduling some regular lessons! Will be interested to hear some progress reports and what effect it has on your season looking back.

    Cheers
    Josh

    • Brian Penn says:

      Josh, I’ve had one lesson and got another scheduled for Saturday. I’ve played and practiced twice since. My driving and fairway woods are ahead of the iron play which frustrated me yesterday. You just hate busting a drive into the A position and yanking a short iron way left. Aarrggg! I know; got to be patient with it but it’s hard playing while learning 🙂

      Thanks,

      Brian

  5. svgolfer says:

    Well said and all good points I seem to forget way too quickly – thx

    • Brian Penn says:

      SV, I’m feeling good about my regular commitment to lessons and have my second in the series today. Have you had a lesson lately? Thinking about one?

      Thanks,

      Brian

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