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Are Instructors necessary on the PGA Tour - Absolutely!

Are Instructors necessary on the PGA Tour – Absolutely!

Are Instructors necessary on the PGA Tour – Absolutely!

Golf Chats is a website to encourage discussions on various subjects relating to the game of golf. I am Mel Sole, Director of Instruction of the Mel Sole Golf School and SAPGA Master Professional.  I invite you to enter into a discussion on this or any article on the website.  The input is for the entire subscriber base to learn something new each time!  Please post your comments below.  Keep it clean and tasteful.  We are here to learn from one another!

As a golf instructor, articles like this always pique my interest. 

As soon as a player has a bad streak, his instructor must have “messed up” his swing.  How stupid!  Most of the instructors who teach PGA Tour players are outstanding instructors, usually have some tournament playing experience, and have a client list of whos who.  Tour players would not seek out these teachers if they did not have a high pedigree! 

Personally, I think that an instructor with a background in BioMechanics is one who understands each individual swing and will teach each golfer differently.  This is ESSENTIAL to being a good instructor.  Instructors who teach a “Method” of swinging and have everybody swing the same way are headed for disaster.

I like Wayne DeFrancesco’s description of a golf instructor is like a Nascar mechanic.  They don’t drive the car, but they try and make sure the car is prepped and ready to go at the start of the race.  Things can happen along the way, and the car does not win the race.  Nobody’s fault.  It’s just the way it is!

Wayne DeFrancesco gives a good account of the relationship between teacher and player and how that relationship (like any relationship) sometimes goes sour!  It does not mean that either the golfer or the teacher was at fault.  There just comes a time where the students think they want to move on and explore something different.  Sometimes that decision is correct, ala Ricky Fowler, and sometimes it is not, ala Tiger Woods.

Are Instructors necessary on the PGA Tour – Absolutely!

Are Instructors necessary on the PGA Tour - Absolutely!

Phil Mickelson moved from Rick Smith to Butch Harmon, and Phil has become a phenomenal golfer!

Here’s Wayne……..

 If you watch golf on television these days, you might think that golf instructors are ruining the game. Certainly the travails of Tiger Woods have offered up plenty of ammunition for the anti-instruction movement so obviously embraced by just about every commentator on the Golf Channel and PGA Tour broadcasts. Their argument is a simple one: too much information ruins the “natural” ability of the players who seek help from instructors.

Just this week, Sean O’Hair gave an interview that was hailed by every media person who commented on it as an honest assessment of how too much instruction ruined his game, and only now that he was “finding his own game” was he finding success again.

Tiger’s problems have been laid directly on Sean Foley, who, as the pundits would have you believe, had Tiger working on a swing technique guaranteed to hurt his back and give him the short game yips. Brandel Chamblee has gone as far as stating that “Tiger has had the greatness coached out of him,” and “modern golf instruction is a cancer on the game.” According to Johnny Miller, anyone who qualifies to play on the PGA Tour is already good enough and should never change anything.

Of course, Miller forgets that every year a bunch of players lose their card due to substandard play, while every player not yet on the big tour tries to improve enough to get there. The desire to improve is a constant characteristic of successful athletes.

In a game as complex as golf, the player can’t be expected to understand the nuances of all the techniques he or she uses to navigate around the course.

Are Instructors necessary on the PGA Tour – Absolutely!

And the truth is most players don’t want to think about what they are doing. But the game is so difficult that there will always be periods of poor play, and the player will naturally begin to worry about retaining his position in the game.

Golf instructors usually have some sort of playing background, and if they have been tabbed by a Tour player to be a coach it is for a good reason. It is vital to remember that no instructor can be on the range at a Tour event unless they are invited to be there. The player has to request credentials for the teacher, and the teacher cannot be on the range without the player. In other words, instruction is entirely voluntary.

Kevin Streelman wanted to hire me last June when he was unhappy with his game and the look of his swing. He had missed four straight cuts and was frustrated enough to seek different advice.

No teacher or player has all the answers to the game of golf. Golf instructors have preferences, and players who like to look at or measure their swings develop their own preferences as well. My vision of the swing is readily available on my website, and Kevin liked what he saw, so he gave me a call. He wanted to change a swing pattern that had bothered him for years and that he felt he was not making progress on.

Players know their deficiencies. They also know that if they are not among the top players, a small retreat in performance will mean losing playing status.

You can imagine the angst that exists after an extended slump. My point here is that while the players on the Tour are certainly good enough to get there, they may not be good enough to stay there, and they may not be able to improve enough to move up into the top echelon of players.

If they are not technical and already have a great work ethic, who is going to offer them better direction.  Or an answer to the problems they encounter when simply practicing all day doesn’t help? Every great tennis professional has a coach. All the major team sports have instructors for every aspect of their game. They all use video obsessively, and the with the analysis of every movement in super slow motion coaches look to correct technique flaws. Hitting, pitching, fielding, blocking, tackling, covering, every play and, every practice is recorded, and the whole team spends huge amounts of time watching and going over technique.

Why has it been decided that to do that in golf is such a horrible thing?

I compare my job to that of a NASCAR mechanic. I don’t drive the car and I’m not going to tell the driver how to drive. The mechanic just gets the car running as well as I can so that the player doesn’t have to worry about it. How to organize the information and simplify the thought process is ultimately the job of the player, because he is the car and the driver.

Ironically, just about every golf commentator is a former player who is not playing anymore.

They have all lost their status for one reason or another, and now it seems that all of them have forgotten where they came from. No one wants to stop playing the Tour. There is no top-100 player who would trade their status for a spot in front of the Golf Channel cameras. You would have to think that every commentator who lost their card sought some sort of instruction in order to avoid their eventual demise, instruction that obviously failed. Such an experience would definitely color how they view instruction now.

Again, it is important to remember that the players control who instructs them, or whether they get instruction at all. This is true from the club level all the way to the Tour. The teacher does not force the student to take a lesson.

My lesson book is open to whoever wants to sign up. If no one signs up, I don’t teach.

If Kevin hadn’t sought out my advice, you wouldn’t see me on the range at Tour events, just like you wouldn’t see Butch Harmon, Todd Anderson, Sean Foley, Pete Cowan, or any other teacher of Tour players you can name.

No teacher is seeking to fill up a student’s mind with information that the player doesn’t ask for. Teachers use different methods to be sure, and some use more technology than others. But in the final analysis, if the results aren’t there the coach looks for another job!

Teachers are there to help. Almost every player has someone they look to for help and advice. What prompted this article is the television media’s decision to focus on the players who have suffered a loss of performance under the tutelage of an instructor, while ignoring the success stories. Meanwhile, Michael Breed is ever present on the Golf Channel, with, you guessed it, golf instruction.

Go figure.

Source:    Wayne DeFrancesco

Pictures: Tour Pro Golf Clubs    Keith Allison

Thanks for reading – Are Instructors necessary on the PGA Tour – Absolutely!

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