I’m what they call a lapsed golfer. We have a whole section devoted to it on our website. It essentially means I once played fairly regularly, but then, for reasons that many in this category cite, I dropped off to about one round per year, usually a scramble charity tournament that effectively masked my ability.
So when I was hired as Managing Editor for PGA.com, I decided I wanted to play more golf, and of course, better golf.
There are a lot of ways to do this, and I hope to try them all.
From the instruction standpoint, you can receive instruction from local PGA and LPGA Professionals (search for them here), you can learn in groups (Get Golf Ready is a good option for beginners) or you can do what I did. Go down to Florida in March and take two straight days of golf instruction. Being affiliated with the PGA of America, I attended my school at the PGA Center for Golf Learning and Performance at PGA Village in Port St. Lucie, Florida. Here is a list of what I learned and what you can expect.
1. Most important, it had a quick impact. Maybe not immediately in scoring – that takes time and short game practice, but my swing feels natural and it makes sense. The first thing I did with PGA Professional Mike Peterson was swing and then look at it on a big screen. I never really believed seeing your swing on video would help, but I was pretty wrong. For me, to see myself side-by-side with a PGA Tour pro, I was able to see how much my body moved. How vertical my backswing was. How I “blocked” my follow through. Even if you can’t get to an immersive golf school, look at your swing on video.
2. It’s somewhat customized. They’ll gage your level and for me, did a good job sending me home with the instruction that would best impact my game. I was fortunate to be paired with another student who had similar game, as well, though.
3. I tend to want to see improvement quickly, which is why I favored 2-day immersive golf school over weekly lessons for three months. Both have their pros and cons, but I liked the quick improvement I saw.
4. Don’t keep your eye on the ball. This was the No. 1 counterintuitive advice. My grandfather taught me a swing a good 20 years ago and I was a baseball player. Keeping your eye on the ball through the swing was the standard advice. But for my golf swing, it wasn’t allowing me to release.
5. Warm-up. On the range, the drill of using a wedge to hit at quarter, half and three-quarter swings helps me now focus on my swing and gain confidence on the range hitting the ball cleanly.
6. Tempo. Another thing I learned that I now use: I count "1-2" on my swing in my head. One for backswing, two back through the ball.
7. Confidence and routine. For me, I knew enough about golf to get me in trouble, so before the instruction, I might change my grip, chipping approach, putting stances on any given whim. The instruction gave me good marching orders and confidence to stick with a plan.
8. On the same note, while two days seems like a lot, you still have only about 30 minutes to go over the less frequent shots, ie. sand, chipping, etc. Sand tip – throw the sand out of the bunker and you’ll be alright.
9. Playing the course. For my class, you have three opportunities to play the courses on site at PGA Golf Club. I played the evening I got in, which helped me understand why I was there. (I shot 107). The next two days, you have the opportunity to play 9 holes with the PGA Professional and then 9 on your own. On the second day, my classmate and I decided to forgo the course figuring we could play anywhere, and took more advantage of the resources at the learning center. For example, you can ask to be fit for clubs or have more analysis of your swing.
10. It’s fun. You have access to these resources and beautiful courses and you’re in Florida.
Below is my "after" swing.
About the PGA Center for Golf Learning and Performance:
- It is a 35-acre, state-of-the-art golf park that offers practice areas for every type of golf shot.
- Listed among the Top 10 in the world and has been ranked among the “Top 100 Golf Ranges” by Golf Range Magazine each year since inception in 2000.
- Opportunity to learn the game under the guidance of PGA Professionals.
- Home to PGA of America Golf Schools
- The facility features the Full-Swing Golf Simulator, TrackMan Shot Performance game analysis programs and Pro Mental Coach Neuroactive CD
- Offers golf fitness and training
- Maintains a PGA Club Performance facility for onsite club repair and fitting.
Mike Benzie is Managing Editor of PGA.com and a lapsed golfer working regularly on improving his game and enjoyment of the game.