The Pursuit of Excellence takes Multiple Paths at PGA Teaching & Coaching Summit

By Bob Denney
Published on
The Pursuit of Excellence takes Multiple Paths at PGA Teaching & Coaching Summit

ORLANDO, Fla. – Like the nearly 800 attendees at the 15th PGA Teaching & Coaching Summit, PGA Professional Todd Sones is on a quest to make his students walk away with smiles on their faces.

Though Sones has enhanced his teaching career by writing a pair of books on putting that communicates a perplexing part of the game better than most, his life isn’t spent on the practice green.

“We all need to be better-rounded,” said Sones, the PGA Director of Instruction at Todd Sones Impact Golf Center at White Deer Run Golf Club in Vernon Hills, Illinois. “I tell my students and other professionals to spend a third of their time on all facets of the game.

”We need to leave players with simple feels. Players don’t play well with complex thoughts.”

Sones teamed with Kevin Weeks, the PGA Director of Instruction at Cog Hill Golf and Country in Palos Park, Illinois, for a “Teaching Putting” segment to close Day 1 of the Summit, an event bearing the theme, “The Pursuit of Excellence.”

The PGA’s largest educational forum offered a wide spectrum of teaching “tools.” Martin Hall, the 2008 PGA Teacher of the Year whose telegenic career has been propelled by his popular Golf Channel program, “School of Golf,” served as master of ceremonies for the first time. He is marking his eighth trip to the Summit.

“I used to watch all the tapes of past Summits, and I continue to go back to look at them,” said Hall, the PGA Director of Instruction at the Club at Ibis in West Palm Beach, Florida. “If you want to try to be one of the best, you learn from the best. You watch those past Summits and you realize that the teaching you have seen over 30 years is the best of the class.”

The opening day of the Summit began with former PGA Independent Director Lynn Swann energizing the teaching audience via video with an informal “two-minute drill,” followed by Hall giving a moving tribute to his close friend and legend, Britain’s John Jacobs, who passed away earlier in the month.

Off stage, Hall explained why Jacobs had been such a beacon to him.

“John Jacobs was a brilliant man, very clever, great with people,” said Hall of the World Golf Hall of Famer. “What I got from him was his sense of certainty was the greater than his student’s sense of uncertainty. When you’re perhaps like a surgeon, when you’ve got to do something, you better give off the appearance of certainty. They have to know that you are in charge.”

The Summit schedule continued to stimulate discussion and help “build the teacher’s toolbox.” There was a blend of technology mixed with a guiding plan for developing juniors; short-game specialists; and how to better teach hitting a driver. 

“This is just one day, but we’ve got a collection of what we’re telling the elite player and what we should tell the Mr. or Mrs. 15-handicapper at your local club,” said Hall.

The biennial PGA Teaching & Coaching Summit was born in 1988, the brainchild of PGA Master Professional Mike Hebron of Smithtown Landing, New York.

Hebron gave Mike Jacobs his first lesson in the 1980s. Today, Jacobs is among Golf Digest’s “Best Young Teachers in America.” The PGA Head Professional at Rock Hill Golf and Country Club in Manorville, New York, also is the only golf instructor to have designed his own research software. Jacobs presented “Elements of the Golf Swing” during the morning session.

“I’ve been teaching golf for almost 20 years and I wanted to find as many answers as I could,” said Jacobs, who teamed with an engineer, Dr. Steven Nesbit, to form a company, Jacobs 3D.

“We are good as an industry in having the measurement of what is happening in golf. We have that down. That’s the kinematics - what you see; how fast things are moving, how fast the ball moves and the path it is on. But nobody where knows where it is coming from.

“Everybody wants it to be boiled down to one thing, but it’s not. The swing is a symphony of parts.”