"How The Top Teachers Built Their Careers" by Golf Business Network

February 6, 2011

The following article is the kind of insight members can expect through their association with Golf Business Network (GBN). GBN asked its members listed among Golf Digest’s Top 50 Greatest Teachers in America: “As one of the most accomplished instructors in the game, what steps did you take as a young teacher that really got you moving on the path to becoming a top teacher?"

“Learn to teach the whole game with competence. A mistake I made early on was to spend 90% of my time teaching 30% of the game, which was ball striking. My goals have shifted so that I now try to spend one-third of the available time developing students’ putting skills, one-third on short game skills and one-third on ball striking. After that you have to get students on the course to transfer the skills they learned on the practice area. I also believe teachers should be competent in club fitting. I don't understand how you could teach someone to play to their potential if their equipment doesn't fit. The first goal when selling equipment shouldn't be the profit of the sale, it should be to help a player improve. If all professionals sold equipment to help players improve, the industry would be much healthier.”  
- Todd Sones, Coutour Golf and Impact Golf, Vernon Hills, IL

“Some of the things that I spent a lot of time on when I was starting out included:
  • Visiting all of the top teachers in the country.
  • Learning as much as I could from academics including kinesiology, anatomy and biomechanics.
  • Filming as many different golf swings as I could to discover the uniqueness in each swing.
  • Improving my communication skills by attending a Dale Carnegie program.”                            -Dr. Jim Suttle, Cog Hill Golf & CC, Lemont, IL
“Early in my career I bought books and read, and read and read. Today, if I were starting out I would turn on my computer and view every golf teaching site I could find. Knowledge can be turned into two kinds of gold. The golden moments when you have helped someone and the other gold is the monetary reward, the payment that is traded for your knowledge. Recognize that there are many approaches to teaching that work. People who are method teachers will always find some success because anything works for somebody. But nothing works for everybody, so they will also have their failures. So learn as many methods as you can and then fit the best that you have to the person in front of you and your success rate will be high.” 
- Dr. Gary Wiren, Trump International G.C., West Palm Beach, FL

“For me, the process of watching various teachers in action as well as reading a variety of golf books made all the difference in my development. Also, I think that experience plays a huge role in development as a teacher and coach. I find that a trained eye, good video skills, etc. are only effective if the instructor is able to pass along the information to the betterment of the student.”
- Eric Alpenfels, Pinehurst Resort, Pinehurst, NC

“I was trying to get better with my game and I would try to take lessons from the guys whose swings looked good and could hit the ball well. I would play in mini-tour events and ask the better players questions and that lead me to learn more about the golf swing. As I stopped competing and started working in the golf business, I would travel to take a lesson from the top teachers. Watching lessons is fine, but I believe you get more out of learning by experiencing a lesson. I would pick up things I knew would help me teach better every time I took a lesson including how to communicate better, latest video techniques, etc.”
- Don Hurter, Castle Pines G.C., Castle Rock, CO

“Davis Love Jr. told me to never forget what it's like to be a student. We take for granted how easy it is for us and don't appreciate how difficult it can be for the student. Take a lesson doing something you have never done before. See what it's like to have a professional watching you while you struggle to develop a skill. You will have a new perspective on being a student and your new found empathy will make you a better teacher.”
- Todd Anderson, Sea Island Learning Center, St. Simons Island, GA

“Observe the best teachers in your area teach. Take a note pad and write what you would do with each student and see where you differ from the instructor. If you have the opportunity, ask the instructor why he went in the direction he did. Begin to train your eyes to first observe the set up, the setup writes the script of how the club will be swung. Anticipate what each set-up problem will cause in the swing. As you become more proficient , you will begin to fix the cause, not the effect.”
- Mike Adams, Hamilton Farm GC, Gladstone, NJ

“Two things that I did early on were to work on my swing and become the best player I could. To accomplish this I took lessons from some of the best including David Leadbetter, Ben Doyle, Mike Adams and Mac O'Grady which laid the foundation for learning about the mechanics of the swing as a teacher myself.”
- Mike Bender, Mike Bender G.A., Lake Mary, FL