INTERVIEW BY DAVID GOULD
When a highly skilled instructor begins working with a new student, particularly one who hasn’t taken golf lessons in a very long time—or never before—only the coach and the golfer know what transpires during their initial session.
But we’re pulling back the curtain to give readers a clear look at the first-lesson experience. And we’re going straight to the top of the profession to do so, interviewing three Golf Channel Academy (GCA) lead coaches who have won National Teacher of the Year awards from the PGA or LPGA—Mike Bender (2009, PGA), Jane Frost (1994, LPGA) and Lynn Marriott (1992, LPGA; pictured above). Here’s what you should come to expect from a lesson, as told by these three world-class coaches.
GCA: When a golfer first arrives at your lesson tee, what should they expect?
Jane Frost: Someone who is making the effort to work with a teacher should expect to feel at ease and warmly welcomed from the get-go. They should feel that they are respected, listened to and really cared about.
Mike Bender: That’s well said by Jane. The student should expect their teacher to engage with them from the start. In general an instructor will want to know where you’ve been as a golfer and where you feel you want to go. You may have played golf for three years or for 30 years—we will want to know that. If you’ve had an injury or a surgery or there’s a medical issue, obviously the professional should be checking into that. Most important from my perspective is, what would you like to accomplish?
Lynn Marriott: The more experienced teacher will ask you lots of questions. One service the coach can provide is to help you formulate goals. The teacher may see potential in you as a golfer that you didn’t know you had. If you come for a first lesson and you’re feeling inadequate or guilty because you aren’t a big practicer, you should expect the coach to relieve you of that guilt. Even if you can’t manage much range time between lessons, we can help you get better. It’s what we do.
GCA: How should the new student prepare for their lesson so that they get the most value from it?
Mike Bender: The best way to prepare is to reflect on your experiences and your patterns out on the course and be able to describe them. That includes situations that make you nervous, particular shots that psych you out, that sort of thing.
Jane Frost: Bring all your questions, and figure that more will arise after we get started. This is your chance to get expertise on a lot of golf questions you’ve been wondering about. If you can, try to take a long view of yourself as a golfer. The accomplished teacher won’t want to hand you a couple of tips and leave it at that. Personally, I want to form a coach-student relationship that builds over time. One analogy is that we’re going to do a jigsaw puzzle. We may get a few important pieces together pretty quickly, which will give us momentum. But to construct the whole puzzle is a gradual process.
Lynn Marriott: The best way to prepare for a first session at our VISION54 academy is to get into a positive frame of mind and feel as open and coachable as possible. If you can get into your creative mode, that’s ideal. There are techniques and procedures we’ll be putting you through that may surprise you. Part of that is getting you on the golf course as soon as possible. There’s a chance that we’ll find five or six strokes in your typical round that can be eliminated quickly, just by changing how you prepare for a shot and then execute it. So, be open to that.