One of the most difficult tasks for people looking to improve their golf games is getting insights on who to reach out to regarding possible lessons. The extended Q&A comes from several of the most talented young teachers in golf in America. The perspectives they share goes into a range of different topics and provides a roadmap for those looking to develop a relationship with a teacher who can both challenge them to improve and spur them on when the sledding gets harder.
WHO THEY ARE —
PGA Head Golf Professional
Arcis Golf / Los Robles Greens
Thousand Oaks, Calif.
Age: 32 / Hourly Lesson Rate: $50
With more than 10 years of experience across the full spectrum of golf course operations this is Sean’s second tour of duty at Los Robles, leaving in 2014 for four years to join GolfTEC and teach full-time as a Certified Coach and Director of Club fitting. After giving more than 5,000 lessons, he brought his passion for teaching and his friendly personality back to Los Robles. He also produced a golf podcast called the “3 Off The Tee” that’s available on iTunes.
Director of Instruction
Arcis Golf / Cowboys Golf Club
Age: 35 / Hourly lesson rate: $150 for adults, $50 for juniors
A native of Snyder, Texas, Britt competed at Midland College for two years and then went on to earn a marketing degree from Texas Tech University, graduating in 2006. He was hired by Cowboys Golf Club as an assistant golf professional in 2008. The past 10 years he has focused on building an instruction and coaching program, with an emphasis on the year-round GolfFIT Performance Academy for ages 6-18.
Director of Instruction
Rolling Hills CC
Rolling Hills Estates, CA
Age: 33 / Hourly lesson rate: $200
Owner of the Southern California Golf Academy
Golf Digest “Best Young Teachers in America” 2016-2019 – and the only Trackman Master Instructor in California. Bonebrake’s mentor from the start is Jim McLean – listed among the top five teachers in the sport by Golf Digest.
PGA Director of Player Development
Arcis Golf/Weston Hills Country Club
Age: 39 / Hourly Lesson Rates: $125 for adults, $80 for juniors
A multi-sport athlete growing up near Pittsburgh, Nick has played golf professionally and worked in the golf industry in South Florida for more than 15 years. He has learned from some of the greatest teachers of all time, combining that experience with the latest advancements in technology to bring the best of both worlds to his golf instruction. A PGA Class A Professional, Nick also dedicates time to The First Tee locally.
Director of Instruction
Cuscowilla Golf Club
Age: 36 / Hourly Lesson Rates:$250
John Tillery is a Class A PGA Professional and is listed among the top 50 teachers in America by Golf Digest. He has also been listed by the
magazine as among the best young teachers in America. Tillery also coaches five (5) PGA Tour players.
PGA Director of Performance Center & Instruction
Desert Mountain Club
Age: 27 / Hourly Lesson Rate: $150
Recently named to the prestigious list of “Best Young Teachers in America” for 2018-19 by Golf Digest — one of the two youngest on the list of teachers not yet age 40. O’Connor began his career at the Butch Harmon School of Golf, where he was mentored personally by Butch Harmon, and his staff professionals. Paxton’s passion to learn has taken him all over the country, meeting with the brightest minds in the teaching and coaching professions, and observing them in action. He oversees Desert Mountain’s state-of-the-art Jim Flick Golf Performance Center.
You wake up in the morning — what’s the driving passion?
CUPPER: I start every day with the idea that everything I do has a direct reflection on my club, my family and my reputation as a PGA Professional. Arcis Golf strives to be best-in-class in everything we do, so I strive to hold myself to a higher standard, to exceed all expectations of me.
TILLERY: First, coffee. I’ve been a golf and a swing junky for as long as I can remember. I see how broken my ideas and processes were when I played, so it gives me a lot of satisfaction to help people that love it as much as I did.
BONEBRAKE: The enlightenment I see in people after a lesson when prior they have been lost, confused, and unaware is worth it all. The gratitude for solving an almost “hopeless” issue is so satisfying it’s almost addicting.
PAUL: My driving passion is the opportunity to help people play golf and have fun on the golf course. Students who send you texts that say, “played my best round ever,” or “made the high school team” – those are the things that keeps you going as a golf teacher.
SHARROCK: For me, it’s growing the game of golf and sharing my passion for golf, to make golf fun and exciting. I want to add to their lives, from playing golf to being fit and healthy. I have a commitment to myself and to the students to be the best that I can be for them.
O’CONNOR: Live curiously, love, and risk wisely.
A student is contemplating going to a teacher — what’s the key checklist you recommend they follow before choosing one?
TILLERY: Credibility, availability for what you need, and proximity. Are they good — are they available — does it make sense — do you like them — and do they like you.
SHARROCK: In this social media age, I would recommend that the student research the teacher’s social media to get an insight into that teacher’s program and to see what technology the teacher utilizes. Looking at a teacher’s website can be a direct reflection of the teacher. If it looks dates and neglected, move on to the next site. If it is updated and offers lots of information, that tells you a lot.
PAUL: Going to a teacher is a step in the right direction, because the student has realized that in order to reach their golf goals, they are going to need some help. The No. 1 thing a student should look for is a coach who shares the same passion for helping them reach their goals and can communicate well.
BONEBRAKE: In this social media age, I recommend the student research the teacher’s social media to get an insight into that teacher’s program and to see what technology the teacher utilizes. Looking at a teacher’s website can be a direct reflection of the teacher. If it looks dateD and neglected, move on to the next site. If it is updated and offers lots of information, that tells you a lot.
CUPPER: Have a clear picture out of what you want, or need from lessons. Research the teacher’s teaching method; a coach’s teaching philosophy is almost as important as compatibility. Speak to multiple students who have taken lessons from that instructor, for insight on what to expect out of the classes. Set up a meeting with the professional. Let’s face it, you’re not going to be enjoying your lessons if you don’t get along with your coach. Check accreditation and experience to make sure they meet your expectations.
O’CONNOR: There are many outstanding teaching professionals in our industry. One question I would ask yourself; Does the teaching professional demonstrate a willingness to learn from others? This information will be present in how they communicate their philosophy, education, and feedback by other students. I would prioritize someone who is interested in cultivating an environment for one to discover their “own swing” and skill sets.
You meet a student for the first time — what areas do you cover immediately before things get started?
PAUL: The most important thing to do as a teacher is to understand the goals of the student, to be on the same page, as far as expectations. The next step is to assess where the student’s game is, at the moment. This allows you to bridge the gap and show the student the game plan from where they are now, to where they want to be.
CUPPER: I always like to get to know students, to best understand their goals and what their limitations might be.
SHARROCK: At the beginning, I ask them many questions about their game, how long they have played and their experience, both playing and with instruction. I ask them about previous instructors, to know what they have worked on already. This gives me the insight into how they interpret the golf swing and what direction to go. The golf swing can be counterintuitive, so it’s important I understand how they perceive their mistakes – the “cause and effect” of their golf swing.
TILLERY: Why they’re here. What are their goals. How much time can they devote to training each week.
BONEBRAKE: Do they teach full time? Who taught the teacher? Do they utilize today’s technology to enhance their teaching?
O’CONNOR: Discover their belief systems, physical limitations, and narrative they have written for their golf game.
The biggest misconception students have when getting lessons is what?
CUPPER: One of the biggest misconceptions about taking golf lessons is the idea that “You must get worse before you get better.”
TILLERY: That big changes come easy and what “practice” really means.
SHARROCK: As golfers and as people, we are “results driven,” although we don’t always choose the best path to get that result. I ask my students all the time, “What are you working on,” and they mostly say, “I’m just trying to hit it straight.” I say, “That’s a given.” The golf swing is a “means to and end” process. I strive to get students to focus on “Why do I hit it poorly, how am I going to fix it, then execute.”
BONEBRAKE: What kind of scores are you posting and where are the majority of your strokes coming from? How often do you practice and play? What are your long term goals? That they own the change after only a few successful swings.
PAUL: The biggest misconception is that every coach is going to turn your whole world upside down and rebuild your golf swing from the ground up. That is a complete myth. You do not have to get worse before you get better.
O’CONNOR: Consistency. The game of golf requires the application of movement, mental, and emotional skills to boost one’s performance and allow for higher and higher levels of achievement.