Teaching, Coaching, & Player Development Committee Best Practice
by: Ed Ibarguen, PGA

Professional Golf Association’s throughout the world are collegial groups founded upon the mission to promote the enjoyment and growth of the game of golf as well as to elevate the standards of the professional golfer’s vocation. These associations are comprised of members who typically are excellent players and teachers. These ‘experts’ of the game have a stated purpose of ‘sharing Golf’ with their respective members, guests, and clients in a common effort to protect and grow the game of golf.  Further, PGA members are collectively pledged to share their experience and skill set in order to ensure the future success of those who follow in the association. Over the past 100 years, the PGA mentoring system has developed leaders in the industry, grown the game and provided an avenue through which the traditions of the game have been passed from generation to generation; the PGA mentoring ‘system’ has also developed hundreds of excellent teacher/coaches.  PGA mentoring, especially in the field of teaching and coaching golf, is an unspoken yet, understood membership benefit wherein the more experienced generation of professionals will nourish the growth of their association and the game of golf by mentoring the younger, less experienced professionals.  You can witness this in every PGA section throughout the country.  In our own Carolinas Section, there are numerous seminars and teaching summits annually where PGA members can interact in sharing ideas, continue their growth as coaches and improve their teaching skillset beyond their individual places of employment.

If we study the history of the PGA of America, as is the ideal in most professions, the ‘best’ become the leaders and the leaders become the role models for others to follow and even emulate. What has perpetuated the success of the PGA mentoring ‘system’ decade after decade has been the deep-seated personal stake that the leaders have consistently taken in mentoring others to learn better and succeed faster. In Europe, PGA teachers such as the legendary John Jacobs have set the standard for ‘paying it forward’ by devoting hundreds of hours to teaching, coaching, and mentoring fellow professionals. Here in the United States there has been a constant stream of top-rank PGA professionals who have mentored at the Jacobs level of dedicated volunteerism to helping other PGA members.  I was fortunate to have been mentored by some of the best (Dr. Gary Wiren, Davis Love Jr., and Bill Strausbaugh to name a few), and I would wager that every PGA member has a similar story to share. Generationally, PGA professionals have been fully impacted to reflect upon their own personal growth opportunities through mentoring relationships and in turn, continue to ‘pay it forward’ when their opportunity arrives.

That said, a great question to ask yourself at this point in your career:  Do you have a PGA mentor/mentors?  Are you a PGA mentor to other PGA members and Associates?  The answer should be yes and yes.  If not, what are you going to do to change that answer?  I hope to write more about PGA mentoring in the future but for now, I wanted to get that subject on the table of your mind in order that you might reflect on your career and the role mentoring has/is playing within it.



What is the role, now and in the future, for PGA professionals who teach the game of golf.  Are you a ‘Teacher’, a ‘Coach’ or Both?  Although these roles are different, in teaching there seems to be a constant blending of both.  In fact, the most successful teachers I’ve known are excellent in both areas.  On one hand, it’s an expected PGA skill set to be able to help people learn how to play the game.  That training starts at PGA Level I entry into the program and continues far beyond your attaining your Class ‘A’ status.  As Bill Strausbaugh famously stated, “Those who seek to teach should never cease to learn.”  In this day and time, there are many avenues outside PGA education for PGA professionals to pursue advancement in the mechanics of teaching golf.  But, how does one learn become a coach?  There doesn’t seem to be many educational opportunities to nurture improvement/experience on how to become the best golf coach you can be.  Where can a PGA teacher/coach begin?

For the vast majority of participants, the game of golf is recreation. Recreation, by definition, should be fun. Therefore, the initial responsibility of a PGA teacher/coach is to facilitate student enjoyment during the learning process of motor skill learning acquisition. As you make progress through this stage of student learning and skill acquisition, you should find yourself ‘coaching’ your students to successfully transfer those skills to the golf course where they will ultimately enjoy the ‘fruits of their labor’ having fun playing the game.  You may not realize it, but you are already a PGA coach, not just a PGA teacher.  When it comes to your developing a strong clientele, it is likely that your ability to establish strong personal student relationships along with your ability to ‘coach’ your student’s growth in the game as likely the most important aspect of your successful job performance and in the growth of your student population.  What if you want to get even better in the field of coaching?

Sport, in general, shares a long history in the storied and often complex player/teacher and/or player/coach relationship. Elite athletes in all sports have regularly credited their coaches for successfully mentoring them through the extensive training and their ultimate game evolution. Upon winning a championship, these same athletes reflect on the important role their coaches have served in their achievement. The game of golf is no exception.  Dozens of the greatest coaches across all sports should a common theme that certainly applies to golf.  It’s not so much the specific sport they are coaching that is important, rather at the heart of it is the people they are coaching to learn the sport.  To start, there are dozens upon dozens of books written by some of the great coaches.  Check out the writings of John Wooden, Dean Smith, Mike Krzyzewski, Phil Jackson, Pat Riley, Vince Lombardi, etc. etc. etc. Again, I hope to write in the future on how you can develop your ability to be not only a great PGA teacher but, a great PGA coach.  In order to tie this discussion about teaching/coaching/mentoring as to provide some food for your thought, I found an interesting chart that was presented by David Clutterbuck.  Clutterbuck is an highly respected researcher in the study of successful coaching and mentoring.


Here are a few of his observations on the similarities between coaching and mentoring:

Similarities by David Clutterbuck                                     

  • Coach/mentor focus on the quality of the learner’s thinking.
  • Coach/mentor uses their experience to craft questions.
  • Advice-giving is permissible, but not as a first resort and only in specific circumstances. (A common complaint about ineffective coaches is their rigid adherence to never giving advice).
  • Much of the learning occurs in the reflections of the coachee/mentee between or long after sessions.
  • Coach and mentor both have a duty of care towards the coachee/ mentee.

Article written by Ed Ibarguen, October 2019