Teaching, Coaching, & Player Development Committee Best Practice
by: Rick Murphy, PGA

Since becoming a PGA Member in 1981, teaching and coaching has been an integral part of my career. In today’s everchanging industry, our employers are expecting us to have many skillsets. Two of the most important skillsets that potentially set you apart from others is playing a credible game of golf and to be able to connect and build relationships with your members and clients through teaching and coaching.

I want to share one thing I have learned from my thousands of students over 35 years of teaching. Students have the key that will open your eyes on where you can start helping them immediately.

“Every student I have worked with for the first time has made swings and hit shots exactly the way they thought they should and they have done it perfectly almost every time…the problem is, what they think may not be effective!”

Initially, I spend several minutes asking my students questions about what they think about their swing, why they believe they have the ball flight they currently do and what changes do they think they need to make to change their ball flight in a way that will help them become a more consistent and better ball striker.

What I hear is astounding!

So, for you to help the student immediately, it can be as simple as asking one of these basic questions to help you understand what they think:

1. How does the ball get off the ground and into the air?

2. Do you try to swing the club to the target and keep the clubface square to the target after impact?

3. Should your address position and impact position be the same?

4. When the sole of the club is sitting flat on the ground, will the shaft be straight up and down, slightly laid back or leaning forward?

5. What part of the club contacts the ground first on a standard swing? The leading edge, sole or backside of sole?

6. When does the club strike the ground? Just prior to impact, ball and turf at the same time or ball then turf.

7. How do you take a divot and why does the club bottom out where it does?

While these are simple questions for us as teachers, don’t assume the student knows the answer. The response I get always surprises me and gives me a quick and fast way to help them understand what it is they are trying to do. Once they understand, they can either do it immediately, which is the case most of the time, or at the very least they now have a clear picture of what they need to do and can work on it successfully.

Having insight into what the student believes he or she is trying to do gives you as their teacher and coach the opportunity to take a direction that can truly help the student make the necessary adjustments needed. Try this with your next student and I guarantee you will not only be amazed at what you hear but how quickly you can help your student make significant improvement. You will build a long-lasting relationship with your student if you just listen.

Rick Murphy, PGA Certified Instructor