Golf lessons are arguably the most efficient way to improve as a golfer. The main vehicle to scoring in this game is your golf swing, and there isn't a golfer on the planet who does not need help. This website was actually founded so that you can get advice on every other part of the game, which I believe to be equally important. However, for this article I wanted to discuss when it makes sense to take a golf lesson.
I have been playing this game for more than 20 years. I have taken roughly 40-50 lessons over that time period from 4-5 different instructors. Each one of those experiences benefited me, and gave me new ideas on the proper work I needed to do in my practice sessions and on the course.
I know not every single one of you reading this article may be able to take golf lessons, but I genuinely believe they are a good idea for anyone who wants to improve. There are certainly no guarantees of success, but like anything else in golf you want to give yourself the best chance.
When Should You Take Golf Lessons?
Don't be too proud to take lessons. I'm not.
The short answer is that it is probably always a good idea to take a lesson once in a while. However, I know many of you reading this don't have the time or budget to work with a teacher.
Recently I posted this poll on Twitter, and it got a pretty nice response. I was actually a little surprised that so many people said they were taking lessons.
Are you currently taking lessons from a teaching professional?
— Jon Sherman (@practicalgolf) June 3, 2017
Personally I believe the prime candidate for golf lessons is a player who has completely lost direction with their swing. On any given day they don't know which direction the ball will be going. They seem to be on an endless search for the answer, and are constantly demoralized with their golf game.
You might laugh because I possibly just described a large part of the golfing public. The hard truth is that if you fall into that category, and are on a downward spiral in your game, it probably makes sense to see someone who can help. If you continue without any real focus or plan, it might permanently damage your enjoyment of the game and make you want to quit.
Even if you took 3-4 lessons with a good teacher, they can give you some ideas on a more efficient way to spend your practice time on the range so that you can actually put productive work in on your swing. Golf can be a lonely game and it is nice to get a helping hand from time to time.
If your golf game is sick, see a doctor.
Feel is Not Real
One of the key phrases I hear over and over again in the teaching community is that "feel is not real." This speaks to the idea that what you think you are doing in your actual swing is not happening. I have experienced this firsthand on numerous occasions during golf lessons. For example, my swing plane used to be extremely vertical. I had no clue until an instructor showed me on video what was actually going on. This was limiting my ability to get in a functional position at impact, and it took the trained eye of a professional to find that out.
It took a lot of exaggerated movements to correct the issue, and it was work that was well worth it.
The point I want to make is that the golf swing can play tricks on you. Players generally don't have a great idea of what their mechanics are, and what are the best ways to fix them. It's not to say that you can't improve your swing by yourself, but I believe it makes sense to work with a teacher at some point if your goal is to truly improve. Think of it as an audit or a tuneup of your golf swing.
But What if I Get Worse?
One comment I've heard over the years is that people have been "ruined" by a golf lesson. This is a touchy situation, and there are certainly instances when a golfer goes to a lesson and the teacher will fill their head up with 10 different swing thoughts. They get on the course and become stifled by the conflicting ideas in their head and play terribly.
I certainly don't advocate that kind of instruction, but ultimately I believe the burden always falls on the player. If you don't feel that a teacher's communication style suits you, then it is best to find someone else rather than continue down a path you don't feel comfortable with.
That being said, I still believe that on the whole golfers will see improvements if they work a swing instructor. With any profession there are going to be good, better, and best - but that doesn't mean they can't help.
So if you are worried that a teacher is going to make your golf game worse, I don't think that is a legitimate excuse to avoid working with one. You just need to be up front about your goals. Additionally, make sure the relationship is a good fit for you.
The Most Important Part
If you are going to invest your time and money into golf lessons, you need to adjust your expectations. You don't show up for 30-60 minutes and magically get better. Typically there is going to be an evaluation process where the instructor needs to diagnose the core issues you are facing. Then they need to form a plan for how to fix them.
You need to follow the plan. It could take weeks or months to see it through.
It takes work to make changes on your swing. If you are doing the right kind of work diagnosed by a teacher, then your chances of improving will increase. You need to realize that the lesson is the first step. Let's say your golf pro gives you a few drills to perform over the next several weeks before your next lesson at the range - you actually need to spend time on them. If you show up unprepared for the next lesson, then that is on you.
Think of when you were a child taking lessons to learn an instrument perhaps. Were you ever going to play that song properly if you didn't work on it in between sessions with your teacher?
Unfortunately we live in a quick-fix culture. In golf I don't believe there is such a thing as it relates to your swing. Many players will come to a lesson looking for a way to fix their slice, and expect the answer and solution neatly packaged for them. It doesn't work that way. Making meaningful changes to your golf swing will take time and effort. You are going to be changing motor patterns. That doesn't occur overnight simply by theoretically understanding what you are doing wrong.
In other words, be prepared to put some work in if you are going to invest in golf lessons. If you don't believe you can make that commitment then it is a good idea to wait for a time that you can.
Do Not Listen to that Guy on the Range
I am always joking on Twitter about the things I have overheard at the driving range over the years. There is no shortage of golfers who are willing to look at your swing and offer what they believe is the fix.
DO NOT LISTEN TO THESE PEOPLE.
I don't care if it's your best friend or the stranger in the stall next to you. They are likely going to make you worse.
It takes a lot of experience and training to properly diagnose a golf swing. When that guy tells you what the fix is for your slice, I would be willing to bet a large sum of money that he is wrong. His answer might actually make your swing even worse.
To me this is one of the biggest problems amongst recreational golfers. They are taking swing tips from sources that are not qualified to give them. Don't let your desperation for a better swing lead you down that path! If you want qualified advice, work with someone who actually knows what they are doing.
Speak Up When It's Appropriate
The last thing I will leave you with is a bit of advice as it relates to communication. There is a balance that exists in any coaching relationship between the student and the teacher. Many times golfers will show up to their first lesson with a list of things they think they are doing wrong. Some of them could be valid, others could be completely off base. Either way, I believe it's best to mostly keep those thoughts to yourself in the beginning. Let the teacher do their job and evaluate what they see.
One area where I believe it is important to speak up is if you don't understand a concept. Every golfer learns differently, and many teachers can pick up on that and adjust their style. However, they are not mind readers, and if something is not coming across clearly just let them know.
Additionally, if you feel like you need help in other areas of the game just ask for it. There are plenty of other topics outside of the swing that golf lessons can help you with. Many instructors are willing to go out on the course and work with players on their strategy, mental game, and make sure they get the full picture on how a player operates during a round.