How to give a golf lesson: It's not about you.

Matthew Cooke
  • Author: Matthew Cooke
  • GLT Director
Facebook Twitter Share Email Print
Golf swing before and after

Let’s define a few things.
Let’s briefly go over the definitions of a few words that appear in this particular topic of discussion. 

The first word is Lesson.

The word lesson is defined as an amount of teaching given at one time; a period of learning or teaching. 

That brings us to our second word: Teaching.

The word teaching is defined as ideas or principles taught by an authority, i.e. the teacher. 

The third word is Teach.

The word teach is defined as to show or explain how to do something. 


Since we've gotten those terms out of the way, let’s get a little more into our main topic for today -  how to give a golf lesson (and why it’s not about you). 

It’s okay to refer students to a specialist.

Specialists in golf? I know it sounds bizarre, but let’s be real for a minute. Golf coaches know the complexity of this game and its infinite ways of leading us and our students to ask tough questions.


"How do I hit this shot, why did that happen, what makes the ball do that when that happens?"


Due to this complexity, golf coaches have found themselves immersed in subjectssuch as the science of learning, biomechanics, physics, anatomy, physiology, psychology and more. This thirst for knowledge and need to answer complex questions has led some coaches to specialize in some of these topics. However, you can’t be an expert in everything (despite how hard some people try,) so sending a student to someone who has more knowledge than you in a particular area is the smartest strategy sometimes. 


In golf, there are so many moving parts that it’s impossible to be an expert in them all. When you’re fueling so much information over and over again to the student, there are bound to be things that are left forgotten or unheard. Hearing someone else say something once may have more emphasis on the student’s success than a coach repeating it 20 times. After all, it’s about the student, not you.


Two heads are better than one.

When I notice my student struggling with their putting, I often send them to my colleague Arick Zeigel, who is very passionate and knowledgeable in that area. I understand the lingo and mechanics of putting, but Arick’s breadth of understanding in that area is greater than mine. So why wouldn’t I have my students see him when it comes to their putting? If I see my students struggling with their mental game or the psychology of the game, I have them spend time with another one of my colleagues, Iain Highfield, who, once again, is very passionate and knowledgeable in this particular area.

We can equate this to when a primary care physician (or GP) would typically refer a patient to a specialist. If a patient has a broken foot, a normal doctor may take some x-rays, do a general assessment and listen to symptoms, but ultimately, the doctor will send he or she to a podiatrist to ensure the best care in that specific area. 

Sending a student to someone who can help break down a topic more than you not only puts the student’s needs first, it also emphasizes the importance of being comfortable and willing to work in a team early on. Bottom line –if guidance in a specific area can be better offered than what you are comfortable, or by someone more knowledgeable, send the student to a specialist. 

Golfer listening

Listen to understand, don’t listen to respond.


First of all, it’s not about you. The lesson is about the student. What is their objective? What are they looking for? What questions are they asking?


Secondly, it’s not about your philosophy… yet. Depending on what the golfer or the parent in front of you is looking for (whoever is the decision maker in booking the golf lesson,) your philosophy can wait. 


There is a compelling reason behind the booking and scheduling of that golf lesson, and it’s your job to do your very best to find out why they’re there and what they want to accomplish. Work on your listening skills and let it play out. A few things can happen, but it’s usually one of the following: 


1. They know exactly what they want you to address

2. They have no idea what they need to do with anything, and they’re completely lost

3. They think they know what to do with something, but are looking for you to validate it


Of course, there are more scenarios that could play out, but these are most common. Figure out the reason behind the lesson first, then the structure of the lesson can take shape. 


Let’s recap.

How to give a golf lesson:


1. Welcome the golfer. They don't care how much you know until they know how much you care about helping.

2. Listen to what they’re looking for, not what you want to give or show.

3. Show and explain, i.e. teach them what they want to know.

Golf video face on and down the line