If you read these pages, often you have discovered that we love golf coaches. There is nothing which will improve your game faster and more efficiently than an expert who focuses on your strengths and overcoming your weaknesses. But we are often contacted by people who have had bad experiences. They have spent good money but found that they did not get the quality of advice they expected. Or they have been seeing a coach for a long time and feel stuck. They are not improving and wonder if they are wasting their time and money.
Therefore, it seems a good idea to give our take on what makes a good golf coach so you can make a more informed choice. So here is our point by point guide to choosing the right coach for you.
Are they flexible enough?
All of us differ in our style of play and what is best and weakest about our game. The best golf coaches understand this and will want to know more about you and what you need before they take you on.
Unfortunately, there are some coaches out there who have a bit of an obsession with one style of play or a very rigid mindset. They are not usually the best choice for the average golfer.
Do they ask questions?
One way of finding out if your proposed coach is going to pay attention to your sort of game is if they ask you a lot of penetrating questions. It is the way they can find out what you need. They should be asking you: what do you want to achieve by playing golf, why are you playing, and where do you see your golf game in a year. If they are not asking these questions, keep on looking.
Do they ask to see you play?
An experienced coach can tell a lot about your game just by watching you swing a few times. Unless they do this, they will not know where to focus their advice and expertise.
A good coach will be flexible and open-minded, though. If they have the ideal of one swing, a perfect swing rather than looking at what you do and building on it, they may not be that good.
Do they help you to set your aspirations?
Before you select a golf coach, you need to do some work. The more effort you make, you will get more out of the process and the better choice you will make.
Ask yourself the following questions:
What exactly do you want, and is it realistic?
You want to improve your game for sure. And perhaps you want to iron out some weaknesses. That is great, but think about what you will need to do to achieve this. Then ask if you have the time if you are prepared to put in the work? If you are only going to practice for an hour a week, you can still improve, but you have to be realistic about the pace the improvement.
What if you do not know what is wrong?
Especially if you are new, you may know you are doing things wrong, but you don’t know what it is or how and why you are doing it. A good coach will be able to identify what the problem is and give at least a good steer on why it is happening. Expect some enlightenment after one session of coaching. If you are not getting it, then look for another coach.
Is your prospective coach a good psychologist?
Often, you go to a golf coach when you are stuck: if you are getting the yips, or finding that your drive is not going as far as it did. These are the times you might decide to invest in some coaching sessions.
Your style will matter here. You want someone who is sensitive to how you play and operate. It is often a subjective thing. You will know if you get on with someone. Choose a coach who you feel is on the same wavelength as you. You can also ask what techniques they use.
For some of us, an on-course session where a golf coach will challenge our beliefs and identify what is holding us back can be just what is needed.
Value the coach who keeps it simple
It is not the coach’s job to impress you with fancy terms or convince you about how brilliant he is. His task is to improve your game, and that is usually best done by keeping things simple and above all, understandable. In your initial conversation, if you don’t understand what on earth your prospective coach is talking about, then look for another.
You should remember and be able to repeat what you have learned in a coaching session.
It follows on from simplicity. If you want to replicate what you have learned, you need to understand it thoroughly. One useful guide to this is if a coach breaks down what he is teaching you into simple two or three step processes.
Is there homework and between lesson back up?
The best coaches will give you videos, or whiteboard step by steps, or PowerPoints so you can keep improving. If your prospective coach offers this sort of thing, it is a big plus.
Do they have a broad knowledge of the golfing world?
Golf is about much more than just swinging an iron. A professional golf coach will be bang up to date on the latest golf equipment and be able to advise. They should have an in-depth knowledge of anatomy, psychology, and biomechanics as these disciplines affect golf. For example, an excellent golf coach should be able to help you develop your swing so you will hit the ball more accurately and further. And to help you do it safely, so you do not sustain any injuries. To do this requires knowledge of all of the above, plus the physics of the golf club and ball.
Do they keep up to date?
The world of golf changes very quickly. The rules, as implemented through the USGA and the R&A update frequently. Golf clubs and balls develop all the time. Technology has recently given us swing analyzers and GPS systems. A good coach should know all about these things so they can give you informed advice on how they can benefit you.
Do they refer many golfers to other coaches?
There is no perfect coach for every golfer. A good coach will have the confidence to know which players he can help most and which are better with someone else. A coach who refers some players to other coaches is a good coach. Another point here is that a coach who does this is successful. He can afford to let the fees of one player go if he knows that player would be better with another coach.
Do they have good golfing networks?
A good coach should know where to go for any problem you bring to them. It means they should have decent networks, at least in the local area. Also, it shows an enthusiasm for the game and all its aspects. Do not be afraid to ask about this. It can tell you a lot.
How long have they been playing?
Expertise only comes with practice. Make sure you choose someone who has been around long enough to have accrued this expertise. On the other hand, younger, less experienced coaches can bring a fresh approach and may be more up to date with the latest developments. So, don’t limit yourself to only going to those who have been around for decades.
Do they play regularly?
Some excellent golf coaches do not play so much anyone; sometimes, this is because of injury. So, keep this in mind. But this said most good coaches do play. It is vital for many reasons. Importantly, if they play, they are maintaining that golf brain and muscle memory. Also, it shows an enthusiasm for the game. And an enthusiastic coach will give you more.
Are they a good teacher?
In all areas of life, some people are very good at something, but they are useless at teaching it. A golf coach needs to be an excellent golfer, but they need more. They also need to be able to explain how they do it and build your confidence. In short, they need to be a good teacher as well.
Are they patient?
It follows on from the last point. A good teacher is patient and encourages. Golf is a challenging game, and you are going to make some foolish mistakes. You want gentle encouragement, not a big sigh and shake of the head.
Can you laugh with them?
Humor is an essential part of teaching and learning. If you laugh at your mistakes, you are more likely to learn how to correct them. And you want to have fun! You want to be able to look forward to your coaching sessions and laughing along the way is part of that.
Do they appreciate why you are playing?
Perhaps you want to turn up on the occasional Sunday and get around the course without making a fool of yourself. Maybe you want to win the regional tournament. You may even be thinking of turning pro soon. These are very different aspirations and therefore, have different coaching needs.
A good coach will adapt their coaching style to these different needs. If you are a casual golfer, the coach should not be too hard. If you are an aspirant pro, then you will need a lot more challenge. Make sure your coach understands what you need and want.
Are they organized?
It sounds a little thing, but it is not. It matters in the golf world. We have to remember what the attractions of becoming a golf coach are. One is the freedom to work when you want and often for yourself. Unfortunately, this can go alongside a laid back and disorganized personality. You do not want this. So, keep an eye out for the signs that your coach is well-organized. Does the coach keep an orderly work environment out on the driving range and the practice areas? Is their diary well kept? Do they answer inquiries promptly? If they do, it is a big plus point.
Are they punctual?
It follows on from being organized. You do not have time to waste, so you need a coach who turns up on time. It is also essential for your mental attitude to the game. There is no enthusiasm-killer like hanging around on the course waiting for a coach who claims he is held up in traffic.
Is their style of gathering information the same as yours?
Perhaps you love watching golf videos. Or you might like spending hours on a golf simulator. Whatever your preferred means of learning, try to find a golf coach who shares them. There is no point you chatting enthusiastically about the latest PGA video of golf bloopers if your coach never turns on a TV.
Do they like people like you?
It is about your playing style and your aspirations. Choose someone who understands golfers like you and who enjoys working with them.
Are they creative?
As we say so often around here, golf is hard! Not only does it involve impossible shots. But it means you need to learn how to get out of awful situations (you know that worst-ever sand bunker on the seventeenth hole). It says you have to go through bad times when it feels like you are missing every shot. To help you through all these things and out of the other side takes creativity.
By creativity, I mean finding new ways to think about problems and sort them out. You can learn this as your golfing game develops. And a coach who has this mindset is like gold dust for you. How do you find such a coach? Ask them. Think of that horrible problem you have at that sand bunker. What would they do? If you get an answer which engages you, that shows they understand the problem. You have a good coach.
Learning is a process of agreement, disagreement, tension, and resolution. A coach you always agree with is not going to stretch you. If your coach does not confront you, you will not develop. The sweet spot is enough agreement so you feel comfortable and enough challenge so you learn. It is a very personal balance, and it is vital that you get it right. I would suggest that you talk to like-minded friends and ask who coaches them. That is an excellent first step to finding the right person for you.
Do they set goals which are right for you/?
Achieving goals is crucial if you want to measure your progress and keep up your motivation. The goals need to be realistic but challenging. Too hard and you will become demoralized. Too easy and you will get bored and not improve fast enough. Discuss with a coach how they set goals, and then you can tell if it fits with what you need.
Do they have a talent for motivating those they coach?
It is a great talent, and people tend to have it naturally, or they do not. It is hard to learn. Most good coaches do have it. They would not survive in the business without it.
An excellent way to discover if they do is to ask your golfing buddies. Find out if they feel more like playing, and more likely to win after a session with a particular coach. Also, go with your instincts when you initially speak to your prospective coach. You should feel energized and enthused after just an initial phone call. If you do feel this, book a session with this coach. Keep on searching if you don’t.
What makes a good golf coach conclusion
If you have read to the end of this article, you may feel we are suggesting you take a long time and a lot of trouble to get a coach. Perhaps it might seem like that, but it will be worth it.
A good coach that is an expert, who is on your wavelength can transform your game. They can also make you a happier golfer who enjoys your game even more. Put in a bit of time and effort to find the right person for you now, and it will pay off for years ahead.