Be A Better Student

John Stahlschmidt
PGA Director of Instruction
JW Marriott Camelback Golf Club
Scottsdale, AZ

More Information

When growing up competing in junior and college golf, I was always trying to improve. I wanted to be the best golfer possible and took lessons on a consistent basis. I have had many golf lessons over the years from a variety of different instructors. At times, I would leave the lesson tee feeling the hour was a complete waste of my time and money. Other times, I left feeling very good and was oozing with confidence.

Now as a teacher, I learn as much from my clients as hopefully they do from me. The knowledge gained listening to them has made me a better teacher.  I will never claim to know it all. Someone once said, golf is a lifetime pursuit of problem solving. The learning process should never end. My goal in writing this month’s column is to share with you lessons I have learned over the years, as a student and a teacher, in order to make your golf lessons more meaningful and productive.

Lesson #1 – Video
I am always asked about training aids and which ones I feel are the most effective. Without hesitation I mention video. The reality is that in almost every case what we feel like we are doing versus what is actually happening is different. It is important for you, the student, to see what you are doing.  After filming swings, the first comment is always, “I need to lose 10 pounds.” By the way, don’t forget that is the camera’s fault. The next is, “ I can’t believe I am doing that because it doesn’t feel that way.” I can’t imagine teaching without video, it acts as validation for me. My students would leave the lesson tee feeling I was insane for attempting to get them in these positions unless validating it through video. It will look good even though it feels awkward.

I also feel it is important to receive a copy of your swing. At the TOUR Academy, we email every student a copy of their swing. It is nice to see progression from one lesson to the next.

Lesson #2 – Avoid working on too much at one time
If I have heard the comment, “I am thinking too much” once, I have heard it a thousand times. The reality is you have to think to change. Having said this, it is important not to work on too much in one setting. We live in an era where almost everything is within our grasp instantaneously. This serves as a disservice in golf. A good golf game is earned, not acquired overnight. It is important to improve your technique, following a logical order, little pieces at a time. For example, I would never give a client six things to think about and expect them to master them all before the next lesson. I do expect my clients to be able to improve if I give them a few items. Remember…Keep it Simple!!!

Lesson #3 – Do not give up even if you don’t see instant results.
Let’s face it – change in golf is difficult. We have all been there. We attempt to change, hit a few bad shots and then quickly abandon the lesson. The reality is the swing change will make you a better golfer in a few weeks but since we are not seeing perfect results right away – we abandon the lesson.  Sound familiar? Part of my job is to coach. I feel it is necessary to communicate this point to my clients so they don’t give up on a swing change. The number one thing all golfers want is a more consistent game.  This can only be achieved through improved technique, so remember don’t give up on a swing change no matter how painful it feels in the short run.

Lesson # 4 – Leave the lesson with a summary of notes and Yes…Practice!!!
It is important for you, the student, to leave the lesson with a summary of points to remember. After a brief discussion of the lesson, I write down what my clients need to work on between sessions. I can always tell the clients who practice between lessons. You don’t have to practice everyday – who has time for that anyway, but attempt to get out a few times a week.

As I stated earlier, change in golf is difficult. I am confident if you follow some of the ideas mentioned above you will become a better student and play better golf.

John Stahlschmidt is the Head Instructor for the TOUR Academy at TPC Scottsdale. To reach John, email or call 480.585.7785.