Golf is a notoriously complicated game, even for advanced players. To the beginner, learning to play golf at a basic level of competency can be a daunting task.
That's why it's wise – though not absolutely necessary – for a novice to invest in a series of lessons from a certified PGA professional. While many if not most good golfers learned the game under a teacher's tutelage, there are plenty who were self-taught or relied on a knowledgeable non-professional for guidance.
First, the advantages of learning from a pro:
If you'd rather go the self-teaching route, make sure that you:
Learning Lessons from a Pro vs. Self Taught Approach
There is a lot to learn when getting started in the game of golf. There is a reason golf has developed a reputation as one of the hardest games in the world – because that is exactly what it is. In order to play the game at a moderate level, you will need to learn a variety of skills, gain confidence, acquire the right equipment, and more. If you are serious about playing golf for many years to come, you would be wise to learn as much as you can right from the start. Building a base of knowledge and skills early in your golf experience will make future endeavors on the course far more enjoyable.
With that in mind, there is an important decision to be made with regard to how you are going to learn the game. Will you take lessons from a local professional, or will you take the self taught approach? To be sure, there are pros and cons to both methods. Plenty of golfers have succeeded with both methods, so there is no right or wrong answer in this case. Instead, it is going to come down to what works best for you. Do you learn best when being directed by someone else, or do you prefer to find your own way? Thinking about your own personality is one of the first things to consider when trying to decide whether or not you are going to seek professional help with your game.
It is important to note that deciding to take lessons from a professional doesn't make you any more 'serious' about improving your game than the player who is self taught. Lessons from a pro are in no way a guarantee of improvement, and some players actually get worse after receiving some formal instruction. That doesn't mean that you should avoid your local pro, but you should be realistic about expectations – paying for a few lessons doesn't guarantee you anything in terms of lower scores. No matter how you learn the game, it is always going to be up to you to do the work and raise the level of your performance.
Of course, you don't have to make a clear cut decision on a point such as this, as you can easily blend the two methods of learning the game together in order to reach your end goal of becoming a better golfer. For instance, you could decide that you are going to learn the short game all on your own but you would like a little help with the mechanics of the swing. Or, you could decide that your iron swing is coming along nicely, but you want a pro to take a look at how you are swinging the driver. There is nothing wrong with picking and choosing your spots when it comes to seeking advice, and this method might be the best way to take steps forward without having to spend a fortune on lessons.
Advantages of Professional Lessons
To be sure, there are plenty of advantages to taking professional golf lessons at a course near your home. The pros who teach lessons for a living have usually spend a lifetime in the game, so they have information to offer you that will be hard to acquire otherwise. Unless you happen to have friends who are highly experienced golfers that can share knowledge with you, the best chance you have to directly access golf insight is to take lessons from a pro.
Following is a list of advantages that you can enjoy by taking formal lessons from a teaching professional.
- Solid base of fundamentals. Golf is hard enough even when you have all of the fundamentals in place – it can be downright impossible if your fundamentals are flawed. By going to a pro, you can learn the basics of the game – such as the grip and the stance – correctly right from the start. This will give you a leg up on those who decide to learn on their own. Teaching the basic fundamentals is an easy task for most pros, so it should only take one or two lessons for you to have a good grasp on how to hold the club, how to stand over the ball, and more.
- Quick answers to questions. When you are getting started in golf, you are going to have questions – a lot of questions. Rather than having to search the web for answers to these questions, you can simply direct them to your teaching pro and you will get an answer immediately. This should help to dramatically speed up your learning curve. You will have access to a wealth of golf knowledge, and taking advantage of that opportunity will help you to learn an incredible amount about the game in a short period of time.
- Encouragement. Golf teachers are usually great cheerleaders when it comes to encouraging their students. The pro that you work with knows very well how difficult the game can be, so they will be able to sympathize with your struggles along the way. If you are simply out on the range by yourself trying to figure it out, the game can be quite frustrating at times. If fact, some people who attempt to teach themselves the game wind up walking away just because they are so discouraged. With a teaching pro on your side to offer positive comments, your mind will stay in a good place until you build up some confidence in your abilities.
- Accountability. If you decide to sign up for a series of lessons at your local course, you will feel committed to that process and you will return time after time until the lesson series is complete. This is a way to ensure that you will actually follow through on your desire to get started in golf. If you just take a trip to the driving range on your own, you might find that weeks or months go by before you return again. The relationship that you build with your teacher, along with the money that you spend on the lessons, will compel you to keep coming back for more.
- Make connections. As a new golfer, you might struggle with the task of finding new people to play with – especially if you don't have many friends who play the game. By working with a teaching pro, you could find yourself then connected to some of the other students working with the same pro. Let your teacher know that you are interested in meeting new people to play with, and there is a good chance that friendships will be born.
As you can see, there is a long list of advantages that can be enjoyed when you work with a golf pro to take some formal lessons. Of course, on the downside, is the fact that you will have to pay for these lessons. However, most courses offer lesson packages at fairly reasonable rates, and the cost of the instruction might feel like a small investment if you are able to quickly raise the level of your game.
Advantages of Being Self Taught
Learning the game all on your own is a completely different experience from taking lessons with a professional. It's not that you can't learn the game on your own – because you certainly can – it's just different. You will probably find that it takes a little longer on your own, but the process may be more rewarding in the end. If you reach a point where you consider yourself to be an above average golfer and you can beat some of your more experienced friends, there will be a great sense of pride and accomplishment for what you have done. Rather than pointing to your golf teacher as the person who gets the credit for your improvement, you can point right to yourself and feel great about the strides you have made.
To help you better understand why you should consider proceeding in this manner, the following list includes some of the advantages of learning the game all on your own.
- You own the final product. There is something about the process of building something yourself that leads to a complete sense of ownership. Since you know exactly what went into the process of building your swing, you will know better than anyone else how to fix it when it goes wrong. So, for instance, if you are out on the course and you start to struggle with a hook, you should be able to solve the problem on your own. However, if you had a pro help you build your swing, you might not have the knowledge necessary to get back on track. If you want a swing that you know like the back of your own hand, building it all on your own is probably the right way to go.
- Save money. Everyone loves to save money, and building your swing yourself means that you won't have to pay a teaching pro for his or her time. The money that you save on lesson fees could be used to purchase more buckets of balls at the range, giving you even more opportunities to improve your technique. Money shouldn't be the only reason you opt for the self taught method, but it certainly is something to consider.
- Go at your own pace. Golfers don't all learn at the same pace, and certainly players struggle with specific part of the game more than others. For instance, you might find that you have no trouble at all creating a comfortable grip, but you might struggle to get into a good stance over the ball. For another player, however, the story could be completely opposite. When you are teaching yourself how to play, you can easily go at your own pace and take as much time as you need on each element. If you work with a pro, they will likely stick to the format that they use for most of their students, meaning you might not get the time you need on the parts of the game that give you the most trouble.
- The challenge. Golf is supposed to be challenging – that is actually one of the things that makes it so popular. Golfers around the world love to head out to the course with a challenge in front of them, such as trying to break a certain score, and they relish in the feeling of accomplishment when they finally hit the mark. The challenge of teaching yourself the game is something that you could quickly take pride in, and you may decide that you don't want the help of a pro even if it would speed up your development. After all, you aren't playing golf for a career – you are simply playing for enjoyment and entertainment, and the challenge of the game is definitely part of the fun.
Just as with the option of taking lessons from a pro, there are also plenty of things to like about teaching yourself the game. If anyone tells you early in your golf experience that you absolutely need to take lessons in order to improve, you can safely ignore their advice – plenty of golfers have learned the game all alone, one shot at a time. If you decide to take this approach, commit yourself to the process and be sure to bring plenty of patience with you to the range for each practice session.
How to Pick a Pro
For those who decide to take the path of using a golf pro to learn the game, there are a few things to understand about picking out the right pro. While most golf courses and golf practice facilities offer lessons, the quality (and cost) of lessons will vary from facility to facility. Also, there is the human element to consider as well, as you want to work with someone who is going to be a good fit for your personality. The following tips should help you track down a local teaching pro who will help you reach your potential on the course.
- Check rates first. It won't do you any good to pick out a highly qualified local professional if you come to later realize that you can't afford their rates. Before anything else, take a look at how much the courses around your area charge for lessons, and disqualify any that are beyond what you are willing to pay. This step will save you time in the long run, as you will only have to pick from the reduced list of teaching pros that you are left with after crossing some off due to their prices.
- Make a few calls. Once you have a list of potential teachers who are within your local area and fall within your budget, call around and ask a few questions. Just by talking with the pros on the phone, you can get a good idea of their personality and teaching style, which will go a long way toward helping you pick the right one for you. At this time, it would also be helpful to ask about their schedules, so you can determine which ones will be available for lessons at a time that is convenient for you.
- Ask around. The world of golf lessons is definitely a referral-based business, so don't hesitate to ask friends and even strangers that you happen to be paired with on the course for recommendations. Many golfers have taken lessons at some point in the past, so you probably won't have to ask very many people until you get some helpful opinions that you can use to make your selection.
- Take one lesson first. Rather than signing up for a series of lessons from a teaching pro that you are using for the first time, pay for just a single lesson up front so you can see how it goes. If the lesson is a success and you are happy with what they have to offer, you can always register for a series of lessons later on down the line. In fact, you could choose to take a single lesson from two or three different pros before deciding which one is going to earn your business in the long term.
There doesn't need to be a major rush when trying to pick out a golf pro, so take your time and do a bit of homework before spending your hard earned money. Working with a pro who fits well with your personality and has experience helping golfers of your skill level could prove to be the best thing you ever do for your game – so take some time and get this decision right the first time.
The Bigger Picture
The goal, obviously, is to play better golf. Whether that means working with a teaching professional or doing it on your own, you should always be focused on making decisions that lead to one thing – lower scores. It is important, then, to not get too caught up in the 'battle' between learning from a pro and learning on your own. You don't need to draw a hard line on this point, to where you are unwilling to cross over to the other side if necessary. Never let your ego or your stubbornness get in the way of playing better golf, as you will be missing out on a great opportunity to play better if you are too set in your ways to consider other options.
All golfers get stuck in a 'rut' from time to time from a performance stand point, and such times are a great opportunity to switch up how you approach the game. If you have been taking lessons for a period of time and you are currently not seeing any progress, consider taking a break from the lessons while working on your swing by yourself. On the other hand, if you have been self taught to this point and you have run into a wall in terms of your development, look to a pro for help. Simply changing up how you are trying to improve your game can go a long way toward taking you to the next level.
As you are deciding whether or not to work with a golf pro on your game, don't forget about the importance of the short game. It is easy to sign up for golf lessons with the intention of tuning up your swing, but a teacher can actually be just as helpful on and around the greens. The smart golfer spends the majority of their available practice time working on the short game rather than the long game. While it is always going to be fun to blast a long drive down the middle of the fairway, it is your chipping and putting that will have the most say in your eventual score.
It is also important to remember that your golf game will never be a finished product. No matter how much you improve, and no matter how great your scores may be, there will always be room for improvement. Golf has never been mastered, not even by the greats of the game. You should have a plan for how you are going to keep getting better as the years go by, whether that includes working with a pro or just spending practice time on your own to correct flaws in your technique. If you are serious about playing well, you will never take your game for granted.
In the end, the choice of whether or not to work with a golf pro is going to rest with you. There are plenty of great arguments in favor of each method, and both methods have been proven successful by plenty of previous golfers. Be true to yourself in this process, and take the path that you believe is going to lead you to the best outcome. Good luck with the progress of your game, and enjoy your time on the fairways!