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The Latest from The Index

golf instructors

More proven marketing tips for dedicated instructors

Jan 10, 2020

In our November 2019 issue, we offered a batch of innovative marketing ideas that coaches could implement quickly. Kick off 2020 with these additional tips:

Create programs and opportunities for late-shift professionals:

Executive chefs at fine-dining restaurants are well-paid. So are hospital radiologists and other non-9-to-5 professionals. These are prime candidates for your weekday coaching business—people who need a distraction from their responsibilities and a new challenge that's fun and engaging. Could you create a "Golf Clinic for Clinicians" from the nearby hospital, custom-designed to fit their schedules? How about creating a series of clinics for chefs and wait staffers at the top five restaurants in your market? One way to kick-start an outreach to medical professionals who work late hours is to link your event to their hospital's annual golf tournament fundraiser. If you are the golf coach who becomes well known to these networks, word will get around, and your business will enjoy an excellent pool of clients who follow a different schedule than the rest of the world.

Stage a putting expo and show all the putting-performance help now available:

All under one roof (although there's no actual roof) you can gather your staff of instructors, a putter-fitting expert, perhaps a rep from a manufacturer known for its putter line, putting practice-aids, an AimPoint teacher and all sorts of other resources from this putting-intense era for a putting expo. Acclaimed teacher Nicole Weller called her event at The Landings Club in coastal Georgia a "Putting Fair." Weller's members received coaching in distance control, putt reading, and alignment/aim, along with all the other bells and whistles gathered on her practice green. The direct result was increased exposure by members to the club's golf professionals, nine putters sold at the fair plus interest in spin-off lessons, extra practice sessions, and clinics to advance ideas that were discovered during the fair.

Connect your golf instruction offerings to the yoga community:

It's highly impressive to see how intently golf coaches have studied bio-kinesiology and other aspects of the fitness-golf connection. Question: Do any of the 1,000 or so regular yoga students in your area know that flexibility and golf success go together? Do the yoga instructors? Think about this: Whatever value the local yoga teachers feel they are delivering to their students, you could give them one more arrow for their quiver—they are helping their clients develop the type of flexibility, balance and conditioning that a good golf swing thrives on. Any yoga student who has remotely considered trying golf is, at the very minimum, going to get a little thrill at knowing they've got a significant advantage over the non-yoga beginner—and that's an incentive for them to come to the tee. How about a Get Golf Ready just for active yoga students? Or a demo at the yoga class showing how well a limber and yoga-trained body can make good golf swings? Self-improvement is the umbrella concept for the yoga student and golf student alike—make that connection in your local market and see what happens.

Market to league golfers (who can arrive early):

It's a familiar summertime sight in public golf—league golfers hustling to the tee because they have so little time to get from their place of business to the course. But some league players aren't in that time crunch and can arrive long before teammates. This means there is quite likely some form of coaching and pre-round prep that could fit into this time slot. Try surveying the league database to see who wants to show up early for putting, chipping, or perhaps some bunker help. The sessions would be relatively short and would often use a group format, so the out-of-pocket for these customers can be on the low side. Meanwhile, they become candidates for your full programs, and an advertisement for your skills if they start winning more than their fair share of matches. Use Your Email Signature to Drive Traffic to Your Offers, Events, and Ancillary Products: Every email you send to an active client or prospect can have multiple "actionable" links/buttons. Do you conduct New Student Assessments? And do you have a dedicated booking page on your website for NSA's? Embed a link to that page in a message that says: "Click here for an in-person assessment of your golf skills" or words to that effect. If you market a swing aid or practice app that golfers can learn about online, create a hyperlink button for that. Every email you send can and probably should have this calls-to-action, which are easy to create—there are even online tools for customizing them to your preference.

Got a marketing tip? Send it to lorin.anderson@golfchannel.com, and we'll be glad to share it—with proper credit to you—in an upcoming issue.


club fitting

Where teaching meets club fitting, decisions to make

Jan 10, 2020

The old ideal was for every teacher to learn club fitting and take care of their students' gear needs. It turns out there's a range of fitting solutions.

When the first fitting carts appeared on lesson tees 30 years ago, the companies that provided them preached that club fitting was the province of the teaching professional. Instructors were told that the club purchase should be a transaction between a teacher and his or her student, based on the precision-fitting methodology. From that point forward, it's been up to instructors to decide whether to embrace this idea fully or find other ways to address the equipment needs of their students.

There's quite a variance among top instructors as to how much or how little club fitting they do. On the enthusiastic end of that spectrum is Cathy MacPherson, a noted professional based in Middleton, Mass. These days she's got two methods of handling the equipment needs of her students—fit them herself or use the services of Club Champion, as 400-plus of her fellow professionals also do.

MacPherson has kept hands-on club fitting in her repertoire even as she's benefitted from the Club Champion arrangement that began two years ago. Over that time, she's had dozens of students go through a Club Champion fitting and purchase clubs. She considers the program a win-win. "Their business model is impressive, and we've had a great flow of communication," says MacPherson. "I've gotten to know their fitters, and we talk about how to do what's best for each golfer. That's been a key element to success."

At the larger academies, a job description of a specialist in golf gear has emerged. An example is the Mike Bender Golf Academy in Lake Mary, Fla., where Matt Wilkes is one such expert—although Wilkes does teach his roster of students along with running junior clinics and coaching groups of women players.

Despite how advanced his golf-equipment skills have become, Wilkes still sees the world through the eyes of a teacher. No matter how inappropriate a client's clubs maybe, Wilkes will still "point them to instruction" if their baseline ability to make a swing that advances the ball is below a certain level. And yes, his nationally known colleagues Cheryl Anderson and Mike Bender do assign to Wilkes the step-by-step of a club fitting session needed by one of their students, albeit with substantial consultation based on their swing diagnosis.

There will always be full-time instructors—and you may be one of them—who have a talent for fitting clubs, enjoy doing it, and connect teaching with fitting in an organic way. One such coach is Bill Abrams, director of instruction at Golf Solutions Academy in Crete, Ill. For Abrams, there are multiple reasons to keep the gear aspect of golf performance under his aegis. Generally speaking, it enhances continuity in the teacher-student relationship, he argues quite convincingly.

"We give students whatever we can to help them improve, whether that's swing technique, a fitness regimen, better course management—and those things tie back to equipment," says Abrams. "A student can build their core and their upper body, and at that point, the clubs may need another look. With the juniors, especially the boys of a certain age, I might switch them through two or three shafts a year."

The cost of shaft changes of this type is no significant factor, either. Abrams sources UST shafts at a discount, he uses PGA Trade-in services liberally, and he's "built a library of fitting shafts over the years that gives me a lot of options." Shaft couplings that allow instant switch-out, no epoxy needed, also facilitate Bill's approach. Even set configuration can be affected by what gets taught. As strategic thinking improves, a golfer may decide they need a couple of new hybrids that offer a better chance to play from optimal positions.

Meanwhile, the fitting has an artistic side, in which the golfer sees and feels results that are naturally pleasing to the eye. "The trajectory of the shot, the curve, the full flight, the hang time—all those things matter to golfers," Abrams says. The gear side of Bill's annual revenue comes to between 15 and 20 percent, he says. And that's not counting the loyalty factor among lesson-takers that his skill and ingenuity as a fitter help build.

If you've set a goal to run your teaching business more effectively in 2020, CLICK HERE to learn about Instructor Plus, a new service that's helping coaches solve business problems and succeed as never before.


on-course coaching

Techniques for successful on-course coaching

Jan 10, 2020

The playing lesson has been around a long time, but new and more effective ways of conducting these on-course sessions are emerging.

Golf is the only sport that isn't routinely taught on its "field of play." That's why you can Google the phrase "can't take my driving range swing to the course" and find pages of articles addressing the problem. Of course, 90-shooters who moan about this usually fail to track how many lousy shots they produce in a range session, but they're still right that ball-hitting on-course can seem dramatically different from hitting on-range.

In general, the emphasis on coaching "situationally" is growing. Leading lights such as Lynn Marriott and Pia Nilsson are gradually leaving the range behind, shifting their focus to on-course work as a standard procedure with every student.

Pinehurst Learning Center students get whatever customized form of on-course work will help them the most. "We may have them hit a drive, hit an approach shot, then U-turn back to the tee to try those two shots again, with a different thought and different strategy," says academy director Eric Alpenfels. "We might go to various trouble areas and drop several balls at a time." And if a player "gets hot," just continuing on, in the zone and encouraged by their instructor, might be the best coaching they ever received.

At Monarch Beach Resort in the California town of Dana Point, award-winning teacher Glenn Deck will sometimes begin a playing lesson with 20 minutes on the range. The idea is to get a baseline for where the golfer and their mechanics are at that particular moment, before heading out. After the range phase is over, Glenn's rule of "no mechanics on the course" takes effect.

"The idea is to find optimal ways to teach the student how to play the game," Deck says. "Which side of the tee box do they start from? Do they know how to calculate yardage so it accounts for all factors? Do they know where they can miss and where not to miss? Are they trying to hit their career shot every time? Can they control distance on high-lofted clubs? There's a whole separate assessment to go through," he says, "The price they pay for that amount of time is considerable ($600 for 3.5 hours, including the range time), but the level of detail we get into is deep. It covers a whole lot of ground."

Colorado-based Dan Sniffen has learned the value of on-course instruction as a retention tool. If a 10-lesson series has gone well but is approaching its endpoint with no on-course work having occurred, heading out to the fairways is a great tool for refocusing the student and restating the value of long-term coaching.

"Going on the course is a good refresher for the relationship, and it can bring the student back to that sense they had at the beginning of wanting to really accomplish something," Sniffen believes. He will use the playing lesson to produce a simplified Strokes Gained worksheet, showing where the player can genuinely lower their score and what sort of practice and coaching is appropriate going forward to do so. "That approach generally leads to a renewal," says Dan.

Are you getting some static from the golf shop about playing lessons? Veteran coach Bill Davis has always handled that issue by repeating what George Fazio told him: Growing the game means teaching most effectively, so that golfers play better—which means you need to take them on the course. The result is they will play more often and spend more money at the facility.

If you're reading this, you've set a goal to run your teaching business more effectively and profitably. CLICK HERE to learn about Instructor Plus, a new service that's helping coaches solve business problems and succeed as never before.