There are countless ‘golfer personality types’ an instructor will encounter. The goal is to know and understand the needs of individuals and to gear teaching accordingly, says Matt Kilgariff, Director of Player Development at The Bridges at Rancho Santa Fe (Calif.).
Countless times, I have seen instructors make “the assumption mistake.” They will conduct an hour-long session with a student that is dedicated to swing improvement, only to hear at the end of the lesson that all the student really wanted to do was just work on their putting.
Asking for help is often difficult. Golfers book paid time with a professional because they need help. They have chosen you, and there are many ways you can help. Whether a student wants to work on one or several parts of their game, it all starts by understanding them and what they hope to learn. Get started by following these very simple and important rules:
Rule #1 – Make no assumptions. Do not launch into a lesson with any student thinking you know what your client is looking to improve upon or what their goals are for your time together.
Rule #2 – Do some homework. If you do not know the student, try to do some preliminary homework and research on who they are.
Rule #3 – Ask. The best and easiest way to understand what a student needs is to ask them. Simply inquire about what they hope to gain out of each session.
Rule #4 – Exercise kindness and compassion without judgment. Keep in mind that many students may be nervous. Remember, clients are individuals who come in all shapes, sizes, skill levels, abilities, and personality types. Create a “no-judgment zone” and approach all students with kindness and compassion, as they may be vulnerable, insecure, and struggling with their game.
Rule #5 – Listen and put students at ease. Begin each lesson with light conversation. Ask questions and actively listen to their answers. This shows that you are genuinely interested in learning about them, and it will begin to establish trust and make the student feel comfortable. You will also gain important insight about the reasons they have booked time with you. This will allow you to gear your time together wisely with your instructional emphasis, matching their needs while making them feel heard.
There are countless “golfer personality types” you will encounter as an instructor. Your goal is to know and understand the needs of individuals and gear your teaching accordingly. With all personality types, begin by following the five simple rules above. But then be prepared to make adjustments that best suit these individual types:
“The Quick Fix”— With this personality type, move on quickly to questions such as: How can I help you? What is your least favorite shot? Realistically, how much time are you going to devote to practicing? Answers to questions like these will help you know how deep you can go in making changes. If an individual tells you they are never going to practice, don’t go too deep with them, or you could lose their time and attention.
Make a couple of set-up adjustments and introduce one swing thought, such as feel. A good approach with a “Quick Fix” who’s a slicer is to show them how you can get them to hit a hook in four swings. You will have them “hooked” forever.
“The Social-Hour Kiddo”— This may be a situation of a parent looking to occupy a child for an hour who may or may not be interested in golf. The best approach for this type of student is to build out programs and classes. They are great ways for students to meet other members, socialize, and get better at the game, all while enjoying themselves in a small group setting. These classes should be kept light and fun.
“The Competitor”— This is my favorite type of student, because they understand that building towards competition is a process. They are willing to put in time and hard work to get to the next level. With a Competitor, the instructor needs to understand the player’s strengths and weaknesses. The best way to do this is by asking them to keep statistics. If their stats provide data that supports that they three-putt every green, working on the driver is not necessarily an urgent priority.
Competitors are also the perfect candidates for getting involved in a golf-specific fitness program. With the proper fitness and instruction program, the student who’s a Competitor will see progress rapidly.
Make it your priority to understand who is in front of you. Get to know them personally, nurture them, understand their goals and tend to their needs, and your lesson book will fill up quickly.
Matt Kilgariff is a PGA professional who spent much of his career working for Butch Harmon and the Harmon Family. He is currently the Director of Player Development at The Bridges at Rancho Santa Fe in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif. Prior to joining The Bridges, Kilgariff was Director of Player Development at The Olympic Club in San Francisco. Matt has also been part of TaylorMade’s National Advisory Staff since 2012.