Each student is an individual and should be treated as such. Teaching approaches should not be cookie-cutter and each student’s needs and goals must be the priority, to guarantee a successful outcome.
Prior to working with any new student in person, I ask them to complete a simple questionnaire via e-mail that includes the following: Name, e-mail, current index, physical limitations, and short- and long-term golfing goals.
Their answers help me prepare for our initial lesson by giving me a snapshot about them and their needs and objectives. This brief understanding helps me start to formulate additional questions to ask during our first lesson. In addition, it sets the stage so I can focus my teaching techniques to match the areas of their game that are most important to them.
Each student is an individual and should be treated as such. My approach for teaching each student is not cookie-cutter. It needs to be personal and individualized. Their needs and goals must be the priority for the duration of our time together, to guarantee a successful outcome for both parties.
Once the student arrives for their first lesson, we review and discuss their assessment answers. We also go through their existing golf equipment, to determine if there are any equipment-related needs that need to be addressed.
Next, I have them hit several shots. This gives me the opportunity to ask additional questions and learn more about them, gather initial club and ball data, and get quick insight into their skill level and physical condition.
My goal is to help students become as successful as possible. Fortunately for me and for them, I work closely with an “in-house” physical therapist. Together, we go through a 16-point physical screening that was created by the Titleist Performance Institute (TPI) and must be conducted by certified professionals.
The TPI screening allows us to identify and understand any possible physical limitations. If any are identified, we discuss the best and safest course of action. As a team, we develop an action plan to either work around the limitations—or, in most cases, we get into the gym to work on corrective actions and strengthen any areas of weakness.
Our next step involves collecting the most accurate and detailed club and ball data with a launch monitor. These vary widely in price, but offer the best way to collect data on clubhead speed, carry and total distance—the three things a vast majority of students, if not all of them, seem to care about most.
Documenting lesson data is critical to the success of the teaching process. I use the CoachNow app—a cutting-edge, all-in-one digital platform that was created for those who are passionate about teaching and coaching smarter.
This app gives both the student and the teacher one data collection point that can be used from the beginning of teaching sessions throughout their entire journey. It’s a great place to store and save videos, document the process, track and measure progress, and create a game plan for moving forward. CoachNow allows me to track, inspire, motivate, educate, and change lives, on and off the course.
While there are many more detailed screening and assessment tools available, these basic ones are great starting points for teaching students who are new to working with a golf professional. They’re important parts of beginning a process that establishes rapport, earns trust, and builds confidence, while developing and managing a plan to help students achieve their goals.
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, Calif. Prior to joining The Bridges, Kilgariff was Director of Player Development at The Olympic Club, in San Francisco.