Matt Kilgariff, PGA Director of Player Development at The Bridges at Rancho Santa Fe in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif. follows a simple plan when beginning with a new student: Interviewing, assessing, communicating, planning, setting expectations and accountability.
My colleagues often ask me who I find to be the most challenging type of student to teach and why. My response is always the same. The most challenging student is anyone with an unrealistic vision of where their game is currently and how quickly they believe they can improve to achieve their desired level of play.
Starting with the basics is always best. Interviewing, assessing, communicating, planning, setting expectations and accountability are all important components of the equation working with any student, but especially those who may have lofty and/or unrealistic expectations.
Interviewing—As coaches, we need to assess our students and their game. We want to gain an understanding of their skills, any limitations, work ethic and goals in an effective and efficient way. Begin by interviewing them in a style that works for you and them. It can be formal or casual. Below are few examples of simple interview questions:
• What is your current handicap?
• Do you have physical limitations that prevent you from performing athletic movements?
• What do you believe are your strengths and weaknesses in the following areas: short game, long game, and course management?
• What are your goals in each of those areas?
• Have you collaborated with an instructor in the past?
• If so, what were the highs and lows of the process?
• Realistically, how often will you practice or play every week?
Assessing—Next, move on to your process for assessing their technical skills.
Communicating—Describe to them in detail your assessment of their current strengths and weaknesses. Your message must be open and honest, and delivered in an easy to understand and compassionate manner.
Be careful not to be critical or overwhelm them with information overload. Just the right amount of info, delivered in the right way, at the right time is necessary. It can prevent a student from tuning you out or being scared off completely.
Planning—Inform your student that together you will be developing a blueprint with action items and realistic timelines to achieve success based on what you have learned from the interview and assessment processes.
Assure them that they will be a big part of the plan design and implementation process. Encourage them to keep communication open and ask questions throughout your time together. Let them know you that you will be doing the same. This will help facilitate trust in you and “buy in” from the student. Successfully take this approach and you will have a student for life.
Implementation—The plan is your guideline. Even though you have a plan, do not make assumptions about what your student wants/needs at the onset of any lesson. Begin every lesson by asking your student if they have anything specific that they want to work on that day. Try your best to keep requests in line with the long-term goals of the plan.
Self-Efficacy—Golf is truly a game of self-accountability. Explain to your students that they need to be accountable to themselves regarding their game. If they “believe” they can improve their game, they will be “more willing” to take the steps necessary and put in the effort to do so. Here are several suggestions to get them started with self-efficacy:
• Remind them that the ultimate measurement of a golfer’s success is a lower handicap.
• Film students prior to making any suggestions and corrections. Catalog their swing into a library created in CoachNow to give them a visual of where they began their journey and up to date info on how they are progressing towards their goals.
• Provide students with before and after photos to show improvement and a copy of their game plan to use as their guide. This can be done using CoachNow, Swing Catalyst or V1.
• Request that they monitor their stats in apps. Keep in mind this may be something you may need to walk them through.
• Suggest they bring a journal to their sessions to record notes immediately after the session. This will hopefully help them understand what is working and what needs improvement.
• Show them quantifiable games for their practice sessions. Not only do games make practice more fun, but they also provide real time areas of improvement.
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.