Tiger Woods announced this week that he would be parting ways with swing coach, Sean Foley. Anytime Tiger hires or fires any one on his team, there is a serious amount of attention. The talking heads of The Golf Channel, NBC and other networks have all chimed in on this topic. They have compared his records during his time with the three teachers he has had as a professional, Butch Harmon, Hank Haney and Foley.
The talking heads and two of Tiger’s former instructors have stated that Tiger would be better off without a golf instructor moving forward. Tiger knows a lot about the golf swing. He has the latest technology to analyze his golf swing and ball flight, and his past instructors believe he can simplify his thoughts by going at it alone.
There have been a few really good tour players who did not have a golf swing instructor, and many decorated tour players who would go see an instructor rarely. Bubba Watson, PGA Tour player and top 15 golfer in the world, stated he has never taken a golf lesson in his life. Statically, Bubba is one of the best ball strikers in the world. So, is golf instruction necessary?
Many times the decision to take golf instruction is based on personality. Are you willing to listen? Are you willing to work to get better? Do you have a plan or golf goal? A student like Tiger Woods enjoys a structured learning environment, and likes challenging the information given to him. Tiger needs goalsand direction; he enjoys that journey. Watson does not seem to enjoy a structured environment, and being told what to do. However, he does have a mental coach to keep his mind sharp on the course. Both Tiger and Watson have found success following their own blueprint.
If you want to be successful in anything you must set goals. As a golf instructor, my goals are to get my students to the reach their physical capabilities on a more consistent basis. No instructor has taken a middle-aged, 15-handicapper and put them on the PGA Tour through great instruction. The best thing I can do for my students is get them to set goals and come see me periodically to stay focused on those goals.
All students will waiver from the goals if they stop coming to see me for instruction. I am not saying you need Hank Haney with you 110 days of the year like Tiger Woods did in the late 2000’s, but periodic lessons are crucial for achieving golf goals. The most important factor is feedback. I set goals for the student, and give them a blueprint to achieve those goals. The student must play and practice with those goals in mind. Periodically, they need to come see me for a tune up. The tune up will include many questions. What is your most common miss, left, right, thin, fat, etc.? What part of your game is costing you the most strokes? Do you feel more confident on the course since we set golf goals? Howclose are you to your goal? The answers to these question will allow me to narrow the focus of the lesson. Narrowing the focus allows me and the student to achieve at a faster rate.
I believe Tiger maxed out his physical potential with each instructor. Foley and Tiger had five wins the one year he was fully healthy and prepared. They had goals that they did not achieve, but at least they had goals. Injuries got in the way of those goals. Watson, in my opinion, is the second most talented golfer in the world other than Tiger in the last 20 years. In my opinion, Watson has not maxed out his physical ability because he has not asked for enough help staying focused on his golf goals.
What are your golf goals? The only way to expand your golf goals is to become better physically and mentally. A golf instructor is only one piece of the puzzle. Go see your local PGA Professional to set your golf goals, and to achieve more, see a fitness professional who will communicate with your golf instructor about your golf goals.
Todd Elliott is the PGA Head Golf Professional for Hideaway Beach. Todd is TPI (Titleist Performance Institute) Certified as a golf professional. This gives him the ability to give golf specific physical screening to detect any physical limitation that might affect the golf swing. Todd is an active Student Mentor at FGCU; a volunteer with the First Tee program and was presented the 2010 and 2011 PGA’s President Council Awards on “Growing the Game.”