Golf lessons are one of the most valuable assets a golfer can have, provided they know how to use them. The sheer difficulty of the game and its individual nature lends itself to intensive one-on-one instruction. Given that, the teacher-student relationship is often highlighted throughout the history of the game’s most successful players, as well as an intricate part of any amateur’s attempt at success. If you find yourself wondering "are golf lessons worth it", the bottom line is YES golf lessons are always worth it IF you know how to get the most out of them and leverage the right help for your game while weeding out a lot of the useless tips and tricks and marketing gimmicks that are common in the industry.
In modern times, things have advanced beyond just books and relying on the advice of your local club pro to include a vast array of systems and programs being pushed by experts and specialists plying their trade through every type of media outlet and training platform available. In this guide we will take a look at the world of modern golf instruction and what to expect whether you’re a seasoned veteran looking for a tune-up or just diving in for the first time.
Where To Go For Golf Lessons
Golf lessons are available in a variety of places. The traditional route is typically to learn some basics from a family member or friend, and once there is enough interest, to go take lessons from a qualified teaching professional. This is true no matter what age you are starting.
By far the largest resource for this is the PGA of America and its international counterparts. The PGA is the gold standard in training professionals to work in a variety of positions in the golfing world, including that of teaching professional. They maintain a database of certified teaching pro’s on their website.
While working with a local PGA teaching professional is the traditional standard, there have been a lot of excellent coaches emerging through different platforms. They come from different backgrounds, and have moved away from the “country club” model of the teaching professional.
In 2020, that scene exploded with the big demand for online coaching, with many coaches now offering online video lessons as well as online training academies. Some of the most notable names in that space are George Gankas and Monte Scheinblum, although countless other coaches have become very popular and had a lot of success with students on platforms like YouTube, Instagram and the Skillest app.
Are Golf Lessons Worth It For Beginners?
What about those of you just getting started, are golf lessons worth it for you? As a beginner, golf lessons are the most important investment you can make. While almost every single touring professional also regularly takes lessons, beginners often delay getting proper instruction for too long and an already-difficult game becomes even harder once bad habits are formed.
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What You Will Learn At Golf Lessons
There is really no such thing as the average golf lesson. Every teacher and player is unique, and a good teacher will focus on the most important factors for that individual and slowly build strong foundations to refine skills over a number of months or years. Golf lessons that are worth the money will feel fun and productive, and your teacher will feel attentive.
Learn About Equipment
“Equipment vs Skill” or “Lessons vs Club Fitting” is one of the age-old debates for the amateur golfer. Don’t let marketing materials fool you - it is almost always “the Indian and not the arrow” when it comes to the game of golf. For a well-established player, equipment tweaks can become the focus and a good coach can double as a club fitter. Ideally they will work alongside a professional club fitter in order to fine-tune a very specific ball flight or squeak out an extra yard or two from your current swing.
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For the average or beginning player, the most important thing is having clubs that are within reason for your body size, swing speed, and skill level, and then refine from there and invest in more custom equipment once your baseline swing is established. A golf lesson for a beginner will address any major discrepancies in equipment selection but then focus on fundamentals of setup and body motion.
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Learn How To Grip The Club
The proper golf grip is perhaps the most fundamental mechanic in the game. It may feel unnatural at first and there are basically infinite variations on a few minor arrangements. The two basic positions of the fingers are called:
Interlocking grip - where the top hand index finger “interlocks” over top of the bottom hand pinky finger.
Overlapping grip - where the bottom hand pinky finger is placed resting on top of the index finger of the top hand.
One unorthodox grip you will sometimes see is the baseball grip or ten finger grip - this is by far the least common grip in golf. It is almost never taught, but there are examples of players, like Scott Piercy and Robert Streb who have made it to the highest levels of the game while gripping the club in this fashion their entire life. This grip features the index finger of the top hand - and therefore all ten fingers - directly on the club, like you would grip a baseball bat.
There are many intricacies that a golf coach can cover IF you have a grip problem or have never gripped a club before, but the main variation you will adjust is known as grip “strength.” (Not to be confused with grip pressure.)
Grip strength basically correlates to how the face of the club is aligned with the palms. Matching the strength of your grip to you swing is as easy as experimenting until you are hitting the ball straight!
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Learn The Proper Golf Stance
To the untrained eye many golf stances look completely different, but to experts who have been studying the golf swing for a long time, there are absolutely some common factors seen in almost all great ball strikers.
Stance will also vary for different body types and change slightly depending on the club and the type of shot needed. One guideline that is seen in a lot of old-time players and is now becoming popular amongst biomechanics professionals seeking to optimize the modern swing is to be completely balanced at setup by making sure that the armpits are directly over the balls of the feet. Some instructors may communicate the same thing by saying that your shoulders should never go outside the front of your toes. There are some athletes who can maintain balance without this setup, but it is a great starting point and checkpoint for the vast majority of golfers.
Typically in an iron swing, you will have the feet approximately shoulder width apart. With a wedge shot, have the outside of the feet inside shoulder width, and for a driver, have the inside of the feet outside the shoulders as a baseline starting point. With all clubs, it is preferable to have the knees relaxed - not locked and not crouching down, and let the arms hang straight down after you have leaned forward just enough to get the armpits over the balls of your feet.
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Learn Proper Ball Position
Ball position is something that an expert or professional player will be able to constantly adjust in order to produce slight variations in the height and curvature of their shots on command. For a beginner, it is better to always use the same ball position as much as possible for each club.
One good way to get consistent at this is to put the ball directly below the lead armpit for an iron, directly below the lead shoulder for a driver or wood, and directly below the sternum for a wedge shot until you are consistent. This is a good baseline that a knowledgeable coach or player could then adjust in order to account for different types of swings.
Learn Proper Alignment
A common saying in the golf world is “P.G.A.” - a play on the Professional Golfers Association acronym, but replacing it with “Posture, Grip, and Alignment.” It is often the last thing that golfers want to work on, but it is often the most important thing to work on. Tiger Woods’ former coach Sean Foley has even said that alignment is the most common thing he works on with his professional players, as it is extremely difficult to get lined up the exact same way every single time.
A golf lesson or video tape review will definitely address this and give the opportunity to tweak it to your advantage. Alignment, even amongst good players often cannot be seen properly from the players’ view, and tends to drift over time. Just like a car, regular precision checkups are needed.
Learn How To Hit The Driver
The key to having a good driver swing is really having a good iron swing. It’s important to build from the same model and change as little as possible. The best way to learn how to hit the driver is to take a good iron swing, widen your stance slightly, tilt the upper body about 10 degrees away from the target, and then put the ball more forward at address. After those adjustments, keep everything the same as you would with an iron. The key here is all these changes allow you to hit with a slight upward angle of attack as the ball is teed up with the driver. This method will produce the most distance and consistency alike.
Learn How To Hit Irons
The iron swing is what you will build your entire golf game around. The club that is used in lessons to develop a swing and work on drills and motions is usually a mid-iron such as a 7 iron or 8 iron. This is the baseline for every other club in your bag and often times the go-to club for a player on the course whenever possible because it has been used so often in practice.
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Learn How To Chip and Pitch The Ball
Chipping and pitching are often overlooked in golf lessons, but are one of the biggest areas where you can quickly shave multiple strokes off of your game with the least effort. There are coaches who specialize in the short game such as The Short Game Chef or more traditionally a coach like Dave Pelz, whose books on the short game are some of the most famous in the industry.
Many golf lessons focus on the full swing, but the best teachers understand that the full swing is founded on the mechanics of the smaller swings. Tiger Woods has also often recommended that players learn the game “from the hole, out” to build the fine motor movements needed for the other clubs.
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Learn How To Putt
Putting is another area that can shave a ton of strokes off of your game quickly, but players are reluctant to focus on coaching. There are many specialists in this area, but it’s also the area of the game where the widest variety of approaches can be successful. Variety is common in golf, but nowhere is it more dramatic than on the putting green.
Once you have a basic putting grip and stance that are comfortable, Tiger Woods’ famous gate drill is a great way to learn how to putt. Even if you don’t look like Tiger when you do it, if you can swing the putter between those gates consistently, learning to control speed and line becomes much easier.
Learn About The Rules Of Golf
The rules of golf can seem quite complicated, but there’s a lot of great resources to get you started. Most friendly games where money isn’t involved don’t need to get into a lot of the advanced rules situations, and playing golf with other people is a great way to pick up the basics. The “golden rule” of golf if there is one is to first learn to “play the ball as it lies", as Bobby Jones said. From there, ask coaches or experienced players the special situations where exceptions are allowed.
If you are playing in a tournament or money game, however, there is utmost importance on knowing and following all the rules concerning how to calculate penalty strokes, procedures around different kinds of drops, and the many situations when relief can be taken and how. These can vary from course to course and take time to master, but a good place to start research is with this guide from the PGA.
Learn Golf Etiquette
Golf etiquette is another subject that can cause debate or arguments even amongst long-time golfers and can either be a source of anxiety for somebody new to the game, or a source of major embarrassment or even injury for somebody with total disregard for basic golf etiquette.
There are a lot of finer points that can be debated, but the most important things to know before setting foot on a course have to do with being aware and considerate of the people you are sharing the golf course with. Here are a few basics to remember when you're learning golf etiquette:
- NEVER make noise while somebody else is getting ready to hit their shot. This includes talking, eating/drinking, and making sure your cell phone ringer is completely off before teeing off, if you choose to bring it at all.
- NEVER play a shot before checking to make sure that the group in front of you on the course has cleared the green or fairway completely. If you hit an errant shot you need to yell “FORE” to alert any neighboring groups to take precaution to avoid serious injury. With this, remember that honest accidents happen. If you hit a ball that lands too close to another player, make it a priority to apologize!
- NEVER hold up the pace of play for the course. This is a major point of emphasis in the game of golf and the cardinal sin of any golf course or group. The pace can vary from course to course, but a good rule of thumb is to always keep up with the group in front of you. Sometimes peculiar situations happen and the group behind you will have to wait for a single shot or a single hole, but it is everyone’s responsibility to make up the lost time by either playing faster or picking up their ball and moving along when appropriate and catch back up to the group in front of you as soon as possible.
How To Prepare For Golf Lessons
Most of the preparation for a golf lesson is mental. You have to have the attitude of being willing to learn, and one way or another you have to trust your coach implicitly. Learning golf is a rollercoaster often with results getting worse before they get better as the body and brain learn to improve.
For many the entire game is a lifelong journey/process that never ends. This open attitude and commitment to stay the course through inevitable highs and lows is a huge part of what makes a successful, and coachable golfer.
Golf Lessons For High Handicappers
Golf lessons for a high handicap player are exciting because it’s when you can see the most dramatic changes in the least amount of lessons. The challenge is there are often a lot of things that COULD be worked on.
Having the coach and player be on the same page as to what the priority should be and committing to that, and working through sequential changes that build on each other while varying areas of practice to keep it fresh and allow you to keep their practice fun long-term. The main focus at this stage is making good contact more often than not.
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Golf Lessons For Mid Handicappers
Golf lessons for mid-handicappers can be surprisingly difficult, because the player is at a stage where they have played enough to develop very strong tendencies, but may have reached a plateau that requires un-doing some of those tendencies in order to progress.
This may be the most difficult thing in golf, and why most good coaches find creative ways to work with a player’s pre-established tendencies by understanding the entire swing and being able to produce results while changing the least amount of moving parts possible. The main focus at this stage is usually consistency. The golfer can hit good shots, but struggle with a few big errors that spoil their entire round too often.
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Golf Lessons For Low Handicappers
Golf lessons for low handicappers are typically the most detailed. At this level the golfer is working on fine-tuning and maybe only struggling with 1 or 2 specific clubs or shots. They can work a lot more with adjusting minor “feels” to produce the desired result rather than completely changing any mechanics. The main focus at this level is usually improving one club or type of shot that the golfer feels they can’t trust when it matters the most.
Golf Lessons For Golf Professionals
Surprisingly enough, the things that professional golfers work on are often the basics that high handicappers refuse to acknowledge.
All throughout the PGA Tour you will see players working every week on the basics: their setup, their alignment, and making half swings and slow swings way more often than amateurs. Typically at this stage the main focus of lessons and coaching is to eliminate one specific miss in order to be able to play high-level tournament course setups and “take away one side of the course.”
How Much Are Golf Lessons?
Golf lessons these days can cost basically anything you want. It is highly dependent on your location and what course or organization the coach is affiliated with, as well as how popular or famous they are. A common rate would be anywhere from $50 to $100 for a one hour lesson at a public golf course, while lessons from coaches at private clubs could extend up to $200 per hour or more. If you want a lesson with a famous coach who has been featured on TV or in Golf Digest, expect to start the conversation at $500/hour with some rates reported at $1,000/hour or more for the most in-demand coaches in the country.
There are several options to save on costs, however. For beginners, one popular offering is the group lesson, where you can learn the basics and divide the time and costs amongst a few others. Also, almost all coaches offer discounts for “lesson packages.” This benefits both the coach and the student, since most good coaches will want to work with a student over a period of time in order to properly incorporate changes. Finally, there is currently a huge market for online golf coaching including online training programs that include regularly scheduled personalized video lessons. These can cost as little as $50/month and are probably the most economical way if you really want to dive into learning the game from a top coach.
Are Online Golf Lessons Worth It?
Online golf lessons can be by far the best value in golf, if the program is set up to help the individual student. Almost all online golf coaching platforms include one-on-one support and video reviews. These can be highly effective and are usually a great deal for the money.
Even those coaches who are successful online will say that if you ever have the chance to come for an in-person lesson, the level of communication can be exponentially more thorough and beneficial for the student.
The in-between measure is to hire a coach for a LIVE online lesson through FaceTime or a similar program. This still isn’t as effective as in-person coaching where the coach can actually move you into the proper positions, but is a great alternative for people who don’t live in areas where they have access to good coaches.
Just like swing video reviews, these usually represent a fantastic “bang for the buck” in the golf coaching world and if you can vet them properly, you will find some extremely knowledgeable coaches working for a fraction of what a country club professional would charge.
Final Thoughts - Are Golf Lessons Worth It?
The bottom line is, the returns on golf lessons can be invaluable. The game is extremely hard and not many can “dig it out of the dirt” like Ben Hogan did. The self-taught golfers who are the “exceptions that prove the rule” like Bubba Watson and Moe Norman are EXTREMELY uncommon.
The insights and “light bulb” moments that can come from a teacher with a keen eye can result in literally a lifetime of enjoyment of the greatest game on Earth. So at the end of the day golf lessons are the best investment a golfer can make in their game in virtually every single case. It’s just a matter of finding out what is available to you, matching up with a coach that you can trust, and then getting the most out of your money by committing to practicing what they have taught you as much as possible in between lessons.