Should you get golf lessons? Are golf lessons worth the money?
I’ll admit, when I first saw these questions, I rolled my eyes because, to me, the answer is obvious. Or so I thought based on my past experiences.
Around 10-12 years ago I started playing poker online. Like many players new to poker, I wasn’t up to scratch. I lost more money than I won.
About a year after I started playing poker, I started working with a few coaches. I don’t think I would’ve won the money I did without them.
Here’s another example:
A few years ago, I started powerlifting. I worked with a coach to improve my technique and to deal with some pain I was having in my squat (I couldn’t do a bodyweight squat without severe pain). My max deadlift was around 315lbs and my bench was around 160-180lbs, so I wanted to get stronger too.
Within 7-9 months of working with him, I squatted 405lbs pain free, deadlifted 435lbs, and benched 245lbs. It’s unlikely that I would’ve done that without a coach – especially in that timeframe.
So, you can see why I thought the answer to the question, are golf lessons worth it, was obvious. Yes, golf lessons are worth the money. Yes, you should take golf lessons.
That was the advice I gave in the first draft of this post. And then after sitting on the draft for a couple of days, I decided I was wrong — and rewrote this post from scratch.
Why You Shouldn’t Get Golf Lessons
I changed my mind because things aren’t that black and white. It struck me that golf lessons aren’t for everyone. Here’s why you might decide against getting lessons.
- You have it all figured out. You know everything there is to know about playing golf.
- You’re not open to learning or you don’t like someone telling you what to do.
- You don’t have the money or time to take a lesson.
- You don’t have time to or interest to practice what you’re taught between lessons.
- You’re happy with where your game is at and the scores you’re able to consistently shoot.
- You prefer to teach yourself and don’t mind potentially learning at a slower pace.
- You don’t mind having the same issues, like a slice, for years, even if an instructor can help you fix it within one session.
- You’re mostly self-taught and play well. Hiring a coach might be detrimental to your game or, at the very least, your swing.
These are all legit reasons. Sure, if you think you know it all, you have some deep-seated issues no one can help you with. But it’s still a legit reason not to seek golf instruction because you won’t improve.
Why You Should Get Golf Lessons
Here’s when it might make sense to get golf lessons.
- You’re an absolute beginner. You’ve never played before, much less held or swung a club. Maybe you’ve never even played putt-putt golf before.
- Your swing is a mess. It’s so inconsistent, you never know where the ball is going to go.
- You have a problem, such as a slice, that you’ve had for years and can’t figure out how to fix it yourself.
- You’re self-taught but have reached a point where you’re no longer able to improve your game and reduce your score on your own.
- You have spotted a specific weakness in your game that you need help troubleshooting and solving.
- You want to work on something that’s not swing related, such as your mindset, course management, or strategy.
- You know how to do something, such as how to draw or fade the ball, but you don’t understand how ball flight works or why the ball curves the way it does.
These are all legit reasons to seek golf instruction. Here are some of the other reasons why instruction makes sense.
- Focus on what’s important. So many golfers, new and old, spend all their time practicing with their drivers. But is that really the best use of your time? Your coach will let you know.
- Fix what’s broken. Many people apply band-aids to their problems, such as adjusting their grip or aim to correct a slice. But a quality coach will help you actually fix the problem.
- Learn drills. A good golf coach will give you drills to perform on your own time to help you correct issues they spotted during your lesson.
- Learn to play better golf faster. A good golf instructor will help you improve your game faster than you would on your own. And when you get better the game gets more enjoyable. It becomes a perpetual cycle.
There are so many reasons and benefits to quality golf coaching. That’s why I originally thought that the answer to questions like, is golf coaching worth it, was obvious.
Don’t be too proud to take lessons. I’m not.Jack Nicklaus
Teaching Yourself to Play Golf
Can you teach yourself how to play golf? Sure, you can. The real question is, should you teach yourself how to play golf?
Golf isn’t an easy game to learn. If it were, fewer people would quit. Fewer people would slice the ball. Fewer golfers would skull the ball. And fewer golfers would make this prance-like motion when they swing the club.
Here are a couple of challenges you face when trying to learn how to play golf on your own.
- You don’t know what you don’t know. How are you supposed to improve your slice (ball curving right) when you don’t know what that is? Or is it a blocked shot (ball flies dead right). It’s hard to fix a problem you don’t know you have, let alone one you can’t identify.
- You can only see so much. Where are your arms at the top of your backswing? Are you moving your weight forward on your downswing? How can you know for sure when you can’t watch yourself swing?
This is where an experienced golf coach comes in. They can look at you swing from multiple angles, quickly identify your biggest issues, and come up with a plan to help you fix them.
Put another way, teaching yourself how to play golf can be a frustratingly slow process. You have to learn a lot before you can even begin to diagnose any issues you might have. And you got to enjoy this process otherwise you’ll never stick to it, much less improve.
Should You Never Coach Yourself?
I’m not saying you should never coach yourself. All I’m saying is that it’s not easy to coach yourself between having a lack of knowledge and the inability to watch yourself as you swing.
There are people who have coached themselves and now shoot in the 70s and 80s. When their progress stalls, that’s when some of them decide to work with a golf instructor.
Don’t forget that many people who teach themselves to play golf likely have innate athletic ability. The amount of built-in talent you have will play a role in how easy it is to coach yourself.
But you have to ask – how long did it take them to get to that point? And how much faster would they have gotten there had they worked with a coach from the start? Would they be playing scratch golf today?
Of course, if they enjoy the discovery process and troubleshooting their own mistakes, then more power to them. I’m all for people enjoying the game, in whatever form that might take.
In fact, I do think you should coach yourself in some areas. This might take shape in one or more of the following ways.
How to Coach Yourself in Golf
One way you can coach yourself is do the lessons your golf coach gave you. Your coach will or should have explained what you’re doing wrong and the drill you can perform to fix it.
For example, I was slicing the ball, so my coach explained what I was doing wrong (out to in swing path) and gave me a drill to work on it (an aggressive in to out swing path). So, when I work on this drill, or even when I’m playing, if I slice the ball, I know I need a more aggressive in-to-out swing. This is one form of self-coaching.
Another form of teaching yourself how to play golf is to read books, magazines, and high-quality websites. You can do this to learn something totally new or to reinforce what your golf instructor is teaching you.
For example, I was reading Adam Young’s Practice Manual during my lessons, which made it much easier to grasp what my coach was showing me regarding my ball striking, swing path, and ball flight.
And yet another option is to coach yourself on something totally different from what you and your coach are working on. While my golf instructor coached me on my swing, I worked on my putting and chipping.
Ultimately, I do think you can and should coach yourself but, in my opinion, it should be in addition to lessons you’re receiving from a qualified golf instructor.
Preparing for Your First Golf Lesson
Okay, so let’s say I convinced you to work with a golf coach. How do you find a quality golf coach? Should you buy one lesson or a package? How many lessons should you take? What should you bring to your first lesson?
How to Find a Golf Coach
I lucked out. I signed up for a co-ed group package that was for four 1-hour lessons. I paid $120 or something, which is a great price considering that’s nearly the cost of a 1-on-1 lesson.
This gave me a chance to work with the coach a little bit and decide if I wanted to work with him more. I did, so I ended up buying a multi-lesson 1-on-1 package.
But not everyone will be as lucky.
The first thing I’d do is ask anyone I know who plays golf if they have any recommendations. This will be the most effective way to find a good golf coach.
Otherwise, my suggestion is to Google a few courses and pick out two or three coaches that sound like they might work out. Send them all an email with a few questions and either work with the coach who responds first or whoever sounds like the best fit.
One Lesson or a Package?
My suggestion is to take the cheapest option that allows you to work with the coach to determine if you’re a good fit. Every coach teaches different, and everyone learns differently.
This might mean buying one 45 or 60-minute lesson or it might mean signing up for a group class. Whatever you do, don’t make a huge commitment up front. If you take one lesson and decide you don’t like the coach, it’s easy to move on. But if you sign up for multiple lessons, you’re either stuck with the coach or you’ll be out some money.
Once you find a coach you’d like to work with, then feel free to sign up for or ask about lesson packages. This is a great way to save a few bucks.
What to Bring to Your First Golf Lesson
You want to dress appropriately for both the golf course and the season. My lessons are held at the driving range, so I don’t have to worry about proper golf attire. But you’ll want to check with your instructor to be sure.
Other than that, dress for the weather. Wear athletic or golf shoes, shorts and a shirt for the summer or long pants, shirt, and some kind of jacket for fall and winter.
If you have golf clubs, bring them with you too. But if you don’t, as I didn’t when I took my first group lessons, that’s okay – the coach will likely have clubs you can use instead.
This post is quite a bit different from the first one I published. I had a strong opinion in that post that everyone should work with a golf coach.
But that’s not true. If you’re not interested in being told what to do, happy with where your game is at, or prefer to teach yourself, then coaching isn’t for you.
But if you want to get better as quickly as possible, want to enjoy the game of golf more, and don’t have the patience to teach yourself the intricacies of golf, then golf lessons is money well-spent.