This article is for those of you who are not in Southern California because if you were, I would obviously be telling you to come get golf lessons from me :)
What advice would I give someone shopping around for golf coaches? You don't want to make the mistake of getting stuck paying for lessons with a coach you may not get along with or who you really may not be learning anything from. If you're serious about golf, you should be serious about finding an instructor that's actually going to help you. I don't care how cheap or expensive he/she may be, nothing's going to matter if you're still shooting the same stinky score and struggling with the same misses you've had; It's really just going to be wasted time and money. Read on to save yourself a lot of frustration, time and money when learning this game.
#1 Watch Them Teach! One of the very first things I advise golfers to do when looking for a coach in their local area is to go watch them teach! It's free! There's no harm in watching an instructor from a distance at the range. Some instructors will also gladly let you sit in on a lesson so you can get the feel for what it's like. I always welcome any potential students to come and watch me teach to get an idea of how I work with different abilities and levels. If a teacher is not inclined to let you watch, then I would be suspicious. And, "No" it's not because they don't want you to be getting free tips, the chances of those tips he's giving another golfer solving your swing issues are almost none anyways.
#2 Do they offer some sort of Customer Satisfaction? Does the instructor have any client protection services in play in case you really don't like how the lesson went? You just purchased a series of lessons for hundreds of dollars, you take the very fist lesson and you really don't like how it went for whatever reason; maybe the the instructor was rude, maybe he/she was just telling you to do the same thing for an hour straight and it's not working. And maybe you just wanted to quit the lessons and get your money back because you felt it wasn't worth it. Does the instructor have any type of guarantees that can make sure you're getting what you asked for and if not, your money back? Most instructors who are confident in their abilities will give you some type of assurance that you will see results in the first few lessons. If not I would be concerned.
#3 Do they use any tools? Be very careful with this one because as I wrote in an earlier post, the use of tools is not the solution, it only helps the instructor gain more insight to your swing movements. However, assuming that the instructor uses some type of tools whether it be launch monitoring tools, vector plates, or 3D motion analysis, it shows that the instructor is also certified in providing more insight and be on a more accurate path to helping golf game. It's almost impossible to see exactly what the body is doing with just the naked eye. The use of technology has really advanced to give players and their coaches some insight to what's really going on in the swing, so finding a progressive coach who keeps up with the latest technology and coaching strategies is only going to be to your advantage.
#4 Meet with as many of them as you can. Make a list of all the coaches you'd potentially want lessons from. Give them a call, schedule a meeting with them. Ask them whatever questions you wish to help you narrow down your choice.
#5 Ask others. Most of my lessons come from word of mouth. Throughout history, it's been one of the most powerful ways for someone to get connected to a service or product. When you're at the range or on the golf course ask around for any recommendations of a good coach. Remember, don't just ask for "A" coach, but ask around to see if anyone knows who's really good in the area. Did you just play a round with someone hitting the golf ball right down the middle and far? Ask him/her how they got so good? Who was their coach? Do you see someone hitting the green flag at the range time and time again? Ask him, who was/is his coach and don't forget to ask him if they're good.
#6 Price Mistake. One of the biggest mistakes I see people getting into is making price a determining factor when picking a coach. Let me ask you something, would you pay for a year's worth of golf lessons to a coach who barely taught you anything, just because he/she was a fraction of the cost of another coach? Or would you have used that same amount of money to have gotten coaching for 3 months with enormous improvement? If you're serious about your golf game, be serious about your golf coach. I'm not saying that good coaches are expensive, I'm just saying make sure you're picking who you think you'll really benefit from. In the end, you'll just end up having wasted your time and money. In a worse case scenario, you can actually have gotten worse after getting lessons. In contrast don't make the mistake of thinking someone who charges an arm and a leg is necessarily better either.
#6 Reflect on your Progress and don't be afraid to make a change.
Here is a story of a typical student/coach dynamic.... Student gets lessons. Then within his first few lessons he sees some improvement. After about a month or two, the student finds that the changes were short lived or that they're kind of stuck improving and it's really hard to get better from there. Anyone reading this post can relate to the frustrations that come about finding long term improvement with golf lessons. Most people will find a road block or "Plateauing," in their golf progress.
Here are some things to keep in mind, if you're finding yourself lost and you don't feel that you will improve, if you don't have a goal or a clear picture of where you're going with your swing, chances are you're not going to get there. A good coach will guide you through where you need to be and each lesson should have that goal in mind a plan to tackle it. If you feel that you and/or your coach is lacking in that direction then it's completely ok to go look for second opinions. There is no harm in finding other coaches who you think may help you more. Only do this however, after you've given your current coach a fair chance; have you practiced the way he's told you? Have you been going to your lesson consistently? You've not given your coach a fair chance unless you've done your due diligence. I would say a good 8-12 lessons is a fair chance for you to see if the coach is going to continue to help you. Remember, even if you go off and see other coaches, you can always come back to the one you liked the best!