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One of the most difficult tasks for people looking to improve their golf games is getting insights on who to reach out to regarding possible lessons. The extended Q&A comes from several of the most talented young teachers in golf in America. The perspectives they share goes into a range of different topics and provides a roadmap for those looking to develop a relationship with a teacher who can both challenge them to improve and spur them on when the sledding gets harder.

WHO THEY ARE —

SEAN PAUL
PGA Head Golf Professional
Arcis Golf / Los Robles Greens
Thousand Oaks, Calif.
Age: 32 / Hourly Lesson Rate: $50

With more than 10 years of experience across the full spectrum of golf course operations this is Sean’s second tour of duty at Los Robles, leaving in 2014 for four years to join GolfTEC and teach full-time as a Certified Coach and Director of Club fitting. After giving more than 5,000 lessons, he brought his passion for teaching and his friendly personality back to Los Robles. He also produced a golf podcast called the “3 Off The Tee” that’s available on iTunes.

BRITT SHARROCK
Director of Instruction
Arcis Golf / Cowboys Golf Club
Grapevine, Texas
Age: 35 / Hourly lesson rate: $150 for adults, $50 for juniors

A native of Snyder, Texas, Britt competed at Midland College for two years and then went on to earn a marketing degree from Texas Tech University, graduating in 2006. He was hired by Cowboys Golf Club as an assistant golf professional in 2008. The past 10 years he has focused on building an instruction and coaching program, with an emphasis on the year-round GolfFIT Performance Academy for ages 6-18.

DEVAN BONEBRAKE
Director of Instruction
Rolling Hills CC
Rolling Hills Estates, CA
Age: 33 / Hourly lesson rate: $200
Owner of the Southern California Golf Academy

Golf Digest “Best Young Teachers in America” 2016-2019 – and the only Trackman Master Instructor in California. Bonebrake’s mentor from the start is Jim McLean – listed among the top five teachers in the sport by Golf Digest.

NICK CUPPER
PGA Director of Player Development
Arcis Golf/Weston Hills Country Club
Weston, FL
Age: 39 / Hourly Lesson Rates: $125 for adults, $80 for juniors

A multi-sport athlete growing up near Pittsburgh, Nick has played golf professionally and worked in the golf industry in South Florida for more than 15 years. He has learned from some of the greatest teachers of all time, combining that experience with the latest advancements in technology to bring the best of both worlds to his golf instruction. A PGA Class A Professional, Nick also dedicates time to The First Tee locally.

JOHN TILLERY
Director of Instruction
Cuscowilla Golf Club
Eatonton, GA
Age: 36 / Hourly Lesson Rates:$250

John Tillery is a Class A PGA Professional and is listed among the top 50 teachers in America by Golf Digest. He has also been listed by the
magazine as among the best young teachers in America. Tillery also coaches five (5) PGA Tour players.

PAXTON O’CONNOR
PGA Director of Performance Center & Instruction
Desert Mountain Club
Scottsdale, AZ
Age: 27 / Hourly Lesson Rate: $150

Recently named to the prestigious list of “Best Young Teachers in America” for 2018-19 by Golf Digest — one of the two youngest on the list of teachers not yet age 40. O’Connor began his career at the Butch Harmon School of Golf, where he was mentored personally by Butch Harmon, and his staff professionals. Paxton’s passion to learn has taken him all over the country, meeting with the brightest minds in the teaching and coaching professions, and observing them in action.  He oversees Desert Mountain’s state-of-the-art Jim Flick Golf Performance Center.

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How much emphasis do you place on game management along with developing skills in hitting the ball?

PAUL: There are a few areas of teaching golf that coaches need to cover. One is how to build a consistent, repeatable golf swing; the other is how to actually get the ball in the hole. We teach them those skills and from those skills comes the confidence to make it happen.

SHARROCK: I would say 50/50. In my program, we access the golf course often and do on-course lessons. While we are on the range or practice green, we are focusing on fundamental development and instilling a consistent process. While on the course, we try to take that process and apply it to the varying situations on the course. It is vital to develop a visualization process to execute the shot you want to hit.

BONEBRAKE: Anyone’s score is a combination of full swing, short game, course management, and mental game. Each area is instrumental in the overall score of any player. All areas must be taken seriously. I always try to make the weakness a strength

CUPPER: I think they go hand in hand. The faster you can get a new golfer on the golf course, the better. I believe this approach will give the player more incentive for improvement.

TILLERY: A lot. Understanding tendencies and understanding playing the game are at least as important as their golf swing.

O’CONNOR: The use of DECADE Course Management System has allowed me to better communicate concepts to score lower with emphasis that skill will trump style of golf swing.

You can change one thing in golf unilaterally — what would it be and why?

TILLERY: From a student standpoint, I’d change the vast majority of players’ underestimation of their bodies’ affect on their motion. From a game standpoint, I’m in favor of anything that makes it not take 5 hours. From a coaching standpoint, I believe we’d all get better as a group if everyone lost some ego.

SHARROCK: Find affordable rates so kids of all ages can play on the golf course more. There needs to be more ways to better fund school golf programs, or raise the money to cover the costs for kids to get onto the golf course.

BONEBRAKE: Government sponsorships for the countries best amateurs. It’s common elsewhere in the world. Golf is expensive so our best talent receiving the best coaching only makes sense for optimal development in this sport.

CUPPER: I love the idea that children play golf free with a paying adult. The more we can make it easier for children to have access to the golf course, the better. Arcis Golf is committed to making golf clubs more relevant to today’s consumers and their families and my experience is that if children play the game, the entire family is more likely to come out to the club multiple times per week.

PAUL: To make the game easier and more fun for everyone, whether it’s the rules, equipment, course design, in order to attract more people to play golf. Start with a simple guideline to playing a round of golf, so beginners can look at and not be overwhelmed. We need something better than just The Rules of Golf.

O’CONNOR: The teaching industry doesn’t address how to actually teach — rather it promotes what to teach. Cultivating environmental design and self-organized learning to guide the experience.

How does quality teaching reach those without the deepest of pockets?

CUPPER: I think an academy that offers large, group classes is the best way to achieve this. It does two things: (1) Group classes drastically reduce the cost of the classes compared to private lessons; (2) They allow students to meet other players with a similar passion for learning the game.

BONEBRAKE: The internet has changed everything. Both for golfers and teachers. The amount of quality information available these days is incredible. Even ten years ago if I wanted to learn I had to buy a plane ticket and go get a lesson from a famous teacher. Now their Instagram account is a goldmine for top notch information.

SHARROCK: The most feasible route for quality golf instruction is offer group training. Group training offers a better rate per session and a better learning environment for children. Another option is the internet — golf tutorials that offer a wide range of instruction.

TILLERY: I think to some extent, this will always be somewhat of a problem based on simple economics of supply and demand. I do, however, think we have seen this change some, and will continue to, as technology and the wealth of information is readily available and has helped create a landscape of far more educated and able instructors.
PAUL: I think there are a lot of programs out there that do great things for those who don’t have deep pockets. Some of the best coaches out there worked for places like The First Tee, and with organizations like the PGA of America that offer golf instruction for every income level.

O’CONNOR: Quality instruction has already surfaced and made available with the use of internet and social media. We are hearing more and more about players who are learning through watching videos and reading articles.

Growing the game is a main line concern for the major golf organizations. This is especially so for Millennials, women and minorities. What steps do you see as being crucial to reach these groups and what are you doing individually to do so?

BONEBRAKE: Personally, I feel the golf industry as a whole is doing a fantastic job of making it a “cool” sport to play and also in some capacity available to anyone. I always think the future is in our juniors, so all my programs are designed to give them the best opportunity possible to develop into the golfer they want to be.

PAUL: Things are happening every day to help invite more people into the game. Places like Topgolf are showing golfers and non-golfers how much fun the game can be, as are other things that are appealing to younger demographics and the whole family. Arcis Golf is meeting the challenge, with its clubs creating fun golf experiences, because no one is going to shy away from having fun.

SHARROCK: Offering new and exciting technology is the way to reach millennials. We offer the latest in Trackman equipment, which is the best. It allows students to learn so much in a short amount of time. Golfers don’t excel quickly enough and get out of the game before they get over the hump in the improvement process. It is vital to provide technology to teaching because it is the quickest path to improvement.

CUPPER: The goal is to create extraordinary experiences, so I make sure everyone has a chance to meet each other in all of our classes and clinics. I get to know the students, learn their likes and dislikes. It’s important they are with groups they enjoy, because it’s the experience that keeps their interest in learning and can build their passion for golf.
 
TILLERY: I believe all instructors, particularly those with a platform, have to chip in to grow the game. Though most of us are extremely busy, we are able to train younger coaches, assistant professionals, interns, etc. to help assist with many of these programs. We host clinics, as well as run a year round junior program, in addition to summer programs that are very affordable.

O’CONNOR: Value of time and entry are constraints to game of golf. Developing courses that a participant can complete three holes at their leisure where every third hole loops back to a central clubhouse. This encourages them to play three or all nine holes. What our team has done is set up a social and competitive event where participants play 9 holes from a reduced yardage — 100, 150, and 200 yards. The event provides an opportunity for those intimidated by the length of modern day golf courses, meet new people in the game, and finish in less time.

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