Stickney: Taking a lesson |

Stickney: Taking a lesson

Tom Stickney
Vail CO, Colorado

1) What are YOUR Goals????

As a teacher, this is the first question I must determine, because it is the foundation on which all other fundamental components are built upon. If you tell me that you are tired of your “over the top slice” and want more than anything else to cure it for good, then I will take you down the anti-slice road- and disregard the other parts of your game until it’s their time.

However, if you tell me that even though you slice the golf ball, your only desire is to break 100, then I will take you down another road designed for you to break 100- not one necessarily to cure your slice for good, but control it until we have you breaking 100 successfully. As you can see both of the above golfers are slicers, but one has a completely different goal than the other one, and would require a totally different lesson.

Always remember your personal golf goals formulate the building blocks of your lesson. In conclusion, before you take your first lesson this year, do some introspection and decide for yourself, just what are your goals, and prioritize them before you see your pro. . .it will help both of you in this process.

2) How much time do you devote to playing and practicing?

The second question heavily correlates with the first one, and in certain situations it can re-shuffle the above priorities because sometimes a student has unrealistic golf goals. What do I mean? Let me give you my favorite example. . .A new student is growing tired of a certain shot pattern, so he decides to get a lesson to fix his faulty swing.

During the interview process with the professional he tells the pro that his number one goal is to fix his shot pattern- period; and he also says that he practices at least three times per week in addition to playing twice on the weekends. But, in reality he hits balls once every two weeks and usually it is before his round on a very cold day, but he plays twice times weekly.

Based on this student’s practice and playing schedule his goal- to fix his swing for good is unattainable in the short term. Why? The practice time involved with fixing his fundamentals problems will require more of a long term approach than this golfer has time for.

In this case I would highly suggest to this student to re-evaluate his goals, so they may be more attainable in the short term. I did not say he couldn’t improve, but if your practice time is limited, then you must live with taking small baby steps in order to fix your swing keeping the big goal of total swing correction in mind for later.

Teachers will work with you and help you see the time involved with curing any fault in your game, only if you allow them to, and that involves giving them the accurate and correct information concerning your practice schedule. So, after you have picked your goals, really check your schedule and then together we will format your learning program around it.

3) What type of Learner are you?

Everyone has a learning style- you are Visual, Verbal, or Kinesthetic and these styles can even flip flop depending on what you are working on- but one style will fit you most often. I try very hard to ascertain what type of learner my student is before I start the lesson, if I don’t I could be in trouble!

Many teachers try and use the same learning style on all of their students, and sadly they are only successful 1/3 of the time! This is where instructor communication is mis-understood.

You always here about this teacher’s communication versus another one’s, but it goes much deeper than that. . .If I instantly knew everything there ever was to know about the golf swing, by using the incorrect learning process with any one of you, I would NOT be successful in teaching you effectively!!!

Now, did we have problems because I didn’t know what I was talking about. . .No, it was because I tried to teach you with the wrong approach- my communication might have been perfect using the wrong style with you. So, hopefully by now you understand that knowledge is only one aspect of teaching and is very important, but Student Learning Styles are also very important and this is really what successful communication is all about, so let’s examine the three styles so you can find the one describing yourself. . .

Visual Learners need pictures, images, and concrete things in which to formulate their differences against. Verbal Learners need an analytical, step by step, language based process in which to follow- it must make sense verbally for it to work. Finally, Kinesthetic Learners need the ability to feel the correct motion versus the incorrect one. They do it without words or pictures- this type of learner is the “I learn by doing” type of person.

Each style has its certain advantages over the others, and very few successful “Big Name” teaching professionals fail to understand what type of Learning process their students adhere to. So remember, your teaching professional has an obligation to you. . .they must be educated to the fullest extent possible, and they must understand how to teach their styles effectively regardless of the Learning Process you need.

So watch out, if you just can’t quite grasp what you’re doing with your pro presently check out his knowledge of Learning Styles and how to teach you using a different one. But be prepared, he might only know how to explain “his” style of teaching in just one way, and this will severely limit his effectiveness with you, and because of this you might have to make a change. Understand the three questions necessary for the proper lesson program you need, make sure your pro knows what he is doing when it comes to learning styles, and make sure you give us the proper information so we can help you as much as possible!

Tom F. Stickney II, G.S.E.D. and Director of Instruction at The Golf Academy at Cordillera. He can be reached at (970) 904-2485 or

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