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A Case for Playing Lessons

By James Douris

How many times have you asked a student what their weaknesses are at the beginning of a lesson, only to get a response that is usually completely false once watching the individual play? I have found that in most cases, the average golfer has no idea what part of their game lets them down the most.

If a golfer comes to you simply wanting to work on hitting a driver or learning to hit long irons, you may improve their technique, but their scores are probably not going to improve.

If a player comes to you wanting to improve their scores, then you must watch them play a round first to pinpoint where the most strokes are lost, enabling you to develop a plan on how to reduce their scores. How can you possibly take a golfer’s word for it when asked where they think they can improve the most?


Almost every golfer responds with the same unfounded answer: “Usually if I could just hit it further or learn to draw the ball and get rid of my dreaded fade.” They seldom admit that they usually take two to get out of a bunker, three-putt every three holes, miss the green from 30-100 yards almost every time, and don’t know the difference between a chip or a pitch.

The easiest way to improve a golfer’s score is to watch them play and to work on the areas inside 100 yards. I often caddie for students, and it is amazing what they learn. Personally, I have learned a lot over the years from my caddies. My regular caddie was Kel Nagle’s caddie.  Nagle is a former British Open champion who was one of Australia’s greatest-ever golfers. My caddie taught me so many shots around the greens that I went from an average golfer to a really good golfer. He showed me the art of punching out of trouble, hitting under branches, hitting into the wind, pitching from bad lies, and when to chip or to pitch.

If you can teach your students how to make decisions on the course, they will shoot lower scores. Imagine if your 20-handicapper seldom three-putted, or knew when to pitch or chip and run, and knew when to lay up with an iron rather than try for the green with a 3-wood from the fairway with a lake just right of the green. Imagine how much better they would be without even changing their swing. Just imagine!

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