Evaluating Golf Professionals

DRIVING THE DISTANCE: Unleashing Your Power
December 7, 2018
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Evaluating Golf Professionals

This weekend I put my National Evaluator hat on and head to Phoenix to assist in the last Practical Teaching Evaluation of the year for the Ladies Professional Golf Association – Teaching and Club Professionals (LPGA T&CP).

Members within the LPGA T&CP are required to complete testing every two years in both a written and practical format, on route to becoming a Class A Professional.  Once a Class A, LPGA golf professionals are asked to maintain professional competence via a system of acquiring certification units for professional development in two-year cycles.

Steps to Become an LPGA Member »

The morale of the story…  your LPGA Golf Professional is continuously educating herself and attending professional development opportunities to best serve her students, clientele and the overall game.

So, it seemed appropriate that I take this opportunity to share with you, what our next “up & coming” Teaching Professionals are being tested on regarding their Practical Evaluation.   If you are currently taking lessons from a golf professional, these are some of the things they ought to be doing and covering in providing a holistic, student-centered lesson.

In our LPGA Practical Teaching Evaluation there are two categories of testing:

  1. Application
  2. Communication

Within each of these categories there are six components:

APPLICATION COMMUNICATION
  1. Saftey/Warm-up
  2. Equipment Check
  3. Orderly Lesson Plan
  4. Improvement Strategy
  5. Imagery, Metaphors & Drills
  6. Learning & Performance
  1. Interview
  2. Goal Setting
  3. Semantics & Pacing
  4. Modelling
  5. Feedback/Interaction
  6. Summary

First and foremost, a successful teaching professional is to demonstrate an Orderly Progression, blending the above components.  It may look a little like:

Interview > warm-up/observe > goal setting > observe > apply improvement strategy > model/imagery/drills/ observe >feedback/observe > summary

Interview

It is important that a golf teacher investigates a little background on a student, relative to their health, golf, other activities of interest and some personal history.  Could you imagine if a golf teacher started instructing someone without ever knowing about a physical limitation?

It is also essential to know how a student learns best or processes information.  Is a student left or right brain dominant?  Are they visual, kinesthetic or auditory learners?

Gathering information about the student and building rapport are key skills in the interview component of the lesson.

Safety/Warm-Up

It is the teacher’s responsibility to provide a safe environment for the student, teacher and other people in the area.  A successful golf teacher leads a student into completing a thorough warm-up prior to engaging in full-speed swings and throughout the lesson, keeps conscious safety awareness.

Goal Setting

At this early stage of the lesson, the teacher needs to know why the student is taking the lesson.  What do they want to accomplish?  How will this affect their overall enjoyment of their game?  Can they agree on how they will evaluate if the goal is met?  Have you ever had the experience of going to see a golf professional for a specific concern, yet they did not address it at all?  That is not good!

Equipment

It is the responsibility of the golf professional to address any equipment concerns that may be evident, as we all know that equipment is a key factor in influencing performance.  I remember making a simple suggestion to a frustrated golfer gal that had arthritic hands, it was to acquire larger grips so that she could feel the club more and gain better control of her swing.  She lit up, because in her twenty plus years playing, nobody had given her such advice!

Improvement Strategy

As a teacher, this is the most creative part of giving a lesson.  She has collected key information in the first 1/3 of the lesson, and now chooses a plan that is compatible to the goal and effective for the student’s learning style and capabilities.  Based on knowledge of playable ball flight laws, motor learning and the LPGA’s Integrated Performance System, a successful golf teacher maps out an improvement strategy.

Modeling/Imagery/Metaphors/Drills

“There are many ways to lead a horse to water, but some may never drink.”  Choosing how to present the improvement strategy is, in my opinion, the art of teaching.

Modeling can be static, ex. picture, or dynamic, ex. demo in motion.  Some verbal descriptions can model what the teacher is getting at too.  A mirror could directly model back to a student a certain position or motion.  There are many ways to model, but choosing the best one for the student is artful.

Imagery, metaphors and drills are excellent ways to enhance the sensory experience and learning process of a student.  The teacher can provide these and a student can tap into their own, as it applies to their improvement strategy. Words such as ”it feels like” or “it looks like” are just a couple examples of getting deeper into the realm of understanding via metaphors.

Semantics/Pacing

A student-centered teacher mirrors their student, i.e. integrates the student’s words, phrases and perceptions into the conversation and matches body language, eye contact and voice tonality.  Pacing is regulated in order to provide the best learning environment, i.e. a teacher may need to influence either a quickening or slowing down in speech and behaviour to create the ideal learning situation.  One lesson I had to match a student that happened to be a very successful CEO, but not such a great golfer.  He was very frustrated and his tonality was getting louder and faster.  I needed to get his attention by doing the same; thereafter I brought him back down to softer and slower for a better learning environment.  That was scary, but good!

Feedback/Interaction

Ever have a teacher that talked too much?  I think we all have!  What we are looking to see here with our LPGA Professionals is the ability to provide specific, accurate and intermittent feedback to a student by responding occasionally and appropriately.  Ideally, open-ended questions are used during the ongoing interaction, so that the student can take ownership of their learning too.

Learning & Performance/Summary

A goal of any lesson is to elicit a change in behaviour.  The role of the teacher is to provide a process so that change takes place.  Information in of itself is not enough, an observable change in student attitude, body motion, club motion and/or ball flight is necessary for claiming a successful lesson given.

In closing a lesson, it is expected that our golf professional reviews the lesson goal, the key points of the improvement strategy and engages in an assessment of the student’s perceived learning, i.e. check for understanding.  A final connection to a plan for the future, keeps the student enthusiastic and clear on next steps for further success.

This is the basic outline of the LPGA Practical Teaching Evaluation, however, I see it as an opportunity to share what a research-based, holistic, student-centered golf lesson includes.  Very few Professional Golf Associations evaluate their teachers in this manner, where a candidate teaches three lessons in a testing environment and is evaluated to a result of pass or fail.  I am a firm believer in this professional process of accreditation prior to being eligible to give golf lessons.  It has made me a better teacher and now, as an Evaluator in this process, I am seeing its worth all over again as candidates work hard to improve their teaching skills and strive to move along the path to better serve students and their enjoyment of this great game.

***LPGA Resources: Manuals from our National Education Program and Practical Teaching Evaluation

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