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Realize your potential

It is essential to find the right coach if you want to improve your game.

BY JAMIE MULLIGAN, PGA, WITH GREG FLORESPublished: July, 2012

It’s so important in this game to have someone to help you realize your potential. Whether you are a new player and want to start on the right foot or you are a Tour professional looking to get to the next level, picking the right instructor is one of the biggest decisions you will make about your game.

Ten or 12 years ago, I was pretty confident in my abilities and felt I could teach anyone. Since then, we have narrowed the group we work to a select few. I look at the whole player/coach relationship with new perspective.

If you want to be great at this game, you need someone to go on the ride with you who will help you realize your goals and aspirations. There needs to be a relationship.

The important thing to the consumer when searching for a coach is to understand how he learns. Are you a kinesthetic learner who goes by feel and sensation? Are you an auditory learner who gathers info through the spoken word? Are you a visual learner who needs to see it to believe it? However you process information, you need to find a coach who works within that style.

Once you find a coach with whom you mesh, determine if that person is truly invested in your improvement. Are you improving every time you are together? Are you able to practice and put into play the concepts you are learning?

There is no reason for a player to feel he has to take two steps backward to make a step forward. You should see steady and consistent improvement. If you are not, you probably are with the wrong coach.

You also will find that many swing coaches want to teach their swing method. We prefer to teach players to play. Golf is not a game of swing. It’s a game you play: It’s the process of moving the ball from Point A to Point B in as few shots as possible. We like to coach the player to utilize what he has to maximize his ability to achieve this.

Over time, we have devoted ourselves to teaching elite players how to get the most from their abilities. These are longstanding relationships built over time. For those players, practice has flourished into successful careers, and each player is doing something he is passionate about.

I don’t know that we could re-create that feeling with a new player without spending a similar amount of time with them. If Davis Love III called tomorrow and asked for help with his game, I don’t know how much we could help in a short window. I would tell him I’ve seen him play hundreds of times, but I don’t know enough about how he functions day in and day out to give him a real assessment.

It takes a relationship built over time for the coach to truly know the player and his abilities. There is no substitute for time, and there is no substitute for a strong player/coach relationship.

Jamie Mulligan, PGA, is chief operating officer and an award-winning PGA pro at Long Beach’s Virginia Country Club.


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