The prospect sounds so appealing: Take a few days off from all work and family obligations, steal away to a beautiful resort and immerse yourself in the personalized teachings of some of the most accomplished instructors in golf. The dozens of golf schools that have sprung up across the country and abroad cater to the desire so many of us have to, once and for all, master this difficult sport. And yes, attending one of these intensive academies can certainly improve your game; however, it's best to keep your expectations modest. Sitting through chalkboard sessions, beating countless balls and studying video of your swing for several days straight won't undo a lifetime of ingrained flaws. And rarely does anyone return home playing at their best, as incorporating swing changes takes time.
Since the philosophy and methods of golf schools vary, choose among them carefully. Are you a beginner seeking a basic grounding?A low-handicapper looking for that breakthrough to edge you closer to scratch?A woman who wants to improve without the distractions of men?Or will you be going as a couple, in search of luxury—pampering spa treatments, sumptuous meals, plush accommodations—as much as a smoother swing?Here are our recommendations of the top golf schools tailored to suit each of these goals.
Golfers just getting started in the game should look for a basic multiday academy that focuses on the fundamentals: grip, stance, alignment and swing plane. Although classes can sometimes be large, most of these schools keep the studentteacher ratio at four or five to one.
JOHN JACOBS GOLF SCHOOL
One of the oldest and most proven academies, this school was founded in 1971 by Shelby Futch and named after a former English Ryder Cup player. Futch has modeled the school on principles he learned in the U.S. Army: precise scheduling and well-rehearsed lesson plans. You won't have to run six miles a day with a heavy backpack, but you're sure to receive quality instruction.
Philosophy: With proper fundamentals, golfers can significantly improve. "If we can get you to hit good shots 80 percent of the time," Futch says, "we've done our job."
Method: Class begins early, usually at 8 a.m., with everyone gathering for introductions and a pep talk. Then students are divided into small groups and assigned to one of the teaching areas: practice range, chipping green, bunkers or putting green. Every few hours they rotate, or head inside to analyze their swings on video.
Locations and Cost: More than two dozen locations from California to Wisconsin to Florida. Three-day schools from $595 to $1,525 (all prices include lodging unless otherwise noted). 800-472-5007, jacobsgolf.com.
Other Good Choices
Ben Sutton Golf School Extensive fifty-acre practice facilities at two sites, one in Sun City Center, Florida, and the other in Windham, New York. Three-day schools from $830 to $955. 800-225-6923, golfschool.com.
Roland Stafford Golf School Summer sessions in upstate New York; winter programs at Deer Creek Golf Club in Deerfield Beach, Florida. Three-day schools from $899 to $1,036. 800-447-8894, staffordgolf.com.