For Single-Digit Players
You've already got game and don't want to entrust just anybody with helping you reach the next level. You need a teacher who's worked with scratch players, someone who can fine-tune your swing, show you a new finesse shot or two and sharpen your course-management skills. Your best option is to try one of a number of schools run by big-name instructors such as David Leadbetter and Butch Harmon. In most cases, the gurus whose names and faces are on the brochures only rarely show up (they're busy working with their Tour pros), but the instruction is first-rate just the same.
RICK SMITH GOLF ACADEMY
A close call in a crowded field, but this program offers top-notch teaching in two excellent settings. From October through April, Smith, who coaches Phil Mickelson on the full swing, runs his academy at Tiburon Golf Club at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort in Naples, Florida. From May through September, it's at Treetops Resort in Michigan.
Philosophy: Think before you swing, and conceptualize a shot before making it. Technique is dictated by the type of shot you face.
Method: No more than four students per class, with a studentteacher ratio of two to one. Days begin at 8 or 9 a.m. and end at 2 or 3 p.m., depending on the time of year. Students get to play the courses at the twilight rate after each day's session.
Cost: Three-day schools offered at Treetops ($1,495) and at Tiburon ($1,900); lodging not included. 800-881-0765, ricksmith.com.
Other Good Choices
Butch Harmon School of Golf Based at Rio Secco Golf Club in Hendersonville, Nevada, near Las Vegas, the school offers the choice of three-day sessions with staff instructors ($2,900) or with Harmon—Tiger Woods's original coach on Tour—himself ($5,900). 888-867-3226, butchharmongolfschools.com.
David Leadbetter Golf Academies Leadbetter's flagship is in Florida, at the Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate. Other locations include Half Moon in Jamaica, Grand Wailea Resort in Hawaii and Nemacolin Woodlands Resort in Pennsylvania. Three-day schools from $2,400 to $3,000. 888-633-5323, davidleadbetter.com.
Faldo Golf Institute T+L GOLF Playing Editor Nick Faldo's academies are affiliated with Marriott resorts, including Grande Vista in Orlando, Shadow Ridge in Palm Desert, California, and Seaview Resort & Spa in New Jersey. Three-day schools from $835 to $1,255, lodging not included. 888-463-2536, gofaldo.com.