Best Golf Schools

Best Golf Schools

Teaching philosophies vary from school to school. Most stress the fundamentals—grip, aim, stance, posture, and balance. Some emphasize rhythm, tempo, and the "feel" of a proper swing. Others investigate the six most important inches in golf—the terrain between your ears. Then there are those that believe the flight of the ball is the ultimate indicator of a successful swing and so schedule lots of ball-hitting sessions to teach the laws of impact (bring extra Band-Aids to these classes).

Novices should enroll in classes to master the basics: attempting to play golf without qualified instruction is an exercise in frustration. Also, it's difficult to unlearn bad habits once they are ingrained. Seasoned players flock to golf schools to correct flaws, restore confidence, and improve scores. At any level, the goal is to build a reliable swing that will enhance your enjoyment of the game. Ideally, the following schools can accomplish that.

A few tips before packing your bags: be realistic about your goals (a sound golf swing can't be built in a few days, though the foundation for one can be established); if you're struggling with your game, don't plan on playing much golf—the idea is to learn something new; swing a club without wearing a glove (to toughen your hands before leaving for school) and do frequent stretching exercises; upon your return, be prepared to practice what you've learned. Unless otherwise noted, all prices quoted for the schools are per person (accommodations, some meals, greens fees, golf carts), double rates for all-inclusive packages.

ARNOLD PALMER GOLF ACADEMY
9000 Bay Hill Blvd.
Orlando, FL 32819
800/523-5999 or 407/876-5362

According to Arnie, "My father stressed two things when he taught me to play golf—fundamentals and attitude." Likewise, the academy's approach is straightforward, simple, and schooled in the basics, with tips on course strategy and how to practice like a pro. Student-teacher ratio 4 or 5:1. Swing is videotaped. Sessions held at Bay Hill Club in Orlando. Three-day program from $1300, $585 for commuters; five-day package $2150, $975 for commuters (Arnold Palmer workbook and personal videotape included). Additional locations: Tampa FL, Mesquite NV, Bay St. Louis MS. Upcoming locations: San Francisco CA and Palm Springs, CA.

BEN SUTTON GOLF SCHOOL
2920 Market Ave. S.
Canton, OH 44711
800/225-6923 or 330/453-4350

Founded in 1968 as one of America's first full-fledged golf schools. Three-, five-, and seven-day sessions are scheduled year-round in Sun City Center, 24 miles south of Tampa. Classes for all ages and ability contain 4-7 students per instructor. Sessions include on-course instruction, video analysis, graph check sequence photography (a sequential series of still photos), and after-class play. The school's primary goal is to improve all aspects of the game, including a consistent pre-swing routine and the proper set-up for your physical makeup, with extra emphasis on the scoring shots. Prices range from $350 to $1,875, depending on time, length of stay and occupancy plan.

DAVE PELZ SHORT GAME SCHOOL
1310 Ranch Rd. 620 S. #B1
Austin, TX 78734
800/833-7370 or 512/263-7668

Pelz, a Golf Magazine technical consultant, is author of "Putt Like the Pros," considered the definitive book on putting. Practice (on specially designed courses) and classroom sessions concentrate on the short game. Teaching aids include putting robot and stop-action video. Student-teacher ratio 4:1. Classes held at Boca Raton Resort & Club in Florida and at PGA West in La Quinta, California. Three-day Executive sessions, taught by Pelz and his staff, $2,690 - $3,395 with lodging. Three-day Premier sessions, conducted by staff with same format, $1,925 - $2,860.

DAVID LEADBETTER GOLF ACADEMY
9100 Chiltern Dr.
Orlando, FL 32827
800/424-3542 or 407/857-8276

Leadbetter is the swing guru. Based at Lake Nona Country Club, the academy's two-day retreat covers all aspects of the game, with emphasis on video analysis of full swing. Short-game drills include pitching, chipping, bunker play, and putting. Students gain an understanding of swing mechanics. Retreat limited to six students, with 2:1 student-instructor ratio. Cost is $3,500 for David Leadbetter Retreat, $2,000 with Mitchell Spearman (a Leadbetter protege), $1,200 with staff instructors. Half-day sessions (starting at $175) and individual lessons (starting at $125 an hour, $75 for juniors). Selected Leadbetter programs at Quail West in Naples, Florida (800/424-3546).

JIM McLEAN GOLF SCHOOL AT DORAL
4400 N.W. 87th Ave.
Miami, FL 33178
800/723-6725 or 305/591-6409

McLean was chosen by Golf Magazine as one of America's 50 best teachers. Four components are stressed—the full swing, the short game, course management, and attitude. Teaching aids and videotape used extensively to identify problems and implement correct techniques. Programs include two-day school with a 4:1 student-teacher ratio ($1,075, $2,400 with McLean); three-day program ($1,920, $3,100 with McLean); six-day Players School for golfers with handicaps of 12 for men, 18 for women, or better ($5,540 with McLean, all inclusive). One-day session with McLean $1,750. Prices are a la carte; package prices available.

GOLF ACADEMY AT AVIARA
7447 Batiquitos Dr.
Carlsbad, CA 92009
800/433-7468 or 760/438-4539

Seven-year-old school near La Jolla offering more than 70 weekday and weekend sessions annually, each limited to 16 pupils. Student-teacher ratio 4:1. Players are grouped by ability; a beginner's curriculum is available. Eight hours of daily instruction covers full swing, short game, course strategy and physical fitness, with extensive video analysis. Academy director Kip Puterbaugh was selected by Golf Magazine as one of America's top 50 instructors. Superb practice facility on the premises of Arnold Palmer-designed Aviara Four Seasons Golf Club. Tuition for two-day program $795, three-day $1,195. Private instruction is $90/hr., with custom programs available.

GOLF DIGEST SCHOOLS
5520 Park Ave.
Box 395
Trumbull, CT 06611
800/243-6121 or 203/373-7130

Offers nearly 400 programs in 12 states (from the Sun Belt to Idaho and Massachusetts) for golfers of all abilities. Two-, three-, four-, and five-day sessions provide group and individual instruction covering all aspects of game. On-site videotape analysis. Students (except in half-day schools) take home videocassette of session plus program notebook. Instructors affiliated with Golf Digest magazine. Tuition ranges from $3,290, for four-day school, to $5,200, for five-day VIP session.

INNISBROOK TROON GOLF INSTITUTE
36750 U.S. Hwy. 19 N.
Palm Harbor, FL 34684
800/456-2000 or 813/942-2000

Well-respected school attached to the Weston Innisbrook Resort, 20 miles northwest of Tampa. Newcomers to golf will profit from the four-day school held Thursday to Sunday or Sunday to Wednesday. It includes on-course supervision with a student-teacher ratio of 4:1, 16 hours of instruction in fundamentals, take-home videotape analysis, and golf on days of arrival and departure at resort's 63-hole complex. $1,500 with lodging, breakfast, and lunch; commuter rate $1200. The five-day Golf Institute Playing School, geared to low handicappers, is $2500 with lodging and meals. The Junior Golf Institute has six-day packages in July for players 10 to 17, for a commuter rate of $575.

GOLF SCHOOL
Mount Snow Resort
Rte. 100
West Dover, VT 05356
800/451-4211 or 802/464-7788

Two- or three-day weekend and two- to five-day midweek sessions at this well-established school in southern Vermont. Pupils grouped by ability (student-teacher ratio 4:1) and taught by the accelerated method using motion as the foundation for developing a repeating swing, as well as strength identification. Timing, balance, and rhythm are emphasized. Daily schedule includes long game, short game, videotape analysis and on-course instruction. Tuition $419-$504, for the two-day session, and $949-$1,129, for the five-day program with lodging and lunch; both programs held May - October. School relocates October - May to Plantation Inn & Golf Resort in Crystal River, Florida (800/240-2555).

GOLF UNIVERSITY AT SAN DIEGO
17550 Bernardo Oaks Dr.
San Diego, CA 92128
800/426-0966 or 619/485-8880

Founded by Ken Blanchard, author of "Playing the Great Game of Golf" and coauthor of "The One-Minute Manager," this school aims for attitude adjustment and appeals to golfers at all levels. Fuses mental aspects of game with solid mechanics. Student-teacher ratio 5:1. Six hours of daily instruction with videotape analysis and review, on-course supervised play, club evaluation and fitting, and a physical evaluation and exercise program are featured in Sunday - Thursday program. Lodging at Rancho Bernardo Inn. Tuition including breakfast and dinner: for three days $2,864 ($995 commuter rate), for four days, $3,422 ($1,130 commuter rate).

GRAND CYPRESS ACADEMY OF GOLF
1 N. Jacaranda
Orlando, FL 32836
800/835-7377 or 407/239-1975

One of the best schools and practice facilities in the nation. Located within the 1,500-acre resort complex on the doorstep of Walt Disney World. The school uses Compusport, which creates a computer model of a correct swing and putt for each student based on height, weight, and body type. This ideal stroke is then superimposed over a video image of student's actual swing. Students can hone skills on the Jack Nicklaus-designed three-hole learning course. The three-day Grand Cypress Series, limited to eight students, features full-swing and short-game instruction, on-course lessons, Compusport club fitting, and unlimited golf at resort's 45-hole complex; prices range from $960 to $2,455. Full packages include all meals and transportation to and from the airport. The academy's Mini-School Series offers many elements of longer program in three half-day sessions.

MICHAEL HEBRON SCHOOL FOR LEARNING GOLF
Palm Beach Polo, Golf & Country Club
11809 Polo Club Rd.
West Palm Beach, FL 33414
561/798-7401

Hebron, who attained PGA Master Professional status in 1986, was voted 1991 PGA Teacher of the Year and was selected as one of Golf magazine's top 50 teachers in the world. His technique is based on his belief that the instructor should first and foremost help students to help themselves, and his sessions come with a guarantee. Student-teacher ratio 3:1. One, two or three day workshops are offered, at prices ranging from $125 to $825. One day short game schools are also available. Customized private lessons with the staff are $90/hr, with Hebron, $135/hr. His classes are also available at Smithtown Landing Country Club in Smithtown, NY.

JOHN JACOBS' GOLF SCHOOLS
7825 E. Redfield Rd.
Scottsdale, AZ 85260
800/472-5007 or 602/991-8587


Largest golf instruction operation in the world, with 30 schools in 14 states and two international locations (more than 17,000 students attended these schools last year). Founded in 1971 by Jacobs, a former Ryder Cup player, and Shelby Futch, a Golf Magazine editor. Two-, three-, four-, and five-day sessions available. Daily classes 9 a.m.-3 p.m. with a 5:1 student-teacher ratio. The basics are emphasized, as is Jacobs's ball flight theory. Programs range from weekend commuter packages (starting at $195) to five-day sessions ($895 and up with lodging) at Painted Mountain Golf Club in Mesa, Arizona.

NICKLAUS/FLICK GOLF SCHOOL
11780 U.S. Hwy. 1
North Palm Beach, FL 33408
800/642-5528 or 561/626-3900

The school adheres to the principle that the best teachers teach people, not theories. Instruction is grounded in fundamentals and enhanced by state-of-the-art technology. Three-day Master Golf sessions (limited to 18 students, starting at $2,595 with lodging, $2,095 without) include personalized instruction in all phases of game, digital-imaging videotape analysis, take-home videotape, 9 holes daily, equipment evaluation, and "Master Golf Workbook." Sessions held at the Boca Raton Resort and Club and the Golf for Women Magazine Golf School in Boca Raton, Florida, as well as at The Scottsdale Princess/Desert Mountain in Scottsdale, AZ.

PHIL RITSON - MEL SOLE GOLF SCHOOL
Pawleys Plantation Golf & Country Club
Hwy. 17, Box 2580
Pawleys Island, SC 29585
800/624-4653 or 803/237-4993

Ritson is one of the grand old men of golf instruction, having served as mentor to David Leadbetter and many other top teachers. The school is geared to golfers of all abilities, with a strong emphasis on keeping the swing as simple as possible. Mental aspects of game are addressed. Three-day package includes three nights accomodation, three breakfasts, green fees for three rounds of golf, 10.5 hours of instruction with video analysis and a take-home instructional video, at prices ranging from $640 to $820. Five-day packages feature 17.5 hours of instruction, including two 9-hole playing lessons and the same extras as three-day sessions, at prices ranging from $1190 to $1445. The commuter School has a variety of classes, such as half-day and weekend sessions. The Jack Nicklaus-designed layout at Pawleys Plantation is one of the best in the Myrtle Beach area.

PINEHURST GOLF ADVANTAGE SCHOOL
Carolina Vista
Village of Pinehurst, NC 28374
800/795-4653 or 919/295-6811

Under the direction of former PGA of America president Don Padgett, the school combines the latest computer technology with one of this country's most complete indoor/outdoor teaching facilities and access to the resort's eight layouts. According to Padgett, "We stress the fundamentals before beginners have a chance to learn bad habits." Student-teacher ratio is 5:1. Morning clinics cover everything from driving and chipping to pitching and putting; afternoons are devoted to on-course instruction. The school's weeklong seasonal sessions (March - May, September and October), with four days of instruction, start at $2,000. Weekend seasonal rates start at $1,615 ($1,445 June and July). Pinehurst's weeklong Junior Golf Advantage School, for boys and girls 11 - 17, costs $1,150. Advanced Junior Golf Advantage School, for young tournament-minded players (handicaps of 15 or less), $1,230. Golf Advantage School programs also at Barton Creek in Austin, Texas (800/336-6157).

PINE NEEDLES GOLF LEARNING CENTER
1005 Midland Rd.
Southern Pines, NC 28388
800/747-7272 or 910/692-7111

Since 1969 owner and head teaching pro Peggy Kirk Bell, a great champion in her day, has been leading what she dubs a Golfari (each one limited to women, juniors, or families) as well as four-day Learning Centers open to all golfers; five-day women's-only Golfaris ($1150 with lodging and meals) are especially popular. All aspects of the game are covered. Learning Center sessions use verbal, visual, and kinesthetic instruction. Tuition includes cart, lodging, meals, and greens fees on Pine Needles course, site for 1996 & 2001 U.S. Women's Opens.

RICK SMITH GOLF ACADEMY
3962 Wilkinson Rd.
Gaylord, MI 49735
888/732-5060 or 800-444-6711 or 888-TREETOP or 517/732-6711

Smith, one of the rising stars of the profession, employs video and personalized drills, with a particular emphasis on individualized instruction. His "premiere" sessions, taught with longtime colleagues Henry Young and Jim Schuman, include 3.5 hours of full swing instruction and are $600, with a maximum of five students. These may also be rolled into all-inclusive package at Treetops Sylvan Resort, where Smith is director of golf. Three-day weekend workshops conducted by Young and Schuman are also offered. ($750 for commuters, call for information on package rates). Masters sessions are scheduled for Mondays (short game) and Tuesdays (full swing) and are priced at $300, with a maximum of 4 students.

ROLAND STAFFORD GOLF SCHOOL
Box 81
Arkville, NY 12406
800/447-8894 or 914/586-3187

Stafford, who holds a master's degree in music education, is known for ability to communicate the rhythmic feel of a proper swing. All instructors use Stafford's method to master the basics—grip, connection, levels and tempo—and eliminate bad habits. Emphasis on short game, including stroke-saving specialty shots. Video analysis used. Five hours of daily instruction. Classes grouped by ability level, with four - six pupils per instructor. Year-round classes at Palm-Aire Country Club in Pompano Beach, Florida. Two-, three-, and four-day schools scheduled April-October at Peek 'n Peak Resort in Clymer, New York; Hotel L'Esterel in Quebec; and Tory Pines Resort in Francestown, New Hampshire. Two-day weekend package, April - October, at Windham House in Windham, New York, $444; four-day midweek program $785.

STRATTON GOLF SCHOOL
Stratton Mountain, VT 05155
800/843-6867 or 802/297-4000

New 22-acre training facility (wide fairway area, large target greens, sand traps, expansive putting and chipping areas) at 4,000-acre ski/golf resort. Director Rich Setter and staff stick to the basics and help novices build confidence. Individualized instruction: student-teacher ratio 5:1. Two-day weekend packages include two full days of instruction plus rounds on resort's 27-hole course, and range from $564 to $604. Two-day midweek package also available. Five-day midweek program, with four full days of instruction and a fifth of free play, ranges from $859 to $989.

SWING'S THE THING GOLF SCHOOLS
Box 200 River Rd.
Shawnee-on-Delaware, PA 18356
800/797-9464 or 717/421-6666

Headed by Dick Farley, a Golf Magazine teaching editor, and Rick McCord. This 30-year-old school incorporates methods of the late Ernest Jones, who was adamant about getting students to swing the club head rhythmically. Video analysis and swing training devices used to refine swing plane, swing movement, and alignment. Student-teacher ratio 5:1. Six hours of instruction daily in all aspects of game. Playing time included. One-day refresher schools available to former students. Three-day packages, staged at three locations, $695 - $980.

Brian McCallen is a senior editor at Golf Magazine and author of "Golf Resorts of the World" (Abrams).

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