Best Golf Schools

From short game schools to playing with the pros, these golf schools provide the best instruction on the most beautiful courses across the U.S.

Close-up of golf bag with people in background
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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 a lot of ball-hitting sessions to teach the laws of impact (bring extra Band-Aids to those 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.

Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard - Round Three
GETTY IMAGES / Kevin C. Cox / Staff


9000 Bay Hill Blvd.

Orlando, FL 32819

407/876-8008 or 407/876-5362

This academy's approach is straightforward, simple, and schooled in the basics, with tips on course strategy and how to practice like a pro, just like Arnie would have liked it. Swing is videotaped. Sessions are held at Bay Hill Club & Lodge in Orlando. The three-day program is from $1,039; five-day package from $1,599 (Arnold Palmer workbook and personal videotape included).


8595 White Shark Blvd.

Davenport, FL 33896


Leadbetter is the swing guru. Based at LGA ChampionsGate outside Orlando, the academy's two-day retreat covers full swing assessment and instruction, including video swing analysis. Limited to two to four people, it includes short game assessment and instruction, a fitness assessment, a mental performance session, and a take-home video with personalized tips for $1,870. The three-day school is $2,640 and includes lunch and on-course instruction. Half-day short game and full swing sessions are $335 a person.


1200 Anastasia Ave.

Coral Gables, FL 33134


McLean was chosen by Golf Magazine as one of America's 50 best teachers. Teaching aids and videotape are used extensively to identify problems and implement correct techniques. Programs include two-day ($1,995) and three-day ($2,995) schools, plus there's an option for a special three-day session featuring McLean for 10 of the 17 hours.


Park Hyatt Aviara Resort, Golf Club & Spa

7100 Aviara Resort Drive

Carlsbad, CA 92011


A school near San Diego offering more than 70 weekday and weekend sessions annually. Student-teacher ratio 3:1. 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 the two-day program is $1,525, three-day is $1,995. Custom lessons are $1,195 and the Ultimate Golf Outing package is $1,050.


For a monthly or annual subscription, you'll get access to hundreds of video lessons from Golf Digest instructors, one-on-one virtual lessons, and access to the magazine's digital editions. Watch lessons from the likes of Tiger Woods, David Leadbetter, and Butch Harmon. Subscriptions are $13.49 a month or $134.99 a year. There's also a $499.98 bundle that includes a Rapsodo Mobile Launch Monitor device which helps capture ball speed, launch angle, shot tracer, and swing video.

Valspar Championship - Round Three
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36750 U.S. Highway 19 N.

Palm Harbor, FL 34684

727/942-5208 or 888/794-8627

Well-respected school attached to the Innisbrook Golf Resort, 30 miles northwest of Tampa. Newcomers to golf will profit from the four-day school held Sunday to Wednesday. It includes instruction in long and short game, as well as mental fitness and on-course strategy. For reservations and rates contact Innisbrook at


Haystack Golf Course

70 Spyglass Lane

Wilmington, VT 05363


Two- or three-day sessions at this well-established school in southern Vermont (student-teacher ratio 4:1) are 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. The daily schedule includes long game, short game, videotape analysis, and on-course instruction. Tuition is $419 for the two-day session, and $624 for the three-day program with lodging and lunch; both programs are held May to October. School relocates from October to May to Plantation Inn & Golf Resort in Crystal River, Florida (352/795-7211).


10601 N. 56th St.

Scottsdale, AZ 85254


Founded in 1971 by Jacobs, a former Ryder Cup player, and Shelby Futch, a Golf Magazine editor. Two-, three-, four-, and five-day sessions are available. All classes are at least four hours of instruction each day with a 4:1 student-teacher ratio. The basics are emphasized, as is Jacobs' ball flight theory. Five-day sessions are $1,595 at Red Mountain Ranch Country Club in Mesa, Arizona.


Pawleys Plantation Golf & Country Club

70 Tanglewood Drive

Pawleys Island, SC 29585

800/624-4653 or 843/237-4993

This school is geared to golfers of all abilities, with a strong emphasis on keeping the swing as simple as possible. Mental aspects of the game are addressed. Three-day packages include lodging, a 4:1 student-teacher ratio, and 3.5 hours of instruction with video analysis and a take-home instructional video, at prices ranging from $395 to $595. The commuter school has one-day and two-day sessions. The Jack Nicklaus-designed layout at Pawleys Plantation is one of the best in the Myrtle Beach area.


1 Carolina Vista Drive

Pinehurst, NC 28374


This school combines the latest computer technology with one of this country's most complete indoor/outdoor teaching facilities and access to three of the resort's layouts. The student-teacher ratio is 4:1. 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 through May and September and October), with four days of instruction, start at $2,877. Weekend seasonal rates start at $2,596 ($2,084 June through August). Pinehurst's weeklong Junior School, for boys and girls aged 11 to 17, costs $1,833. Advanced Junior Golf Advantage School, for young tournament-minded players (handicaps of 15 or less) is $1,933.


Pine Needles Lodge & Golf Club

1005 Midland Road

Southern Pines, NC 28387

800/747-7272 or 800/290-8815

In 1969 owner and head teaching pro Peggy Kirk Bell, began leading what she dubbed a Golfari (each one limited to women, juniors, or families). Three- to four-day sessions (from $2,050), and five-day Golfaris (from $2,045) are especially popular. All aspects of the game are covered. The 20-acre Learning Center is equipped with 80 hitting stations, four expansive practice greens, five bunkers, and a unique four-hole loop course. Tuition includes lodging, meals, a cocktail reception, and instruction on the Pine Needles course, site for 1996 and 2001 U.S. Women's Opens.

The Honda Classic - Round One
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PGA National Resort & Spa

400 Avenue of the Champions

Palm Beach Gardens, FL 33418

512/264-6800 or 800/863-2819

Pelz, a Golf Magazine technical consultant, is the author of "Putt Like the Pros" — considered the definitive book on putting. School sessions (ranging from one to three days) concentrate on the short game and scoring. Classes are held at golf clubs across the U.S. and in Europe. Teaching aids include video analysis. Student-teacher ratio 4:1. The three-day scoring game school includes putting, chipping, pitching, wedge, and sand play instructions by Pelz Golf staff for $2,795.


Oakland University Golf & Learning Center

492 Golf View Lane

Rochester Hills, MI 48309


Smith, an award-winning golf course architect, employs video and personalized drills, with a particular emphasis on individualized instruction. His "premiere" sessions include 3.5 hours of full swing instruction and are $900 a person with a three-person minimum. Three-day weekend workshops dedicated to full swing, short game, and advanced practice techniques are also offered for $1,200 per person. Masters sessions include two-day ($850 per person) and one-day ($450 per person) instruction and focus on full swing and short game techniques.


36 South St.

Windham, NY 12496


Stafford, who holds a master's degree in music education, is known for his 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 are grouped by ability level, with four to five pupils per instructor. One- to three-day weekend schools are scheduled from May to October at Windham Country Club in New York (from $359). Four-day midweek programs are also offered, from $1,190.

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

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