The Best Golf Schools Across the U.S.

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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Swinging the day away on a scenic, expertly-designed golf course is an idyllic way to spend a vacation. And what better way to supplement your cart rides, Arnold Palmers, and putting practice than with world-class instruction guaranteed to improve your handicap?  

Golf schools and academies leverage some of the best courses in the country, from South Carolina to Arizona, to provide invaluable lessons in all aspects of the game. Seasoned players flock to golf schools to correct flaws, restore confidence, and improve scores, while novices should enroll in classes to master the basics. At any level, the goal is to build a reliable swing that will enhance your enjoyment of the sport.

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 ones between your ears. Then there are those that believe the flight of the ball is the ultimate indicator of a successful swing and schedule a lot of blister-inducing ball-hitting sessions to teach the laws of impact (bring extra Band-Aids to those classes). 

We recommend being 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. For optimal performance, you might also prep before you leave for school by doing stretching exercises or swinging a club a few times without a glove.

Many opt for golf school packages over long-term private instruction for a more affordable option that doesn't sacrifice quality. Usually designed for weekend lessons, they’re perfect to tack on to any vacation itinerary (and a great way to decompress after a few days at Disney). There are also longer programs that allow you to design your entire vacation around the sport. Just book a room at one of the many gorgeous golf resorts around the country, add on a lesson or package from its in-house school, and hit the green.  

Here, we’ve rounded up the best golf schools (on some of the most beautiful courses) across the U.S. 

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

Arnold Palmer Golf Academy, Florida

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. Sessions are held at Bay Hill Club & Lodge in Orlando and include three-day and five-day packages that come with an Arnold Palmer workbook and personal videotape. Rates vary seasonally, but usually run between $1,000 and $2,000 for the multi-day sessions.

Golfzon Leadbetter Academy, Florida

David Leadbetter is the swing guru. The instructor has golf schools all over the world, but the original and largest is based at LGA ChampionsGate outside Orlando. The academy's full-day retreat covers full swing assessment and instruction, including video swing analysis. Available to individuals or for groups of two to four people, the lesson (from $2,117) includes short game assessment and instruction, a fitness assessment, a mental performance session, and a take-home video with personalized tips. There's also a three-day retreat that includes lunch and on-course instruction. If you just want to fit in a quick lesson on your vacation, the academy also offers half-day short game and full swing sessions ($488 per person).

Jim McLean Golf School at The Biltmore Hotel, Florida

Jim McLean is regarded as one of America's best golf instructors, and this Miami program will help golfers of all levels improve their game. Teaching aids and videotape are used extensively to identify problems and implement correct techniques. Programs include two-day (from $1,995) and three-day (from $2,995) schools, plus there's an option for a special three-day session featuring McLean for 10 of the 17 instructional hours.

Kip Puterbaugh's Aviara Golf Academy, California

This school near San Diego offers more than 70 weekday and weekend sessions annually. The student-teacher ratio here is 3:1, and players are grouped by ability. 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, and golfers benefit from learning on the superb practice facility at the Arnold Palmer-designed course at the Park Hyatt Aviara Resort, Golf Club & Spa. There are one-day ($825), two-day ($1,525) and three-day ($1,995) programs available, in addition to customized single-day "Playing Schools" for intermediate to advanced players ($1,195). The Ultimate Golf Outing package ($1,050) includes full swing and short game instruction; lunch; and custom club fitting for the driver, fairway woods, hybrids, irons, and putter.

Valspar Championship - Round Three
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The Innisbrook Golf Institute, Florida

This well-respected school is attached to the Innisbrook Golf Resort, 30 miles northwest of Tampa. Led by a Class-A PGA Professional with over 30 years of teaching experience, the program emphasizes the basics, covering everything from equipment evaluation to proper stretching. Golf novices will benefit from the four-day school (from $1,445), which includes instruction in long and short game, as well as mental fitness and on-course strategy.

The Original Golf School, Vermont

Two- or three-day sessions at this well-established school in southern Vermont are taught with a proprietary "accelerated method" using motion as the foundation for developing a repeating swing. Timing, balance, and rhythm are all emphasized, and the daily schedule includes long game, short game, videotape analysis, and on-course instruction. Tuition for the programs ($441) include a welcome party and daily lunch, among other perks. Programs are held May to October, and after October the school relocates to Plantation on Crystal River, an inn and golf resort in Florida.

John Jacobs' Golf Schools and Academies, Arizona

This program was founded in 1971 by John Jacobs, a former Ryder Cup player and World Golf Hall of Famer, and the acclaimed instructor Shelby Futch. Two-, three-, four-, and five-day sessions are available, and 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. Lessons are offered at multiple courses throughout Arizona (plus one Wisconsin location at Peninsula Golf Course), but we recommend the five-day sessions ($1,595) at Red Mountain Ranch Country Club in Mesa.

Mel Sole Golf School, South Carolina

This school, conducted at the renowned Pawleys Plantation Golf and Country Club, is geared toward golfers of all abilities, with a strong emphasis on keeping the swing as simple as possible. Golfers will get the chance to learn on a Jack Nicklaus-designed layout that's regarded as one of the best in the Myrtle Beach area. Three-day packages (from $595) include lodging, a 4:1 student-teacher ratio, and over three hours of instruction with video analysis and a take-home instructional video. The commuter school offers one-day and two-day sessions.

Pinehurst Golf Academy, North Carolina

This school combines the latest computer technology with one of this country's most complete indoor-outdoor teaching facilities, set against the backdrop of Pinehurst's nine courses and three hotels. Morning clinics cover everything from driving and chipping to pitching and putting; afternoons are devoted to on-course instruction. The school offers weeklong seasonal sessions (from March to May and September to October) that include four days of instruction (from $2,735 for double occupancy), as well as weekend sessions (from $2,356). Pinehurst also has a Junior School for kids aged 11 to 17, with a regular track ($2,236) and an advanced one ($2,336) for young tournament-minded players with handicaps of 15 or less.

Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club, North Carolina

After buying Pine Needles in 1954, owner and head teaching pro Peggy Kirk Bell began leading what she dubbed a Golfari. Now, Pine Needles carries on Bell's legacy with five-day Golfaris (from $2,095) that allow participants to learn, play, and mingle (the Adult Golfaris' cocktail parties are a popular experience). The school also offers four-day sessions (from $2,145) where all aspects of the game are covered. The 20-acre Learning Center is equipped with 80 hitting stations, four practice greens, five bunkers, and a four-hole loop course. Tuition includes lodging, meals, a cocktail reception, and instruction on the Pine Needles course, the site for the U.S. Women's Open in 1996, 2001, 2007, and 2022.

The Honda Classic - Round One
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Dave Pelz Golf Schools

Dave Pelz 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, and teaching aids include video analysis. The three-day scoring game school (from around $2,800) includes putting, chipping, pitching, wedge, and sand play instructions by Pelz Golf staff.

Rick Smith Golf Academy, Michigan

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

Roland Stafford Golf School, New York

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. There is an emphasis on short game, including stroke-saving specialty shots, and video analysis is used. The lessons include five hours of daily instruction, and classes are grouped by ability level, with four to five pupils per instructor. One- to three-day weekend schools (from $359) are scheduled from May to October at Windham Country Club in New York, and four-day midweek programs (from $1,260) are also offered.

Golf Digest Schools

This highly regarded online program is a little different in that you don't need to travel to a specific course to benefit from its lessons. 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 $14 a month or $135 a year.

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