By: Brian Dobak
Assistant Golf Professional
Ford Plantation – Savannah, GA
As I’ve progressed through my career as an assistant professional, I’ve come to learn something about teaching. The instructor-student dynamic in golf is personal and it is networking in its purest form. Allow me to explain.
When we’re in the golf shop merchandising and selling the golf experience (and a shirt or two) to the members and guests, we are networking but our time to do so is relatively limited to a short conversation, a shake of a hand, and they’re out the door in a few minutes. When we are running a tournament, perhaps a member-guest of 48 teams, we do have the opportunity to network with 24 guests whom we have likely never met. That’s 24 opportunities to make an great impression that could pay off for us in the short or long term. However when running a tournament, we are usually going in one direction and the golfer is going the other way – The time isn’t lasting.
Teaching is lasting. There is something more unique about the networking that is cultivated through teaching. Golf is a sensitive subject to many struggling amateurs and it takes a lot courage for them to showcase their abilities (or lack thereof) to a teacher they have never met before. Every lesson is accompanied by casual conversation and numerous moments that showcase who you are not only as a teacher, but as a person to. Through a blend of conversation, education, and enjoyment, a student gets the entire package of who you are as a communicator, teacher, and person. Depending on your success, this can make or break the impression the student has of you. One year from now, the student will either remember you or the student won’t remember you. Which one, is up to you.
In my teaching endeavors, there have been numerous times where I learned of head professional job openings and teaching professional openings. This just doesn’t happen nearly as frequently when running a tournament or merchandising a golf shop and manning the front counter. From the standpoint of quantity, our opportunities to showcase ourselves around the front counter of the golf shop or the cart staging area of a tournament are no less than the opportunities to showcase ourselves when teaching. However, it’s the quality of the opportunities that makes the difference. Typically we are with the student for an hour at a time, which is a lot of time if you think about it. An hour is plenty of time for someone to get to know who you are. An hour is longer than it typically takes to sit down and have a cup of coffee with a friend.
Teaching is networking in its purest form. If you teach well enough, students come back to you and they can potentially go from being a student to a friend. If you have made a difference in their game, they entrust you with a sensitive area in their sporting life, and to many amateurs, that can mean a lot. They keep you by their side and before you know it, a year or two or three have gone by and you have seen them grow up in their game and even life. There is so much opportunity, both personally and professionally, for you as a golf professional in this relationship dynamic. Your students will go home and tell ten friends about you and before you know it, you’re getting a call from the President of XYZ Country Club asking you if you would like to interview for their Head Professional job. What started off as a silly first lesson about chasing around a little ball gradually becomes something so much more than that.
You don’t learn as much about them or spend nearly as much time with members and guests during their jaunts through the golf shop. Does that make it less significant? Absolutely not. You don’t learn as much about them or spend nearly as much time with members and guests during their forays on tournament day. Does that make it less significant? Absolutely not. But in those cases, although all of your attention is towards the member or guest, a majority of your focus is on something else, like the phones ringing, the stack of shirts that needs to be folded, the line of golfers waiting to check in, or a customer waiting to be fitted for a pair of shoes. When teaching, all of your focus, attention, and heart are on one thing – the student. For that one hour, there are no phones ringing, no stacks of shirts to be folded, or no line of golfers waiting to check in, it’s just you and your student working towards a goal together. For that one hour, nothing else exists around you besides helping the student improve upon something that usually means so much to him/her. Don’t take this for granted and be sure to make the best of your time teaching.