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9 steps to market and grow your golf instruction business

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I’m often asked by up-and-coming golf teachers for advice on how to set up their instructional programs to create more demand and increase revenue. My answer? Look at the market you’re in.

If you pay attention to the market and add in some critical thinking, it will give you all the answers you need. You’ll learn to make the proper adjustments to your program to reach the next level in golf, or any area of business you choose.

Here are my nine steps to set yourself up for success:

  1. Understand the market.
  2. Focus on filling the demands of your market based on your current skill set.
  3. Set your program apart from the masses.
  4. Create programming using your technology/training to better fill the demands of your current market.
  5. Develop programs with a proper price point.
  6. Use social media to your advantage.
  7. Chart and analyze your revenues by month, time and hour.
  8. Use a spreadsheet to adjust your programming or price points.
  9. At the end of each peak season, go back to Step 1 and start the process all over again.

As you can see, there are many steps to become a top teacher within your market, but I promise if you follow these nine keys you will make better business decisions and your bottom line will improve. 

So let’s take a few seconds to analyze each of these in more detail.

No. 1: Understand the market 

Have you ever stopped and really looked at where you live, the demographics and economics of the people within your area? Have you noticed any geographic or socioeconomic consistencies that are more common than in other places? 

Every place is different and every market is unique; demands of the people in Beverly Hills versus people in Memphis are very different. It could be age, weather patterns, course designs, disposable income, etc. Have you taken the time to see what your competitors are doing to combat the above? If you have not done either you are just following the trend. That’s not the way to become successful.

Create your OWN trends by knowing your market.

No. 2: Focus on filling the demands of your market based on your skill set

Now that you understand your market, you must look at the skills you currently possess. Can you fill these demands with your current business? Do you have the skills? The patience? Do you enjoy teaching in this manner? 

All these questions form the basis of what you do and where you should go as a teacher. Case in point, I have never been good at teaching younger kids, because their natural lack of attention and focus has always been a sticking point. So if I analyze my market and see that there is a void in junior instruction, it would NOT be in my best interest to try and conquer it because it’s not my professional passion. The best thing I could do in this case is find another focus, or hire the most motivated junior instructor I know. 

We ALL have weaknesses as instructors; identify yours and either fix it, or work around it as I explained above.

No. 3: Set your program apart from the masses

So you’ve found your market’s void and you’re set to take the world by storm… but how do you provide a unique service? The answer is simple: offer instructional training and/or technology that others do not.

The world of golf instruction is on fire with new technologies like AimPoint and Trackman. If you believe that putting is your calling, then you need to have the necessary training (since few people do), thus reducing your competition. Investing in yourself and your business is a necessary cog within your instructional wheel.

This is where I see 99 percent of young instructors fail, as they don’t spend the time or money to better themselves on the technology and/or training side. If you won’t do anything different than the masses, why would anyone come to the new guy on the block? Technology and training are always great long-term investments for your business. 

No. 4: Create programming using your technology to better fill demands of the market

So you’ve found the void and invested in yourself. Now is the time to arrange programming around your strong points that your competitors do not possess. 

When I first started teaching in Memphis back in the early 1990s, there was only one guy who was using video (single-view only) within his lessons. I decided that since I didn’t have his experience, the only way to gain market share was to buy a split-screen video system so the better players could see themselves from both angles. This was revolutionary at the time. Then, I created a swing-view program so that players taught by other teachers could come by and see their swing in my studio. I gave them a print out of their swing from both views as well. 

It wasn’t long before they were my students. 

I never “sold them” to come over to see me; I just exposed a weakness within my current market and filled it with technology and unique programming that subconsciously sold them on my academy.

No. 5: Develop programs with a proper price point

This is something that teachers at ALL levels fail to understand, costing them money on the backend. Please take this point to heart so you don’t make the same mistake! 

Every area has unique trends and shifts within its local economy that can end up costing you in the end if you don’t focus on what your clients really want. For example, if you live in a community with people that are mostly on a fixed income, then you must pay attention to the stock market and the real estate trends, as these investments are the ones that usually govern these types of clients spending habits. When the economy is down, price will become a factor, and if you do not have programs that cover all price points then you will lose a segment of your market for no other reason than you are now too expensive based on their retirement setup. 

So make sure you set up programs that focus on the individual and group programs that will help make you money when simple shifts in the economy happen. If you don’t, you will be left with an empty lesson book.

No. 6: Use social media to your advantage

Putting your ideas out there is a scary thing for many golf instructors because it cannot be taken back, but I think writing is a MUST for all young teachers. Why? Because it forces you to make thoughts simple for the layperson to understand, and this will help make your in-lesson delivery more concise. Start with blogs, then move to regional publications and try to work your way up to the national golf magazines. It will increase your credibility as well as your business.

The next area of focus is one that’s new to me as well, but it’s a VITAL area moving forward for the younger teachers. Do you have you own web site, YouTube channel, professional Facebook page and Twitter account? Do you use these tools to interact with people who can help your business? Networking is so important, and if you don’t interact through all possible outlets you’ll lose a piece of the pie you didn’t even know was there. 

Social media can open doors to relationships with people from across the world. Think about it: What do you do when you want to find out about anything in your world? You go to the web and run a search. Why should you be any different as a golf instructor?

Use these (almost) free tools to your advantage and you’ll be glad you did.

No. 7: Chart and analyze your revenues by month, time and hour 

Do you know which days of the week are your most productive or which hour of the day provides you with the most revenue consistently by month? What is the return rate of your customers and what packages do you sell the most?  

These are the questions that most instructors can’t answer with specifics. Do you know any truly successful company in the world that doesn’t have an accounting department? I can’t think of one that doesn’t know what their revenues are or what products sell the best.

Time is your asset and you only have so much of it to sell daily. If you move a program to the wrong hour or book a school during the wrong month you are wasting necessary time and expenses that you could use for yourself and your family. The more you know about your business, the better decisions you can make as to what programs to add, subtract, or move.

Here’s an example of a spreadsheet I’ll use to track daily/monthly revenues:

Screen Shot 2015-06-30 at 1.17.10 PM

No. 8: Use the spreadsheet to adjust your programming or price points 

Now that you have charted data for a season or two, you’ll have an archive of data available when making decisions. This way you are using facts to base your answers upon, not just guessing! 

Having facts gives you the best chance to be instantly successful in adjusting price points or programs that can instantly improve your bottom line. Face it, you will make mistakes with your programming over the course of your career that you’ll have to alter, but use data as a roadmap and don’t make the same mistakes twice. Each down period costs you and your business revenue, not to mention how it affects your own personal bottom line.

No. 9: At the end of each peak season, go back to Step 1 and start the process all over again

I always sit down at the end of two seasons and introspectively reflect on the job I did. Doing this helps me to figure out what parts of my operation need work, which programs worked well, and helps me to determine areas in which I need to improve on personally. It’s these quiet times that really make you get better as an instructor. The only thing I wish I had done years ago is use Survey Monkey to help me to REALLY understand what my clients think of my work and my operation. 

Hopefully by now you have a better idea on how to set up your instructional business; if not, please do not hesitate to contact me.

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Tom F. Stickney II is the Director of Instruction and Business Development at Punta Mita, in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico (www.puntamita.com) He is a Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher, and has been honored as a Golf Digest Best Teacher and a Golf Tips Top-25 Instructor. Tom is also a Trackman University Master/Partner, a distinction held by less than 15 people in the world. Punta Mita is a 1500 acre Golf and Beach Resort located just 45 minuted from Puerto Vallarta on a beautiful peninsula surrounded by the Bay of Banderas on three sides. Amenities include two Nicklaus Signature Golf Courses- with 14 holes directly on the water, a Golf Academy, four private Beach Clubs, a Four Seasons Hotel, a St. Regis Hotel, as well as, multiple private Villas and Homesites available. For more information regarding Punta Mita, golf outings, golf schools and private lessons, please email: tom.stickney@puntamita.com

6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Steve

    Jul 11, 2015 at 8:08 am

    Ah looks like a Shank for melonhead

  2. Jk

    Jul 2, 2015 at 6:28 am

    Nice article , would be good to do more of these for instructors, good that seminars/articles for marketing etc. are starting to pop up more and more these days . Are the any other similar articles that have already been posted ?

  3. Tom Stickney

    Jul 2, 2015 at 12:49 am

    There are plenty of young professionals who want to teach and want to get better. Most people aren’t lucky enough to know it all from day one as you seem to…

    • Foot in mouth

      Jul 2, 2015 at 3:35 am

      Not a great comment nor attitude from a supposed Teacher who wants to let everybody know what he knows about the game, who needs everybody else’s money to continue teaching, don’t you think, Tom? You just put your foot in it, I reckons

    • Steve

      Jul 2, 2015 at 8:07 am

      No..as you seem too

  4. Steve

    Jul 1, 2015 at 11:48 pm

    Unreadable, who cares? This is a movie you walk out on.

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Instruction

The Big Shift: How to master pressure and the golf transition using prior sports training

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If you’re an #AverageJoeGolfer, work a day job, and don’t spend countless hours practicing, you might be interested in knowing that sports you played growing up, and even beer league softball skills, can be used to help you play better golf. We’re sure you’ve heard hockey players tend to hit the ball a mile, make the “best golfers”, while pitchers and quarterbacks have solid games, but baseball/softball hitters struggle with consistency. Did you know that a killer tennis backhand might help your golf game if you play from the opposite side? Dancers are way ahead of other athletes making a switch to golf because they understand that centeredness creates power and consistency much more efficiently than shifting all around, unnecessary swaying, or “happy feet.”

Lurking beneath fat shots, worm burners, and occasional shanks, are skillsets and motions you can pull from the old memory bank to apply on the golf course. Yes, you heard us right; your high school letterman jacket can finally be put to good use and help you improve your move. You just need to understand some simple adjustments different sports athletes need to make to be successful golfers.

In golf, shifting from your trailside into your lead side is what we’ll call the TRANSITION. Old School teachers refer to this motion, or shift, as “Foot Work”, New-Fangled-Techno-Jargon-Packed-Instruction uses “Ground Pressure/Force” to refer to the same concept. Don’t worry about the nomenclature; just know, as many GolfWRXers already do, that you must get your weight to your lead side if you want any chance at making solid and consistent contact. TRANSITION might be THE toughest motion in golf to master.

The good news for you is that TRANSITION happens in all other sports but in slightly different ways, depending on the sport. Golfers can more quickly learn TRANSITION, and speed up their swing learning process by understanding how prior sport experience can be applied to the golf swing.

[The basics of a solid golf move are; 1) you should have a SETUP that is centered and balanced, 2) you move your weight/pressure into your trail side during the TAKEAWAY and BACKSWING, 3) TRANSITION moves your weight/pressure back into your lead side, and 4) you FINISH with the club smashing the ball down the fairway. Okay, it’s not quite as easy as I make it sound, but hopefully our discussion today can relieve some stress when it comes time for you to start training your game.]

Baseball/Softball Hitters

Hitting coaches don’t like their hitters playing golf during the season, that’s a fact. The TRANSITIONS are too different, and if they play too much golf, they can lose the ability to hit off-speed pitches because their swing can become too upright. Golf requires an orbital hand path (around an angled plane) with an upright-stacked finish, while hitting requires batters to have a straight-line (more horizontal) hand path and to “stay back or on top of” the ball.

Now we apologize for the lack of intricate knowledge and terminology around hitting a baseball, we only played up through high school. What we know for sure is that guys/gals who have played a lot of ball growing up, and who aren’t pitchers struggle with golf’s TRANSITION. Hitters tend to hang back and do a poor job of transferring weight properly. When they get the timing right, they can make contact, but consistency is a struggle with fat shots and scooping being the biggest issues that come to mind.

So how can you use your star baseball/softball hitting skills with some adjustments for golf? Load, Stride, Swing is what all-good hitters do, in that order. Hitters’ issues revolve around the Stride, when it comes to golf. They just don’t get into their lead sides fast enough. As a golfer, hitters can still take the same approach, with one big adjustment; move more pressure to your lead side during your stride, AND move it sooner. We’ve had plenty of ‘a ha’ moments when we put Hitters on balance boards or have them repeat step drills hundreds of times; “oh, that’s what I need to do”…BINGO…Pound Town, Baby!

Softball/Baseball Pitchers, Quarterbacks, & Kickers

There’s a reason that kickers, pitchers, and quarterbacks are constantly ranked as the top athlete golfers and it’s not because they have a ton of downtime between starts and play a lot of golf. Their ‘day jobs’ throwing/kicking motions have a much greater impact on how they approach sending a golf ball down the fairway. It’s apparent that each of these sports TRAINS and INGRAINS golf’s TRANSITION motion very well. They tend to load properly into their trailside while staying centered (TAKEAWAY/BACKSWING), and they transfer pressure into their lead side, thus creating effortless speed and power. Now there are nuances for how to make adjustments for golf, but the feeling of a pitching or kicking motion is a great training move for golf.

If this was your sport growing up, how can you improve your consistency? Work on staying centered and minimizing “happy feet” because golf is not a sport where you want to move too much or get past your lead side.


Dance

My wife was captain of her high school dance team, has practiced ballet since she was in junior high, and is our resident expert on Ground Pressure forces relating to dance. She has such a firm grasp on these forces that she is able to transfer her prior sports skill to play golf once or twice a year and still hit the ball past me and shoot in the low 100s; what can I say, she has a good coach. More importantly, she understands that staying centered and a proper TRANSITION, just like in Dance, are requirements that create stability, speed, and consistent motions for golf. Christo Garcia is a great example of a Ballerina turned scratch golfer who uses the movement of a plié (below left) to power his Hogan-esque golf move. There is no possible way Misty Copeland would be able to powerfully propel herself into the air without a proper TRANSITION (right).

Being centered is critical to consistently hitting the golf ball. So, in the same way that dancers stay centered and shift their weight/pressure to propel themselves through the air, they can stay on the ground and instead create a golf swing. Dancers tend to struggle with the timing of the hands and arms in the golf swing. We train them a little differently by training their timing just like a dance routine; 1 and 2 and 3 and…. Dancers learn small motions independently and stack each micro-movement on top of one another, with proper timing, to create a dance move (golf swing) more like musicians learn, but that article is for another time.

Hockey

Hockey is a great example of the golf TRANSITION because it mimics golf’s motions almost perfectly. Even a subtlety like the direction in which the feet apply pressure is the same in Hockey as in Golf, but that’s getting in the weeds a bit. Hockey players load up on their trailside, and then perform the TRANSITION well; they shift into their lead sides and then rotate into the puck with the puck getting in the way of the stick…this is the golf swing, just on skates and ice…my ankles hurt just writing that.

If you played hockey growing up, you have the skillsets for a proper golf TRANSITION, and you’ll improve much faster if you spend your time training a full FINISH which involves staying centered and balanced.

Now we didn’t get into nuances of each and every sport, but we tried to cover most popular athletic motions we thought you might have experience in in the following table. The key for your Big Shift, is using what you’ve already learned in other sports and understanding how you might need to change existing and known motions to adapt them to golf. If you played another sport, and are struggling, it doesn’t mean you need to give up golf because your motion is flawed…you just need to know how to train aspects of your golf move a little differently than someone who comes from a different sport might.

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Instruction

Clement: Effortless power for senior golfers

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Are you struggling with range of motion? Want more EFFORTLESS POWER? We are truly the experts at this having taught these methods for 25 plus years, while others were teaching resistance, breaking everyone’s backs and screwing up their minds with endless positions to hit and defects to fix. Welcome home to Wisdom in Golf!

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Instruction

Clement: How to turbo charge your swing

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The shift in golf instruction continues and Wisdom in Golf and GolfWRX are right out there blazing a trail of fantastic content and techniques to get you to feel the most blissful, rhythmic golf shots you can strike! This here is the humdinger that keeps on giving and is now used by a plethora of tour players who are benefitting greatly and moving up the world rankings because of it.

The new trend (ours is about 25 years young) is the antithesis of the “be careful, don’t move too much, don’t make a mistake” approach we have endured for the last 30 years plus. Time to break free of the shackles that hold you back and experience the greatness that is already right there inside that gorgeous human machine you have that is so far from being defective! Enjoy!

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