A competent professional is a tremendous ally but just like club fitters and auto mechanics, competency is the issue.
Professional instruction simply means that you're paying for it. Not all pros are competent, just as not all auto mechanics are competent.
There are some questions to ask of a potential instructor:
1. How much of the job is spent teaching? Some pros like to teach, others don't. Definitely find a pro who likes to teach.
2. Does the pro feel it is more important to communicate by feel, demonstration or explanation? Hopefully the answer will be all three.
3. Where did the pro get his/her background in teaching? It is helpful to know if he worked with a "name" pro or golf school. At least you can be sure the pro is trained properly.
4. Find out about the pro's playing abilities (tournament records, scoring, etc.). Not all good players are good instructors to be sure, and there are a few instructors who are not exceptional players, but my feeling is that if the pro couldn't learn or teach himself ... well?
5. Who has the pro worked with? Do any good players seek him/her out? That would speak well of competency.
6. Don't be afraid to ask for references. Don't settle for anything else than a qualified instructor.
7. Finally go to the top. Don't take lessons from someone who is in the process of learning. See a PGA member and one with a class A rating. Don't be anyone's guinea pig. You wouldn't want a first-year medical student operating on you, would you?
I have seen ads on TV on becoming a professional golf instructor in just a few weeks. Ridiculous!
A class A PGA pro has to serve an apprenticeship for a number of years, pass a playing test and more. The apprenticeship was five years in my day and is a little less now, but these days would-be pros have many seminars, classes and study to complete that weren't available in the "old" days.
Just check around and the end result will benefit you for years.
A player's ball comes to rest against a rake in a bunker. After marking his ball and removing the rake, he is not able to keep the ball from rolling away. Ruling?
Answer to last teaser:
In match play, the two players played three holes out of order, then correcting their mistake they finished the round as stipulated. Ruling? There is no penalty if they did not cause undue delay.
John Lucas is the professional at SkyRidge Golf Course and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.