Charles Schwab Challenge

Colonial Country Club


How average golfers can benefit from this PGA Tour perk—without the bankroll of a tour player

October 02, 2020

Justin Thomas has the eyes of his teacher, father Mike Thomas, as they study his Trackman numbers on the practice range at the 2020 TOUR Championship.

Ben Jared

One of the (many) ways PGA Tour players are different is the employment of a team of specialists to help them with their minds, bodies and swings. It isn't uncommon to see a swing coach, short game specialist, mental coach and trainer all working during tournament week to help a player extract the most out of his game.

The reality of amateur golf is, most of us cannot hire a team in our quests to make fewer bogeys. You could, however, benefit from that same concept—by finding the right instructor.

Golf Digest 50 Best Teacher Tony Ruggiero is one of a growing number of elite coaches who believes the team concept used at the tour level is viable (and adaptable) for the weekend player.

"Students are like your kids in that when you see them all the time, you get predisposed to looking at how they do things in a certain way," says Ruggiero, who is based at Frederica Golf Club on St. Simons Island, in Georgia. "That's why I like to have trusted advisors come in for a day and watch my students, to give them a different perspective."

Though not a part of all instructors’ programs, bringing in other opinions for your game can have serious benefits. For example, last weekend, Ruggiero brought fellow Golf Digest 50 Best Teacher Bill Harmon to Frederica to spend time with Ruggiero's junior players, looking at swings and imparting old-school short-game wisdom Harmon got from being a member of the illustrious Harmon teaching family and by caddieing on the PGA Tour for more than 20 years.

"The more you can expose your players—whether they're juniors or club golfers—to the best, most interesting ideas out there, the better they're going to be," says Ruggiero.

"And isn't that your job? They might get the one little thing, like a clever short game shot Bill was showing some of my students, that means the difference in closing out a great round."

What does that mean for you? Whether you're working with a coach now or are actively on the hunt for one (which we can help you with, too...), look for one who plays well with others. 

Does the coach have a network of relationships with other local experts who can augment what you do together—like a trainer, sports medicine practitioner or short game specialist? Is he or she conversant in the latest technology—even if it isn't a regular part of your lesson—so you can understand it in context?

Those questions can help you find the best instructor for your game—with long-term benefits.

"The reality is that there's so much information out there, and it's up to you to be giving your student—whether it's a 20-handicapper who plays twice a month or somebody who plays on tour—a way to evaluate new information and have an intelligent opinion about what makes sense and what doesn't," says Ruggiero. "That doesn't come from being closed off, whether you're talking about a coach or a student. Even if you could somehow prevent a student from hearing something from a different coach that would really help or you left them to try to digest something that ends up making them play worse, your relationship is going to be in trouble anyway."