Bubba Watson may not need golf lessons, but I bet you do. Why? Because you're not Bubba Watson! You probably didn't start swinging a club at age six, nor do you practice--with or without a teacher--six or eight hours every day, work out every day, and play five or six rounds of golf every week. Maybe that's why you've not only never won the Masters, you've never even been invited. Trust me, you need a lesson or two or three. So how do you find a good teacher?
Plenty of golf professionals know a lot about the game, but the really good teachers are the ones who can transfer their knowledge to their students. Sharon McQuillan is one of those. I spent an hour with her on the lesson tee and came away knowing a lot about my swing--and how to fix it.
McQuillan, who teaches primarily at the Westchester Driving Range, taught with some of the best in the business, including Jim McLean and David Ledbetter. I first met her a few years ago when she was the head pro at Bonnie Briar Country Club, one of the few women to hold that position anywhere in the country. In addition to teaching, she currently is Tour Director for US Kids Golf for Southern Westchester and Long Island.
When I arrived for my lesson, McQuillan took the step that many teachers skip--she tried to learn something about me. I didn't fill out any forms, but we had a very useful conversation about what my game is like, what I'd like it to be, what kind of clubs I play (and whether they were fitted to me), as well as whether I have any physical limitations--including what kind of glasses I wear on the course. Then I warmed up a bit and hit a few balls.
McQuillan uses the JC Video system, which has two cameras (one down the line and the other face-on) that capture your swing in high-speed video. Like any good teacher, McQuillan probably doesn't need the high-tech gizmos to spot what's happening in the golf swing, but it makes a great tool to show the student what's really going on when they swipe at the ball. As opposed, that is, to what they THINK is occurring. McQuillan patiently showed me two problems, one with my grip (I'd unconsciously slipped into a bad position) and one with the way my lower body was moving during the swing. It's the kind of thing I may have suspected, but I'd never have seen it without her help.
Working with the video, we went through several more swings as I tried to correct the faults. McQuillan was extremely supportive throughout the process of critiquing each swing until I finally got it right. In addition to the swing analysis, McQuillan discussed several drills I could use in the gym or even in my office to work on the move I'm trying to approve.
One of the big advantages of her approach is that I'll be able to refer back to the lesson as often as I want, since the video is available on her website in a password-protected section for students. She also sent the video lesson to me so I could load it on a mobile video device like an iPhone if I chose. The video shows both my "before" and "after" swings complete with telestrator-type lines, stop-motion, and even a clip of Tiger Woods hitting a similar club. The most useful feature of the video, though, is McQuillan's commentary, which repeated the points she made during the lesson. It makes for a very effective learning experience.
There's no question that having another set of expert eyes (NOT just your buddy or the guy next to you on the range unless he happens to be a PGA professional) can help you play better golf. If you're looking for a knowledgeable, accessible, easy-to-work-with pro, turn to someone like Sharon Mcquillan.
Among many other books, Dave Donelson is the author of Weird Golf: 18 tales of fantastic, horrific, scientifically impossible, and morally reprehensible golf