Are Golf Lessons a Scam?

Asheville Golf Home

Dear Jitterbug,

I’ve taken golf lessons for years from many different instructors, some of them quite well known. That said, I never get better. My question: Is it just me or are golf lessons the biggest scam ever thought up?

Roger Morris

Jitterbug Gang Fan


Roger, I can feel your frustration. And, I can see why you think golf lessons are a scam. For many people, taking instruction IS a waste of time. But, before passing judgment on the entire industry, let’s pinpoint why and under what circumstances golf lessons are less than beneficial.

First of all, most people want a quick fix. The desire for this is fueled by the catchy headlines on the cover of golf publications: “Fix Your Slice in Ten Minutes,” or “Discover What The Pros Know But Won’t Tell You.”

Headlines such as these sell magazines, but in doing so, ingrain the false notion that greater performance is the result of what you know, rather than what you practice.

To give you an example, when I was a young boy Mr. Vaughn taught me about swing sequencing. Mr. Vaughn said, “The shoulders take the club back, and the hips return it through impact.”

Immediately following, I squared up behind a ball and said, “Let me see if that works.”

Mr. Vaughn screamed, “Don’t you dare hit that ball! This ain’t no tip! This is a fundamental of ball striking you have to ingrain.”

So, he watched me swing back and through for over an hour with no ball. Throughout the hour, he’d say things like, “Shoulders back, hips through. Smooth, Jitterbug. No pulling with the arms during the downswing. Them shoulders must be lifeless on the way down. Smooth it out, Jitterbug.”

Most teachers, it appears, are less strict than this. They’re good at reciting the commonly regarded fundamentals, but not as good at disciplining the lesson. In other words, teachers too often set the student free before any muscle memory has taken hold.

So, Roger, before you decide golf lessons are a waste of time, ask yourself how disciplined you’ve been in truly ingraining that which you’ve learned.

Mr. Vaughn:

I don’t remember ever screaming, Jitterbug. You’re gonna hurt my reputation.

Lookie here, Roger. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it now. I don’t teach most folks because most folks won’t abide by the discipline. Knowing what you’re supposed to do on an academic level is not what you need. Having correct motion grooved to the point it is easier to do than not do is where real improvement resides.

Lord Berry:

The irony is crystal clear. Golfers are so eager to try out what they learn in a lesson that they bring it to the testing grounds (golf course) too soon. The result is poor performance and the belief that what was taught is incorrect.

If this sounds like you, Roger, then golf lessons are a waste of time.

Asheville Golf Home

Ask Jitterbug - Golf Advice Column by Bobby Steiner

Ask Jitterbug - Author Bobby Steiner

About the Author

The following are a list of golf teaching columns generously donated to us by teaching professional and author Bobby Steiner. Bobby teaches golf at The Practice Tee in East Asheville during the summer months, and at The Westin Mission Hills Resort during the winter.

You can reach Bobby at: or

All the Same Distance

I hit all my clubs, seven-iron and longer, the same distance. Do you know of a cure?

Bad Rhythm

My swing rhythm gets fast when I play. Do you have any suggestions to help me slow down?

Bad Teacher

There is a young assistant golf professional at our club who plays extremely well, but could use some help as a teacher. Any suggestions that might help him?

Ball Position

Can you explain your take on ball position? Forward for longer clubs? Back for shorter clubs?

Die or Lag

Do you think it is better to be a firm putter, or to putt the ball so that it barely drops into the cup?

Fanning the Club

My tendency is to fan my hands to the inside on the takeaway. When I use a straight takeaway I can't hit the ball.

Fix is the Problem

My friend has a knack for giving me helpful tips when we play. It works for about six holes, then I totally collapse. Have you heard of this?

Get the Ball to the Hole

I have a very difficult time getting my putts to the hole. Can you help?

Golf Schools

Are golf schools worth the money?

Guide the Ball

My golf instructor tells me that I try to 'guide' the ball too much. I've never heard this term, is it a bad thing?

Hip Slide

Can you explain the proper way to pivot during the backswing?

How Many Hours

I'm currently a solid 8-handicap, but I've reached a plateau. How might I rework my practice regimen to improve steadily like I used to?

Kids Learning Curve

My thirteen-year old son and I took up golf four years ago. Now, I am still struggling to break 100 while he shoots low 80s. How do I catch up?

Length of Backswing

I've read that the putting stroke should be the same length going back as going through. What is your take on it?

Long and Slow

I have great touch, and play standard chip shots quite well, but I can't hit a soft pitch of any length to save my life.

Make Practice Swing

I have a beautiful practice swing, but it doesn't carry over to my real swing. Any Suggestions?

More Distance

I'm a good athlete, but don't get the distance I think I should. How can I hit the ball farther off the tee?

No Scoop Chips

I suffer from the chipping yips; I can't prevent my right hand from taking over and flipping under the ball. How do I avoid scooping the ball?

No Touch Short Game

I have no short game touch, and I'm a good athlete. Everything I hit feels like a jab or punch. Any help?

No Whiffing

Golf is frustrating to me because I hardly ever get the ball up in the air. Please help!

Range Brilliance

I'm a great range player, but can't get it together on the course. Do you have any advice to help me?

Sound Swing

An assistant pro refers to some swings as "sound," and others, "not sound." Can you compare and contrast the two?

Taking Lessons

I've taken golf lessons for years from many different instructors, but I never get better. Are golf lessons the biggest scam ever thought up?

Teacher a Good Player

Do you think it is important that a teaching professional be a good player?
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Is there any value in golf lessons?