Sept. 8, 2008 -- It's pretty tough improving your golf game when all the tropical storms blowing through keep chasing you off the course. If you're fed up with soggy, wet weather and want to sign up for a golf school that specializes in sunshine, just head west to Arizona where you'll find some of the top golf schools in the country.
If you're like most golfers you play because every once in a while you experience shades of brilliance. You make that amazing 30-foot putt or impossible chip and forget about how you sliced one into the trees or buried your ball in the sand.
If you're serious about the game or you just don't want to embarrass yourself, golf lessons are the way to go and the Phoenix/Scottsdale area is the place to be. Check out these top golf schools along with tips from the pros.
Troon Golf Academy
Some of the top-rated golf courses in the country are in Arizona, and they're managed by Troon Golf, so when you take classes with Troon you're playing on courses most people can only dream about. Heading up the show is world-renowned instructor Tim Mahoney, whose 30-year teaching resume includes dozens of appearances on the Golf Channel and ESPN. One of his students is golf great David Duval.
Mahoney heads up the Troon Golf Academy program, making sure all the instructors at the different courses follow the Troon mantra of always exceeding expectations. If you can pin him down, Mahoney also gives private lessons ($175 an hour, $500 a day) and swears he can teach anyone to golf in just a few hours. Mahoney says people have flown in from all over the world for one of his classes. "They'd rather take one class that's tailor-made for them instead of wasting a week at the wrong school not learning what they need," says Mahoney.
What's Mahoney secret? He's as shrewd as he is talented. From the moment you arrive for your lesson he's watching the way you walk and talk to determine the best way to teach you. He told me I walked fast and talked fast, so he wasn't even going to try to slow down my swing. He says he works with people's personalities to connect with them so they "get" what he's trying to teach. In five minutes, he fixed a problem I've battled for years. Mahoney says he teaches all the Troon instructors to focus on personalized attention and making sure their teaching fits each golfer's personality.
Located at several award-winning courses throughout the Phoenix/Scottsdale area the Troon Golf Academy offers two- and three-day golf school programs for all ages and all levels. For this intense program, you spend seven hours a day living and breathing golf. The student-teacher ratio is 4:1. Besides hitting balls on the driving range, you'll actually get on the course for some lessons. You're also taught about golf fitness.
You can go high-tech to the new Callaway Performance Center, which uses two cameras to analyze your swing to help with club fittings. Troon partners with several nearby resorts offering fantastic "stay and play" packages year-round. Be sure to check the Web site for the latest rates and ongoing specials.
Top 5 Tips From the Pro:
Director of Education-Troon Golf Academy
1. Don't resist change. Change what they tell you to.
2. Practice at least 10 minutes a day (if not on course, in front of a mirror).
3. Preparation is key. How you address the ball is huge.
4. Have good posture. Don't drop chin all the way to your chest.
5. Hold your club the right way.
TPC Scottsdale Tour Academy
This new award-winning golf school opened in 2007 and classes are taught on one of the most famed courses in Arizona, the TPC Scottsdale (www.pgatourexperience.com). The TPC is the home of the PGA Tour's FBR open and the PGA teaching staff offers everything from exclusive private lessons to two-, three- and five-day programs.
Need work on just a specific part of your game? You can also sign up for the two-day short game school or the three-day full swing school. Don't have a lot time? Try the new three-hour putting clinic. You know what they say: You drive for show and putt for dough! If you really want to splurge, check out the Elite Schools taught exclusively by the Tour Academy Head Instructor, John Stahlschmidt.
This special school is limited to three students because they spend most of their time learning while they're out playing the course. Another bonus: Students get a comparative video analysis in which their swing is split-screened with some of the best golfers in the PGA.
The TPC prides itself on taking teaching to a new level by focusing on four major aspects of the game, including: instruction, custom club fitting, mental conditioning and physical conditioning. The TPC pairs with dozens of different resorts in the area so ask about special "stay and play" packages.
Top 5 Tips From the Pro:
PGA Head Instructor-TPC Scottsdale
1. High loft with high bounce is key when just off the green.
2. Improved tempo and balance will lead to more consistency.
3. Always swing at a speed where you stay balance.
4. Better speed equals lower scores.
5. Pick the correct set of tees for your gam.
Kostis McCord Learning Center
Based at Grayhawk Golf Course in North Scottsdale, the Kostis McCord Learning Center is rated by Golf Magazine as the No. 2 golf school in the country where you'll find such award-winning instructors as PGA professionals Peter Kostis, Gary McCord and Paul Trittler. This isn't a "stay and play" golf vacation experience.
Instead, this is the place you come when you want to get right down to business and concentrate on perfecting your game. Known for its sensational Three-Day School, catering to golfers of all skill levels, students get some actual course time instruction along with the usual driving range drills and video analysis.
The Kostis McCord Learning Center also offers custom-made corporate lessons and a great junior instruction camp. If you only have time for a quick tune-up, check out the half-day workshops. For more info: www.kostismccordlearning.com or 480-502-2656.
Top 5 Tips From the Pro:
Director of Instruction-Kostis McCord Learning Center
1. Hit down on the ball for solid contact.
2. Hold your finish until the ball lands, for good balance.
3. For better bunker shots, explode the sand towards the target.
4. Try hybrids to replace your long irons for more consistency.
5. To help your swing tempo maintain a constant grip pressure from start to finish.
One of the best benefits of choosing Arizona for your golf school is you're almost always guaranteed great weather in the fall and winter. An added bonus: After golf you can enjoy some of the top resorts, dining, shopping and spas in the world. Whether you're looking for a school for children, women, senior citizens or the seasoned pro, the Phoenix/Scottsdale area won't disappoint.
For more great golf destinations check out Karen Schaler's Travel Therapy Web site at www.traveltherapytrips.com.