By Swingpal.com staff
George Connor has a passion for teaching and numerous golfers of all ability levels have taken their games to new heights under his tutelage over the course of the last 20-plus years.
He also has been recognized by both Golf Digest and Golf Magazine as one of the top teaching professionals in his region, and he's a Titleist Performance Institute (TPI) Certified Golf Fitness Instructor.
We sat down with Connor recently to talk more about his unique approach to teaching and various other subjects for this new edition of Five Questions:
SWINGPAL: How would you describe your teaching philosophy to a potential student?
CONNOR: Everyone has different reasons to play golf and my role as an instructor is to give each student what they want. For the competitive player, I will develop not only the physical skills of playing the game but the mental skills as well. For the recreational player, I will help them find the easiest ways to get more enjoyment from the game. My coaching centers first on fitness preparation and injury prevention. Once the true goal has been discovered, a plan is devised. This includes defining when the student wants the goal to be reached, what has to happen in order to succeed and how that success can be verified. Because most golfers want to lower their scores, I emphasizes the short game a great deal. I will make sure that the full swing is functional, then spend most of the time teaching students how to be great from inside 100 yards.
SWINGPAL: What would you consider to be some common myths about golf instruction?
CONNOR: There are two that come to mind:
1. You have to get worse before you can get better. This does not have to be the case! A good instructor can work with the swing you have and make positive changes right from the start. It is not always a requirement to tear something apart to the point of having someone play worse in the short term.
2. I am so bad the "pro" will laugh at me, it's too embarrassing. Having taught golf for almost 25 years, there is nothing a student can do that I haven't seen. A professional teacher will not make you feel uncomfortable. An elite instructor is elite because he or she can make you feel at ease, and he or she truly cares about you and your golf skills.
SWINGPAL: What aspects of the golf swing do most of the players you teach have trouble understanding?
CONNOR: Most players that I see struggle with getting the club back to the ball from the top of the swing. I like to refer to this portion of the swing as first the transition and then the forward swing. I am not a fan of the term downswing as too many players work so hard to move the club down to the ball that they don't get the club moving forward. It makes perfect sense for a golfer that is struggling to use their hands to "find" the golf ball. They try to direct the club toward the ball thinking that somehow they can place the sweet spot of the club onto the center of the ball. It can't be done with any consistency. Having the hands play more of a passive role is counter-intuitive to a golfer that is struggling, which is why this area can become difficult.
SWINGPAL: What advice would you give a golfer who is seeking out professional instruction for the first time?
CONNOR: For a golfer seeking instruction for the first time, I would counsel them to find someone who teaches for a living. There are many quality golf professionals in our industry, but most of these professionals have to wear a lot of different hats. They score tournaments, are in charge of merchandise, attend committee meetings and will give some lessons. On the other hand, there are a smaller number of Teaching Professionals. These people only teach. It is their passion. They have dedicated their professional careers to learning and researching all facets of the golf swing, the putting stroke, etc. This is what any golfer should have as a mentor for their game.
SWINGPAL: What is the most valuable aspect of the lesson process for most golfers?
CONNOR: The most valuable part of the lesson process is the opportunity for a student to understand the root cause of their struggles. Too often, golfers try to get better by "fixing" a symptom. An elite instructor can diagnose and prioritize the problems in a golf swing. From there, a plan can be established that will allow the student to create lasting improvement. This type of plan will allow the golfer to enjoy the game more and more in the future.