With its participants so dedicated to the sport, most golfers have been able to continue to play the game despite the down economy.
Thousands of people nationwide still hit the links daily; some play better than others, but all are out there because the love of the game.
But while the enjoyment of the sport brings them to the course, the majority of golfers are financially limited when it comes to investing in improvment. That’s where the Professional Golfers’ Association of America comes in.
For the past 12 years, the PGA, along with Golf Digest and the Golf Channel, have dedicated the month of May to provide free lessons to golfers nationwide with the hopes that one 10-minute session will minutely improve their game and make them realize the importance of learning from a PGA or LPGA professional.
“If nothing else, it gets people exposed to golf that normally wouldn’t be,” said Kevin Hill, a Class A member of the PGA and the teaching professional at Hampton Golf Village in Cumming. “The goal of the program is to have them become a student of yours and show them the advantage of learning from a PGA pro.”
It’s also to promote the game, which according to Hill has “held pretty steady in spite of what’s going on” with the economy.
“The main thing that the economy has taken a toll on is people taking lessons,” said Hill, who stated that 10 of the 20 students who took free lessons have signed up for paid ones.
Habersham County resident David Sikes is fully aware of the impact a down economy has on lessons, as his number of students decreased by 45 percent from two years ago.
Now things are different, and Sikes, a member of the PGA President’s Council on Growing the Game of Golf, thinks a lot of that has to do with programs like the free lesson month.
“Golf is very addictive,” said Sikes, who teaches at various driving ranges in Habersham County. “If I can get someone to get the ball in the air after he’s never been able to do that before, then he’s hooked for life.”
Sikes admits that accomplishing that is difficult in just 10 minutes so he focuses on the key elements of the game like the swing and how the golfer holds the club.
“The only thing you can do in those 10 minutes is give him something to work on when he goes to the range,” Sikes said.
Or on the practice green; a place where Sikes believes beginners don’t spend enough time.
“The short game is the quickest way to improve your score,” he said. “A 3-foot putt counts the same as a 300-yard drive.”
Equally as important is actually getting to the green, which was a problem for one of Sikes’ students’, Rob Hyatt, who took advantage of the free 10-minute lesson in 2008 because he was having a problem with his iron accuracy.
“I had been playing long enough to know I was doing it wrong,” said Hyatt, who played for seven years prior to his first lesson. “It’s tough to hear that you’ve been doing it for a while and haven’t figured it out yet, but golf’s a different animal, sometimes you have to be shown.”
With that in mind, Hyatt signed up for more lessons with Sikes and went from shooting in the upper 80s to low 80s and high 70s.
“I think I got hooked on lessons,” Hyatt said. “They really gave me the confidence to go out and compete in tournaments.”
Taking lessons comes at a price, but if you’re dedicated to the game and want to improve, Sikes thinks that there’s nothing better than learning from a PGA professional.
“It’s just a matter of having a trained eye watching you,” he said. “You have to give encouraging criticism and make them want to continue to improve.”
Golfers across the nation can take advantage of the free 10-minute lessons until Monday. For more information on the program, including a list of local teaching professionals involved, visit www.playgolfamerica.com.