The Toughest 3 Holes in Golf

There are hundreds of peoples, golf magazines, and other authors who have their own choices of what are the three hardest holes in Golf! The funny thing is, no can decide which three are the hardest. Sure there are a few that show up on most people’s list such at 17th at TPC Sawgrass, The Road Hole at St Andrews and few others. More importantly nobody can come up with a definitive list of which three are the hardest. By the way, I feel lucky the first time I played Sawgrass; I dropped my shot about 4 feet from the pin and birdied that hole!

So there is no definitive list of the hardest three holes in golf. Well that was until now!

I know what are the three toughest holes in golf.

Here is my list of the three hardest holes in golf. They are… Really, they are the first three holes any of us golfers play that day. The first three holes you play, no matter what course, no matter what time of year and no matter where on earth you tee it up, those first three holes you will play will be the toughest three holes for a variety of mental and physical reasons. Trust me, I have watched too many golfersand too many students butcher or nearly butcher those first three holes. By the way that butchering of the first three holes, I can raise my hand high and say, guilty!

Good golf course designers even try to make the first three holes of the course some of the easiest holes on a golf course just for that reason, to give the player a chance to score well. Then of course you get that one course designer who is just a statistic bastard and makes the first hole a 460 yard par four with a pond, four or five bunkers, a few trees thrown in and a green that reminds us of some nasty roller coaster!

I know most of you are thinking, HORSE HOCKEY, how can that be?

It is simple! Lack of, in many cases, physical and/or mental preparation on our part. The first hole no matter how simple or difficult it maybe nearly all of us go into that hole unprepared. We have either rushed to the course, did not have time to loosen up at home or at the range so we are tight on that first tee which can lead to typically a very ugly tee shot. Secondly on the first hole we are mentally unprepared. Just to tee off we are searching for tees, the balls we want to use, our glove feels stiff, this does not feel right or that does not feel right and we in general are just disorganized. Then to top it off we subconsciously feel rushed. Again something very ugly is about to happen.

What do we do, hit a far less than perfect drive! Typically a big slice!

Typically it has not gotten a whole better by the time we get to the second shot. “where the hell did I put that range finder or if the player uses a golf buddy that a golf course needs to be located, a good chance we are still trying to get that set up right. More rushing, more uncertainty and again another less than pure shot to the green is typically the flaw. Our second is more than likely one of two shots, short by 10 yards because we still are tight or a worm burner over the green as we came out of the shot from still being tight. In most cases a less than typical shot into the green.

Needless to say on that first hole, we hit a bad chip and pray for a 2 putt bogie. But again lack of understanding the speed we might 3 putt for a double.

Damn was that a tough hole! The problem is, we feel we worked hard just for a ugly bogie or double bogie!

The second hole is not much better although we do mentally feel more calmed down from a preparation stand point and on the other hand we also are very upset at the score of the first hole but still we feel more organized. Many of our shots on the second hole are the same on this hole as the last simply due to, in most cases our muscles. But the difference is; we pull out one good shot on this hole and typically get a bogie maybe even got a lucky par. Yet our confidence is building, that hole did not feel as much of a train wreck as the first hole did.

Hmm, so now you have seen and played two of the toughest holes in golf! What do you think the third toughest hole in golf is? The very next hole we play, the third hole of the round. Now the designer maybe throwing a twist or two in and we are just now starting to feel better about our game as our body is more prepared and our mind is getting in the right place. We struggle a little and may even blow a shot or two but this time it is not about our physical, this time it is typically mental such as on a simple shot over a bunker or such. So after butchering a drive or two, maybe scalding an iron, flubbing a pitch into a bunker and a couple of three putts put into the mixture, we are about 4 maybe 5 over par, already.

As you can now see the three toughest holes in golf are not at Sawgrass, Pebble Beach, Augusta National or St Andrews. The three toughest holes are those three we tee it up at the beginning of each round.

I think all of you already have figured out what some of my next comments will be to turn this around and yes some are common sense such as putting before the round and learning to calibrate greens before you go out and play (if you do not know how to do that well that is in a future article). Taking a little time and hitting at least a warm up bucket of balls before swinging the club at the first tee. Yes those are the two most common and I am sure some of you are rolling your eyes thinking duh. Many of you are also thinking you are not always going to get there early or even if I do what’s the point I typically do not have time to warm up anyhow. Well I realize that is the case and there are a few simple things as well you can do.

Number one, spend a couple minutes the night before getting ready for the first tee. I use a little bag that has a couple of tees, green repair tool, my ball markers for the green and two golf balls. Ready to go and I am not on the first tee digging around feeling rushed. How simple is that and saves you about two minutes of NOT feeling rushed.

Number two, my Michael Jackson imitation is next (that should show my age). WHAT! I actually wear my glove to the course (remember Michael use to perform with one glove) so even if I am not limbered up at least the leather glove has gotten worked out. Too often I see people I am playing with and students on the first tee tugging, slapping their glove and such to get it shaped to their hand before teeing off. Again feeling rushed and wasting time.

Number three, if you can do some loosening, do it. If not and you can take some slow practice swings on the tee box of course do it. You have already saved time with number one and two.

Number four, play it safe! What I mean by that is on the first tee or even maybe two holes, I will just a hybrid off of the tee vs. the driver. Sure I lose some yardage but maybe just one club. Face reality, pulling out the big dawg on the first tee and if you are not loose something very very ugly is probably going to happen. If you do connect about 90% of the time, here comes that BIG BANANA SLICE into the woods or some other hazard. So play it safe, choose a club you are comfortable with, sacrifice a few yards but at least keep it in play.

Number five, the second shot, if you are not warmed up and you have an eight iron into the green, do yourself a favor, grab your seven iron and swing smoothly (you probably are never going to knock over the green on the first three holes). I encourage my students to try to use too much club in those cases and so far I have yet to have one student knock the shot over the green. So, when in doubt, go up a club.

I have given you just four examples of what to do to bring the three toughest holes in golf into three manageable holes in golf. I am sure if you think of it, you can define another three to five items to add to the list.

Joe Blanc, NPGIA
2012 National Golf School “Teacher of the Year”

Putting Secrets

Patrick Livingston, PGA CEO National Golf Schools
Three (3) time PGA “Teacher of the Year” North Florida

CONCEPT: Use a pendulum stroking motion from your shoulders.

1. Place ball in middle front part of stance.
2. Keep your eye on the ball not the putter blade as you stroke the putt.
3. Use the “reverse over lap” grip; most top tour players use this grip.
4. Keep the putter blade low on your back swing and low following through.
5. Accelerate through the ball; if you take the putter back one foot then follow through one foot or more.
6. Keep your left wrist moving toward the hole after striking the ball.
7. Keep your head very still while making your putting stroke.
8. Your eyes should be close to directly over the ball when putting.
9. Have the brand of the golf ball on line to the hole to help your direction, this is a suggested option.

Common errors:

1. Using too much wrist action in your putting motion.
2. Moving your head too much during your putting stroke.
3. Not following through toward hole after making contact with the ball.
4. Not practicing distance control on your putts.

Pre shot routine:

1. Stand behind the ball and “see the line”.
2. Visualize the ball going into the hole in your “mind’s eye”.
3. Take your putting stance and make one practice stroke to “feel the distance”, then stroke the ball.

Which is more important DISTANCE or DIRECTION?

Most students say direction. However, if you think about it, when you three putt, 99% of time it is because you have hit the putt 5 feet or so short or 5 feet or so long!
So if you are a good distance putter you will rarely three putt and on occasions the hole will get in the way of the ball and you will make some putts!

Quote “In golf like in life it is the follow through that counts!”

Patrick Livingston, PGA, CEO, National Golf Schools 877-580-1500

Timing Tempo, Rhythm

The tighter you hold the golf club, the less club head speed you create.

Golf is not a game of strength and power, but rather a game that relies on timing tempo and rhythm. PGA tour players like Sergio Garcia and Rory McIlroy are small of stature, but are near the top of the long driving list because of their timing, tempo and rhythm.

To establish these traits, begin with your grip, and how tightly you hold the club. Your arms should “hang” freely from your shoulders and be relaxed. Your left hand should grip the club with enough pressure, with just enough hold so you don’t let go of it (for right handed players). The accompanying hand should in turn be placed on the club gently.

A factor related to your grip and the pressure you apply is your posture. The grip and posture are extremely important because they enable our bodies to swing the club properly. The way we approach the ball is often the beginning of the problem. Many players stand up to the ball first, then try to set their posture without realizing that they are not the right distance from the ball. I see many people who look cramped over the ball or are reaching out too far for the ball. These positions do not allow the club to swing freely or comfortably. The proper posture will allow the arms to hang freely from the body. From this position, the arms can move freely throughout the swing.

Byron Nelson often said that 98% of amateurs set up with their hands to far from their body at address. At address your hands should be approximately one “fist” away from your thigh.

Think of relaxing the hold of the club with your hands, and by having the correct posture, and you will not only hit it farther, but straighter too!

Pat Livingston, CEO
National Golf School

Golf School or Private Lessons?


Do I need a golf school or just private lessons? What a great question to ask yourself. I teach both private lessons and I teach for National Golf Schools. Both are good but what does a student really need? Here are my thoughts and recommendations.

I will tell you that the average student learns more from a golf school such as National Golf Schools. The reason being is (for a lack of better terms) golf schools are “boot camp for golf.” The focus of an intense 2,3 or even 4 day course is great for repeating instruction and getting those important “swing nuggets” of information buried into the gray matter we call our brain. A typical day at National Golf School lasts between 7 and 8 hours! No, it is not just pounding balls at a range. It is much more than that. It covers all aspects of the game and probably one of the most critical parts, a playing lesson each day. On the hand private lessons are good for fixing a specific item but typically is not as holistic as a quality golf school. Most amateur golfers take one lesson and then never go back nor see much improvement. They then think the lesson did not work. The other reality of life is that 90% of us do not spend the time on the practice range we need to spend. National Golf embeds the training into the student through a focused core sessions.

So lesson from National Golf Schools does provide better memory retention. Too often the student who takes private lessons has the thought process of “one and done.” Take one lesson and think is it a cure all and then a year later wonder why they did not improve. With an intense golf school the student realizes it is not a one done scenario. When the student leaves the school they take with them a wealth of knowledge with them so that with practice they do see growth in their golf game.

Do not get me wrong private lessons are very good providing that the student is consistent and diligent to take lesson after lesson after lesson. Yet, few people have that dedication. Today we have many stresses in our lives pulling us many different ways and what drops off of the plate first are things such as golf lessons or tennis lessons or going to the gym. National Golf Schools understands the commitment the student signs up for and we take that commitment seriously. We know it is not just a vacation but and investment into improving the students golf game and enjoyment on the course through better play.

Another issue I have found is, one of the worst things a student can do is jump around to multiple pros. Many instructors have their own method of teaching and have difficulty matching what another pro has done. The reality is that most instructors no matter if it is golf, bowling, racing… have pretty big egos and have a lot of trouble leaving their egos at the door. Our focus at National Golf Schools is “the student is the priority not our egos.” It does not matter if I am providing private lessons or working for National Golf Schools during the interview process I always work with the student to find out if they have been working with another pro. I then work (when possible) to stay consistent with their previous instruction.

There those situations where a private lesson works very well. If a student is having an issue with just certain segment of their game or one part of their game has hit a problem, i.e. putting or pitching, then the keen eye of the local pro may be able to capture the flaw and fixed it quickly.

The advantage of a high quality golf school is that the student for a period of time is in intense focused and holistic instruction. This includes a playing lesson each day. Nation Golf Schools includes that all important playing lesson on a live course. So we take it from the range to reality and also learning many other mental aspects of course management. I know National Golf Schools provides that interface of range to reality. So daily, what we learn on the range and then apply it to reality on the course.

I can tell you after teaching both private and teaching for National Golf Schools the instruction through a golf school is intense, it does take a commitment in both time and money. Overall, a golf school such as National Golf Schools is by far the best and most effective way to go. It is the most effective way to learn, improve and


Joe Blanc, NPGIA
2012 National Golf School “Teacher of the Year”

Have Ed Sneed As Your Golf School Instructor!!

National Golf Schools now offers you the rare opportunity to have Ed Sneed, veteran PGA TOUR Player and NBC Sports Golf Analyst, as your golf school Instructor. Ed has 4 PGA Tour wins, 2 international wins and was a member of the victorious Ryder Cup team. He is an awesome player, a brilliant teacher, and a very personable man. Here is the opportunity of a lifetime to spend a few days with him for the ultimate golf school at a price that he usually gets for a single clinic. His love and knowledge of the game will amaze you.



Ed Sneed (born August 6, 1944) is an American professional golfer, sportscaster and course design consultant, who played on the PGA Tour and the Champions Tour.

Sneed was born in Roanoke, Virginia. He attended Ohio State University and was a member of the golf team. He turned pro in 1967. He worked briefly at Scioto Country Club in Columbus, Ohio, the same golf course where Jack Nicklaus learned to play golf.

Sneed won four PGA Tour events during his career. His first win came in 1973 at the Kaiser International Open Invitational. A year later he was a wire-to-wire winner at the Greater Milwaukee Open. Sneed was the only golfer in the history of the tournament to win wire-to-wire until Ben Crane did it in 2005. Sneed was a member of the Ryder Cup team in 1977. He had more than 45 career top-10 finishes in PGA Tour events.

Sneed is best known for his meltdown in The Masters in 1979. He began Sunday’s round with a 5-stroke lead. He had a 3-stroke lead with three holes to play but bogied them all. He went into a sudden-death playoff with Tom Watson and Fuzzy Zoeller, but lost to Zoeller on the second hole.[1] This was the first time The Masters used a sudden-death format to decide the Championship.

Sneed made his debut on the Senior PGA Tour (now known as the Champions Tour) in 1994 upon reaching the age of 50. His best finish in this venue is a T-5 at the 1995 Bell Atlantic Classic.

Sneed worked for eight years as a golf broadcaster for ABC television and was with CNBC in 2001. He has also done some course design consulting. He lives in Palm Harbor, Florida. He plans on providing golf instruction with director of golf, Larry Dornisch, at Muirfield Village Golf Club, Dublin, Ohio.

We see it, We feel it, We hear it

Oh NO! Why didn’t I see that!   I believe in God and what a wonderful functioning body he created for us.   Yet there are few things we do not use as often as we should on the golf course and that is our five senses, hearing, touch, sight, smell and taste. If we are playing or teaching, understanding the use of our senses can be a good 3 to 4 strokes around less on the scorecard per round.   That is a lot of strokes! So, yes, I am about to write another 15th club article. Using our brains (that is scary) to play better golf!

We all know how to teach the swing, yet through my articles the swing is only part of the equation and the mental aspect is just as important. Now, I want to spend some time talking the senses and how we use them even though at times we do it subconsciously. I want to open up our minds about our senses so that we can articulate that to our students.   I will keep this short because I could almost write one article per sense. Each of you are smart enough to expand on this short article. I am just throwing some “nuggets” out to assist you in your teaching.

Let’s start off with one basic sense, sight. We use it all through the round in both obvious and subtle manners.   But the question is: “Do our students understand that?”   Standing on a par 3 with a pond we see the pond and we know to read the ripples on the pond to determine wind.   Now on some par threes they may be surrounded by pines where we do not see or (another sense) feel a breeze.   What do we do then? I live in a retirement community and there a lot of homes and USA Flags flying.   I look in all directions to see what they are doing. Because on one of the par threes on the Lopez course, once that 7 iron gets above the pines it is going to move but on the tee box you cannot feel the wind or see the pines move much! As I mentioned I have learned to look in all directions to see what the wind is doing. So we use our sight to read the subtle signs of our surrounding.   We know how to use our sight on the greens to read the breaks and again subtleties of the breaks. Is there a sand bunker nearby? Why, well after a few years of getting sand thrown out of the bunker onto the green that will impact break. I can see the break but the subtle nature of the excess sand over the years will create some additional break to the putt. So we look around and view the obvious but do we teach the subtle?   Quickly, I have provided you some nuggets to expand on with your students and sight.

Let’s spend a few words on touch or feel. We all feel the wind but here is one aspect I want to touch on. Our feet, yes our feet, and using the sense of touch (feel) on the putting green.   WHAT you say?   Whenever I am getting ready to putt or chip, I quite often walk the general line and FEEL what are my feet doing or what am I feeling in my legs as I walk it. I know we see the putt is up or down hill but feeling the putt is important.   I just did a drill the other day with a student. I had him hit couple putts using sight to a hole (what did the slope look like). I then took a similar approach by only letting him walk the putt to get the touch or feel of the slope. He did much better putting after feeling the putt vs. just seeing the putt. He could not believe the improvement of “feeling the putt.” We use our touch is so many ways we do not realize we are using touch at times. But we are using it.   Walking into a bunker we feel is the sand fluffy or tight. We cannot touch the sand per the rule book but we use our feet to feel the texture of the sand. Our grip is mainly touch and we feel the correct tension or moisture and some many other things.   We feel “a lot” on the golf course in many unconventional ways. Feeling the denseness of the rough, how wet is the fairway or how dry. We do not bend over and touch and feel things. We let our feet and muscles compute the data.   Again, now you can expand on a few nuggets of feel to help your students understand the game.

Those are the two primary senses we use.   We do use sound yet not in the manner or to the same degree we use sight and touch.   Yet the sounds, I process the most are what is happening around by my team mates or the guy I have a few dollars on the line with.   What are they saying about course in general, what are they saying about the putts. Yes we watch their shots or their putts but also process the sounds they are making.   It may assist your next putt or shot and in some cases by making you reexamine what you are seeing or feeling.   Here is a quick example. You playing partner or competitor just hit a shot into a light breeze and that shot comes up short.   You have been playing with him for a few holes and you have sense of his game. You heard the club make sweet contact and he says, I should have went one extra club. Well to me that is data, I feel the breeze, see breeze and heard solid contact. Hmmm, now I can make a choice what how I processed that data.   So I go up a club. Now the result is I am putting and he has an awkward bunkers shot. I let information process my selection over what my ego tells me and I just won the hole.   You probably now have some thoughts on how it expand this to your students. Again I do not want to bore you with a long drawn out article.

In the end what we really do is combine all of that into “multi-modal perception.” Multi-modal perception is nothing more than a scientific term that describes how humans form coherent, valid, and robust perception by processing sensory process into train data our mind uses to interpolate our surroundings.   That is about as technical as I will ever get.

That just leaves smell and taste. That is simple we have used our sight, touch and hearing to play better and now we SMELL BLOOD in the water and we conquer!   And finally, nothing, beats the TASTE of that cold VICTORY beer you just won!  As you can see we use our senses a lot. We do not think about our senses as much because we use them so frequently. Yet how often do we teach them? Probably not often enough.   If you save a student 3 to 4 shots around just by teaching them to use their God given senses and they will appreciate it.   The 15th club at times is just as important as the other 14.  When teach a lesson that lesson needs to consist of more than just the swing. They are taking a golf lesson which includes the 15th club.



Joe Blanc, NPGIA
2012 National Golf School “Teacher of the Year”




Family Golf Schools

Family golf schools are an experience that your kids will talk about for years to come. With our class sizes no larger than 4 students to 1 instructor, just about any sized family can experience all the ups and downs of golf in their own private school. For families the amenities of the resorts are just as important. Many of our family golf schools are located in primetime destinations such as Orlando, Ft Lauderdale, Naples, San Diego, Cape Cod, Colorado Springs etc. National Golf Schools offers all-inclusive, stay & play packages with attentive service and attention to detail in all aspects of your stay. From water parks to miniature golf courses, the golf is just the beginning as families take in all that they have to offer!  Enjoy one of our family friendly golf schools for a golf vacation experience they will never forget!


St. Andrews – Old Course Article

As teaching professionals we are expected to understand all aspects of the golf swing.

Also for your student’s you should be ready to answer questions about the origin of the game.


The following is a recent article I wrote for Philadelphia Golfer Magazine.

For the past six centuries golf has been played on the Links at St. Andrews since around 1400 AD. The Old Course is renowned throughout the world of as the Home of Golf. However, it has not always been that way. Golf was becoming popular in the middle ages, and the game was banned in 1457 by King James II of Scotland who felt it was distracting young men from archery practice. And you thought you had problems convincing your wife that cutting the grass could wait another day. However, the ban was repeated by succeeding monarchs until James IV threw in the towel and in 1502 became a golfer himself.

The old course originally consisted of twenty-two holes, eleven out and eleven back. Upon completing a hole, the player used a handful of sand scooped out from the hole to form a tee and played the next hole. In 1764 the Society of St. Andrews Golfers, which later became the Royal and Ancient Golf Club reduced the course to eighteen holes and created what became the standard round of golf through the world.

Golf started to become even more popular at St. Andrews in the 19th century and the course became more crowded. The result was that golfers going out began to bump into other golfers playing the same holes. To solve the problem, the decision was made to cut two holes on each green having white flags for the outward holes and having red flags for the inward holes. This was the origin of the famous double greens, many of which could leave you with a 100 yard putt!

The Open Championship was first played on the Old Course at St. Andrews in 1873. With the 27th staging of the world’s premier golf event taking place again on the Old Course in 2005, St Andrew’s has held the event more often than anywhere else. In modern times, the Dunhill Cup and Dunhill Links Champions have been played at St. Andrews. The British Amateur Championship and competitions for men and women have been held over the fabled links at the Home of Golf.

The Old Course has evolved over time and was not designed by any one architect. The people who played a major role in shaping it are Daw Anderson (1850s), Old Tom Morris (1860s – 1900)
and Dr. Alistair Mackenzie (1930s). The course is known for its particular physical features including 112 bunkers, some of which are especially famous e.g. “hell” on the long 14th, “Strath” on
the short 11th and the Road Bunker at what is probable the most famous golf hole in the world, the 17th or Road Hole (so called because a road – which is in play – runs hard against the back edge of the green). I have had the opportunity to play from each of these bunkers (not by choice) over the years and I can assure you they are unlike any bunkers in the United States. Consequently, when you attend a National Golf School at St. Andrews you will have an extra short game session on how to play the bunkers of the Old Course.

I first played the Old Course in 1996 and immediately fell in love with it like so many other golfers. Jack Nicklaus said “I fell in love with it the first day I played it there’s just no other course that is even remotely close.” Tiger Woods said “Without a doubt I like it the best of all the Open venues. It’s my favorite course in the world.” The immortal Bobby Jones said “If I had but one course to play before I die it would be St. Andrews.” I decided that day I would try to bring this cherished course to as many American’s that I could by creating National Golf School’s first international golf school location at St. Andrews.

The Old Course has so many wonder full stories to tell. Over six centuries and 27 Open Championships the fortunes of the world’s greatest golfers played out on this wonderful golf course. The dapper Doug Sanders missed a 2 foot on the 18th of the 1970 Open and lost to Jack Nicklaus in an 18 playoff the next day. One Open in particular comes to mind when Tom Watson a five time winner of the Open was faced with a seemingly impossible shot on the Road Hole. Watson’s ball was a foot away from the wall with no back swing available. With the Championship in the balance, Watson faced the wall, hit his ball into the wall and it bounced off the wall across the road toward the green for a bogey. That shot was the turning point and it cost him the 1984 Open Championship. During a recent golf school at St. Andrews I tired to duplicate that shot. Well, the wall is uneven and as the ball ricocheted back toward the green it struck my ankle. As I limped up the fairway to the 18th green, with the Royal and Ancient Golf Club in the back ground I reminded my self to eliminate that shot from our short game session.

Over the years many golf school students have enjoyed the wonders of St. Andrews and the mystic of the Old Course along the way building their own special memories. What is truly remarkable about St. Andrews and the Old Course is that in today’s modern golfing world, the Old Course has evolved over six centuries, and remains a true test of championship golf. Join me at a National Golf School at St. Andrew’s and experience this special golf adventure. I agree hole heartedly with Bobby Jones if I had but one course to play before I die it would be The Old Course at St. Andrews.

Patrick J. Livingston, PGA
CEO, National Golf Schools
2003 & 2007 “PGA Florida Teacher of the Year”

The Unintentional Career Path

NPGIA Quarter News

   By: Joe Blanc, NPGIA Member


My journey to become a certified golf instructor through NPGIA was a unique path to say the least.  This brief article is about that my recent journey down that path.  

I was fortunate enough to retire from my first career as an executive with a fortune 500 company, at the ripe old age of 54.  I decided to assist my brother in building his business of selling golf supplies.  This endeavor  lead me to become a  sales rep for one of the hottest products in golf right now, which is the Clearview Putter,  that is how I met Patrick and Jeff.  

After working with Patrick and Jeff on the Clearview Putter, Patrick spent some time interviewing me of sorts during the Tampa Golf Fest.  Though at the time I did not know it was an interview, about my training skills and my golf knowledge.  My training past comes from training in industry in many different technical areas and people skill areas over the years in an adult training environment.  As for my golf past, I was a competitor for a brief time in Long Drive Competitions.  My father was one of the top golfers in North Eastern Ohio and two of my brothers were considered two of the top high school golfers in Ohio during the late 70’s.  One of them becoming a division 3 All American and then a PGA pro which he later relinquished.  I guess someone could say golf runs in the family.  

As we were shutting down the Tampa Golf Show, Patrick and Jeff mentioned to me the possibility of becoming a NPGIA instructor.  Patrick says he watched me interact with people on the putter throughout the 3 day event; he noticed my interactions with his staff and saw me hit some golf balls.  Patrick’s and Jeff’s initial assessment was as follows.  My interactions and basic communications with people were strong, my basic knowledge of golf was good and my swing was fundamentally sound although it would require some tweaking.  Though I tried to be calm and collected about this opportunity on the outside, on the inside I was anything but calm.  I signed up and my wife, Marti, has been my biggest cheerleader.

Now comes the important part the NPGIA certification class.  I first must apologize about the lengthy opening but I feel my background was important and the fact that Patrick and Jeff spent a lot time insuring I would be a good fit to the NPGIA family.   

The training program was one of a “relaxed intensity,” now there is an oxymoron.  Which is the way it should be.  At no time did anyone I work with ever loose sight of what we were there to do and at the same time never was there pressure to get through it.  Each of the pros I worked with, who were Mike Gooding, Jeff Estes and Tom Fleetwood spent every minute focused on insuring I had the tools to be successful.  Yet it never felt rushed or did I notice their egos getting in the way.  Their focus was on me and not how they were better than me.   

Each of them had a slightly differing approach to teaching and taught some differing aspects to achieve the base fundamentals.  But in all cases it was explained the NPGIA approach is to work with in skills and physical capabilities of the students and “not” to create a one size fits all robotic approach to teaching.  I have spent time talking to my friends about their past experiences with golf lessons and the biggest negatives are: too often the teaching pros egos impact the lesson and too often they train to a prescribed set of instruction and there is only one way to swing a club.  In short they forget about who is paying them.  This point was made clear throughout the process by my coaches.

I was very fortunate to have 3 highly qualified people to guide me first by helping me with my weaknesses in the swing which equated to a much greater understanding on how to teach the swing.  I mean my long drive swing which had way too much forward movement was no benefit to my short wedge game.

I also learned from each of them to have fun during the instruction process and it is a total benefit to first understand the student.  I will have students who are purely analytical and will want to understand every aspect of the swing.  The big watch out with this type of person is that being too casual during the lesson and this may turn that student off.  The other end of the spectrum is to understand the student who grasps the concept only through “nuggets” of information and are highly visual.  I got the tools in my tool bag from Mike, Jeff and Tom who each showed me how to deal with each type of student.  They each gave to me their tricks of the trade and their learning lessons so that I can be a complete instructor.  After all the adult learning process is one of being, hands on, one to one and a visual focus.  It is critical to first understand your audience and have the tools to deal with each type of personality and still make the sessions both productive and enjoyable.  Lesson number one know who is paying for the lesson and get to know the needs of the student.

I also appreciated the fact there was a written test which is designed to insure the student has and can recall the fundamentals of what we have learned.  The rules test also worked out well.  

To summarize, the course exceeded my expectations, the pros I worked with were fantastic in both their knowledge of the game and their ability to treat people with respect.  Now that I can go out into the world on my second career.  I feel comfortable I have the skills to go out and make people feel good about their golf game, show them how to improve and make each round more enjoyable.  


Joe Blanc, NPGIA
2012 National Golf School “Teacher of the Year”



What is the Wal-Mart First Tee Open at Pebble Beach?

Below is included a recent article written by Pat Livingston, CEO National Golf Schools about one of our junior golf school success stories.

What is the Wal-Mart First Tee Open at Pebble Beach?

You are a 15 year old female High School sophomore with aspirations to play on the LPGA tour. What are your summer golf expectations? Play in some local PGA Chapter Junior tournaments? Play in some AGJA tournaments? Spend a little time with your PGA Teaching Professional (probably a good idea)?

Well, Megan Chapman’s golf world turned upside down this summer when she played in a First Tee qualifier at the difficult Champions Gate International golf course in Orlando, Florida. A solid 74 qualified her for a spot in the Wal-Mart First Tee Open; a Champions Tour event at Pebble Beach September 2nd through September 4th.

Meghan has been playing golf for only 2 ½ years, but after just a few lessons I realized she could be a very special golfer with a college scholarship and, potentially, the LPGA tour in her future. Her parents Pat & Scott Chapman are Psychologists in the Tampa Bay area and were supportive without being intrusive like some parents tend to be with good young athletes. Meghan is very good athlete, works hard on her game, and has a mental toughness rarely found in young junior golfers.

What is the Wal-Mart First Tee Open at Pebble Beach? It is an official Champions Tour Tournament with each Professional playing with a junior partner in a team event where the winner receives a trophy on Sunday afternoon before 25,000 spectators and a National TV audience! This tournament serves as the national championship for the First Tee program, an initiative of the World Golf Foundation which provides young people of all backgrounds an opportunity to develop life-enhancing values and character education through the game of golf. First Tee and the Champions Tour help promote character development and life enhancing values such as honesty, integrity and sportsmanship through golf.

The Champions tour players treated the junior golfers as fellow competitors and gave a helping hand at every opportunity. Warming up for Meghan’s first practice round at Pebble Beach, she rubbed shoulders with Gary McCord, Peter Jacobson, Arnold Palmer and many other Champions Tour players. Meghan had golf conversations with Fuzzy Zeoller, Arnold Palmer, and Ben Crenshaw. She was interviewed by several newspapers and by Peter Jacobsen’s television show, which will be seen on the Golf Channel. Each night there was a First Tee dinner featuring speakers such as Richard Petty, Gary McCord and many other famous athletes and celebrities. Meghan was partnered with Dave Barr and played well in the tournament. The highlight of her tournament was holing-out a 45 putt for birdie on the famous 18th hole at Pebble Beach in front of thousands of spectators and a live TV audience.

Yes, there were many great experiences and highlights inside the ropes, but for me it was being allowed to experience this with Meghan as her caddy.

Patrick J. Livingston, PGA
CEO, National Golf Schools
2003 & 2007 “PGA Florida Teacher of the Year”