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America's Top 100 Instructors: Leaving the Traditional Approach Behind

By Shane Sharp, Contributor

PHOENIX, AZ - Lynn Marriott is nothing, if not a realist.

A Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher, Marriott (at right) has a simple philosophy: She will give back to you as much as you want to put into the game.

Marriott broke her tenure as Director of Teacher Training for the LPGA's Teaching and Club Professional Division in 1999 to found "Coaching for the Future" along with fellow Top 100 teacher Pia Nilsson. Both Marriott and Nilsson felt that traditional golf instruction was too rigid and oftentimes, so scientifically overwhelming that the average golfer was left perplexed and intimidated.

"When Pia and I decided to start the company, our vision was pretty broad," Marriott says. "We wanted to make a difference beyond traditional instruction. At that time, one of my goals was to change how golf teaching was approached in this country. Pia had done similar things in Sweden, as coach of the national team."

Do you want to play two times a week and break 80, or do you want to play once a month and hover around 90?

This is the type of question you might hear from Marriott and Nilsson at the beginning of one of their golf schools. From there, the dynamic duo can determine the amount of practice time and skill level required to reach a student's goal.

"You can't assume that these students have the same goals, just because they chose the same golf school," Nilsson says. "Two students with the same high handicap may have very different goals. One may want to become a single digit player, and if so, we need to figure out if he or she can get there, and how."

Regardless of goals, however, Marriott and Nilsson teach a common set of tools to all golfers to better prepare them for the mental aspects of the game. The tandem will spend almost as much time on preshot routine, getting over first tee nervousness, and course management as they will the physical fundamentals of the game.

"We don't prescribe any swing theory or technique," Marriott says. "It is based on how much time a player has to put into the game. We are more interested in how they manage their game. Preshot routine, slow play, dealing with people they don't like are all things we cover. Our tag line is 'think and play.' There is a balance and integration. Most schools focus on the left brain and we try to bring in some of the right brain."

Because of Marriott and Nilsson's nontraditional approach, their golf school attracts a number of female players. Marriott estimates that approximately half of her students are women, but she likes to remind players that she is an expert on both sides of the gender fence.

"We are members of the PGA and the LPGA," she says. "I have worked with just as many men as women. People think because we are women, we only teach women. I do think women feel more comfortable here that they might at some other schools, but we see that as a major benefit since they (women) are a growing faction of the market."

While the fundamentals of the game may be the same for men and women, Nilsson says that males and females learn in different fashions and may have totally different needs.

"The approach to teaching men and women is the same, but there needs might be different," she says. "Many more women are scared of competition, or intimidated by playing with men."

Marriott and Nilsson conduct golf schools year around at the Legacy Golf Club in south Phoenix. Six times a year, the two conduct their prestigious "Golf 54" schools at the Legacy and in Nilsson's home country of Sweden. Golf 54 is recommended for golfers that are 15 handicaps and better, and the clinic is conducted over two and three day periods.

"The main goal is to integrate the mental, physical, and emotional parts of the game," says Nilsson (at right). "We don't separate them. GOLF 54 represents our belief that we as human beings can score a lot lower than we do today. GOLF54 is about removing the barriers we set for ourselves and moving towards a score of 54 and beyond."

Practice makes perfect, or as close to perfect as you want to be, according to Marriott and Nilsson's philosophy.

"We help golfers make their practice time more efficient and effective," Nilsson says. "We work on the transfer of improvement from the practice tee to the course."

Golf 54 Breakdown

Class Size: 10 or below
Cost: $995, does not include lodging
Format: Instruction and nine holes per day.
Philosophy: Tries to improve mental skills along with swing mechanics. Instructs many ASU team members and numerous juniors. Recently founded school with fellow Top 100 Teacher Pia Nilsson.
For more information: www.coachingforthefuture.com.

Lynn and Pia's Top Five Courses of Phoenix

1. Grayhawk - "Great scenery, but one of the toughest courses in the west."
2. Troon North - "Both courses are awesome, unless to want to save golf balls."
3. Legacy - "Gary Panks is one of the best, and this course holds true to that."
4. Raven at South Mountain - "What a good resort golf should be like, and unlike anything in the desert here."
5. Fazio redesign of Thunderbirds Golf Course - "The views back to the city are amazing, and its affordable and home of the "First Tee" of Phoenix."

Shane SharpShane Sharp, Contributor

Shane Sharp is vice president of Buffalo Communications, a golf and lifestyle media agency. He was a writer, senior writer and managing editor of TravelGolf.com from 1997 to 2003.

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