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Golf is Not an Easy Sport to Learn
By Spencer Timkey
Bad swing habits and wrong techniques can make you look (and feel) like Mr. and Mrs. Havencamp from Caddyshack. (No, Mrs. Havencamp, your ball’s over here ...)
But as ugly as your swing may be, there is a cure for that wicked slice.
Enter the Phil Ritson-Mel Sole Golf School.
Renowned nationwide and open close to 20 years, its instructors use a variety of techniques to best help advance a golfer’s skill level. Regardless of skill level, remarkable improvement is imminent after a lesson.
Founded by the two men that share the school’s name, it began in 1988 when Ritson asked Sole to be the head of the Phil Ritson Golf Studio in Myrtle Beach, SC. In 1991, they relocated to Pawley’s Island, SC and it became the Phil Ritson-Mel Sole Golf School.
If you’re thinking these two are no different than any other “expert” teacher, book or DVD on golf, please take into consideration the next two paragraphs.
Mel Sole - “Top Teacher” by GOLF Magazine, “Best Teachers in your State” by Golf Digest in 2009, former player on South Africa’s PGA Tour and producer of multiple South African National Champions and Junior Champions.
Phil Ritson - “Top 50 Teacher in the USA”, produced award-winning instructional videos “Encyclopedia of Golf” and “Golf Your Way,” a teaching editor with Golf Magazine and has mentored players such as Gary Player and K.J. Choi.
It is safe to say that these two know what they’re talking about. With seven schools in North America, the school was named “Top 25” in the nation by Golf Magazine.
A main belief that every instructor at these schools use is that everyone has a different personality, a different swing type. So they focus on finding the individual’s strengths and developing them.
Ellicottville, NY is very fortunate to have this prestigious school, which is located at Holiday Valley’s driving range. When current Holiday Valley Golf Professional Steve Carney arrived here, he knew that a golf school was needed to round out Holiday Valley’s already stellar golf reputation.
“We have an extremely nice practice facility here, and we thought it was in our best interest to bring in a national golf school - one that had a national presence with national advertising,” Carney said. “We looked at a few different schools, but we came to the conclusion that the Ritson-Sole school was the best fit for us. It has been here for eight years and we haven’t looked back.”
South Carolina native and PGA Instructor Pat Hofmann, who has been with the school for 10 years, is the go-to guy.
By videotaping a student’s swing and comparing it to another golfer’s, the student can see what he or she is doing wrong. A complete overhaul won’t happen, but instructors identify the student’s swing issues and prescribe drills to make the learning curve that much easier.
Even though all the schools use the same basic concepts, Ritson-Sole gives its instructors some leeway in how they go about teaching.
“There are common denominators that every good swing has,” Hofmann said. “After we videotape the student, we put it up against a player who swings similarly. Everyone learns the game differently, so you have to be sensitive to the person’s best learning style, where they are in their golf swing and what notions they’re operating under.”
One of the biggest problems people have with golf is that they don’t trust their swing. They begin to think about too many things at once, and that causes information overload. A main concept the Ritson-Sole school uses is helping the student trust their swing.
“That’s one of the main philosophies,” Hofmann said. “The conscious and subconscious - it’s getting the student to trust in their swing. A lot of people think there’s this magic touch that a golf school has - that a few days with an instructor will turn a novice into the next Phil or Tiger. There is no magic. But if we can get someone started on a few small things, then we have them headed in the right direction. And after a lesson or two, the improvement is remarkable.”