Ann Marie Gildersleeve is the PGA Director of Instruction at Austin Country Club, in Austin, Texas.
Ann Marie Gildersleeve on the importance of designating teaching and student areas on the lesson tee:
During the COVID-19 crisis, many PGA Professionals have had to put their teaching businesses on the backburner and await further guidance from state health officials. When we were told that teaching would again be permitted, I was excited to get back out there. However, in addition to providing the exceptional golf experiences our students and Austin Country Club members are used to, it was imperative that we do so in a healthy manner, cognizant of the predicament we are facing, and the hesitation our members may have. So, as we prepared to welcome our students back to golf instruction, I sketched an idea I had to create a grid on our lesson tee. The “Social Distancing Grid”, constructed of different-colored ropes, would designate a “Player’s Box”, from which the student would hit balls during the lesson. To allow the teacher to view the swing face on and from the rear, the “PGA Professional Area” would allow us to conveniently view each swing, easily communicate verbally with the student, and effectively provide feedback and direction, all within the health and wellness standards to which we all must abide. This “PGA Professional Area” is ten feet from the closest point of the “Player’s Box”, a distance that exceeds the required separation. There is also ample signage in the area that reinforces the independent space that teacher and student will use. Feedback from our GM, our teaching staff, and students and members has been very positive. Everyone appreciates our efforts to get back to business, though it may not be business as usual.
Students appreciate the secure learning environment, as well as the efforts we took to create that atmosphere for them. With so many thoughts and concerns swirling through a student’s mind during a lesson, his or her well-being should not be one of them. People like structure – most students thrive within an agenda and plan of action. By seeing the “Social Distancing Grid” in person, they become comfortable in their space, as our coaches are in theirs. The lines on the ground help us focus on the task of game improvement, without worrying if we’re getting too close. They also eliminate the inclination for those truly hands-on teachers to make contact with the student, as many of us do in a lesson. These times will call for some new ways of thinking and none of us know what our new normal will be. For now, the priorities are to welcome our members back to the club and to assure them that we have been prudent in our actions with the goal of keeping them out of harm’s way when they are with us.