October 10, 2014

Offer Supervised Practice Sessions


Erika Larkin is the PGA director of instruction at Stonewall Golf Club in Gainesville, Va., a semi-private facility

As the 2012 Middle Atlantic PGA Section Teacher of the Year and one of Golf Digest’s 2012 Best Young Teachers, Erika Larkin is one of the best-known teachers in her area. While that means she can command a premium price for private lessons, that can also discourage new students from seeking out her services. As a way to provide a lower-cost way for new students to sample instruction from herself and other teachers on staff at Stonewall Golf Club, Larkin created aprogram of supervised practice sessions last year.

“I wanted to offer the supervised practice sessions as a value add to our group instruction students in Get Golf Ready who wanted a little more attention, but also as a way for new students to try us out and see if they liked us as instructors,” says Larkin, a PGA Certified Professional in instruction. “I viewed it as a marketing and business development opportunity for our teaching services, but also a great chance for new and existing students to add instruction at a low cost.”

In the heart of the summer, Stonewall offers five organized practice sessions at a variety of times throughout the week to fit into a variety of schedules. With a mix of weekday, weeknight and weekend sessions, the sessions draw a mix of golfers while fitting into the private lesson and junior camp schedules of Larkin and her staff. The sessions are capped at eight golfers, with most sessions fielding 4–5 golfers.

The cost for students is $15 for a 45-minute organized practice session, which does not include the cost of range balls. The sessions are generally broken into full swing and short game halves, with the PGA Professional conducting the session walking the line and spending a few minutes with each golfer offering tips and making corrections. For existing students, this offers a way to get a tune-up between lessons and a chance to make sure their practice routine is effective. New students, meanwhile, get a mini-lesson, which is often their first exposure to golf instruction.

“It’s a great way for students to connect with us as instructors, and for us to upsell them into private or semi-private lessons,” Larkin says. “Once they see what effect you can have on their game, it’s a great chance to mention how much more they could get out of a full lesson.”

The organized practice sessions also generate revenue for Stonewall’s teaching professionals and the semi-private facility. The instructors generally take home the same amount from an organized practice session as they would if they’d have taught a one-hour private lesson, but with the advantage of having worked with multiple students who could become regular clients. Meanwhile, Stonewall saw an increase in range ball revenue and usage that can be at least partly attributed to the five weekly organized practice sessions.

“As a teacher, these practice sessions are fun – you don’t know what you’re going to be teaching until you see who shows up, but you get a chance to make a real impression on people,” Larkin says. “Because of the price point, they don’t expect too much; there’s no technology involved, for example. But charging something shows that your expertise has value, and you give new students a taste of what they’ll get if they keep coming back.

“You’re trying to maximize your hourly revenue, and there are only so many hours in the week. So I think it’s a great idea to look beyond private lessons as a way to reach more people and get the most out of your time as an instructor. Today you have to be proactive and try to offer something for everyone.”