Golf Instruction Galore in Central Texas

By Kyle Dalton, Contributor

AUSTIN, TX -- It's no secret that Austin is chock full of quality courses in and around the city as evidenced by its annual rating as one of Golf Magazine's top 50 golf destinations in the world. When it comes to golf instruction there is much less brouhaha about the quantity and quality of teaching offered. That, however, is not indicative of what golfers can find for instruction in the Capital City.

Four top-notch schools are located within a short drive of the metropolitan area, with each offering instructors and facilities that are recognized throughout the industry.

Academy of Golf Dynamics

The most established school in the area is the Academy of Golf Dynamics, which opened in Florida in 1982, and relocated in 1986 to Lakeway, Texas approximately 30 minutes from downtown Austin. Today, as it did when it first opened its doors in the Sunshine State, the Academy, is under the leadership of well known and respected teaching professional Bill Moretti.

Moretti, who is owner and president, is no stranger to instruction as he has taught professionally for 23 years and has been recognized within the industry including national golf publications as one of the top teachers in the country.

Moretti said the staying power of the Academy of Golf Dynamics is a result of several factors. One of the main reasons for the Academy's success today was also one of the factors back in the mid 1980s when they decided to move from Florida to Texas - the facilities.

The practice facility includes three Jack Nicklaus-designed holes - a par 3, 4 and 5, which feature all the shots that occur on the golf course as the holes are positioned in different directions for wind variance, varying degrees of uphill and downhill, and to allow three pin locations on each green.

In addition to the three practice holes, the complex also includes two separate greens, one for putting and chipping, and the other for pitch shots, sand shots, and fairway bunker shots. A practice shelter is also available for inclement conditions and there is a classroom area for video analysis.

While the facilities are impressive, Moretti said the instruction and more specifically, the style of instruction is what draws golfers of all skill levels from across the country. Moretti said the instruction is very focused with a teacher-student ratio of 3:1.

"Our instruction is very individualized. We want to know the person including their personality type, their learning style and their goals."

When it comes to actual teaching, Moretti said the Academy instructors focus on four key criteria - a fundamentally correct swing; the swing matches the ball flight; the instruction can be implemented on the course; and the student can teach his or herself when they are done. "If you are successful with the first three, you can help yourself," he said.

Moretti said that's where the practice holes are invaluable. After the day's worth of instruction, the student can immediately head over to the practice holes to test the newly acquired knowledge.

Obviously, Moretti is doing something right. The school has been recognized by Golf Magazine as one of the top 25 schools in the country.

Harvey Penick Golf Academy

Next in seniority is the Harvey Penick Golf Academy, which opened in 1993 and is located at the Golfsmith International Headquarters on the north side of Austin.

The Penick Academy, like the Academy of Golf Dynamics, features top-notch facilities including a 5,000-square-foot putting green, a 2,400-square-foot chipping and sand-play green, and an 80-station, lighted driving range with 60 covered stations for inclement conditions. (The range has been voted one of the top 50 ranges in the U.S. for five consecutive years by Golf Range and Recreation Association of America.)

According to Director of Golf Larry Gosewehr, the simple lessons and methods imparted from the teaching legend for which the school is named are the main reason students from around the world, including all 50 states and 16 countries, have attended the Penick Academy.

"There's a lot of information out there. We try and simplify all the garble with some simple drills."

A couple of the drills are straight out of the Penick's best-selling Little Red Book. The bucket drill consists of swinging a pail with water in it. The goal is to swing the bucket from side-to-side without spilling any of the water. Once the student is done with the drill, they have a greater understanding of the tempo of a golf swing and the overall body movement, Gosewehr said.

The weed cutter drill has also been known to raise a few eyebrows. The weed cutter is of the old variety, and looks like a scythe. In order for it to work, the student must swing it at the appropriate level and have the blade square in order for it to cut grass - essentially the same concept of hitting a golf ball.

In addition to the facilities and teachings, Gosewehr said the students receive video analysis and classroom instruction, which includes a basic club fitting session.

Gosewehr said the Penick Academy is not affiliated with any golf course and as a result it allows for affordable pricing. "We're for the average golfer and we offer the most instruction per day at six hours."

The Penick Academy School has also been recognized by Golf Magazine as one of the top 25 schools in the country.

Hank Haney Golf Ranch

For those who don't want to take two or three days out of their schedule, but are looking for a more specific lesson and work on a particular portion of their game, the Hank Haney Golf Ranch might have the answer.

The Haney Golf Ranch is the smallest of all the teaching facilities in the area. Unlike the larger academies that offer classes with up to a 5:1 student-teacher ratio, the Haney Golf Ranch focuses more on individual lessons and small clinics.

The Haney philosophy is similar to the other academies in that it recognizes that each individual has a unique swing that cannot be corrected with a "cookie cutter" approach. Mark Moore, senior instructor at the Austin center, said two questions are initially asked of each student at the beginning of the class. Where did the ball go and why? The instructors then work from the ball flight back to the set up and identify what needs to be corrected and how.

Although the Haney Golf Ranch may be smaller compared to its competition, it offers a variety of different options for its customers. Whether its full-swing, short-game or intermediate clinics, individual lessons, or small classes, Moore said the Haney Golf Ranch has something to meet everyone's needs. "We can tailor make a package for anybody. If they want to come in as a small class, we can work with them as well."

Moore said for those who come to the Haney Golf Ranch in search of general improvements in their game, they have a specific plan of action they recommend. "If we've got to work on everything such as A, B, C, and D, there is no way in one day we will correct their golf swing. We make the correct diagnosis for what they need to work on, and then let them work on that for a couple hours. After lunch, we come back and see how the person has worked with the changes. Then we move on to B."

Although this method can be custom-designed to be done in several days like the other schools, Moore said the general approach at the Haney Golf Ranch is to stretch the sessions over a longer period. "We're a teaching and practice facility. We'd rather see the person come back and get better so we work with them for a couple hours before and after lunch and then they come back the next day. You can only work with someone so much and then they get information overload."

Facilities at the Haney Golf Ranch include two large driving ranges with more than 75 hitting stations, a putting and chipping green, and a bunker for sand play.

David Leadbetter Golf Academy at Barton Creek

The new kid on the block is the David Leadbetter Golf Academy (DLGA) at Barton Creek, which opened in March.

The DLGA, which is part of a larger program known as The Golf Institute at Barton Creek, is located on the back side of the Fazio-Canyons driving range. It was designed to build a lifelong game for its clients, helping each student realize their full potential, while offering a rewarding and enjoyable experience. To achieve these goals, the DLGA incorporates into its teachings the basic fundamentals of the swing, which are the essential components of David Leadbetter's philosophy and include grip, athletic posture, pivot and positioning of the club and body.

While fundamentals are important at the DLGA, the natural rhythm of the individual is also central to the golfer's swing. Instead of the "cookie cutter" approach taught by some instructors where one swing fits all, Leadbetter and his instructors focus on the fundamentals and how they can be successfully incorporated into the natural makeup and ability of the student.

Although it sounds somewhat abstract, there are numerous innovative drills developed by Leadbetter that are tailored to the golfer's natural makeup that allow the student to gain a specific feeling that he or she can identify with and develop independently.

"When it comes right down to it, we're individuals," Leadbetter said. "There are no two swings that are the same. The goal of the golfer is to be square at the ball at impact at maximum speed and down the target line. If you can understand your own tendencies and weaknesses and you have someone with a good eye to give you a blueprint, you can achieve this."

Like the other schools, the DLGA includes first-class facilities. The $470,000 complex includes up to 20 hitting stations as well as several covered hitting areas for inclement conditions; all with the opportunity to hit to multiple targets. The facility also includes an enclosed structure for high-tech video/computer analysis as well as a large putting and separate pitching green.

Academy of Golf Dynamics
45 Club Estates Parkway
Austin, Texas 78738
Phone: 800-879-2008

Harvey Penick Golf Academy
Golfsmith International Headquarters
11000 North IH-35
Austin, TX 78753-3195
Phone: 800-477-5869

Hank Haney Golf Ranch of Austin
10515 North Mo-Pac
Austin, TX 78759
Phone: (512) 345-2013

David Leadbetter Golf Academy at Barton Creek
8212 Barton Club Dr.
Austin, TX 78735
Phone: 800-336-6158 or (512) 329-4000

Kyle Dalton, Contributor

Since graduating from the University of Texas in 1992 with a degree in journalism, Kyle Dalton has been a writer and editor for a variety of national publications in various fields.

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