Sports: Golf Camps
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That's the chief allure of working with Carl Welty, the grandmaster of videotaping and adviser to the likes of Curtis Strange and Fred Couples.
A professional since 1965, Welty, 51, maintains that true learning only comes in intimate groups--private settings where teacher and student can effectively communicate.
"Here a golfer doesn't mix with other people on a range. A student and perhaps a buddy or two are the entire three-day school," boasts Welty, who's aided by one assistant/cameraman. "We don't try to work with loads of people, we want to personalize everything." That one-on-one instruction begins with the soft-spoken Welty playing six or seven holes with a student, videotaping the student's every move then analyzing that tape back at the practice center. As at Grand Cypress, this process could be traumatic to beginners, or lead them to pursue unrealistic goals. But Welty is an expert at massaging egos: a serene figure who can lower even the highest of handicaps.
He helps golfers do that by paying special attention to the short game, those always difficult sand and wedge shots. "I'll show a student Tom Kite hitting five or six sand shots, then I'll contrast that with the student's attempts, and again Kite's," explains Welty. "I have the largest videotape collection in the world, and this methodology gives the student positive examples. Plus, when he goes home, he gets a tape of all these contrasts so he has a chance for I00 percent retention."
Welty's approach has won high praise from students. Dr. William Northrup of the Minneapolis Heart Institute was so enamored with the school, he wrote Welty, "It was a privilege to have you as a teacher. I number you amongst the best teachers I have ever been exposed to. You possess all the great qualities of great teachers. It was amazing to watch you analyze my swing...you obviously enjoy stimulating and motivating students."
Welty is an apostle of visualization, the sports psychology theory of success that encourages adherents to imagine positive results. And the recently refurbished La Costa Resort is certainly conducive to pleasant visions, offering an inviting spa, private residences, seven restaurants and nightly entertainment.
Instruction is also a bargain. While most schools cater to flocks of students, and charge well over $2,000, this program is $1,800 for three days or $900 per person if two buddies decide to split the bill.
Reservations for the school can be secured by calling (619) 438-9111 or (800) 653-7888.
JOHN JACOBS PRACTICAL GOLF SCHOOLS
First, the negatives.
This school teaches more than 10,000 students a year, and dozens of people are usually poised on a driving range, hitting balls until their hands and bodies ache.
Affable instructors try to personalize the back to basics teaching, but the school's general approach is assembly line. Groups of golfers practice the full swing, chipping or putting for an allotted time, then each group moves to a different activity. Soon, it's time to switch again, to make yet another transition.
But operating at attractive resorts nationwide, John Jacobs does give students a wide range of getaway choices, and a golf school can be a time to enjoy more than lessons. Whether it's at a seaside retreat or within driving distance of the Colorado Rockies, the school does have value, focusing on the inarguable ABC's of posture, club head path and angle of contact.
Craig Bunker, one of the school's roving instructors, is another big plus. He tirelessly stalks the driving range, offering suggestions. A teacher for two decades, he'll cure your slice.
"Craig is a real solid guy, a no-nonsense pro," says student Frank Brennan, a broker with New York's Cantor and Fitzgerald. "But the school is primarily for beginners." For information and reservations, call (800) 472-5007.
DAVID LEADBETTER GOLF ACADEMY
David Leadbetter isn't hot, he's sizzling.
Today's most sought after teacher, he's arrived at this pinnacle mainly because of his two star pupils: Nick Faldo won the British Open this past summer while Nick Price was PGA champion.
Leadbetter's instructional approach also has been hyped in numerous magazine articles. Dubbing him the "King of Swing," Golf World gushes about his teaching magic, while Golf Digest repeatedly splashes him across its cover.
PGA Tour pros flock to the Lake Nona Golf Club in Orlando to have him reconstruct their swings. For example, David Frost had never won a tourney until working with Leadbetter, and after Bob Tway paid a visit, presto, he ended a long drought by winning the 1989 Memorial.
Average golfers can also share in the magic at two-day schools, but it is costly: $3,000 for 8-hour sessions, which comprise six students in a class, Leadbetter and two other instructors. He doesn't conduct these schools on weekends, only Thursdays and Fridays, and all teaching is done at the practice facility, not on Lake Nona's championship course.
Leadbetter may indeed be the ruling swing impresario, the answer to all your golfing problems. But there's also one other catch in playing his special game: There's often a long waiting list, so plan early and good luck. Call (407) 857-8276 for reservations.
Edward Kiersh is a freelance writer based in New York.