Have you ever taken golf lessons? Have you ever wondered what you could have been, or what you might still become if you just had some help with your swing? Or your putting? Or maybe you just need help visualizing your success? There seems to be no limit to the quantity and quality of instruction a man can get in this great game.
Can a middle aged man retire and become a professional golfer? This was the first question I asked Bradlee Ryall, the Director of Instruction at Bradlee Ryall Golf Academy at Lionhead Golf Club in Mississauga. Would it would be possible for an older guy who's never played golf before to get good lessons, turn pro, and win the Canadian Open? Bradlee answered automatically, "anything is possible in golf," and then shook his head "no" and winked.
Junior golfers between the ages of twelve and twenty are another matter. Odds are that one in a dozen of these kids will someday attempt some form of professional qualification. But at this young age, the dream of being ranked in the PGA is universal. Playing professional golf on tour is the unspoken career focus of just about every junior golfer alive, and forms the drive that propels them all the way through golf school - the Junior Development programs at Lionhead and five other nearby courses. Bradlee Ryall Golf is the authorized golf lessons provider for people of all ages, men and women at all six Kaneff golf course facilities.
So what’s in a golf lesson at ‘golf school’?
“With regards to Junior Golfers,” Bradlee Ryall began, “any junior at the competitive level of our development pyramid would go through the following process and program.”
INTERVIEW – It all starts with a family meeting in which Bradlee Ryall gives an overview of the programs he manages at the Golf Academy. At the same time, Bradlee listens and tries to get a sense of the family dynamic, and their dedication to the game. What are the parents expecting from their child and coach? Bradlee explained to me how he likes to hear the student articulate their goals themselves, without help from parents. He’s also keen to get a better sense of where the students are in terms of training and their level of experience playing golf.
PERFORMANCE AUDIT – After listening to the student describe their abilities, they all head out to the driving range, and then onto the practice greens to observe the student in action and make a professional assessment. “The primary question that I really need to get answered is what are they looking to get out of joining a full season training program?” Bradlee said, “and then we make a decision where and how they should enroll.”
ENROLLMENT - Eligible applicants can enroll in a six month training program which begins with the building of a blueprint for each golfer and shifting the athlete away from a technical phase into a playing phase to allow students to perform at their best during the summer's busy competitive schedule.
Weekly golf lessons in in Mississauga, Oakville, Milton, Brampton, Hamilton and Niagara
The High Performance programs at the Bradlee Ryall Golf Academy all consist of weekly golf lessons that are approximately one and a half hours in length if you’re participating as part of a group, or hour long private lessons. Bradlee Ryall himself still teaches some private lessons, but being occupied with overseeing the academy operations across southern Ontario he now only has time to coach kids with exceptional abilities and passion for the sport.
In these photos, Bradlee is working with Tyler on advanced tactics and trying to instill in him an appreciation for the mental and physical preparations needed to play competitive golf. Although it can be challenging for young players to find the necessary time for training, playing multiple sports and being mentally and physically focused on mastering the game is critical for success in early years. The duo also discussed equipment and golf course terrain; they spent a lot of time ‘flopping’ out of a sand trap, taking turns to watch each other's technique lifting a ball up onto the green above. They even made some friendly wagers.
“To be effective coaches, we need to observe and evaluate students on the golf course, and not just the driving range. We also need to create fun and intense competitions within our program to help them grow and thrive in a competitive arena.” Bradlee said. He told me later that Tyler was on a trajectory to get a golf scholarship at an American university when he’s older, which is a great way to keep golfing through school.
Early private sessions with students are evaluations and assessments of each student's functional movement patterns and overall tendencies. “It's also nice to see how they control or manipulate club head for desired results,” Bradlee said, and demonstrated how video playback and looking at ball flight is used to assist in these assessments. This is how he customizes lessons for students, working with them individually to remedy their improper techniques and instill better habits.
Bradlee Ryall Golf checks and reports progress on various elements of each student’s game:
- self awareness
It also tests their short game – putting, chipping, pitching, bunkers and their overall ability to score and creatively get the ball in the hole.
“I also get a real sense of achievement when I see my Juniors playing well in our leagues and in other competitions across Ontario. From where I sit, myself and the other coaches at the golf academy can now build a strong blueprint for each student to follow, and one where they’ll see significant short term and long term gains along the way.” Bradlee adds, “and its not just juniors - we’re helping people of all ages. We have over sixty programs to choose from, and some designed specifically for middle-aged men who’ve never golfed before."