Feature: Above Par: The 25 Best Local Golf Instructors
Lower State Road Driving Range, 500 Lower State Road, North Wales, 215-643-9214, lowerstateroaddrivingrange.com
Years Teaching: 9.
Backswing: 41 years old.
Started playing at 13, when he also started caddying, then worked in the pro shop at LuLu Country Club. Grew up in Fort Washington. Instruction comes naturally: Both his parents were (non-golf) teachers. Loves the fact that in golf, you control your own game. “There is individual competition, the challenge of getting better, of improving your game over time, the fact that you can’t be at your best all the time, and the struggles you face when you’re not playing your best.” Specialties: Lefties (he’s ambidextrous); teaching the handicapped — he’s worked with amputees, the blind, the deaf and the Special Olympics. Emphasizes communication, organization, structure. Scorecard: Completed Philadelphia PGA PAT qualifier. Philosophy: “Find more consistency by eliminating wasted motion, and stick to the fundamentals for distance and accuracy.”
Aronimink Golf Club, 3600 St. Davids Road, Newtown Square, 610-356-8000, aronimink.org
Years Teaching: 14.
Backswing: 37 years old.
Raised in Rochester, New York, with a golf-pro father; has known nothing but golf from age eight. Specialty: Short game. Scorecard: Shy about tooting his own horn; says any honors he’s received “come from seeing my students grow.” Philosophy: “I want to make sure the student gets better, but also make sure the session is fun.”
Back Creek Golf Club, 101 Back Creek Drive, Middletown, 302-378-6499, backcreekgc.com
Years Teaching: 20.
Backswing: 45 years old.
Started playing at 10. As a child, moved across the street from a country club; his parents both worked and were going to get a babysitter, but he convinced them to let golf do the job. Played every day every summer for three years. Began caddying during high school; graduated to starter/ranger position at local club. Specialties: Tailoring swing to physique. “I try to compare the golf swing to other facets of a student’s life — another sport, dance. In short, body awareness. Good athletes who play other sports tend to have better hand-eye coordination, but cannot control their body motion consistently when it comes to the swing.” Scorecard: Named 2000 Teacher of the Year by Philadelphia section of PGA; based on praise from the section, was nominated in 2005 and ’07 for Golf Magazine’s Top 100 Teachers. Philosophy: “Golf is a game of skill and competition. It’s the hardest game you’ll ever play. There are so many variables, and the movement is unnatural. That said, above all, it should be fun. If you’re not having fun, you’re doing something wrong.”
Philadelphia Cricket Club, golf facility at 6025 West Valley Green Road, Flourtown, 215-247-6001, philacricket.com
Years Teaching: 16.
Backswing: 38 years old.
Grew up in King of Prussia; didn’t begin playing seriously until the late ’80s. Grad of West Chester U. (B.A. in education, class of ’92), where he explored golf as a social outlet. A PGA pro since 1993. Though good with novices, Spina only teaches club members. Specialties: Swing building, short game. Scorecard: Philadelphia PGA Teacher of the Year, 2004. Philosophy: “I use a lot of modern-day players as blueprints. I try to get my students to match them and view them as illustrations. I might use Adam Scott’s swing for a player with a similar body type, or if I have a shorter, stockier guy, we’ll look to Jason Gore. The process helps them, but it also creates a vision in my mind as a teacher.”