By Jim Frank
In 2019, Pebble Beach Golf Links will celebrate its 100th birthday and host its sixth U.S. Open. To commemorate these milestones, each issue of LINKS Magazine and LINKSdigital between now and then will tell the unique story that is Pebble Beach. This is the fourth article in the series, but here are the first, second, and third.
Combining technology with the human touch, the Pebble Beach Golf Academy helps golfers really understand their games
Calling the Pebble Beach Golf Academy just another golf school is like calling Pebble Beach Golf Links just another golf course. In fact, the reputation of the course was key to creating the learning center that bears its name.
“Pebble Beach is one of the best places in the world to play the game,” says Laird Small, one of the game’s most highly regarded teachers and the Academy’s Director of Instruction. “So I wanted to make this one of the best places to learn the game.”
For more than 20 years, Small and the other instructors at the Academy have offered many different ways for the golfer who is serious about the game to get seriously better. Besides three-day/three-night golf schools (which include lessons on some of the resort’s world-famous courses), there are programs for individuals, camps for elite juniors, custom-training sessions, club fitting, and more.
Key to every instruction offering is a collection of high-tech training devices that you’ll be hard-pressed to find all in one place anywhere else. These devices motion-capture your full swing in 3-D, dissect your putting stroke using nearly 30 data points, and give you all the same swing metrics that the pros rely on.
But for Small, the most important apparatus is RoboGolfPro, a “robot” that guides the golfer through the perfect, on-plane swing and can be found at only a few locations in the U.S. Holding onto a golf club as the robot makes a perfect swing, the golfer is making and feeling the correct movements—probably for the first time.
“It’s the opportunity to feel what the right movement pattern can be versus what they are doing now,” explains Small. “There’s no argument, this is how you should move the club. People say, ‘It’s amazing, I never knew, it’s so different.’”
RoboGolfPro has proven effective with golfers from beginners to Tour pros. And by programming it to swing like the stars—it can replicate any motion from the classic (think Jason Day) to the unique (Jim Furyk)—students are in for some eye-opening results.
“There’s a huge difference between what really good players do and what amateurs do,” says Small. “Pros don’t worry about the downswing: It’s all backswing-related for them. But amateurs are obsessed with downswing—how much lag, where the wrists or hips are. It’s two different worlds.”
Which feeds into another key element of the Academy’s teaching: Getting golfers to be their own on-course coaches. “We give them the awareness of what they’re doing in their games so they can own it themselves,” explains Small. “They should be able to make on-course corrections, to see mistakes and know how to fix them. The technology helps reveal that to them.
“Technology also lets us identify the problem faster and teach faster. Once the robot shows them how to swing, I can tell them how to play golf: How to hit a half shot, curve the ball, where to hit it. And once we’re having the conversation about really playing the game, we are helping them get to the next point in their golf development. Transferring that knowledge from the driving range to the golf course makes a huge difference in their lives.”
In other words, playing Pebble Beach isn’t the only way this iconic destination will change a golfer’s life.
For more information on the Pebble Beach Golf Academy, visit pebblebeach.com/golf/golf-academy or call (831) 622-8650.