Tom Patri, Director of Instruction at both Hawthorns Golf and Country Club in Fishers, Ind. and Esplanade Golf and Country Club in Naples, Fla., became one of the most celebrated and accomplished golf instructors in the industry by becoming one of the most dedicated students of the golf swing.
Hailing form Middle Island, New York (on Long Island), Patri won 15 times as a junior golfer and was a two-time NCAA Division II All-American and the 1981 Division II National Champion while attending Florida Southern College. He played professionally around the globe for seven years before starting his club professional and teaching career. In the ensuing three decades, Patri, a GOLF Magazine Top 100 Teacher, has built a reputation as one of the most trusted and sought-after instructors in the game.
He has appeared on The Golf Channel, NBC-TV, Madison Square Garden Network and his articles have appeared in such noted publications as Sports Illustrated, Golf Magazine, Golf Digest, Executive Golfer, Golf for Women, Golf Illustrated, Senior Golfer, Petersen’s Golfing and The Met Golfer.
Patri sat down with us during a busy PGA Championship week to discuss his approach to teaching and how V1 Sports technology has been transforming the way he teaches for more than two decades.
After a celebrated amateur career and seven years playing worldwide as a professional, you began your teaching career. How long after that did you know teaching would be your life’s work?
When I first started, I thought I was the most horrible teacher in the world. I just wasn’t confident, so I immersed myself in everything about the golf swing I could read and asked to observe all the top names in the business so I could watch them teach and see what made them great. Name a top teacher and I tried to shadow them. The breakthrough for me was meeting legendary instructors Bill Strausbaugh and Jim Flick. One was a “body teacher” and the other was an “arms and hands” guy, but they inspired me equally and motivated to do my utmost to become an authority on the swing.
When you begin working with a student, be it an average recreational player or a pro, what’s one thing you consistently aim to help them fix?
I’ve found that if you fix setup problems, you can effectively fix motion, so, even when I’m helping astudent work on swing issues, I try to “sneak up” on any set-up flaws. If you look to things like a golfer’s proximity to the golf ball, alignment and eyelines, you’ll see and get them set up properly, it becomes more clear how to find and fix their swing problems.
Almost every student you teach must tell you they want to hit the ball long. What do you do when that isn’t exactly a realistic expectation?
I want my students to design their games around the skillset they have. The things holding them back are all fixable, so we do focus on what’s achievable with good habits and good fundamentals. Distance can be improved within reason when we get them to improve their fundamentals.
When did you first start using V1 Sports video technology in your teaching?
I was probably among the earliest of early adapters. I was encouraged start using video to teach in the early 90s by Jim McLean who was turned onto using student video by Carl Welty, the former director of instruction at what is now the Omni La Costa Resort & Spa. I think Mr. Welty was the founding father of video instruction and I hope his thousands of swing videos on VHS, many featuring some of the greatest players of the time, still exist somewhere and can be digitized.
I had one of the first V1 systems when it was the two large boxes and all the cables and equipment that literally took 45 minutes to set up on the range. While I could probably lament the cost of that original system and the effort it took to capture swings back then, I promise you nobody appreciates the ability to do it today with an iPad and a mobile app more than Tom Patri!
What was that first eureka moment like when you could show students their swings and explain to them what you were seeing them do on the range?
It was revolutionary. It taught me to teach in a new dimension. Instantly, I could see so much more of the cause-and-effect relationships that were going on people’s swings. The students, in turn could see the lines I drew to get them into the correct positions and make much quicker progress. Today, with the ability to voice over, attach model swings and drills and just send it to them electronically, the improvement we can see is groundbreaking.
What is one way you take advantage of the V1 Pro system that you wish more pros would use?
Before you hit Send to shoot something off to the student, you have the option of sending the full video of the swing or freezing on a frame and sending just a snapshot. I use the Snapshot option all the time. More instructors should use that option and send the student that one image of where they’re in a good position, successfully doing what you’ve had them working on. Sometimes letting them see the whole video can lead to too much self-diagnosis. The snapshot with a drill attached can go a long way and help avoid some unnecessary confusion. It’s a tremendous tool that easy to use and extremely effective.
To schedule a lesson with Tom Patri, visit http://tompatri.com/
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