Our guest this episode is PGA professional Todd Sones of White Deer Run Golf Club in Vernon Hills. Todd is one of Golf Digest’s top 50 golf instructors in America and is a two time recipient of the Illinois PGA Teacher of the Year award. You can learn more about Todd at ToddSones.com.
Interviewer: Walter Lis. Running Time: 19:48
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Todd Sones: I turned professional and entered the PGA apprentice program when I was 18. I was still in high school because I just decided at an early age I just knew what I wanted to be. I wanted to be a golf professional in a club and teaching golf, because I was just one of those kids who grew up around the golf course. I mean, I was working around the golf course, first finding golf balls and caddies and cleaning clubs and the whole thing, so I’ve always been around golf.
So I made that decision when I was still in high school. I think I was 16 when I decided that’s what I wanted to do and I entered the PGA apprentice program. I worked in New York, upstate New York, for one season which is where I grew up, outside of Rochester. I actually went for my apprenticeship in Houston, Texas. I was there five years and then from there I came to work for Hubby Habjam the Onwentsia club in 1986. That’s what brought me to Chicago. From there I worked for Hubby for five years and then I was the director of golf at Conway Farms in Lake Forest through 1997 and then I started my school 1997 and have been at White Deer Golf Club since.
Chicago Golf Report: And I think it was while you were at Conway you won Illinois PGA Teacher of the Year.
Todd Sones: Yes, I was Teacher of the Year twice, in 1994 and 1996, for the section, Illinois section Teacher of the Year. In 1996 they started, Golf Magazine started the first top 100 list, you know, top 100 teachers in the country and I was fortunate to be put on that list. I was actually the youngest guy to ever be put on that list. I was only 34 at the time, and I’ve been fortunate that I’ve remained on that list, you know, currently, so it’s been 18 years that I’ve been put on that list. I think there are only six or seven guys on that original list who are still on it, so I feel fortunate to be still considered on that list.
Chicago Golf Report: You had this passion for becoming a PGA teaching professional, you’ve had obviously a lot of time in between to kind of create your philosophy on not only golf and the golf swing and golf instruction. What would you say is the backbone of that philosophy, about teaching and the game of golf? What do you try to accomplish each time you meet a new person that you’re going to be working with?
Todd Sones: The biggest thing that I’ve learned, and now I’ve literally been teaching golf for 34 years, and I’ve given probably in the neighborhood of 50,000 golf lessons to thousands of people. When you add all that up what that whole experience has taught me is that it’s completely individual. There’s just no method that’s right for one player. You can take stack and tilt or one plane, different methods, and if a teacher’s a method teacher he’s going to help some people if they have a disposition that works with that method, but I try to never make everybody look the same. I think you take each individual and look at what they’re doing and how they do it and how their body works and build their personal golf swing for them.
The other thing that defines my teaching is that I believe completely in holistic teaching. I think one of the critical mistakes that we make in the industry is that people stand on the range and they pound golf balls, both in lessons and in practice. I look at improving people in four aspects. One is obviously the full swing and helping people to define their full swing and how to best strike the golf ball, but then there’s putting and that’s 40% of your career and I’m known for spending a lot of time on players’ putting. Short game is from the edge of the green to less than your full sandwich. It’s 30% of your score.
Then the fourth thing is on course strategy and management. I think people need to work really on those four parts, putting, short game, full swing and on course strategy and management shot making if they’re ever going to play golf to their potential and score to their potential and really enjoy what they’re doing. It’s really fun when you can change someone’s score. A guy who shoots 90 and, you know, you can help him to shoot 85 and then 82, I mean, that gets exciting for that player.
(To Be Continued)