Golf instructor Steve Whidden knows that most people don’t like to practice their golf game. They just want to play – and they want to play well. When that doesn’t happen, frustration sets in and many turn to golf professionals to unlock the mysteries of birdies, eagles and the elusive “perfect” swing.
Whidden, who owns and operates a self-named golf academy at Rosedale Golf and Country Club in Manatee County, has been a golf instructor for 20 years. He is a firm believer that you shouldn’t have to practice more than 10 minutes a week – if you know how to target that practice to specific skills.
“If you tell someone to go practice their short game, that sounds daunting and they aren’t going to do it,” he said. “If you take the time to identify what they are doing right and what they want to improve, you can give them specific tips that are tailored to their own personal golf game. That gives them a greater likelihood of success.”
Several months ago, Whidden unveiled two new instruction models that have proven to be widely popular among his clients. The first is known as the Game Enhancement & Coaching Program, a comprehensive teaching and coaching plan that tests a player’s ability in the long game, short game and on the course, and then focuses in on just those areas. Designed for serious players looking to invest in their game, the program includes a series of six private lessons, weekly supervised practice sessions, on-course play and unlimited video analyzation.
The second is called the Red Zone Short Game Test, which involves players being tested over six areas and receiving a grade in each. Whidden prioritizes which areas need the most improvement and gives them drills and tips to work on. The test is re-taken several months later for follow-up assessment.
“Many people see some improvement right away, but it’s a learning process that takes time,” said Whidden, whose methodology of instruction is somewhat different from others in his profession. Whidden disdains the “factory-like” impersonal style that has become an industry standard, preferring to think of his role as a coach rather than a teacher. He takes the time to get to know his students and their abilities. He plays rounds with them on the golf course and works collaboratively to set goals.
Rosedale resident Liz Cole has been a student at the academy for two years and is more than pleased with the improvement in her golf game. She enjoys Whidden’s “creativity in instruction” and has high praise for his broad spectrum of instruction techniques. “Steve’s teaching style has enabled me to move far beyond anything I could have imagined in terms of my abilities with the game. He has become my coach rather than my teacher,” she said. “This transition has been key to my improvement, and I look forward to my next steps in conquering one of the most difficult games I have ever attempted.”
The Steve Whidden Golf Academy has been a part of the Rosedale golf experience for four years and has three instructors. They work with clients “who have literally never touched a golf club” all the way up to pro-level players. Last summer, Whidden instituted a year-round Junior Golf Academy at Rosedale in an effort to help children ages 6-18 learn golf fundamentals and possibly advance to high school and college teams.
The academy also offers specialized instruction with one-on-one classes targeted for the short swing, full swing, ladies only and seniors. This last group is a growing market for the golf school. “Some of our seniors may be troubled by arthritis or mobility issues, or they just aren’t hitting the ball as far as they used to,” he said. “We give them stretching exercises and some techniques to help build endurance and power so they can enjoy the game pain-free.”
Business is brisk year-round at the golf academy, says Whidden. They cater primarily to local residents and Rosedale members, and find their summer schedules filled with players who trade their fairway play for practice sessions to escape the hot Florida sun. In winter time, the staff is busy from morning to night.
“I’m fortunate that I get to do what I’m passionate about,” said Whidden. “It’s very satisfying to be able to help people. I wouldn’t want to do anything else.”
About The Steve Whidden Golf Academy
Located inside Rosedale Golf and Country Club. Private lessons and golf clinics available by appointment. For more information, call 941-756-0004 or visit www.whiddengolf.com.
Steve Whidden Bio
Steve Whidden is the Director of Instruction at Rosedale Golf and Country Club. He is a PGA Master Professional in Instruction, one of only 337 out of 23,000 active PGA professionals. Throughout his 20-year career, he has worked and taught at some of the most prestigious golf courses across the country. He is the owner and director of The Steve Whidden Golf Academy, edits numerous local golf columns, and has been a featured instructor on The Golf Channel. Steve also volunteers as director of The Greater Sarasota Junior Golf Academy and was voted the 2010 Southwest Florida PGA Teacher of the Year.