Despite Mark Twain referring to it as “a good walk spoiled,” more people than ever are playing golf. In the U.S. in 2020, the National Golf Foundation says 24.8 million took to the greens, 2 million of whom were new to the game. Like all sports, it’s one in which, for most, improvements continue over years of practice and effort.
There are many devices and systems designed to improve swings, putting, and all other facets of the game. Time spent on the greens, however, is critical to developing a better game, but there is a caveat, of course. All sports and pretty much all activities, from playing a musical instrument to mastering physics, have a few “naturals”—those who seem born to the activity. The rest of us need instruction, and becoming a good golfer is a great example. What can be learned from friends, family, books, and YouTube videos has its limits.
Even Tiger Woods, who was taught the basics by his father, has taken lessons from Butch Harmon and others throughout his career.
If it worked for Tiger, chances are it will work for you, too. Total immersion techniques are a well-proven technique for learning new skills, which is where golf camps come in. In addition to private or group lessons on the weekend or after work, a camp dedicated to golf may be an ideal way to hone old skills and learn new ones. A side benefit is the chance to see a new part of the country or perhaps even a country you haven’t been to before.
Before you go, you need to take an honest assessment of your physical condition. The very nature of the game, played outside in the hot sun, takes a toll even on exceptionally fit individuals. If there’s any doubt about your ability to spend an extended amount of time outside, consult your physician for an assessment. Assuming you get a clean bill of health or have begun a physical fitness regimen to get into shape, other considerations involve the camp’s location, such as at a higher altitude or in a drier environment compared to your home conditions. A well-run camp will ensure plenty of water to avoid dehydration, but make sure to also bring clothing and sunblock to mitigate UV exposure.
Choosing a golf camp is easy once you’ve determined why you want to attend. There are no wrong reasons; they range from learning the game as a beginner to developing skills that will allow you to play at a competitive level, or, subject to your age, make the cut to join a high school or college team. By knowing your goals, you can then begin to search for a camp that can help them come to fruition. Filtering them by reputation, focus, location, cost, determining whether you’ll attend on your own or with a spouse, family member, or a friend, and the length of training will quickly develop a shortlist to choose from.
Many top camps are run by former pros or the instructors they turn to when they need to analyze a hitch in their swing or need to tweak their putting skills. Those serious about improving their game will do well to consider the Butch Harmon School of Golf. Located in Las Vegas, the school uses the Rio Secco Golf Course. The combination of instruction by Harmon, one of the world’s top instructors, and proximity to Las Vegas make this a great opportunity to work hard on the course and then adjourn to the Strip to relax.
Arnold Palmer is considered to have been one of the game’s greatest players for his extremely consistent and effective swing as much as for his short game skills of putting, chipping, and pitching. Palmer was also highly regarded for his ability to “read” a course in order to choose the correct club and develop a strategy for the specific course and playing conditions. These skills are the basis of the curriculum taught at the Arnold Palmer Academy at Bay Hill Club & Lodge in Orlando, Florida, making it a strong contender for those who are accordingly seeking to improve their overall game, or who perhaps can relate too well to Gerald Ford’s quote, “I know I am getting better at golf because I am hitting fewer spectators.”
If you have a junior player at home who’s eager to improve his or her game, PGA National Resort in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, offers camps for kids aged 7 to 12 as well as a program for advanced juniors aged 11 to 15. Many adult camps will accept players under the age of 18 if they’re accompanied by an adult, but check first to make sure.
Golf is a game you can enjoy your entire life with family and friends as well as business associates. For your next vacation, consider going back to camp to enjoy the game and make new friends.