The wind and rain have receded, the Masters is past, and the Players Championship is over. Golf season has arrived.
You might have an annual round or an annual tournament on your docket. You might plan to play on vacation, join a league, or just get your partners back together for your weekly assault on manicured turf. Regardless, you can use a lesson. That's why Lou Guzzi and his brethren exist.
Guzzi, 56, is one of Golf Magazine's top 100 teachers, alongside Hank Haney, Sean Foley, and Cameron McCormick. He was a PGA National Teacher of the Year in 2013. But don't be intimidated. Lou's one of youse.
As a 12-year-old, Guzzi would hit Wiffle golf balls across his neighbors' rowhouse lawns in Mount Airy until he reached his own lawn. There, mown closely, he had configured a rudimentary putting green, complete with a hole.
He didn't play much until he was 16, when he bought clubs at a garage sale and took his girlfriend out to Burn Brae (later Twining Valley and now Upper Dublin). He attended his first professional tournament at 17, in 1980, the IVB Golf Classic at Whitemarsh Valley, where he saw Ben Crenshaw taking divots – hitting the ball first, then the ground, and watching the ball rocket forward.
Guzzi went straight to a local club and tried to replicate that action. For 10 minutes, he hit nothing but ground. Then he hit one in the middle of the club face. He was hooked.
He wasn't a country-club kid. He still had to make a living. Guzzi owned a wallpaper and painting business from the time he was 19 until he was 29, then he owned Scoogi's, an Italian restaurant in Flourtown, before he became a teaching pro in 1997.
His teaching hut at the Lou Guzzi Golf Academy at Talamore Country Club in Ambler is oddly homey: Garage doors open onto an apron of beautiful grass, the driving range beyond, but the hut has a woodstove, a massage chair, all sorts of video equipment, and swing aids.
His office in the back of the hut is a shrine to fine Scotch and golf literature. I talked with him there in between lessons, watching a Butch Harmon video online.
Q You're a golf pro, but are you a fan?
For the past eight years, Darren Mills, who teaches with me here, and I have driven down to the Masters for four days. We study. Watch them. We always find something we can use for our teaching.
I've been to all the majors except the British Open – the U.S. Open a lot, PGA Championship a lot. My favorite is the Masters, by far. It's the same traditional tournament year after year. You know the holes. You get the same experience.
Q How did you become a pro?
In 1987, I learned to swing the golf club with good rotation, turning back and through, maintaining your spine angle, all of that. What Tom Watson would call "his secret." I learned that from Gary Hardin [now at Northampton Country Club]. He gave me a lesson in 1987 and I shot 64 and 65 in the same week.
I was getting instruction from a couple of different people. I was passionate about learning the swing. I was suddenly playing well, and everybody asked, "How do you do that?" And I'd teach them.
Back then, I had three vans, running the paper and painting business. I'd get done around 2 o'clock and play golf until dark. Then I owned the restaurant. I became a member of the PGA of America in 1997, but by playing so much I was all around the golf business already. So it was easy. I just had to do the book work, go through the program, pass the players' ability test. I'd already run businesses.
Q Golf rounds can cost a lot of money. Most people have significant swing flaws. It seems only logical that people should seek help, if only not to waste their money at the course. Should everybody get a lesson every year?
Everybody who golfs should get more than just one lesson every year. Only 15 to 18 percent of people who play golf take lessons. ...
People have access to information [on the internet]. It might not be bad information, but it might not be in the order they need to learn it.
We try to structure it: Crawl, walk, run. Learn the swing, get good at what you're taught, then go play.
Q Is there a common flaw where some advice from you would help a hacker get a little better quickly?
I am a big fan of making changes through the winter. A lot of people take a lesson and try to take it right to the golf course without putting in the reps. It's impossible.
The best thing an average golfer can do [in the moment] is adjust their alignment. The average golfer warms up and hits ball and gets a pattern going – say, a 10-yard fade with their driver. They need to line up for that shot that day.
A lot of people think they have a stock shot all the time. I mean, even tour players are detail-conscious of alignment.
I always warm up knowing it's going to be a different pattern from day to day. Don't fight it. Play it.