A Great Week at John Jacobs Golf School
Sun City West Site
(Posted January 21, 2003, © Herbert E. Lindberg)
(Appended October 18, 2003)
It's raining today so I'm using this time to describe our pleasant and productive experience at the John Jacobs Golf School, Sun City West site. In a nutshell, Mary and I highly recommend this school to anyone who's serious about improving their game and wants to have great fun doing it. Give them a call at 1-800-472-5007 to get a free glossy booklet about the schools and sessions at 36 locations throughout the USA. We went to the last off-season 5-day session of the year at Sun City West, from December 29 to January 4.
Everything about this school was first class, including the accommodations at the Windmill Suites. The total cost for each of us was $625.50, plus tax and tips paid on departure. This included five days of golf school with 5 hours of instruction each day, as many holes of golf as we could play during daylight after class ended at 3:00 p.m. each day, generous lunches every day at the Hillcrest Golf Club, six days lodging with complimentary breakfasts at the Windmill Suites, and three cocktail parties and two dinners at the Hillcrest Golf Club. The cost stated here is after a 10% seniors discount (62 and over). In 2003 the price will be $180 higher (again after the 10% discount) but will still be a great bargain and a great vacation.
The Hillcrest Golf Club is the public course on a plot of land at the center of Sun City West, near the northwest edge of greater Phoenix. Sun City West is bounded on the West by Grand Avenue and on the South by Bell Road. Windmill Suites is located almost directly across the Bell Road entrance to Sun City West, about 1.5 miles from Hillcrest Golf Club. Each suite has three rooms: living, bedroom and bath. You can see in the picture below that the generous-sized living room has a well-equipped bar near the entrance to the suite. The bar (some would call it a kitchen) has a sink and counter, plenty of shelf space, a refrigerator, and a microwave oven.
Another view of the living room, from the entry toward the bedroom, emphasizes the TV and more seating:
Immediately below is the comfortable couch and a handy desk with a phone in the background.
The bedroom had ample room for the comfortable king size bed and another TV with shelves below it. The suite had three sinks: one in the bar, one behind me in this view, across from the clothes closet, and the third in the bathroom, also behind me. These were very handy and we used all three.
The center of activity at the golf school was the full-swing driving range, eventually referred to by all of us as the Rock Pile after several sessions hitting an unending supply of like-new golf balls.
Our school was very well attended -- 50 students -- but there was never any feeling of being in a mob scene because there were about 10 instructors and we were always split into small groups learning various types of shots. Because this was a Winter session, most of the instructors were head pros at clubs in colder climates that were shut down for the winter months. All but one of the instructors had been head pro at one club or another.
I took the picture below while standing off to one side of my position in the rock pile lineup. Throughout the five days, half the students hit full-swing shots while the remaining 25 students split into two groups to learn short-game skills. Every day each of us had two sessions at the rock pile interspersed by two welcomed, less strenuous short-game sessions. Every minute was fun and enlightening.
During our first full-swing session one of the instructors appeared behind us with a camcorder to capture our "before" swing. Then we walked back to the clubhouse to view ourselves in groups of about six students, with very illuminating comments by the instructor who had taken our pictures. This personal instructor jotted down a diagnosis for each of a small group of students on a 3 x 5-inch card that followed us throughout our full-swing sessions. During each session other instructors would walk from student to student to comment on our progress in improving our swings based on this diagnosis, always with the card in hand for each student. We continually learned from all of the instructors new ways to visualize how to improve our swings, but always from the same diagnostic script -- there were never any conflicting instructions and we each received instructions specific to our individual needs.
The session in the photo above was on green reading, taught here by Jim Jamison at the extreme left. Those who know Mary will spot her third from the right.
Each short-game session began with a short talk to about 12 of us by the instructor leading that session. We sat comfortably in chairs (welcomed after an hour and a quarter hitting balls at the rock piles!) with a graphics stand we could read to help in following the instructor's comments.
In the photo above Todd Hinnen demonstrates the splash shot (with one hand(!) while waiting for all of us to assemble). Then we'd each go to our individual pile of balls and try to put the instructions into action. At least two instructors went from student to student to help with any problems or suggest improved technique. These small-group sessions covered: chipping, basics of ball flight, pitching, putting, green reading, sand shots, long chipping, sand review and advanced sand shots.
Todd was typical of all the instructors -- handsome, talented, and full of humor. He worked his way through college by playing professional basketball.
Tom Perkins is the head instructor at the Hillcrest Golf Club and directed all the instructors and school activities. He also gave the welcoming talk after the cocktail party and dinner on the evening we arrived, the opening session on the first day of classes, and the closing session on the last day. Every one of his presentations could be a schtick on a comedy show while at the same time imparting important things to know about golf. The essence of his opening session was "most of the help we get from fellow golfers is nonsense" and of the closing session "don't give instructions to fellow golfers." Of course there was much, much more, but you'll have to attend the school and hear it for yourself.
In the photo above Tom effortlessly smacks a ball about 300 yards during his closing remarks. Note the golf balls that look like light snow on the range -- the result of a typical day on the rock piles.
Also on the last day the instructor who worked with each of us on the first day took another video of our golf swing along with comments on the most important things we worked on for improvement. Unfortunately, for Mary and me at least, the instructors who worked with us didn't know how to operate the video equipment. My video has no sound and jumps around the screen. Mary's video is better but her instructor's commentary isn't too useful. Mary's instructor was the only one we all agreed wasn't nearly up to the high standards of the others.
I didn't mean to end on this sour note, but I just now looked at the videos because I had a hunch they had been botched. They are not representative of the school, which is top notch, and Mary and I look forward to attending again this December. Maybe by then Tom will have whipped their video knowledge into shape!
The following thoughtful note was received from Craig Bunker, Vice President of John Jacobs' Golf Schools, again demonstrating that they treat their students right.