By Matt Hombach
In addition to boasting one of the premier public practice facilities in the region at Fox Hollow, Baltimore County Golf is stepping up its game by enhancing learning opportunities at all five courses. Bill Madonna, one of the best teaching professionals in the country, brings his unique brand of instruction to Baltimore County with the new Bill Madonna Golf Academy.
Madonna has been named one of the top 100 teaching pros in the United States by GOLF Magazine and a Florida Top Teacher by Golf Digest for eight years and counting. He still operates the Bill Madonna Golf Academy in Orlando during the prime winter golf months, but he jumped at this unique opportunity to partner with Baltimore County Golf for the summer and into the early fall.
Madonna is no stranger to the area. After cutting his teeth in the golf industry at a nine-hole course in Pennsylvania, he served as an instructor at Baltimore Country Club. As his professional career evolved, he got more and more into instruction and eased away from the operations side.
By his estimation, he has given more than 50,000 lessons in his career. Madonna is one of only a few PGA Professionals to earn the Master Teaching Professional Certification and his peers in the industry have called him a teacher's teacher and a pro's pro.
The Bill Madonna Golf Academy, based at Fox Hollow (formerly Longview) in Timonium, will offer learning opportunities for everyone ranging from newcomers who have never touched a club to accomplished golfers looking to play at the professional level or earn a college scholarship.
Madonna's teaching philosophies stray from what most golfers are accustomed to, which is reflected in the offerings and curriculum of the new academy.
"The thing that I'm brining to the table that's new and a little different is I'm not a big believer in the standard one-hour golf lesson," Madonna said. "I've been very successful in having an impact on golfers with a more sustained period of instruction, maybe three to four continuous hours at a time.
"Earlier in my career, I did a lot of research on the effectiveness of longer periods of instruction versus five or six one-hour sessions. Without a doubt, the student gets better when they're with me for a long period of time. It never made sense to me to offer brief bits of instruction, then send the student away for a few weeks and check back in to see how they're doing. That is a dinosaur when it comes to teaching techniques."
One of the mainstays of Madonna's instructional offerings is half- and full-day schools consisting of skills assessments, video swing analysis, intensive instruction and a series of drills followed by a three-hole on-course playing evaluation. The session ends with one-on-one consultation, along with written take-home materials that offer golfers concrete feedback on the state of their game and the steps they need to take to improve it.
"For golfers to get better, they need to change their thinking," Madonna said, "and you can't get that done in one hour. My extended sessions allow golfers to immerse themselves in and better absorb what we are trying to teach so their game actually improves over the course of the lesson."
One entry-level learning opportunity the Madonna academy offers is a $60 game assessment clinic. The clinic provides a thorough examination skill level and points out issues that need to be addressed. The assessment also gives a baseline of information for Madonna and his team to work with should the player chose to take the next step with a half- or full-day academy.
While the slogan of Madonna's academy is "Expect to get better," his overarching philosophy seems to be "Keep it simple." A continual challenge he faces is cutting through the glut of instructional information that magazines, books and TV shows throw at golfers.
"Don't get me wrong, the golf media does a wonderful job of presenting quality information to the golfing public about the golf swing and how to improve," Madonna said. "But the problem is that the average golfer often misinterprets the information and applies it incorrectly to their game.
"I take a straightforward approach to improving someone's golf game. I analyze their swing and find the two to three things they're doing wrong, then I narrow it down to the one core problem that is hurting them the most. We attack that problem with instruction and drills. It is amazing how scores can improve and enjoyment of the game goes up when that one core problem is eliminated."
Issue 162: June 2011