St. Andrews – Old Course Article

As teaching professionals we are expected to understand all aspects of the golf swing.

Also for your student’s you should be ready to answer questions about the origin of the game.


The following is a recent article I wrote for Philadelphia Golfer Magazine.

For the past six centuries golf has been played on the Links at St. Andrews since around 1400 AD. The Old Course is renowned throughout the world of as the Home of Golf. However, it has not always been that way. Golf was becoming popular in the middle ages, and the game was banned in 1457 by King James II of Scotland who felt it was distracting young men from archery practice. And you thought you had problems convincing your wife that cutting the grass could wait another day. However, the ban was repeated by succeeding monarchs until James IV threw in the towel and in 1502 became a golfer himself.

The old course originally consisted of twenty-two holes, eleven out and eleven back. Upon completing a hole, the player used a handful of sand scooped out from the hole to form a tee and played the next hole. In 1764 the Society of St. Andrews Golfers, which later became the Royal and Ancient Golf Club reduced the course to eighteen holes and created what became the standard round of golf through the world.

Golf started to become even more popular at St. Andrews in the 19th century and the course became more crowded. The result was that golfers going out began to bump into other golfers playing the same holes. To solve the problem, the decision was made to cut two holes on each green having white flags for the outward holes and having red flags for the inward holes. This was the origin of the famous double greens, many of which could leave you with a 100 yard putt!

The Open Championship was first played on the Old Course at St. Andrews in 1873. With the 27th staging of the world’s premier golf event taking place again on the Old Course in 2005, St Andrew’s has held the event more often than anywhere else. In modern times, the Dunhill Cup and Dunhill Links Champions have been played at St. Andrews. The British Amateur Championship and competitions for men and women have been held over the fabled links at the Home of Golf.

The Old Course has evolved over time and was not designed by any one architect. The people who played a major role in shaping it are Daw Anderson (1850s), Old Tom Morris (1860s – 1900)
and Dr. Alistair Mackenzie (1930s). The course is known for its particular physical features including 112 bunkers, some of which are especially famous e.g. “hell” on the long 14th, “Strath” on
the short 11th and the Road Bunker at what is probable the most famous golf hole in the world, the 17th or Road Hole (so called because a road – which is in play – runs hard against the back edge of the green). I have had the opportunity to play from each of these bunkers (not by choice) over the years and I can assure you they are unlike any bunkers in the United States. Consequently, when you attend a National Golf School at St. Andrews you will have an extra short game session on how to play the bunkers of the Old Course.

I first played the Old Course in 1996 and immediately fell in love with it like so many other golfers. Jack Nicklaus said “I fell in love with it the first day I played it there’s just no other course that is even remotely close.” Tiger Woods said “Without a doubt I like it the best of all the Open venues. It’s my favorite course in the world.” The immortal Bobby Jones said “If I had but one course to play before I die it would be St. Andrews.” I decided that day I would try to bring this cherished course to as many American’s that I could by creating National Golf School’s first international golf school location at St. Andrews.

The Old Course has so many wonder full stories to tell. Over six centuries and 27 Open Championships the fortunes of the world’s greatest golfers played out on this wonderful golf course. The dapper Doug Sanders missed a 2 foot on the 18th of the 1970 Open and lost to Jack Nicklaus in an 18 playoff the next day. One Open in particular comes to mind when Tom Watson a five time winner of the Open was faced with a seemingly impossible shot on the Road Hole. Watson’s ball was a foot away from the wall with no back swing available. With the Championship in the balance, Watson faced the wall, hit his ball into the wall and it bounced off the wall across the road toward the green for a bogey. That shot was the turning point and it cost him the 1984 Open Championship. During a recent golf school at St. Andrews I tired to duplicate that shot. Well, the wall is uneven and as the ball ricocheted back toward the green it struck my ankle. As I limped up the fairway to the 18th green, with the Royal and Ancient Golf Club in the back ground I reminded my self to eliminate that shot from our short game session.

Over the years many golf school students have enjoyed the wonders of St. Andrews and the mystic of the Old Course along the way building their own special memories. What is truly remarkable about St. Andrews and the Old Course is that in today’s modern golfing world, the Old Course has evolved over six centuries, and remains a true test of championship golf. Join me at a National Golf School at St. Andrew’s and experience this special golf adventure. I agree hole heartedly with Bobby Jones if I had but one course to play before I die it would be The Old Course at St. Andrews.

Patrick J. Livingston, PGA
CEO, National Golf Schools
2003 & 2007 “PGA Florida Teacher of the Year”

The Unintentional Career Path

NPGIA Quarter News

   By: Joe Blanc, NPGIA Member


My journey to become a certified golf instructor through NPGIA was a unique path to say the least.  This brief article is about that my recent journey down that path.  

I was fortunate enough to retire from my first career as an executive with a fortune 500 company, at the ripe old age of 54.  I decided to assist my brother in building his business of selling golf supplies.  This endeavor  lead me to become a  sales rep for one of the hottest products in golf right now, which is the Clearview Putter,  that is how I met Patrick and Jeff.  

After working with Patrick and Jeff on the Clearview Putter, Patrick spent some time interviewing me of sorts during the Tampa Golf Fest.  Though at the time I did not know it was an interview, about my training skills and my golf knowledge.  My training past comes from training in industry in many different technical areas and people skill areas over the years in an adult training environment.  As for my golf past, I was a competitor for a brief time in Long Drive Competitions.  My father was one of the top golfers in North Eastern Ohio and two of my brothers were considered two of the top high school golfers in Ohio during the late 70’s.  One of them becoming a division 3 All American and then a PGA pro which he later relinquished.  I guess someone could say golf runs in the family.  

As we were shutting down the Tampa Golf Show, Patrick and Jeff mentioned to me the possibility of becoming a NPGIA instructor.  Patrick says he watched me interact with people on the putter throughout the 3 day event; he noticed my interactions with his staff and saw me hit some golf balls.  Patrick’s and Jeff’s initial assessment was as follows.  My interactions and basic communications with people were strong, my basic knowledge of golf was good and my swing was fundamentally sound although it would require some tweaking.  Though I tried to be calm and collected about this opportunity on the outside, on the inside I was anything but calm.  I signed up and my wife, Marti, has been my biggest cheerleader.

Now comes the important part the NPGIA certification class.  I first must apologize about the lengthy opening but I feel my background was important and the fact that Patrick and Jeff spent a lot time insuring I would be a good fit to the NPGIA family.   

The training program was one of a “relaxed intensity,” now there is an oxymoron.  Which is the way it should be.  At no time did anyone I work with ever loose sight of what we were there to do and at the same time never was there pressure to get through it.  Each of the pros I worked with, who were Mike Gooding, Jeff Estes and Tom Fleetwood spent every minute focused on insuring I had the tools to be successful.  Yet it never felt rushed or did I notice their egos getting in the way.  Their focus was on me and not how they were better than me.   

Each of them had a slightly differing approach to teaching and taught some differing aspects to achieve the base fundamentals.  But in all cases it was explained the NPGIA approach is to work with in skills and physical capabilities of the students and “not” to create a one size fits all robotic approach to teaching.  I have spent time talking to my friends about their past experiences with golf lessons and the biggest negatives are: too often the teaching pros egos impact the lesson and too often they train to a prescribed set of instruction and there is only one way to swing a club.  In short they forget about who is paying them.  This point was made clear throughout the process by my coaches.

I was very fortunate to have 3 highly qualified people to guide me first by helping me with my weaknesses in the swing which equated to a much greater understanding on how to teach the swing.  I mean my long drive swing which had way too much forward movement was no benefit to my short wedge game.

I also learned from each of them to have fun during the instruction process and it is a total benefit to first understand the student.  I will have students who are purely analytical and will want to understand every aspect of the swing.  The big watch out with this type of person is that being too casual during the lesson and this may turn that student off.  The other end of the spectrum is to understand the student who grasps the concept only through “nuggets” of information and are highly visual.  I got the tools in my tool bag from Mike, Jeff and Tom who each showed me how to deal with each type of student.  They each gave to me their tricks of the trade and their learning lessons so that I can be a complete instructor.  After all the adult learning process is one of being, hands on, one to one and a visual focus.  It is critical to first understand your audience and have the tools to deal with each type of personality and still make the sessions both productive and enjoyable.  Lesson number one know who is paying for the lesson and get to know the needs of the student.

I also appreciated the fact there was a written test which is designed to insure the student has and can recall the fundamentals of what we have learned.  The rules test also worked out well.  

To summarize, the course exceeded my expectations, the pros I worked with were fantastic in both their knowledge of the game and their ability to treat people with respect.  Now that I can go out into the world on my second career.  I feel comfortable I have the skills to go out and make people feel good about their golf game, show them how to improve and make each round more enjoyable.  


Joe Blanc, NPGIA
2012 National Golf School “Teacher of the Year”



What is the Wal-Mart First Tee Open at Pebble Beach?

Below is included a recent article written by Pat Livingston, CEO National Golf Schools about one of our junior golf school success stories.

What is the Wal-Mart First Tee Open at Pebble Beach?

You are a 15 year old female High School sophomore with aspirations to play on the LPGA tour. What are your summer golf expectations? Play in some local PGA Chapter Junior tournaments? Play in some AGJA tournaments? Spend a little time with your PGA Teaching Professional (probably a good idea)?

Well, Megan Chapman’s golf world turned upside down this summer when she played in a First Tee qualifier at the difficult Champions Gate International golf course in Orlando, Florida. A solid 74 qualified her for a spot in the Wal-Mart First Tee Open; a Champions Tour event at Pebble Beach September 2nd through September 4th.

Meghan has been playing golf for only 2 ½ years, but after just a few lessons I realized she could be a very special golfer with a college scholarship and, potentially, the LPGA tour in her future. Her parents Pat & Scott Chapman are Psychologists in the Tampa Bay area and were supportive without being intrusive like some parents tend to be with good young athletes. Meghan is very good athlete, works hard on her game, and has a mental toughness rarely found in young junior golfers.

What is the Wal-Mart First Tee Open at Pebble Beach? It is an official Champions Tour Tournament with each Professional playing with a junior partner in a team event where the winner receives a trophy on Sunday afternoon before 25,000 spectators and a National TV audience! This tournament serves as the national championship for the First Tee program, an initiative of the World Golf Foundation which provides young people of all backgrounds an opportunity to develop life-enhancing values and character education through the game of golf. First Tee and the Champions Tour help promote character development and life enhancing values such as honesty, integrity and sportsmanship through golf.

The Champions tour players treated the junior golfers as fellow competitors and gave a helping hand at every opportunity. Warming up for Meghan’s first practice round at Pebble Beach, she rubbed shoulders with Gary McCord, Peter Jacobson, Arnold Palmer and many other Champions Tour players. Meghan had golf conversations with Fuzzy Zeoller, Arnold Palmer, and Ben Crenshaw. She was interviewed by several newspapers and by Peter Jacobsen’s television show, which will be seen on the Golf Channel. Each night there was a First Tee dinner featuring speakers such as Richard Petty, Gary McCord and many other famous athletes and celebrities. Meghan was partnered with Dave Barr and played well in the tournament. The highlight of her tournament was holing-out a 45 putt for birdie on the famous 18th hole at Pebble Beach in front of thousands of spectators and a live TV audience.

Yes, there were many great experiences and highlights inside the ropes, but for me it was being allowed to experience this with Meghan as her caddy.

Patrick J. Livingston, PGA
CEO, National Golf Schools
2003 & 2007 “PGA Florida Teacher of the Year”

“NOT, another Ball in the Lake!”

This is my third article for the NPGIA and today I want to talk about our students and what I call “Dumping the Brain.”  I ask all of my students at or near the beginning of a teaching session, what do you think about when you are over the ball?   I am amazed at what I hear our students think about when they are over the ball.

Some student’s minds are working faster than an unmediated ADHD support group.  “Grip it this way”, “back slow”, “feet parallel”, “head down”, “keep towel under arm” and the best one I have ever heard, “what do I need to get at the grocery store tonight!” and the thoughts go on and on.

The grocery store comment surprised me, but I swear that is what one female student told me.   It is no wonder we have trouble hitting the ball. It is no wonder that harvesting golf balls out of lakes and ponds is a billion dollar a year business.  WE ARE THINKING TOO MUCH!

The golf swing takes about 1.5 seconds.  Considering golfers spend an additional 5-10 seconds during set up. And there is another 10-20 seconds deciding yardage and club selection.   There are way too many thoughts flooding the brain.  The realities of life are that the body is going to do what our brain is telling us to do.  Our students have too many thoughts flooding their brains consciously and subconsciously in just few seconds. Plunk! Another ball in the pond!

It does not matter if we are aware or unaware what is happening up in the gray matter we call the brain.  The totality of all of the mental processes being flooded is just going to create something very, very UGLY!  So, what do we do or what do our students need to do, to keep their ball in play and out of the lakes?   Actually it is simple and I will sum it up in three words, “DUMP THE BRAIN!”

As instructors, we need to work with our students on breaking the process down into distinct smaller processes, similar to an airline pilot’s check list.  A pilot goes through their plane in a pattern checking critical components. Once an item is “deemed good to go” that item is checked off the list and forgot about. He/she then forgets about it and moves on to the next item knowing they are good to go.   Our students need to “check off the box” and move on.   We need to DUMP THE BRAIN!  We need a solid and repetitive preshot routine.

Prior to every professional golfer today having multiple coaches including mental coach, one of the first sports psychologist back in the 70’s said the only professional golfer who could focus on golf for 4 hours was Ben Hogan.  Many other professionals have tried and failed.  The outcome was to learn to teach golfers to focus for just 30 seconds on each shot. For a score of 72 that is only thinking for just 36 minutes of thinking!  Score of 85, that would be thinking for just 42 minutes of thinking.  Sure saves on brain power.   Going from shot to shot our students need to be enjoying nature, talking about their job, kids… anything BUT golf.  “Smell the roses” is what I tell my students.

Most of us instructors use a preshot routine yet we forget to teach the preshot routine.  I know we teach the golf swing and getting the ball from point A to B yet reflecting on our lessons we should be spending as much time on what is between their ears and in their grey matter called the brain.

I am going to keep it simple- “Dumb the Brain” and SEE IT, FEEL IT and EXECUTE IT!  All of these are simple thoughts.

See it: I tell my students, get you distance (wind and incline included). Take a moment looking at the target behind the ball and do a couple of movements correcting your minor flaw which causes the student an issue.  For me I like to feel my right elbow against my body to keep it from floating.  Next I get my interim target about 12 to 18 inches out in front of the ball for my alignment.  Jack Nicklaus tried to find a spot from a few inches to 6 inches in front of the ball and Gary Player tries to find a spot 2 to 3 feet in front of the ball.

Feel it: Take my stance to my interim target, check my grip, look at the target (all items checked off the list and ready to fire). My final thought is “get through the ball.”

Execute it: I fire within two seconds of looking at my target for the last time.  If I do not fire, I back away from the ball.  The critical piece is that I trust my check list, I trust my swing and I execute the swing with authority no matter if it is a driver, a full 5 iron or a soft half sand wedge.  The swing is completed with authority and confidence.

The final thing I want to mention.  Talk aloud to yourself! Yes, that is right, talk aloud to yourself.  You are not crazy!  They have found that speaking (softly) to yourself provides better connections to your brain at all levels.   The last thing I say to myself aloud is “get through the ball.”

Your pre-shot routine may be different than mine and guess what that is not wrong.  What works for you or your student is what is important. Teaching your students to “dump the brain” and create a solid consistent preshot routine will provide a better experience for your students and keep a few less balls out of the lakes and ponds.


Joe Blanc, NPGIA
2012 National Golf School “Teacher of the Year”