Golf Views

December 1, 2004 -

by Carl O’Keefe Reprinted with Permission Golf Views Magazine

Bird Golf Academy moves to the forefront of the golf school market

We recently sat down with Jay Ewing, the founder and Director of Instruction of the Bird Golf Academy-the ultimate golf learning experience®. His unique concepts and business acumen have moved the Bird Golf Academy to the forefront of the golf school market. Their concept of teaching only in a one or two student to one instructor environment has been a remarkable success. But that is only the beginning of the story.

GV: “Why does what you do work so well?”

EWING: “We (all of the Bird Golf Academy staff) had taught in the more traditional format of either hourly lessons or group school situations for years. With hourly lessons (no matter how adept the student is) the student will lose a significant part of what they are being taught between lessons. It is human nature to fail comfortably; i.e. when something is not working we tend to revert back to what we did before. Group schools where there are 4-12 people in a class do not enable an instructor to spend the necessary amount of time with each student. In addition to which they are teaching a “method” or “system”. If you look at all the great golfers throughout history they have all swung the club differently. To say that there is only one method is…..absurd.”

GV: “That is a strong word!”

EWING: ‘One of the things that I think most teaching professionals are guilty of is putting Tiger Woods on a swing display monitor next to a novice 60 year old person and asking them to do what he is doing. That is just not going to happen.”

GV: “Can’t we learn from Tiger?”

EWING: “Absolutely. There are certain things that Tiger does that we can all try to emulate. As there are with all Tour players. Building a person’s swing or changing things that they are doing begins with fundamentals. Grip, stance, posture and alignment. But there are several variations and combinations of these that work.. The skill in teaching is recognizing your students’ strengths and building around them. The one universal that all the great players in history have had is that they do the same thing; the same way….every time. They have had a model which they can trust and rely upon.”

GV: “Are you against using video of any kind?”

EWING: “Not at all. We use video and digital photography with all our students. I do believe, however, that video is largely “over-used” today. If you are looking at a video of yourself you will probably see about 20 things that you would like to correct. The art of great teaching is to correct one thing at a time. Imagine, if you will, that the golf swing is like a row of dominoes. Once the first domino falls then all the others come crashing down. If a student doesn’t fix that first domino then they are just putting band-aids on their swings. Video/digital photography is a very effective tool when used correctly. The correct use of any visual aid is to isolate one and only one fault at a time and perfect that new skill before trying to do the next one.”

GV: “You have an incredible team of professionals on your staff; how did that come about?”

EWING: “There are two things that truly separate us form any other school. The first, is our 1 or 2 to 1 format, but of equal or even greater importance is who is going to teach our students. Each of our instructors has been chosen with deliberate and specific care. We have a US Open Champion (and two time LPGA Championship winner), a PGA Master professional who is a member of two Halls of Fame, the founding editor of Golf For Women magazine and 1989 LPGA Teacher of the Year just to name a few. Our staff is second to none. The opportunity for a person to learn from and play with professionals of this caliber is unparalleled.”

GV: “Your schools are expensive; yet you say that you are the best value in your business. How can that be?”

EWING: “Yes, we are one of the more expensive schools. The aforementioned format and quality of instruction are a part of that, but our packages include much more. Our students stay in suites at some of the finest resorts like the Wigwam Resort and Golf Club in Arizona and the Jekyll Island Club Hotel in Georgia. We work with our students 6-8 hours each day and they have unlimited use of the facilities (in most other schools once your school day is over and you want to play; you pay a green fee). We are also the only school that works extensively on the ‘mental game’ and offer a golfer specific Yoga program (taught personally by our Yoga instructor with our students).

GV: “Tell me about the mental game?”

EWING: “We are truly fortunate to be able to work with the legendary Carey Mumford, our Director of Game Enhancement. Carey, the author of Clear Key and the Double Connexion has been at the forefront of the mental game for 30 years. He has taught thousands of PGA and LPGA Professionals through their training programs and hundreds of PGA, LPGA, Asian, European and Nationwide Tour players, over the years. He has extensively trained all our Bird Golf instructors so that they can relay this to our students. How many times have you heard that golf is such a mental game; yet how many times have you taken a mental golf lesson?”

GV: “You have had some amazing success stories with your students. Like the beginner who in two years broke 80 and the lady who had never broken 130 but now routinely shoots in the 80’s. Do you have a magic potion?”

EWING: (Laughs) “No….to the magic potion, that is. It is a combination of two things; great teaching from our staff and dedicated learning from our students.”

GV: “Your registered trademark is “the ultimate golf learning experience”-can you define that?”

EWING: “We take our slogan very seriously. We want to give people more than they expect. Our goal is not to be the biggest golf school in the world, but we do want to be the best. It is harder to be the best at something. It takes a little more.”

GV: “You have just signed a new contract with Jekyll Island Club in Georgia, which is now your 7th site around the country; tell us about that new location?”

EWING: “We are very excited about our new relationship with Jekyll Island. The Jekyll Island Club Hotel is a National Historic Landmark and a Travel and Leisure ‘Best 500 Hotels in the World’. There are 63 holes of Championship golf and the island is truly Georgia’s jewel. Our flagship site at the Wigwam in Phoenix has been a Golf Digest Silver award winner several times and is one of the world’s finest golf resorts. Hidddenbrooke, in Napa, California was host to the LPGA Samsung Tour Championship. We are also at the World Golf Village in Florida, which is home to the World Golf Hall of Fame; the beautiful Cumberland Plateau in Tennessee, CasaBlanca Resort and Spa in Nevada and one of my favorite courses, West Woods G.C. in Colorado. We are planning to further expand in the next year and have long term plans to become international.”

GV: “When and where can I sign up for a school?”

EWING: (Laughing) “There’s no time like the present!”

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