Erik Barzeski - Golf Evolution
With David Wedzik, we run Golf Evolution, a year-round indoor and outdoor (at various locations in PA and NY) training academy for all levels of player, from beginner on up to a few major world tour players. With a background in the sciences, I was attracted to good instruction and the cause/effect, geometry, physics, biomechanics, etc. of it all. Science is often about solving problems, and so is golf instruction.
We are purely instructional, both in person and online at evolvr.com.
How old were you when you got started in golf and what eventually pulled you into becoming a golf professional?
I started golf late. I played a LOT of soccer and got quite good at it, then got into baseball at age 12. Tennis, football, and other sports were in there too (including a very brief stint at waterskiing).
Soccer taught me about spin, so how I control the golf ball in my own game vary from most golfers. If OB is left, they’ll leave the face open and swing in that direction. I’ll swing left toward it, knowing the ball will curve away from the trouble. I’m more of a path guy, because that’s how you curve a soccer ball – kick to the right to make the ball go left. Most people don’t “think” that way.
I got into golf at age 14. I instantly appreciated how far I could hit the ball – I was hitting it farther than any major league baseball player could hit a baseball, and my 7I would leave any major league stadium to straightaway center field. I made the varsity team as a sophomore, after my first summer playing golf, and averaged 92, then 82, then 72 my senior year when I won the local city stroke play and my team had won three Erie County League team championships in a row. I went to the state tournament that year, 1995, and did well locally. Then I went to college and didn’t play much for another five years.
How do you stay current with the latest developments in teaching methods?
I talk with a few trusted instructors and friends fairly often. I watch YouTube, I mostly avoid Facebook but will occasionally look at some posts in some of the teaching groups. I’ll attend conferences, interact with guys and gals on Twitter, and just stay curious.
There’s a lot of information out there. I’ll put out my own information, and LOVE when people can show me how something is wrong. I work with Dave Wedzik, and we’re constantly trying to play devil’s advocate to each other. It’s great to have a teaching partner to bounce things off of, right in person.
What are 2 trends in golf that you’re excited about?
I’m excited that we’ve moved to a point where we’re once again accepting a wide variety of swings. Whether you’re talking about Dustin Johnson, Matt Wolff, Bryson, etc. I’m seeing a bit of a re-birth of the “personalized” or “unique” swings on the PGA Tour. I think when video first came out, instruction veered toward making everyone look pretty similar, but now we’re realizing that Daniel Berger and Matt Wolff both have a place in the game, and can both play really well.
I’m also excited about the decreasing cost of tech. Tech are just tools, and you can be too reliant on them, or use them as a crutch, but the more tools anyone has in their toolbox, the more they can measure. The more they can be objective about. Even something like the Mevo+ lets avid golfers get quite a bit of information about how they’re actually hitting the ball. Students can come to me with data, not just “I feel like I hit the ball too high…” types of comments.
Do you specialize in teaching any facets of the game?
I don’t, though I feel I teach the full swing well, mostly because I have the most practice at it, as it’s the more important part of the game. You can be the world’s best putter, but if it’s a putt for bogey or par on every hole… good luck. You’ve gotta get on the green.
Putting and the short game are relatively easy to teach. They’re simpler motions, with slower strokes or swings. And, there are more games to play with putting and the short game, too, which makes it a bit easier for golfers to practice them.
What sets you apart from other golf professionals?
I’m inquisitive, tough on myself, and constantly learning. I’m evaluating myself constantly – did I say this the best way I could, did I give everything I could to a student (which often means giving them less actual information), that sort of thing. I can always answer a “why?” question, and never will the answer be “because it looks better” or “because I like that more.” I’ll always have a valid reason.
What has been your most challenging experience with a student and how did you handle it? How did you overcome it?
I have a few students who just want a band-aid fix. They want me to tell them something, and for them to hear me, make one tiny change that they can do at 100% speed the next time they swing the club, and for it to make a dramatic impact on their game.
Those situations almost never arise.
Golf is a sport, and changes often take work. I feel as our reputation among students grows, and they see the results of other students, that new students understand that improvement and change takes effort, but I’ll still get the occasional student who just wants the quick fix. Getting that student to understand that it’s going to take work – potentially more work than they are willing to put in – is challenging.
Do you actively play competitive golf? Any recent bragworthy performances you’d like to share?
I look forward to playing more competitive golf when my daughter heads off to college. Right now, I’m happy to play a round of golf every few weeks.
Any advice for someone considering pursuing a career as a golf teaching professional?
Golf instruction is two or three things. It’s understanding the golf swing. It’s understanding how to communicate. And it’s understanding that it takes a lot of work to do both of those things continually well, and that you have to give your best to the student you have in the tenth hour standing in the sun on a hot summer day as you gave to the first student that day.