Nathan Morris - GOLFTEC Westminster
Nathan has been with GOLFTEC since 2007 and has taught over 26,000 lessons. Along with being a PGA Member, certified in Teaching and Coaching, Nathan was one of Golf Digest’s best teachers in Colorado in 2019 and 2011 as well as a Golf Digest Top100 club fitter three times. He was Colorado AvidGolfer’s top instructor in 2014, 2015, 2017 and 2019 as well as Top Mental Coach in 2016.
GOLFTEC uses proprietary technology to measure your swing. We measure 6 degrees of freedom from your body as well as the club and ball for every swing. This allows us to factually identify a golfer’s issues. Then your coach has the freedom to coach each student to whatever their goals are in whatever way is best for the student.
How old were you when you got started in golf and what eventually pulled you into becoming a golf professional?
I started playing golf when I was 5 years old. I played through high school, but not in college. After college, I needed a summer job. My local course was hiring a seasonal assistant. At the time, my future father-in-law was a regular at the course and was friends with the head professional. He gave me the job as a favor. Over the summer I fell in love with the business and teaching golf lessons. I actually used my college education in math and physics, as well as really good intrapersonal skills to teach good golf lessons. The other pros at the course didn’t teach much, so I took on that responsibility. When the summer was ending, I made the choice to stay on through the off season and start my road to PGA membership. 2 years later, I found GOLFTEC. They gave me a platform to teach as much as I could and learn as much about teaching as I could possibly take in.
How do you stay current with the latest developments in teaching methods?
My staff and I have a monthly teaching quality meeting where we discuss the latest trends on Youtube and other social media. I also try to bring up older information to tie things together during that meeting. I encourage my coaches and myself to watch and read through the lens of “what kind of golfer can this help”. To many times do I have a conversation with a pro or coach and they blast some video on the internet for not making sense or not being able to help “anybody”. Obviously that tip from that video has helped someone, or the coach wouldn’t have posted it to the web.
No video on the web can help everyone. Golfers can be on different sides of fundamental and a certain video that helps some, may push others further into the ditch. As a coach, I want to watch as much as I can and then apply certain things to certain golfers depending on what they need. If my coaches only watch and read things that they already agree with, they will never grow as a coach. We do an exercise where we watch a random video tip and THEN try to find a student that it can help. If we don’t have a current student that it can help, we create an imaginary student that would benefit. This helps us save that tip or video for later.
What are 2 trends in golf that you’re excited about?
I am really excited about coaches getting away from the old X-FACTOR swing we all used to teach in the 90s and 2000s. Creating massive torque between the upper torso and lower torso did create some power, but for most players, it made it incredibly difficult to swing on plane and caused lots of injuries. Allowing the lower half to move more freely helps more golfers swing on plane and create more power. The debate about whether the trail knee should straighten or stay flexed is one of the most debated topics in golf instruction and I see more and more coaches and players moving towards a straighter trail knee because its safer.
The second trend I am excited about is that more coaches are measuring swings. Even using a simple iPAD or a cheap launch monitor gives more coaches data to use and collect. Data and measuring can also help coaches confirm or refute their own swing knowledge. this is allowing all of us to grow and get better as teachers and golfers. Measurment tools are also getting cheaper every year. Video analysis apps, launch monitors, body measurement devices and others are coming down in price every year.
Do you specialize in teaching any facets of the game?
I try not to specialize in any one facet of the game because my students come to me needing help with all of it. At the beginning of a program, we create a plan for their improvement. We budget time to work on all of the issues that they need to work on to reach their goals. If there was one thing I feel better at than most, it is teaching a golfer to use their wrists properly at impact to control spin loft, control the face to path relationship and control the low point of the arc. I feel most coaches don’t have the best understanding of this because they can’t see it happen and don’t study it enough. Because I have a greater knowledge of this, I can jump right in and get an impact problem solved sooner, rather than later.
What sets you apart from other golf professionals?
Adaptability. I have a great ability to adapt to any student. Whether it is a learning style, swing style or personality, I can adapt to it. After 26,000 lessons, I have seen almost everything. Because of that experience, I can recall what has worked in the past and what hasn’t. A great example of this is a new student I just gained. His name is Bob D. He came in wanting to re-learn Natural Golf. He was a Natural Golfer years ago and even bought the clubs to go with it. He took 10 years off of golf and wanted to get back in. Because I had studied Natural Golf for many years, I new what he was trying to achieve and could help him get back to where he was before he took a long break.
What’s the most exciting thing on the horizon for you personally or professionally?
Personally, I am excited to get back to playing competitive golf. I haven’t played any PGA events for years and my goal for next year is to get back into it. I miss the pressure of competing. My dad always told me that feeling nervous was a good thing. It meant that what you are doing is important to you. Professionally, I am excited about where technology is heading in golf instruction. Technology makes a teacher’s life easier. they can spend less time diagnosing an issue and more time coaching a change. I am looking forward to the day when all coaches are using some type of video and a launch monitor instead of just teaching their preferences or guessing.
What has been your most challenging experience with a student and how did you handle it? How did you overcome it?
My most challenging experience came from a student who took lessons with me for 3 months and got worse. He came into the center incredibly upset, gave me a bad review on Google and asked for his money back. We went outside to talk. First, I just let him air it out. I wanted to hear what he was feeling and what was going on. it turns out, this player had not visited the driving range once in 3 months. He was also supplementing my lessons with online lessons from someone else. He would take a lesson with me, then watch a video that told him the opposite and then go straight to the course. We had a long talk about our initial game plan and my expectations for him practicing what we learned. We also talked about how new habits cannot be built on the course. he was setting himself up to fail. He was coming from a place of wanting to get better so fast that he would do anything to microwave the process.
I learned that day that I have to set better expectations for my students in terms of practice and how long it would take to get to their goals. I started to study how the brain learns motor skills and how the brain builds and breaks habits. I studied so much that now I create detailed practice plans for students that they have to agree to before we continue lessons. If they don’t practice, they cannot complain about their improvement. Setting clear expectations for both sides is so important at the beginning of a lesson plan. That student helped me learn that and become a better teacher and coach.
Do you actively play competitive golf? Any recent bragworthy performances you’d like to share?
I play most of my golf with students. I haven’t played competitively in years. My new years resolution is to get back into it next year. I miss it so bad, but didn’t have the time. I am going to make the time next year. Last year, I played 18 holes with a couple of students at our home course and had the craziest round I have ever had. I made 9 birdies in 18 holes and shot even par. It was exciting, frustrating and tiring all at the same time. My students thought I should be on tour and I was ready to throw my bag in the lake. I used that round as a learning experience. I was also pretty proud of myself for not crumbling after a few double bogeys. That round was actually a stepping stone for me getting my game back in competitive shape.
Is there a highlight from your career in golf that stands out above the rest?
One of my favorite things that has happened in my career is that I have become a regular seminar host at the Denver Golf Expo every year. The Denver Golf Expo is one of the biggest golf expos in the country. The staff and the Colorado Section of the PGA have asked me to be a regular on their seminar list. I love doing it. I get to present things I have learned to hundreds of people who, otherwise, wouldn’t come see me. I have free reign to present on any topic I feel is important and I love public speaking. My favorite part is the Q&A afterwards. Just talking with average golfers and answering questions is tons of fun. Educating golfers in this way is almost more rewarding than in a regular lesson. Watching a crowd go from confused to understanding on a topic as so much fun.
Any advice for someone considering pursuing a career as a golf teaching professional?
My first piece of advice is to find a mentor who is experienced, but still loves to learn. Also, make sure they use some form of technology in their teaching. By using tech, you can learn about the golf swing in a factual and data driven way. Then you can forge your own ideas on how to teach it. If you learn based on someone else’s opinion on the swing, without any data to back it up, you are stuck teaching that to other people because you won’t know any better. A great mentor should teach you how to figure it out, not just give you the answer. They should lead you to the data and let you draw a conclusion. The smartest people I know, keep learning. They read tons of books and watch tons of videos and ask tons of questions. Find a mentor that exhibits these traits and you will become a great teacher faster.