If you come to the Arnold Palmer Golf Academy expecting to leave swinging like the King, you’ll probably be disappointed. But if you go to the Academy – located at Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill Club & Lodge in Orlando – with an open mind and willingness to work on your game, you’re at the right place.
John O’Leary III, the Academy’s director of instruction, leaned forward on the steering wheel of his golf cart just a few yards away from the club’s practice range.
“We don’t necessarily force a method on a student,’’ O’Leary said. “So we’re going to a look at a student’s grip, address, whether he or she is keeping their head steady as they swing, what we call ‘one-piece takeaway’ and how well they accelerate’’ through the ball.
In other words, a golf swing is not created, or even fine-tuned, in a vacuum. Those fundamentals – grip, address, steady head, one-piece takeaway and acceleration – are what Deacon Palmer stressed to his son Arnold more than 70 years ago. Heck, if they worked – and still work – for Arnie, they’ll work for you.
“We don’t want to re-invent anyone’s swing,’’ O’ Leary said. “We’re trying to do all those (fundamentals) to the best of a student’s abilities.’’
Thus, individuality is emphasized – not surprising to anyone familiar with Palmer’s career. The Academy offers programs for all ages and levels of play to learn the fundamentals of golf according to Palmer’s philosophy of the game. The Academy’s classes, which range from a half-day to five days, emphasize the fundamental is classes on no greater than four-to-one student to teacher ratios.
The three-day Academy, which consist of four hours of daily instruction, is the more popular. Students can stay at the Lodge at Bay Hill, get a spa treatment and even play a round or two on the recently-renovated Champion/Charger layout that plays host to the PGA Tour’s annual Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented by MasterCard.
“On Day 1 we work on fundamentals with the full swing; Day 2 we apply them to the short game; on Day 3 we mix it up and take them to the Charger Nine and work on some course strategy,’’ O’Leary said. “We want students to understand how to manage their games and shot selections around the course.’’
Through it all, O’Leary said, the goal is to teach the students how to self-correct themselves once they leave the friendly confines of Bay Hill.
“How to approach their problems, which might not necessarily be their swing,’’ O’Leary said. “People have high expectations, but if they’re not doing the right things, they won’t see good shots right away. You shouldn’t go all morning and not see improvement. If a student pretty quickly sees better shots, then he or she says, ‘This is why I need to do this.’’’
And that begins with following Palmer’s fundamentals.