5 Luxury Golf Resort Academies To Play Your Best Golf Ever

Written by Larry Olmsted, Senior Contributor

This article originally appeared on FORBES - YOU CAN READ IT HERE.

Golf is fun and amazingly addictive. It can also be extremely frustrating, because for most amateurs, it is difficult—if not impossible—to improve on your own. Most golfers have no idea what they are doing wrong, what the right thing to do is or how to make changes. More than half a century of golf magazine covers promising to “Cure That Slice” and “Make More Putts” haven’t helped the general public. I recently sat at a sports bar and watched a mind-numbing hour-plus barrage of tips on a top TV golf show, each one wackier than the last, and many in direct contradiction to the ones given minutes earlier.

After four-plus decades of playing golf regularly, and three-plus decades of writing on it very regularly, I have become convinced that there are two ways, and only two ways, for most recreational golfers—especially those with higher than single-digit handicaps, the vast majority of golfers—to make real improvements. These options would be regular (weekly, biweekly) lessons...or a multi-day immersion golf academy.

Regular lessons are a great way to go, but they represent an expensive habit that is likely to never end and one best suited for those who belong to private clubs and/or live in golf communities where they have easy access to the same instructor.

For a substantial number of amateur golfers, especially those who do not belong to a club or who live in cities (as most Americans do) and are unlikely to practice regularly, the immersion golf academy is a great way to make a big improvement and possible lasting change for the better, in just a weekend or long weekend. To get the most out of this, it’s important to choose a good—or why not great?—academy.

What makes one golf school better than another? First, the quality of the instructors. Secondly, the quality of the facility itself. Golf lessons have become much more technology-based in recent years, and we’ve come a long way from simple video replays. Advances allow teachers skilled with these new tools to analyze flaws more easily, communicate the very confusing minutiae of the golf swing better and faster, and instantly see direct feedback in terms of changes and improvement. These tools also allow instructors to continue remote follow-up with students long after they have headed home.

Things to look for are indoor and outdoor hitting bays so you can learn in any weather; high quality launch monitors like Trackman or GCQuad coupled with computerized video swing analysis; dedicated and purpose-built short game practice areas; and club fitting facilities. Even if you don’t want to be custom fit, offering a dedicated custom fitting service suggests a higher level of attention, expertise and technology. Beyond that, at the highest end, you’ll see features like indoor putting labs, automated changeable synthetic putting surfaces and swing robots that can help you instill muscle memory. Look for golf school packages that include or offer on-course playing lessons as part of the curriculum, because there are many “driving range heroes” who can hit great shots in non-real world lesson conditions but fall apart on the course.

Unfortunately, many top-rated instructors and schools are based at private clubs or standalone teaching facilities. Golf school should still be a golf vacation, especially since you are going to want to imminently put new skills to the test on top courses. If you are going away for two to five days to dive deep into golf, it might as well be at a top resort that also has luxury lodging, service and food—in addition to great golf. However, this is the big catch-22: relatively few of the top golf academies are located at great resorts. Indeed, a couple of top luxury resorts with very good golf instruction facilities, such as Pebble Beach and Sea Island, which both have standout staff and technology, don’t offer multi-day camps.

Fortunately, there are a handful of top golf resorts that also have extremely high-level academies, and this is a subject I have written on for more than 20 years. These are some of my favorites for those who want it all: great instruction, great facilities, great golf and a great vacation.

Kingdom Golf School, Reynolds Lake Oconee, GA

Yes, you can have it all. Reynolds Lake Oconee is one of the best upscale golf resorts in the nation, with a wonderful Ritz-Carlton hotel and a huge array of rental homes and cottages. There are five high-end resort courses by Jack Nicklaus, Rees Jones, Tom Fazio and Bob Cupp, multiple bars and restaurants, and every conceivable outdoor activity from clay shooting to fishing.

The head instructor is Blake Adams, a former longtime PGA Tour player who has a unique gift for seeing and speaking golf at the level of a layperson. The Academy facility is first-rate and home to the Kingdom, Taylor Made’s flagship club fitting facility. The schools here are exceptional, the resort is first-class and the most popular option is the two-day Energize, with two half-days of instruction (then you can get in 18) and a maximum 3:1 student-to-teacher ratio. This can be upgraded to the Energize Tour Experience, adding an invaluable nine-hole on-course playing lesson with Adams, a PGA Tour pro, something you are not going to experience at other schools. There are also two-day short game scoring schools, customizable packages and one of the best club fitting experiences in the world.

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