Oh man… I don’t even know where to begin. This guy came my way on Twitter. Then he showed up at a Golf Business Network summit, and the rest is history. You want to talk about a guy that knows what he’s doing… this guy is not only a great player, but he is an incredible PGA teaching professional. He is ALWAYS on top of his game, and pretty much lives on the cutting edge of technology. From utilizing Twitter to schedule lessons (well, more like AimPoint clinics) to blogging his brains out, he is always on the tip of my tongue for an example of a guy who does it right. He lives in Rochester, New York… but is always on the road helping people make more putts. We will get to that later, but as John says, “make everything.” He is a very good friend of mine, and someone that I admire for what he does with the game of golf. It is my absolute pleasure to introduce you to John Graham.
Oh John… this is going to be fun. I have only done a few of these, but I am so glad that I am able to sit down with you for this. Have you had a chance to check out the other interviews I have done?
Yes, I think I have read them all.
One thing that I like about you is your passion with social media and blogging. You write one of the best golf blogs on the Internet, and you fuel that fire using Facebook and Twitter. You might use Twitter more than me! I am sure it’s not an easy answer, but how has social media made an affect on your career as a PGA teaching professional?
Social media has given me a platform to build an identity that is viewable by many more people than just in my local area. I’ve used it to meet, network and build relationships with some of the best and brightest golf professionals in the world. This has allowed me to learn from and share my knowledge with so many coaches I now call friends. In a nutshell, social media has completely changed my business in the most positive way I could have imagined.
You do a LOT of work with AimPoint. Tell me a little bit more about AimPoint, and what it means to being AimPoint certified.
AimPoint is a system for teaching players how to predict break on their putts. Based on certain variables and the balls location relative to those variables; a very accurate target is determined. AimPoint teaches players what those variables are and how to determine them. Being AimPoint certified basically means that one has been taught by Mark Sweeney (AimPoint founder) and approved to teach this information to others. There are only about 100 of us in the world currently AimPoint certified.
You are also TPI certified. What’s that mean?
TPI stands for Titleist Performance Institute and they have a program to help golf professionals better understand how the human body. Basically, if I’m trying to teach a player to do something and they physically can’t do it, I’m wasting my time. TPI helps teach us golf pros how to assess a players physical abilities and connects us with medical and fitness trainers to create a team helping golfers reach their goals. Honestly though, my business is going in a direction that doesn’t really require me to stay certified. I will be allowing my TPI certification to lapse.
You are currently the Director of Instruction at the Webster Golf Club in Rochester, New York. Correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t it snow there? What do you do when you can’t be on the lesson tee?
Yes, we receive about 100 inches of snow a year, on average. During the school year, I’m a stay at home dad during the day then will teach and travel nights or weekends. There’s an indoor facility that I have used the last couple years but most players in Rochester will take some time off from golf until after the Super Bowl has been completed. After that, it can get quite busy. The travel I do is for AimPoint classes and I typically will travel two weekends a month in the winter then every week come spring.
One of these days, when I settle down, I want to coach a high school or college golf team. I think that would be a blast. You did that for 8 years at the Monroe Community College. What was that experience like for you?
College coaching was one of the most enjoyable things I have ever done. I loved working with the players. I absolutely loved it. It was a very hard decision to stop coaching but I was having a difficult time allotting enough time to do it to the level I thought was appropriate. Because it was a part-time position, I had to continue teaching and traveling and I wasn’t able to spend enough time with the players. It certainly helped that many of my players were also junior students of mine and that we were very successful. I’ve built some great relationships with a few of the players that I see on Wednesday nights to this day.
While you were coaching, your students won a TON of awards. What’s that like, coaching a team of guys who play so well and can win so many awards while under you?
It’s great. There’s nothing better than helping someone attain the goals they have set for themselves. I was a hands-off coach on the course when it came to decision making. I provided the facts and let the player play. That’s how I saw my job. Provide the facts and the opportunity and let the players play.
On Facebook you have a personal page, and then the John Graham Golf School. Is that run out of the Webster GC?
Yes, that is run out of Webster Golf Club.
Let’s say I want to book a lesson with you… what’s the first lesson like?
The first lesson with a new student can vary greatly depending on the student. However, the start of a lesson with a new student consists of a bunch of questions about past experiences, lessons, injuries and ideas. I want to make sure I understand where the student is coming from and what they think needs to be done to get there. So many students have the wrong concept of what is needed. I need to know there concept so I can assess it and inform them what it takes to achieve their desired goals. After that, it depends on what the student is doing.
Do you do playing lessons with your students?
Yes, I do playing lessons very often. Once I start to see improvement in the movement, I want to see if it happens on the course on weird lies and strange situations. It’s really the only way to truly assess how well they are doing.
You are a member of the Golf Business Network. How has being a member of that group helped you grow as an instructor?
GBN has provided me an opportunity to meet face to face with so many great people. The seminars have been wonderful and they cover such a wide array of topics. I’m happy to have been invited. It has helped me grow as an instructor by providing me information on topics I may not have considered studying and from experts in those fields. It shortens the learning cycle. I love that.
You do a lot of work with video. Does that mean someone on the other side of the world can, in theory, have a lesson with you?
In theory, someone could have a lesson with me online. I don’t currently do any online lessons but I’ll look at swings on Twitter and offer advice for free to my followers.
It seems you are always on the edge of new technologies… what’s next in golf instruction? Is there anything on the radar you are focused on?
Hmm. That’s a tough one. I love learning about the newest things even if I won’t really use that information in my business. You just never know when you might need a piece of information. I think continued advances will occur in tracking the movement of the human body, the club and the ball. I think the next big thing will be starting to train the mind for competition at earlier ages. Just a guess though.
Your lesson rates are reasonable. How do you decide what to charge? Do you set that, or does the golf club set those?
I set my rates. I charge what I think is fair. I don’t know where I fall in my market in terms of price, but I think it seems about right for the value received.
Do you get to play a lot of golf?
I have played very little golf since my children came. I simply choose to spend that time either working or at home. Once my children are older, I will play more golf again.
Your blog is loaded with great content… where do you get inspiration for a new blog post?
Thank you. Honestly, most of the inspiration comes from conversations I have on Twitter. Someone may be talking about something that I find interesting and I get involved. Then I’ll use that conversation as a basis for a post. Happens more often than not.
Starting with your driver, and working your way all the way through the bag, including your ball… what’s in your bag?
- Driver – PING I-15
- 3 wood – Callaway Steelhead +
- Hybrid – Cleveland
- 3-6 and 8-pw – Cleveland TA-4 (missing 7 iron)
- 52º – wedge Cleveland CG-10
- 58º – wedge Vokey
- Putter – Edel
- Golf Ball – Pro V1
Wait a second… what about your 7 iron?
It was always my teaching club. I left it on the range one day and haven’t replaced it.
I am sure you have played a lot of them, but what’s your favorite golf course?
My favorite course played was Ballybunion Golf Club in Ireland
Will I see you at the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando next month?
Oh yes. I’ll be there. Wouldn’t miss it. I’ll be organizing another tweetup as well. Details should be coming soon. I’ll be working at the AimPoint booth all week.
What’s the D-Plane?
The D-Plane is a phrase coined by Theo Jorgenson in his book “The Physics of Golf”. It basically describes the plane that is created by the two factors that control the balls flight. Those two factors are the direction the club is moving and the direction the club face is pointing. Based on their orientation, the movement of the ball can be calculated. Simply, it describes how ball flight is created.
You have an email newsletter on your blog. How many people subscribe to that? How many times a month do those go out?
I have almost 1,200 people that receive my blog posts. I rarely send out just a newsletter. My subscribers typically just receive my new blog posts when written. The amount I write varies with the time of year. I can say I’ve written over 200 posts in the last 2 years if that helps describe the frequency.
You have a few kids running around the house… any of them showing interest in golf? How will you handle that, as they get older?
My oldest son enjoys the game but prefers more active sports. I have no problem with that. I’ve never pushed them and since I play so infrequently, they aren’t really exposed to it all that often.
YouTube is great… I wish I could do more with video. How often do you post a video on there? Jeff Ritter is doing a GREAT job with video too.
Yes, Jeff is doing a great job. Nearly 4 million views is big time. I used to post much more frequently than I do now. I would say I post a video maybe once a month. I’m working on becoming a YouTube partner and will need to get more views and subscribers to do that.
There is a list of the top 100 golf instructors… what’s it take to be on that list? Does being on that list affect the number of lessons you get or the rate you can charge for said lessons?
I don’t know much about the list. Honestly, it has never been a goal of mine so I don’t pursue it. I don’t really know if it affects the number of lessons and rate, but I would it assume it does.
In your opinion, who is the best teaching pro out there?
Hmm. I think that question is part of the problem I have with the lists. The golf industry is so diverse in terms of the goals that teachers have. They are all not working toward the exact same goal. Some teach juniors. Some want to teach only PGA TOUR players. It is inappropriate to take a singular goal or standard and apply it all teachers. This is why that question is too general to answer, and why the lists are dangerous. If they didn’t assign a number to them the lists could make more sense but to say someone is ranked higher than someone else and they don’t even teach the same clientele is a mistake.
As you know, I am a HUGE Tiger Woods fan. Do you watch a lot of professional golf on TV? Who are some of your favorite players?
How is the John Graham Golf Journal different from the blog?
The journal is a place where I keep my personal experiences with my game. I continually tell my students to write things down when they compete and practice. It helps them remember what to do and how to correct them selves when I’m not around. As you can see, I haven’t done much with my game in a while.
What’s next for you… what does 2012 have in store for John Graham and the John Graham Golf School?
2012 looks to be a busy year with AimPoint and focusing just on my current students. I will also continue to use social media to help build more relationships to further my business.
You travel a lot… especially for AimPoint. Do you ever get to travel overseas?
Yes, I typically will travel overseas at least once a year during the summer. The last 2 years, I’ve gone to Europe and worked with my good friends Jamie Donaldson and James Ridyard. Good chance I’ll go over again this year. I also already have classes scheduled in Cabo San Lucas and Bermuda in 2012.
John, I feel like I could ask you questions forever. Thank you so much for taking some time to sit with me and answer these. It means a lot. In all of the interviews that I do, I always give the artist the last word. Go.
Thanks again for helping me with so many areas related to social media. You have been a big help. I’d like to let everyone know that reads this that I am always available to help and share information whenever possible. Thanks to everyone for reading and don’t forget to follow me on Twitter!