Customizing FUNonmental Learning Experiences with Brad Pluth

Customizing FUNomental Learning Experiences with Brad Pluth

I met Brad through the Golf Business Network, and have stayed in touch with him on popular social media sites like Facebook and Twitter ever since. It’s always fun to catch up with him because he always has something new going on. He is a top 50 U.S. Kids Golf teaching instructor, is TPI certified, ACE certified, and a Golfing Machine certified instructor. Needless to say, he takes his credentials serious. Brad also has a six step approach that I find interesting. We will discuss that in the interview, I am sure. Anyway, that’s enough from me. It’s my pleasure to introduce you to Brad Pluth.

I am really starting to get the hang of these PGA professional interviews. Have you had a chance to read any of the other interviews I have done?

Of course. I’m a golf connoisseur. Well done. I may need to dig into your Rolodex for those connections!

How long have you been playing golf?

I started when I was five by caddying for my grandfather. I caddied for two months before he allowed me to play. I had to learn all the rules and etiquette and betting games before he let me out. Once he handed me that five iron, I ran to the tee and smacked it eleven times before I got it into the hole at Hibbing Municipal Golf Course in northern Minnesota. Thankfully I’ve improved a little bit, but those are some very fond memories!

You have a huge focus on the junior golf instruction. What is your interest in junior golf? I need to introduce you to Jackie Cannizzo… she is all about the growth of golf.

When I moved back to Minnesota from Congressional Country Cub, I did some market research and found seven of the top ten instructors in Minnesota were within ten miles of my facility but none were doing anything with kids. I loved to teach and that’s all I really wanted to do so I backed into a recession proof niche. The teaching season was only about five months long and my wife and old pro Bobby Olds encouraged me to start an after school program. They not only extended my teaching season to seven months, but now we deliver programs in over forty schools across the state.

Tell me a little bit more about the Adventure Golf Academy.

Adventure Golf Academy is the junior arm of the Brad Pluth Golf Academy and is the umbrella for my after school programs, junior golf schools and other programs we run.

You are the Director of Instruction at the Brad Pluth Golf Academy At Halla Greens. First off, what is Halla Greens?

Halla Greens is a nine-hole executive course with a great practice facility. They let me rent some office space, so it is now the intergalactic headquarters of the Brad Pluth Golf Academy!

So it’s your academy. Does that mean you handle all of it… isn’t that what the head professional is for?

Again, I just teach; no folding shirts or unfolding scrunched up bills… they all go straight into my wallet. Seriously, I design and oversee the schedules, the programs, staffing of more than twenty instructors throughout the year, all the accounting, ordering of product and marketing.

You are a member of the PGA. What’s it take to become a member? Is it possible to lose that membership?

I went through the old program with the Professional Readiness Orientation followed by three business schools. The business schools covered everything that had to do with running a golf facility from interpersonal skills, accounting, agronomy, food and beverage management, facility design, rules etc. Interesting there were only about twelve of the one hundred forty-four hours dedicated to teaching.

I’ve heard of a few people getting kicked out but you have really mess up or have low integrity.

In your opinion, what’s the best course you have ever played? What makes a course enjoyable?

That’s tough because there are so many different styles of course so I’ll list them by style:

Ocean Course: Cap Cana in the Dominican Republic designed by Jack Nicklaus

Woods Course: The Classic at Madden’s Resort in Brainerd, MN

Links: The Old Course at St. Andrews… played when it was forty degrees and forty mile an hour winds, doubled 17, bogeyed 18 to shoot 74…

Desert: The Boulders in Carefree, AZ

Collection & Practice Facility: Bandon Dunes

Let’s say I wanted to book a lesson with you. What’s that first lesson look like?

First we sit down and chat about your goals, time commitment, and what’s currently holding you back from playing the best golf of your life. I’m different in a sense that I take all my new students through a physical evaluation and assess your best set-up, backswing track and downswing slot based on your biomechanics. To me, there’s no point in asking someone to do something they are not physically capable of doing, which is unfortunately what I see most of our industry doing. I’ve been fortunate to spend time with a bunch of TPI and medical professionals, Mike Adams and EA Tischler who have shaped my physical assessment and my approach. For instance hip speed dictates your lead hand grip placement. Fast hips = strong grips, slow hips = weak grips. There are currently sixteen tests and refinements that we use to customize your swing.

Are you using the iPING putting app?

Yes, love it! The iPING app is simple, effective and fun for the student. I like how you can pick one, two or three things to work on and develop and track your improvement. Those guys at PING are really smart!

From tee to green, what shots matter most?

The next shot you are about to take is the most important shot you’ll ever hit. It’s the only one you have control over!

You are an ACE personal trainer. What does that mean? What does ACE stand for?

It stands for the American Council on Exercise. It’s the licensing organization for my personal training certification.

Minnesota… what’s the weather like there this time of year?

Unseasonably warm with very little snow. We played on January 12th this year, which is a first for me.

How much do you charge for a lesson? Do you find there is a lot of competition among pros around your area?

Tuition for five lessons and five supervised practice sessions is $450. Yes, there are a number of great instructors in my area including Rod Lidenberg, who is a Top 100 teacher also teaches at my facility and Mike Barge is two miles down the road at Hazeltine.

You just said it… Rod is on the list. There is a list of the top 100 teaching pros… but in your opinion, who is the best PGA teaching professional out there?

Tough question because I’ve seen so many ways men and women get results. I’ve worked with, studied under, interviewed or attended seminars from 114 Top 100 Instructors. My wife thinks it’s a hobby of mine.

I just spent a half day with Mike Adams and he and EA Tischler have helped me put together The Golfing Machine, TPI and fitness experience into a much better program. Martin Hall is the most creative, Mike Bender creates the best deliberate practice sessions, Dr. Rick Jensen is a wonderful mental game coach, I’ve been influenced by Mike Hebron’s work… the list is long.

I come to you and say, “I want to shave 5 strokes.” What’s the first step?

You first have to understand that you do not choose your golf swing, it chooses you! What I mean is that we are all designed and structured differently. There is no one right swing. There is a swing that is best and that is based on what you physically capable of doing. That and invest 70% of your practice on your short game (putting, chipping, pitching, lob, flop and the flopodopolous) and get really good from 10, 15 and 20-yards.

Brian Manzella is a riot. How do you guys know each other?

First time was when I went to see him when I was in New Orleans taking my GSEM certification course at Rob Noel’s Academy at Money Hill. We spent a few hours talking all things golf and developed a great friendship. What I’ve come to understand about Brian is that he is a product of his environment. He was one of twenty-six teaching professionals at the only public driving range in a city of two million people. Brian is one of the brightest and hard-working teachers I’ve come across. He has been coming up to Minneapolis the past few years and we’ve done teacher’s events and he’ll teach at my facility for a few days. I’m honored to call him a friend and he’s been a great resource too.

You are also IYAC certified. Why do you have/keep all of these certifications? Your head must be spinning.

If you work with kids, the International Youth Conditioning Alliance developed by Brian Grasso is a must! It taught me how to properly assess and develop the physical literacy skills in a child for any sport.

Tell me a little bit more about the Inside Edge in Eden Prairie.

Nine aboutGolf simulators with an 1,800 square foot driving range with balance plates and PING’s nFlight fitting software. It’s an awesome facility You can learn more at!

Your academy is “full service”. Does that mean we can work on everything from tee to green, and even my mental stability on and off the golf course?

We believe there are “Six Ways To Improve”.

  1. Golf FUNdamentals – set-up, swing mechanics and alignments
  2. Shot Making Skills – Short game and trajectory control
  3. Fitness and Nutrition
  4. Mental/Emotional Management
  5. Equipment and Set Make-Up
  6. Course Management, Rules and Etiquette – who really cares if you can hit the ball off a flat lie on the range. All of our lesson packages include some form of playing lesson.

I play by winter rules. When you play, do you play by USGA rules or do you find yourself rolling the ball from time to time?

Rules are for when you’re playing for prizes or paychecks. Everyone else should be able to enjoy the game however they please.

Do you do playing lessons with your students?

Yes, over one hundred in 2011. We all got into the business to play golf. I just found a way to get paid for doing what I love to do! The best playing advice I give is to try to hit the ball into the shortest grass possible. Be an artist while you play and paint the picture before you strike any shot. If you can’t see it, it’s very unlikely that you’ll be able to hit it!

Starting with your driver, working your way through the golf ball… what’s in your bag?

Still working out my staff agreement for 2012 but will be joining the big swoosh and Nike’s speed team!

How did it feel being named one of the top 50 kids instructors in America?

Humbling considering the first year I sat next to Rudy Duran (Tiger’s coach), Don Law who sees 10,000+ students a year at his six facilities in South Florida and Henry Brunton, the Canadian national coach. It’s an awesome network and it was really a team award that I happened to collect. I couldn’t do it without my staff and families support.

Do you have any hobbies outside of golf?

I like to play golf every once in a while…

I enjoy reading and a few video games. My four kids under seven keep me plenty busy. Do not have much free time… I’d love to snorkel every day if I could though!

What is the win-win-win-win plan?

It’s a teaching business philosophy. First the student must win and play better, the facilities must win and profit from us being there and providing great experiences, our vendors/manufactures must win and profit from selling their equipment and lastly and the coaches and teachers win and are able to provide for themselves and families.

Some call it teaching… others call it coaching. What do you call it? Is there a difference?

When you are first starting out you need a teacher telling you what to do, where to do it and how to do it. As you progress you need a coach to help you learn from your mistakes and coach you to your potential. I tend to like to be more of a coach but need to play both roles.

There are a ton of golf magazines out there. Do you read any of them? I personally love Golf Magazine and Golf Digest.

I read them for entertainment purposes only, not for swing tips! All the information is right in the magazines, it might not be right for you. I joke with my GM that if he really wants to help me deliver more lessons that he should have a magazine rack in the shop so I can decipher all the information people have access to.

How does junior golf instruction differ from adult golf instruction?

For most, golf is a game. Games are meant to be enjoyed. A lucky few will be able to work at a game, but it is still just a game. Juniors know golf should be fun and enjoyable, adults need to be reminded more often that golf should be fun!

It really comes down to understanding learning styles and the laws of motion.

Rod Lidenberg once told me that great coaching is being able to say the right thing, at the right time, delivered the right way. We are all unique and thank God for that, otherwise this would be a boring world!

There are four majors on the PGA TOUR. Which one is your favorite?

The British Open; golf in its purest form. I love seeing the guys battle the weather on natural surfaces rather than the pristine conditions that we’ve come to expect here in the US.

You are TPI certified. Go figure! What level are you and how does that affect the way you coach your students?

I am a TPI Level II Golf & Fitness Professional. I’ve called just about everyone on their advisory list to learn and grow. TPI was the first group that connected the dots between fitness and the golf swing for me. Dave Phillips and Dr. Greg Rose have revolutionized the way golf is being taught around the world.

What is the Golfing Machine?

I’ve always liked JC Anderson’s explanation. Watch for a good chuckle!

First of all, The Golfing Machine is a book written by the late Homer Kelley. It describes the sciences (physics and geometry) of how a golf swing works. What I appreciate the most from TGM is there are twenty-four actions with three-twelve variations each giving you 3.2+ trillion ways to swing a golf club. Each of those actions occur in the body zone which controls how the shaft is delivered, the arms zone which is power and how the clubhead path is delivered to the ball and the hands zone which controls the clubface.

Understanding all this allows me to quickly diagnose a player and pick the right component to adjust. For instance, if you’re slicing the ball, that is usually clubface control so we would fix your grip. If you were pushing the ball, we would fix your arms. If you were chunking the ball we would fix your pivot or your body action.

Tell me a little bit more about your relationship with Ty Armstrong.

Ty and I won the MN PGA Section 4-Ball Championship. I talked Ty into coming to Glen Lake when I was there so we taught together for a year, played together for a few years and he’s the most gifted golfer I’ve ever worked or played with (I’ve played with four major championship winners). I loaned him my PGA books, not the answers, while he was going through the PGA program in exchange for being my 4-ball partner as long as were in the same section. I’ve done very well on that arrangement over the years!

I am Tiger’s biggest fan… do you honestly think he will break Jack’s record?

Yes. If Tiger can with a broken knee, he can win with a broken heart.

How do you know Dr. Gary Wiren?

He did a seminar here in Minnesota in 2005 and I’ll usually catch up with him at the PGA Merchandise Show or at a Teaching Summit.

There are SO MANY training aids out there. Do you use any?

The list of the ones I don’t use is shorter than one’s I do use!

Do you listen to music when you practice?

No, I have four kids. Silence is bliss. I love to hear a cleanly struck golf ball.

What’s your favorite golf movie? I am partial to Tin Cup!

“Journey to Utopia”; I get to follow Dr. David Cook at an upcoming Coaches event and I am really looking forward to meeting him.

What’s next for you Brad?

I told my father-in-law when I asked for his permission to marry his daughter that I wanted to develop whatever number academies David Leadbetter has and add two zeros onto it.

You’re a blogger. I love it! How often do you post a blog?

Bi-weekly out of season and up to three times a week in season.

You are a member of the Golf Business Network. Tell me about your experience with GBN. What do you like about the organization?

Lorin Anderson and Bob Mulchahy are great business resources for me as I’ve been building my academy. It’s the best teaching network in golf and I love to network!

Brad, I could ask you questions all day. Thank you so much for taking the time to sit and talk with me. In all of the interviews I do, I always give the artist the last word. Go.

Remember golf is a game; games are meant to be enjoyed! I challenge you to bring three new golfers out to the golf course this year. It’s important that we keep growing the number of golfers PLAYING the game of golf, not just hitting balls or getting exercise. Hope to see you in the short grass soon!

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