He lives down in South Carolina, and teaches at the Berkley Hall Golf Club. Oh, and he went to Harvard. (He didn’t go to Harvard… but we will get to that later.) Did I mention he drinks wine? Anyway, I met this guy on Twitter and we have stayed in touch ever since. I love working with the PGA teaching professionals because they all teach folks how to play golf… but they all have their own approach. Did I forget to mention he is from South Africa? There are some pretty big PGA TOUR players from South Africa including Ernie Els. He has actually played with Ernie… but we will get to that later. I am pretty excited to be sitting with Andrew Rice. He is all about impact… and in the game of golf, impact is pretty important!
This has been a long time coming Andrew, but thank you for taking the time to sit and chat a little bit. Have you had a chance to read any of the other PGA professional interviews I have written?
No, not yet.
There are some pretty famous golfers from South Africa. Ernie Els comes to mind. What brought you over here?
I am the same age as Ernie and Retief and we’re all from the same area. I grew up playing many junior events with and against them. I came to the U.S. on a college golf scholarship to play at the University of Central Florida in 1987.
When was the last time you were in South Africa?
My wife and I take a group of tourists to South Africa every January. We have created a first class luxury trip that includes a week on safari and a week in Cape Town playing golf, visiting some of the top wineries, shopping and sightseeing. So I get back every January.
I dig the Andrew Rice Golf logo. Who designed that?
My wife is a graphic designer too, so we came up with that one together.
You used to work for David Leadbetter. You were at the Junior Golf Academy down in Florida. Do you guys still keep in touch?
I haven’t spoken to David in many years, but I do keep up with many of his instructors.
Did you enjoy your time working with David?
David taught me so much and I owe so much to him. I was fortunate to work for the top golf instructor in the world at the right time – that opened so many doors for me early on.
You said it… he’s one of the best teachers in the world. There is a list of the top 100. How serious do you take that list?
It is an impressive list and my goal is to get on that list as soon as I possibly can.
Does being on that list affect business?
It sure does. I have seen quite a few teachers get on the list and it has literally turned their careers around.
Tell me a little bit more about “It’s All About Impact – The Winners of 165 Majors Prove It!”.
In 2008 I set out on a self-education project to learn what the best golfers of all time had in common with their swings. The more I researched the more I realized I had to share my findings with all golfers. We all swing differently, yet there is no reason we cannot strike the ball in a similar fashion to that of the greats.
What’s the first lesson with you like?
I like to spend at least 20 minutes getting a feel for where the golfer would like to go with the lesson and what his or her goals are. The next 30 minutes I like to give the golfer a sense of what they can expect from me. I am fortunate to work at two fantastic courses (Berkeley Hall and Atlantic GC) and as a result I have cutting edge technology (TrackMan and Swing Catalyst) available to me. I always incorporate one or both of these teaching tools into the initial lesson. The final few minutes I like to dedicate to discussing practice and how to transfer their newly learned technique to the golf course.
There are a lot of good golf courses out there. What’s your favorite golf course?
I love links golf courses more than any other and there are few courses that I’ve have the privilege of playing that provide as much enjoyment and variation as The Royal County Down Golf Club. Ballybunion Golf Club is not far behind.
How long have you been at Berkeley Hall?
I have been at Berkeley Hall since early March 2001 – just before we opened.
You are the Director of Instruction. How does that different from being the head golf professional?
From my vantage point it seems that the Director of Golf needs to deal with all the hassles and day to day challenges at a golf community/course. I get to do the fun stuff – help people have more fun while they’re out there!
You are all over these social networks. You are on Facebook and Twitter… do you like one over the other?
I love Facebook as I feel like I understand it and can cater to my “likes”. I am fairly new to Twitter, but I’m learning from the likes of John Graham and Jason Sutton. Twitter seems to be the future to me – texting to the world!
Your rates are public. Do you set those and how do you decide what an hour lesson is worth?
My rates have been the same for 10 years. When I started at Berkeley Hall things were easy as I seemed to be the only show in town. The economy was booming in the area and I did not have to work to procure new customers – word of mouth from my students got the job done. The economic downturn in 2008 was the best thing that ever happened to me. I had to get stronger in an area that I was weak in and I can honestly say that I’m thankful things worked out the way they did. I am substantially better at my trade than I was 3 or 4 years ago.
A lot of guys are getting away from teaching, and bridging the gap to coaching. Is there a difference to you personally? If so, what do you think the difference is?
I too am trying to become more of a coach and less of a teacher/instructor. In my opinion, a coach is there for the long haul – they cover all the bases from swing to fitness to nutrition to equipment, the mental side and even scheduling. Coaching is so much more than golf instruction.
What’s in your golf bag?
I’m a Titleist guy and use all Titleist clubs except my 10 year old 36” Odyssey 2-ball putter. I love the Titleist D3 driver…
Do you ever do playing lessons with your students?
All the time! There is so much that golfers can learn in a playing lesson that saves strokes automatically. Course management (or lack of) is a big reason why many golfers have the handicap they do.
You went to Harvard. Tell me about that experience… that’s not an easy school.
(Laughs) You must have been on my personal Facebook page. I went to Central Florida, but with Facebook I can be a graduate of any school in the world in less than a minute! I have had some fun with my friends with that one…
What’s the best round you have ever shot?
I have shot 63 on numerous occasions, but the problem was that it was always in the pro-am before the real event!
Who is in your dream foursome?
I’ve thought about this many times – Seve Ballesteros (my favorite player), Bobby Jones (IMO the best of all time) and Arnold Palmer. I think my Dad would understand…
I am Tiger’s biggest fan. Honestly, do you think he will break Jack’s record?
I like to say this concerning Tiger, “The genie has left the lamp!” I think Tiger will win another major or two, but will ultimately fall short of Jack’s record. His greatest challenge is that he, and all the other players, realize he is fallible. When he dominated in the past, both parties thought he was indestructible.
There are a lot of young guys out there giving Tiger a run for his money. Who are some of your favorite players to watch?
You’ve got to love Rory and his wholesome vibe – just a good, talented, hardworking kid whose making the most of his opportunity. I also like Charl Schwartzel. He performed the best in the majors last year and I look forward to seeing how he handles things at Augusta in a couple of weeks.
I read Golf Digest, Global Golf Post, Golf Magazine… they all promise to help “fix my slice” in 5 minutes or less! Do tips like that help or hurt an average player? Do you read any of those golf publications?
I do and I believe the quality of information they provide to their readers has improved dramatically in the past few years. The world has changed and many people no longer have the time to spend 15 minutes reading an in depth article to help them improve. Quick tips like that, while not optimal, work for more people than not. We’re all looking for something to give us a little hope for this weekend’s upcoming round…
You use TrackMan?
Yes, and it is worth every penny!
When I play, I play by “winter rules”. If we played 18 together, would you let me roll the ball or would we stick to the USGA rules of golf?
We’re out there having fun, Ricky – whatever your pleasure! My father emigrated to the U.S. a few years ago and was taken back with the way many Americans played the game – they didn’t know the rules and seemed to not even try to follow them. It took him a while, but now he loves it. People are out there just having fun. That’s the way it should be, shouldn’t it?
Speaking of the rules, there have been some changes to the rules of golf lately. What are your thoughts with all the recent changes?
The powers that be are doing all they (legally) can to protect the game. I would like for the powers that be to consider changing the rule that eliminated Brian Davis from the playoff at Harbour Town in 2010.
What are you doing when you are not playing or teaching?
I have two fantastic young sons (11 and 13) who play baseball. I coach a team and most of my evenings are spent at a ball field somewhere in the South Carolina Lowcountry.
You write a blog, but I see you also read a lot of blogs. What are some of your favorite blogs to read?
If I had just one I’d read geoffshackelford.com. I know he does more than just write, but it seems as if he sits in front of his computer all day…
Beer or wine?
Wine by a mile! And if you’d like to get specific, single vineyard Chianti Classico Riserva from either Felsina or Fontodi.
Have you ever had a hole-in-one?
Five, but my last one was in 1995 on the 11th hole at Shinnecock Hills. Now that’s an amazing track. Perhaps the best course in America.
How far do you hit your driver? How far CAN you hit your driver?
My swing speed, when I’m loose and my hips are playing along, is right around 105 MPH. With the help of TrackMan, I have totally turned around my driving and I am now able to hit up on the ball. In neutral conditions I drive the ball 282 yards.
What’s next for you Andrew? Anything big for 2012?
I have just signed on to start writing instructional articles for golfersguide.com, but other than that not too much different on the horizon.
There are a TON of training aids out there. Do you use a lot of training aids? If so, which aids do you like?
I do not use a tremendous number of training aids other than alignment rods. Of course, that’s if you don’t count TrackMan and Swing Catalyst as training aids.
Tell me a little bit more about your interest in architecture.
I love old school golf architecture and it puzzles me how the modern day big names (Fazio, Dye, Jones, Nicklaus) just don’t seem to get it. If you’ve ever been fortunate enough to play a Seth Raynor golf course, you have experienced golf as it should be – simple yet interesting and plain yet exciting. His courses are so easy and inexpensive to maintain when compared to the modern behemoths with flared bunker faces and waterfalls. If you’d like to play golf as it really should be try to get out to play Yale, Mountain Lake, Yeaman’s Hall or Fisher’s Island. That being said, there seems to be a new school of current designer’s being led by Coore/Crenshaw, Donald Steele and Gil Hanse. They have their roots firmly planted in the old school and I love the work they are putting out.
Andrew, thank you so much for doing this. In all of the interviews that I do, I always give the artist the last word. Go.
There are many ways to swing, but very few ways to hit properly – learn them! Take advantage of teaching technology as it has the ability to quantify what has always been subjective. Would you practice table tennis in order to become a better tennis player? Well then start to practice more like you play because hitting the same club, from the same lie, to the same target, frequently has very little to do with hitting different clubs, to different targets, from different lies, infrequently. Practice like you play please!