Golf Gurus

Golf Gurus

Local experts teach golf—and use golf as a teacher.

Surprisingly, given its short summers and distinctly un-Palm Springs–like landscape, Minnesota has more golfers per capita than any other state, and more than 480 courses within its borders, according to the Minnesota Golf Association. Perhaps golf has special appeal for Minnesota’s stereotypically reticent denizens; it’s a game that offers a certain degree of sustained togetherness without undue touching or prolonged eye-contact.

Golfing has enjoyed a long affinity with business and businesspeople. Golf lends itself to business affairs perhaps because the leisurely pace of the game allows people to spend a great deal of time in conversation, generally in a picturesque and relaxing setting. For some, the golf course is the final proving ground; one golf instructor told me of a CEO who would not approve the hiring of any high-level employee until he had played a game with him or her. That executive would probably agree with Minnesota golf pro Chris Foley, who told me that golf is “a game based on honesty and integrity. Because of that, you learn a lot about a person on the golf course.”

Whether you are a complete golf novice trying to put your recent humiliation at Lava Links behind you, a seasoned player looking to further develop your game, or you are an executive planning a golf outing for employees or clients, we’ve got you covered with nine of the most sought-after golf schools and instructors in Minnesota.

Performance in Motion, Golden Valley

The Game: Life and business coaching—using golf

The Pro: While giving golf lessons to business executives, Dan DeMuth—a 2005 Minnesota Professional Golfers Association of America (PGA) Teacher of the Year—realized that he was improving more than just their golf game, leading him to found Performance in Motion. The company offers businesses a number of programs and retreats —for teams and individuals—in which participants make discoveries about their learning styles, blocks, and potential on the way to identifying and realizing personal and business goals—all through the dynamic medium of golf.

The Dance Floor: After you pass through the company’s clubby lobby area (complete with fireplace and overstuffed chairs) and boardroom, you enter the “virtual room,” a hyper-real virtual golf course, complete with putting green, nets, and murals of a world-class golf course and gleaming with swing-analysis technology.

DeMuth, who has all the personal magnetism and energy of the natural-born guru, has become an enthusiastic promoter of the philosophy “as in golf, so in life.” From the written self-assessment at the beginning of the process and DeMuth’s Zen-like attention to “intention,” to his innovative exercises in the virtual room, Performance in Motion accomplishes a holistic, thorough process of helping the client to clarify goals, overcome interference, and have a more productive personal and professional life. DeMuth has been described as a “golf whisperer,” and the title seems apt. He will not “teach” you anything, he will “coach” you, extracting from you all your possibilities and helping you first perceive and then overcome obstacles.

Greg Schulze Golf Learning Center, Stillwater(

The Game: Lessons for everyone from juniors to seniors; individuals to corporate groups.

The Pro: The 2007 recipient of the Minnesota PGA Teacher of the Year Award and the 2006 Minnesota PGA Junior Golf Leader Award, St. Paul–native Greg Schulze has been teaching golf improvement for more than 22 years.

The Dance Floor: Schulze operates out of the Sawmill Golf Club in Stillwater. In summer, Schulze also gives lessons at Ironwoods Golf Range in Scandia, and in winter he teaches at Totally Driven in Oakdale and the Goodrich Golf Dome in Maplewood.

Schulze’s lessons focus on just about every area of golf improvement: “the psychology of improving, full swing, short-game shots, equipment evaluation, and physical training.” Schulze prides himself on his commitment to the individual golfer. “Each individual must be evaluated and taught as an individual,” he says. “There are so many mental and physical differences amongst golfers that everyone should be taught to match the technique with the mind and physique.”

Schulze uses the JC Video Computer Swing Analysis System, which captures golf swings digitally, allowing the instructor to burn a take-home CD with graphics and voice-over suggestions for the student. But he warns against over-reliance on technology. “I own over 200 books, 100 videos, and much research from some of golf’s greatest teachers, but my greatest teacher has been myself and my experience. I use specialized training aids more than video.”

Corporate Golf Services, Cross Lake

The Game: Corporate Golf Services (CGS) provides golf con-cierge services for corporate golf outings. CGS is also the home of the Golf Schools fore Women and Girlfriend Golf.

The Pro: Barb Hanson, who is a member of the United States Golf Association and the Minnesota Women’s Golf Association, combines her lifelong passion for golf (she carries an 8 handicap) with her coaching skills to develop golf outings for businesses and create women’s golf programs.

The Dance Floor: Corporate Golf Services will arrange outings to many Twin Cities golf courses and serves as a hub for golf resources from catering to golf apparel. A professional speaker, Hanson also delivers custom presentations on the importance of golf as a business tool.

“Golf has been a business tool for years, but primarily for men,” Hanson asserts. “Women feel disenfranchised in that respect, and they may not feel a lot of confidence playing. I try to instill confidence in women golfers, and get them to appreciate that while they may not have to be the best golfer in the world, they do need to have some basic skills and knowledge of the rules and etiquette of golf in order to be effective.”

One of Hanson’s most important contributions to women’s golf is her e-mail newsletter “GolfHers News,” published about every three weeks. Aside from widely applicable advice and tips on golf, the newsletter provides readers with stats about women’s golf (for example, women make up 60 percent of the seven million non-golfers who say they are “highly interested” in playing golf), information about women’s only golf schools and gatherings, and even recommended reading, such as Putt to Death by golf mystery writer Roberta Isleib.

Chris Foley Golf Schools, Brainerd

The Game: Making golf more fun through a holistic teaching approach in an idyllic setting.

The Pro: Chris Foley, a 2002 Minnesota PGA Teacher of the year, leads the team of golf instructors at Chris Foley Golf Schools.

The Dance Floor: The four courses at Madden’s Resort on Gull Lake in Brainerd. The resort established the first 18-hole golf course in Minnesota in 1926, and in 1997, one of its courses, the Classic, was ranked number three in North America by Golf Digest for best new upscale public course. Although Foley spends most of the summer teaching at Madden’s, he does travel to other courses depending on client need. In winter, he leads groups to resorts in warmer climates, a definite plus for chilblained executives.

Chris Foley Golf Schools combines custom design with a full-service program. For corporate groups, the school can accommodate up to twelve people. “We do everything from one-hour clinics with individual instruction to three-day golf schools,” Foley says. This summer, the golf school will also feature a series of women’s-only and couples golf lessons.

The corporate program includes a full-swing short game, on-course instruction, golf fitness, instruction on the mental side of the game, club-fitting, course management, and golf etiquette. All instructors go through extensive training in  the Foley method on top of   their own training as golf instructors, Foley says, “so that whether the client is with me or with any of the other instructors, they’re going to get great results.”

In addition to digital swing- and putting-analysis tools, Foley Golf Schools use Launch Monitor Club Fitting technology, which measures ball speed, launch angle, backspin, side-spin, and push-pull angle. “Using ball flight data, a golfer can be fit into a golf club that optimizes distance,” Foley says. “This is by far the most sophisticated and efficient way to get a driver that will truly improve your game.” Clients leave with a DVD of their swing with comments to study at home.

Ause Golf, St. Paul

The Game: Private and group golf lessons with proven results.

The Pro: Angie Ause is a Ladies Professional Golf Association teaching professional with 12 years of teaching experience. She is an Executive Women’s Golf Association clinic instructor and a youth program instructor for several local organizations.

The Dance Floor: The recently renovated Highland National Golf Course in St. Paul. One of the course’s claims to fame is the Snoopy-shaped bunker at the 15th hole, commemorating the fact that Charles M. Schulz learned to play golf at this course. In winter, Ause relocates to the Goodrich Golf Dome in Maplewood.

Ause stresses the importance of golf in the business world as an informal, fun way to engage with clients and colleagues. More so than the company softball game, the pace of golf, with its long pauses between shots, allows for discussion, negotiation, and brainstorming. “More and more business is being done on the golf course,” Ause says. Her corporate golf schools are geared towards creating beginner confidence and comfort on the course. The experience, she says, helps people discover their own potential as their play gradually reveals their personal learning styles and preferences. “I’m not a one-way-fixes-all kind of teacher,” Ause says. “People are coming to me at all ages with all levels of physical ability.

In addition to creating and conducting customized corporate golf schools, Ause can also come to your meeting or event to give short individual golf lessons to participants, complete with video analysis system, hitting nets, and clubs.

Wendell Pittinger Golf Institute, Oakdale

The Game: World-class instruction in five convenient locations.

The Pro: Institute director David LaPour has more than 20 years of experience as a golf professional, eight of them as a lead instructor for the Dave Pelz Scoring Game School based out of the Boca Raton Resort & Club in Florida.

The Dance Floor: WP Golf Institute is based out of Oak Marsh Golf Club in Oakdale, but Wendell Pittinger also owns the Lost Spur Course in Eagan, Mississippi National Golf Links in Red Wing, Willow Creek Golf Course in Rochester, and St. Croix National Golf Club in Somerset, Wisconsin. Instruction is available at all five locations.

WP Golf’s corporate program caters to groups on golf outings at the WP courses. “We might offer clinics to groups before they tee off,” LaPour says. “Or we might offer some instruction to beginners while everyone else in the group is playing, so that they don’t feel left out of the experience. Then afterwards, those people could party with the ones who had finished the tournament.”

WP will also direct onsite seminars and clinics for employees at companies that belong to the Minnesota Employee Recreation & Services Council, a nonprofit professional association devoted to helping member companies enhance employee well being through, among other things, health and wellness programs, consumer discounts, recreation sports, and tournaments. “A one-hour clinic on putting or swings at lunchtime is a good way to break up the workday,” LaPour says. “And it can be a relaxing activity at the end of the workday.”

CES Fitness, Minneapolis

The Game: Sports medicine for golf and golf conditioning.

The Pros: Kevin Brabant has a University of Minnesota degree in kinesiology (the study of body movement) and is a former certified trainer with the National Association of Athletic Trainers. CES owner Jason Green has a degree in kinesiology and is a certified golf biomechanics instructor.

The Dance Floor: CES Fitness, conveniently tucked into a space on the skyway in downtown Minneapolis, is one of those marvels of design and architecture that appears to be bigger on the inside than the outside. Amazingly, the space comfortably accommodates the golf net, workout and physical therapy equipment, a yoga/pilates studio, and seven executive trainers as well as luxurious, spa-like locker rooms.

The process begins with a series of tests including body composition analysis, cardiovascular screening, physical movement screening, core musculature strength and function screening, and evaluation of balance and flexibility. Brabant uses video cameras, SwingView Pro software, and various exercises in order to assess the clients needs and make recommendations about the conditioning process. CES uses the Titleist Performance Institute’s golf fitness guidelines to help clients improve performance. As CES’s Web site claims, “We do not teach the golf swing! We provide your body with the tools to perform the golf swing to the best of your abilities.”

Off site, CES sets up sports medicine tents at golf outings, providing care for injuries and showing players how to overcome golfers’ injuries such as back pain long enough to get through a tournament. Recently, CES Fitness teamed up with Chris Foley Golf Schools in Brainerd to offer a summer program, the Performance Golf School, which combines CES’s fitness assessments with Foley’s swing analysis and training.

Bird Golf School, Nisswa

The Game: Golf programs for every facet of business life.

The Pros: When I asked Director of Instruction Jay Ewing if Bird Golf ever used celebrity instructors, he said “All of our instructors are stars.” Bird Golf instructors across the country are trained in the precepts of golf psychologist Carey Mumford, author of Golf’s Best Kept Secret and the innovator of the concept of “playing the game within yourself.”

The Dance Floor: The four courses at Grand View Lodge on Gull Lake in Nisswa. The Preserve, Garden, Pines, and Deacon’s Lodge courses provide a range of terrains, from garden-like settings to forested hills. In addition to cabin accommodations, the resort offers clubhouse suites, golf villas, and fairway townhomes. Bird Golf Schools also operates schools in posh golf resorts in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Nevada, and Tennessee.

Bird Golf Schools offer several corporate services, including skills challenges, tournaments, a presentation by Mumford of his “Think Like a Pro” and “Clear Key” seminars and group clinics, any of which can be enhanced with meeting spaces, food service, and accommodations.

The Golf Institute at the University of Minnesota, Falcon Heights

The Game: University-quality instruction for everyone.

The Pros: Gerald McCullagh and Dee Forsberg-Voss, both PGA professionals. McCullagh taught a number of touring pros, including PGA pro Tim Herron, who, despite the ignoble nickname “Lumpy,” is the scion of the Minnesota Herron golf dynasty. Forsberg-Voss, who is an alum of the University, started her professional touring career in 1987 and is a stickler for pre-swing fundamentals and target awareness.

The Dance Floor: May through October lessons are held at the Les Bolstad Golf Course in Falcon Heights, home of the Golden Gophers. December through April operations move to Wayzata Bay Center, which features two indoor hitting bays. Keep in mind that University departments or student groups receive priority when scheduling events on the course in Falcon Heights.

As a teaching aid, the Institute uses the V1 Golf system which employs high-speed cameras to record the players’ performance and analyze problems in his or her swing. Players leave with a CD of their swing along with comments, tips, and suggested drills for improvement. “We’ve probably got the best video library of golf swings in the Twin Cities,” McCullagh says. The Wayzata location features true-strike hitting mats, which approximate a more natural surface, as well as the V1 Golf system. But the Institute’s most tried and true method is a commitment to keeping things fun and straightforward. “Our motto is ‘Simple is sufficient,’ meaning that we don’t want a complicated method of teaching golf,” McCaullagh says. “We take each person as an individual and try to work with the ability of that individual, rather than having a set method for everyone who comes in.”