Interview – Rob Stocke

Interview – Rob Stocke

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Rob Stocke is a PGA Certified Instructor, who has been the Director of Instruction at The Golf Club of Georgia since August, 2001.Since joining the ranks he has developed an instruction program that gets stronger each year.

A member of the PGA since April 1997, Rob conducts several National and State seminars concerning Teaching golf and specifically his focus and research on putting and scoring. In 1998, Rob was named Assistant Golf Professional of the Year by the Dixie Section of the PGA of America, and is one of 32 PGA Professionals selected to the PGAs Professional Golf Management Faculty.

Golf Web Design: You are a PGA PGM Facility Instructor for the PGA of America. Which means you are teaching the new wave of PGA members as they are going through the PGA PGM curriculm (formerly the GPTP). What new things are you noticing that these students want and need from when you first started teaching the program?

Rob Stocke: The first thing I notice is how much more informed the apprentices are – they have access to the internet, YouTube, and vendors are doing more to educate professionals about equipment. These days, anyone is a click away from watching videos of a great instructor give a lesson or video tip, researching equipment, or viewing a tour players swing in high-speed video. There’s so much more information out there, and apprentices are really taking advantage of it!

GWD: What advice do you give the future members of the PGA when you are teaching them?

RS: One of the first things is to question everything. Don’t assume because a great instructor says something , that it’s the law – try to find your own beliefs about what works and what causes faults – and what fixes them. The biggest thing I try to impress upon them is that handicaps haven’t gone down in 20+ years, and we, the instructors, are to blame! If, as an instructor, you REALLY take an interest in a student and focus on WHY they are shooting high numbers, then work with them diligently to fix those issues, you will see improvement. My philosophy is to “teach people to PLAY golf” – that means playing to your strengths and away from your weaknesses – it’s not about hitting it 300+ yards, it’s about getting from point A to point B in as few shots as possible.

GWD: The economy has been tough the last few years, what have you done specifically to keep many of your clients and even grow your business?

RS: I’ve tried everything. I come up with crazy ideas, and bounce them off my friends in the industry to get their feedback. A few years ago I came up with an “Unlimited Lessons for a Year” – everyone thought I was nuts, but they all said, “it might work” — to this day, it’s my most popular plan, it’s hugely successful, and I get apprentices asking all the time – “are you the guy who does the unlimited plan?”

GWD: Do you think today’s golf professional doesn’t take advantage of all the resources available to them?

RS: Without a doubt. There are so many places for PGA Professionals to get help with anything from teaching to tournaments to business planning – all of which are as easy as getting on the internet or picking up the phone. I don’t know if it’s a pride issue, but I do know this, the GREAT professionals use the resources and discuss with others what works and what doesn’t.

GWD: What kind of advice would you give your fellow professional in respects to promoting themselves and their business?

RS: It’s so important to put yourself in the way you want to be viewed. With all the social media out there, younger professionals need to be cautious about what they post – you don’t want a potential employer to see posts of you on Facebook or a social media site, doing something that could cost you a potential job. As far as promoting themselves, I constantly tell professionals to get a website where you can post rates, clinics, philosophy, and tips. Perspective clients or employers can learn about you, and, in most cases, it makes you stand out above others who don’t have a site.

GWD: Why do you think you have had the success you have had in the golf business, is it more luck, timing, or doing the things necessary to put yourself in the position to get lucky?

RS: Well, it’s a combination, but I’d like to think the hard work I’ve put in has a lot to do with it! I had a very specific plan when I got into the industry, and did whatever I could to reach those goals. In addition to all the golf material I read, I make sure to read books about personal growth, success strategies, and autobiographies — those always get me motivated to try new ideas and I learn what other successful people have done. It comes down to knowing how to react when an opportunity arrives, and doing whatever you can to put those opportunities in front of yourself.

GWD: You’re a huge fan of technology and applying it to the game of golf. We also know you teach with MAT-T system and video cameras, but how has the iPhone and now the iPad changed the way you will teach?

RS: I’m kind of known as a “tech-guy” and I definitely stay on top of what is happening in technology — the iphone was revolutionary, and I think the ipad is the computer of the future. I got one the day they came out, and use it with the V1 app and several tour swings I’ve captured, to show students things right on the range or the course. I began my career with Golf Digest Schools running video for them on two vhs tape recorders and using dry-erase markers on tvs – technology has come so far! The ipad is the next step. I use simple apps to draw with my fingers a hole to discuss strategy, or to illustrate shots or ball flight. It’s so easy and you can use it anywhere! Technology is moving forward, you better embrace it, because it’s not going to slow down and wait for you!

GWD: Is it fair to say that the iPad will change the way instructors teach the game, such as the video camera did years ago?

RS: Possibly – it will for me because I’ll use it on the range, on the course, and it’s great to travel to events and use with players. I know lot’s of people won’t think of it for use with the golf industry, but there are enough developers putting out apps, that it’s crazy not to embrace it and see if it can make your life easier. It’s another evolution – cameras went from a blur to 60 fps, now my camera films at over 1000 fps! The fact is though, you still have to know how to teach – technology is only as good as the person using it. Imagine going back to 1970 and giving a reporter an iphone, computer, internet, fax, all the things we have today — it wouldn’t make it a better story unless they were already a good writer and knew how to utilize the technology.

GWD: We hear you have a new movie coming out with Owen Wilson, do you want to plug that at all?

RS: Ha – you got the inside scoop! I was contacted a few months ago by Owen’s publicist to give him some lessons, and, although I didn’t get as much range time as I wanted with him, relationships developed and I was invited to have a part in the movie. It’s a really funny film, called “Hall Pass,” directed by Bobby & Peter Farrelly – who did “Dumb & Dumber” and “Something about Mary” – about a couple guys who get a “hall pass” for a week from their wives – it stars Owen, Jason Sudeikis from Saturday Night Live, and Jenna Fischer from the Office. It should come out in the fall – look for me in the golf scene – I’m giving a putting lesson to (PGA Tour Player) Billy Andrade’s brother. Everybody was so friendly and I got to hang with some really interesting people. It was one of the coolest experiences of my life, I was invited to set often, and took some of the guys to the Masters with me, so I not only made some great contacts, I made some great friends — and I beat Owen out of a few bucks on the course!