Brad Pluth, PGA Instructor
Reading Time: 9 minutes
Brad Pluth is a PGA Certified Professional of Instruction, ACE Certified Personal Trainer, IYCA Certified Coach, and Owner of the Golf Achievement Community. In addition, this teaching pro has a degree in macroeconomics and counts as one of his heroes not Hogan or Nicklaus … but Alan Greenspan!
Golf Conversations: Tell me what’s going on in Minneapolis.
Brad Pluth: I run a couple of different golf academies around Minneapolis, mostly youth-centric.
BP: Meaning, we’re very family friendly. A lot of our business comes from developing kids from about age 8 to 18. I’m also fortunate enough to work with a dozen or so college players throughout the year. We teach year-round; we offer programs that are 9 and 10 months long. Long-term player development programs are all-inclusive of fitness, mental game training, golf equipment, and coaching.
GC: A long-term program. It’s not the “sign-up-for-ten-lessons” thing?
BP: We joke about that: if you really think you can learn how to play golf in an hour, you’re nuts. We can take a segment – whether it’s putting or chipping – but in order to teach somebody how to learn how to play, it’s a process.
GC: Yes, I’d say, realistically, instead of a 9 or 10-month process, I think you should be offering 10-year programs.
And in my case, you’ve got the Double-Decade Plan.
BP: We start off with 10 weeks but we always say, “It’s a journey of a lifetime.”
GC: You speak the truth, sir. You can’t ever graduate in this game. There’s always something to learn.
BP: That’s the wonderful thing about golf. There are always ways to get better. I think that’s the lure of the game. Nobody’s ever gonna master the game. Part of coaching is leading that player up the mountain.
GC: Putting is something you can spend your whole life practicing and you may never get better.
BP: We try to keep it simple for putting. We talk about green reading, distance, and direction control. And attitude. If you think you’re gonna make it, you’ve got a lot better chance. If you’re wondering, “How am I gonna miss this one?” the brain starts to lead you in that direction.
GC: Yes, I’ve noticed that when I tell myself, “Boy, you really stink at putting,” it doesn’t seem to help me.
BP: We talk about two different styles of putting: “linear,” where you see lines … and “non-linear” where you see curves. The “linears” like to line up the golf ball and aim at a spot. Whereas “non-linears” – and 70% of people fall into this category – need to focus on the entry point of the hole. And then just kind of feel the putt. Look at the entry point, build your stance, and trust your instincts. That’s a hard thing to do when you don’t have the experience to trust.
GC: What kills me about putting … I can understand how when you’re 15 feet away, 20 feet away, 30 feet away, it’s hard to get the ball close to the hole. Usually, I can get the ball within 3 or 4 feet of the hole with my first putt. What I don’t understand – from 3 feet – how do you miss the entire hole? You should be able to at least graze the hole from 3 feet.
BP: Try looking at the entry point of the hole. Set your putter down behind the ball. Look at the entry point, don’t look back at the ball; just roll it in.
GC: A couple of months ago in GOLF Magazine, they had a story about “Sneeeeedeker” and his pop stroke. The kind of stroke they used in “the old days.” What do you think of the pop vs. the pendulum stroke?
BP: I think any world-class player has found a method that works for him. And there are some natural tempos. I think tempo is one of the missing elements of putting … having a consistent tempo. Just using a simple metronome to find your natural “tick-tock” tempo is a simple thing to do.
GC: Brad, how did you get into the game?
BP: I went to my grandfather’s house and caddied for him for 3 months before he’d let me play. That way I learned all the rules and the etiquette.
GC: Where was this?
BP: In Hibbing, Minnesota. It was a 9-hole municipal golf course. A par of 34, no par 5s. I had to learn how to keep score and keep track of all their bets.
GC: How old were you?
BP: I was five.
GC: Five? Wow!
BP: So I knew it was a hard game because we played with his pastor one day and even heswore!
GC: Holy you-know-who!
BP: I was also responsible for keeping track of the Skins game. It forced me to be organized early. After about two-and-a-half months, my grandfather said, “It’s your turn. Why don’t you smack one?” I grabbed his 5-iron and ran to the first tee. I was waiting for that invitation for a long time!
GC: Can you remember that first shot?
BP: Oh, yeah.
GC: Don’t tell me you hit a high cut!
BP: I hit it and ran down the fairway … hit it again and ran down the fairway. I made an 11 on my first hole.
GC: You and I have a lot in common, Brad.
BP: It was the best 7 minutes of my golfing career.
GC: Do you remember the trajectory of the first shot?
BP: It didn’t get in the air. Of the 11 strokes, I probably got 4 in the air. But it was a ton of fun.
GC: That club was way too big for you.
BP: It was. It was like a sledge hammer. The only shot my grandfather taught me was the 5-iron chip shot. When we got around the green, I said, “Do I get to use a wedge, like you do?” He said, “Nope, you’re just gonna take that 5-iron, bump it on the green, and let it run up.” I lipped out but it still took me 3 putts to hole it.
GC: “Let it run up.” Grandpa knew what he was talking about.
BP: He just let me go. There was no instruction.
GC: Wait a minute. Your grandfather didn’t tell you about “Stack and Tilt”? I find this hard to believe.
BP: This was way before any of that.
GC: At age five you were using a 5-iron. How did you progress in the game?
BP: We ended up moving to Blaine, Minnesota. My father got me a golf membership at Bunker Hills Golf Club. My best friend and I played golf in the morning, baseball in the afternoon and evenings. We repeated that five days a week. I played a lot of different sports.
GC: You remind me of Gary Woodling. You have that athletic, all-sport look.
BP: At our academies, we do a lot of running and jumping, and pushing and pulling, and striking and catching. Especially with young kids, the physical literacy skills are just as important as anything else. I tell parents, “I’m gonna create an athlete because an athlete can do a lot of things.” And if they choose to play golf when they’re 15 or 16, great. But when we’re working with them between ages 8 and 15, it’s important that they learn other athletic skills.
GC: That’s a great idea. It would be easy for kids to lose interest in golf if all you had them doing is beating balls on the range. When did you start thinking about golf as a career?
BP: I had some scholarship offers; we visited about 11 colleges in 3 days.
GC: They were recruiting you for golf?
BP: Yeah. We looked at some professional golf management schools.
GC: What year was this?
GC: You must have been pretty good if colleges were trying to recruit you.
BP: My dad thought I was good; I didn’t think I was good. I didn’t get any real good offers. I ended up going to Central College in beautiful Pella, Iowa. I wanted to put a priority on academics and not live the golf life as a Division I athlete. I didn’t like being told what I needed to do and when and where to be.
GC: I did tell you to be here at 8:15, though.
So what happened after college?
BP: I pursued a business degree in college. I thought I would start a golf management company. My advisor told me people coming out of college with an economics degree make about $20,000 more than with a business management degree. So my degree was in economics.
GC: Just listening to you talk, you sound like a macroeconomics guy.
BP: Definitely. I didn’t care for the microeconomics side.
GC: Micro is for babies. Macro is where it’s at.
BP: Sometimes people ask me, “Who’s your hero?” And I’ll say, “Alan Greenspan.” Anybody that can manage an economy with that many moving parts … it’s amazing to me.
GC: Andrea Mitchell took Alan Greenspan off the market; your obsession with him isn’t healthy, dude.
Robert Blumenthal & Brad Pluth
GC: What happened after college?
BP: I call it the “Chasing the Sun Journey.” I started off at Grand View Lodge, in the Brainerd Lakes area of central Minnesota. I got my first taste of teaching with the Bill Skelley Golf School. It was a great job coming out of college.
GC: How did you get the job? You hadn’t worked in golf, you were an Economics major, you were stalking Alan Greenspan … how did you get a job at a golf course?
BP: I applied. Told them I wanted to get into golf. My college advisor at the time almost shot me because she had a job lined up for me at the Federal Reserve Bank that I’d interviewed for.
GC: This was about 20 years ago?
GC: You could be Chairman of the Federal Reserve now instead of giving golf lessons.
How was it teaching golf for the first time?
BP: I was real nervous. There was a couple I was supposed to teach. Steve Underill told me – and I still use this advice today – “Share what you know and show that you care.” That’s been my teaching philosophy in golf. I try to keep learning more to be able to share more.
GC: I often ask golf teachers, “How did you learn how to teach?”
BP: By failing a lot.
GC: Many golf instructors say that they if they could, they would refund the money they charged students when they first started teaching. Obviously, you as an economics major don’t feel that way…
… it’s all about the green stuff for you.
BP: I think there’s an entertainment factor. If you can get students to laugh a couple of times in the lesson – especially towards the end – they all feel good. So there’s some feel-good part of teaching, and some mechanics, and some mental and technical skills. And a lot of game planning. I don’t think a lot of people realize the work that goes on behind the scenes, before the lesson or after the lesson.
GC: Such as?
BP: We send out forms to our new clients and get a lot of information about their goals. We try to get them to think long term: “Where would you like to be a year from now?”
GC: “How much time do you have to practice?”
BP: Yeah. After we meet them, we ask, “How long do you think this process takes?” I still haven’t had anybody tell me, “I need it done in an hour.” They all go, “It’s probably going to take me a couple of weeks, a couple of months, or a couple of years.” If it takes Tiger Woods two years to make a swing change – and he’s working at it 10 hours a day – you’re kidding yourself if you think you’re gonna make an improvement with 50 swings a week.
GC: Tell me about your teaching philosophy.
BP: I never thought there was one best swing for everybody.
GC: Yes, what works for me might not work for Alan Greenspan.
BP: With an economics and an engineering-type mind, “The Golfing Machine” appealed to me a lot.
GC: The Homer Kelley book. Ok, interview’s over.
I’m sorry, go ahead.
I got my first migraine reading that book.
BP: Did you read the preface? Because it tells you how to read the book. It’s not a front-to-back read. You actually start in chapter two.
GC: It was a long time ago when I attempted to read that book. It was tough going so I decided to wait until they made a movie of it.
But the fact that you read it and understood it … I’m impressed!
BP: It’s probably the foundation of our teaching. On the mechanical side, there are 24 motions in the golf swing; there are 5-12 variations within those 24 motions.
GC: Stop, you’re killing me!
When did you decide you really wanted to do this as a career and get your PGA certification?
BP: I always liked teaching. I found out after I left Grand View that I taught more lessons than most people. Something was pulling me towards teaching. My dad’s an educator; he’s got his doctorates in teaching and learning. And my mom was a nurse. So the caring and sharing part is part of the fabric of who I am.
GC: And the commiserating with people who are in pain because they have the shanks.
But you draw the line at bed pans.
BP: And no “turn and cough.”
But we do assessments. Figuring out how people naturally move and building a golf swing based on their natural movement patterns. That’s where we are today. From there, we build a swing that’s repeatable and powerful.
GC: As they say in the movie Fargo,“Yer darn tootin.” Now that Spring has returned, you Twin Cities golfers should visit Brad at one of his Golf Achievement Community locations. Thanks for the conversation, Brad.
BP: You’re welcome.