Top Teachers

The Northern California golf region is populated by 1,200 card-carrying members of PGA of America. Once again, Northern California Golf Guide has highlighted some of the area’s best teachers, who share their favorite tips and drills to help your game.

Scott Krause

The director of instruction at Eagle Ridge Golf Club in Gilroy is the reigning Northern California PGA Teacher of the Year, and golf coach for nearby Gavilan College.

Although Krause is beginning his 24th year as a teaching pro, his—or Gilroy’s—new beginning was five years ago. That’s when he arrived at Eagle Ridge and that’s when he began his “programs,” or what he calls “my accomplishments.” Those accomplishments obviously got noticed by his fellow NCPGA members, but just as importantly they are getting noticed by young Gilroyans (if there is such a word).

One program offers free golf lessons for Hispanic youth. Gilroy has a large Hispanic population base, and if they won’t come to golf, Krause will bring golf to them. The object is to “get kids into golf,” he says.

Another program involves closing the driving range on weekends after 2 p.m. and making a five-hole mini-course out of it. Let the adults have the big course while the kids play on the makeshift wee course. That can cut into a pro’s lesson business, but what does that matter if the object is to “get kids into golf”?

Krause is serious about giving individual lessons and utilizes an A-star video system. One of his Gavilan College players became the top individual player in the conference. On top of that, he writes a regular golf-tips column for the Hollister Pinnacle and reads golf instruction books like a chef reads recipes.  He even collects golf instruction books and can quote the classics from Homer (Kelley) to Harmon (Butch). E-mail Krause at skrause@eagleridgegc.com

Tip from Scott Krause: Distance and direction are the two important elements in putting, according to Krause. Of the two, distance control is more important and more difficult to develop. Here’s a great drill for distance control, called the Ladder Drill: Take three or more balls and putt each one an incremental distance. Putt the first ball three feet; second putt six feet; third putt nine feet. Then reverse it and work backward. 

Bill Bondaruk

Bill Bondaruk of Catta Verdera Country Club arrived on the Northern California golf scene with cachet as a teacher/author and former swing coach at a facility where the University of Arizona golf teams practiced. Several of the U of A golfers he worked with included Natalie Gulbis and current LPGA standouts Lorena Ochoa, Marisa Baena and Jenna Daniels.

His self-published e-book, titled 7 Myths of Golf, combines numerous video clips of top tour pros to illustrate various points in the text. While working toward his Master Professional designation from the PGA, he plans to write more books, passionately saying, “I am on a path to establish myself as one of the more innovative and effective golf coaches in the area.” The “myths” that Bondaruk discusses in his book and in conversation include keeping your head still, keeping the leading arm straight and keeping your eye on the ball. The book devotes a chapter with text and video illustration to each myth. Other myths include keeping “quiet hands,” holding the club release, leg drive and backswing path.

Bondaruk counts PGA Tour player Glen Day among his friends and fondly recalls playing a casual round with Day when the latter shot a 60 on a difficult par-71 course. “To give me a break on the last hole, Glen putted with his wedge.” To reach Bondaruk, e-mail bbondaruk@cattaverdera.com.

Tip from Bill Bondaruk: You will have a chance at playing your best golf with an image in your mind, says Bondaruk. Your chances get better when you have a well-informed feeling in your body and mind. You will never play good golf with words and sentences for swing cues. 

Bob Epperly

Bob Epperly, head golf professional at Antelope Greens Golf Course, teaches Natural Golf, a swing technique developed by the late Moe Norman. Natural Golf is distinctly different from the traditional golf swing espoused by thousands of PGA instructors.

Norman, a golfing savant who at his death was considered by some to be the greatest ball striker of all time, utilized what has come to be called a “one-plane swing” with a noticeably different grip, wider set-up, extended arm position and high follow-through. The Natural Golf swing also has some health benefits for people with back problems because it creates less hip rotation.

Epperly, like most Natural Golf instructors, initially learned and taught the traditional golf swing. After researching Norman’s swing, he began to teach the method. Eventually, word reached executives at Natural Golf, and the company contacted him about becoming certified in their system. Today, Epperly is recognized as one of the nation’s top Natural Golf instructors. In 2005, he did an eight-week stint on The Golf Channel, appearing as an instructor in the “Natural Golf Makeover” series.

The Natural Golf movement is still gaining a foothold, but Epperly averages five to six lessons per day. His students now include a former NHL coach, a former professional bowler, a retired member of the Oakland Raiders and retired Sacramento television anchor Stan Atkinson. Each of them has had some sort of debilitating joint injury that the Natural Golf system has allowed them to overcome during the game. Epperly can be reached at by e-mail at bobepperly@yahoo.com.

Tip from Bob Epperly:  When working on your “little swings,” chipping, pitching and putting, your trailing hand is the controlling mechanism, says Epperly. It controls the distance and squareness of the clubface. Try standing sideways and tossing a ball underhanded to the hole to get a picture in your mind of the distance.

Tim Hovancsek

When Tim Hovancsek (pronounced Hav-on-check) first learned about the Master Professional designation, the PGA of America had granted fewer than two dozen such degrees. He told himself, “I am going to be a Master Professional.” After eventually completing a thesis titled Developing a Golf Community, he earned his Master Professional title. This year marks his 26th year of PGA membership.

He originally moved to the area to become the head golf professional at Twelve Bridges while the course was under construction. He since has worked at Greenhorn Creek in Angels Camp and at Morgan Creek Country Club in Roseville.

Known as a pro who builds strong relationships with members, he is once again on the teaching tee. His teaching career has been influenced in no small part by nationally known instructors such as Jim Hardy, for whom he worked, and Hank Haney (Tiger Woods’ current instructor) and Michael Hebron, with whom he conducted schools. Ever the innovator, after exiting Greenhorn Creek, Hovancsek opened the area’s first indoor teaching “studio” in Lincoln. It had two hitting bays where students could “play” famous courses or just take lessons on his digital teaching system. Although he no longer has the simulator, he retains the digital setup and says, “I am definitely a better instructor with video.” Hovancsek doesn’t give a lesson so much as he engineers it. He tells you what you’ve got, tells you what he wants you to get, then steers you there.

With or without his video system, his list of past students reads like a Who’s Who list. Retired quarterback Steve Young, baseball players Matt Williams, Mickey Hatcher, Rick Sutcliffe, and coach Wendel Kim all have heard his personal lexicon of “Hovonics,” the label he gives to words he invents as part of his lessons. To reach Hovancsek, send e-mail to timhovancsek@hotmail.com.

Tip from Tim Hovancsek:  “To make par, just hit one in a row, 72 times.”

Bill Johnson

Bill Johnson, who has spent 16 years teaching golf to adults, numerous celebrities and kids, finds his greatest rewards in the more than 50 junior golfers he’s worked with throughout the years who have moved on to join college golf ranks. He’s even had students move to the Tour level, including Julie Hilton, who played on the LPGA in 2004 as a 35-year-old rookie. Says Johnson of his legacy with kids, “If they get their education, that’s what makes me happy. If they move to the Tour level, that’s a wonderful bonus.”

These days, Johnson plies his trade as director of instruction at San Jose Country Club, where he’s been for the past three years. Previously he worked at La Rinconada. Although teaching kids is his legacy and passion, he’s given lessons or casual stroke advice to the likes of Bill Walsh, Bernie Nichol, Vincent Damphousse, Jerry Rice and business icon Scott McNealy.

Clearly, though, it’s his work with youth golf that energizes him. There’s pride in his voice when he recalls student Joseph Bramlett, who at age 13 became the youngest U.S. Amateur qualifier. He also has worked with numerous high school and college golf teams, among them Foothill College, Cabrillo College, UC Santa Cruz (girls team), St. Francis High School Los Altos (boys team), Saratoga High School (boys team) and Menlo-Atherton High School (boys and girls teams).

Of his teaching philosophy, he says simply, “I apply the laws and principles of the golf swing. I have no niche; this is Bill Johnson’s way. I’m happy about that.” At the same time, his sophisticated indoor studio with state-of-the-art digital video swing analyzer somewhat belies the simplicity of his statement. Johnson can be reached at bjohnson@pga.com.

Tip from Bill Johnson: “When I watch someone hit golf balls, I do not implement what I want them to do until I know what their objective is.”

Dan Pasquariello

Although Dan Pasquariello lived in Hawaii for only eight years out of a 35-year teaching career, it made such an impression on him that when he moved to Pebble Beach Company he started “Aloha Fridays.” Aloha Fridays in Pebble Beach?

Aloha Fridays is a promotion that allows three students to play nine holes with a pro on Friday afternoons during the off-season at Spanish Bay or Spyglass. (Sorry, there are no “alohas” on Pebble.)
 
 “The idea is to play with a pro and see how a pro plays,” says Pasquariello, the director of instruction for Pebble Beach Company. “We explain that it is not a formal playing lesson, but kind of laid back like in Hawaii—a fun lesson. Most people, as soon as they’re with us for three holes, they’re relaxed and have fun. We do three groups and we’re the last groups to tee off on those days.”

Pasquariello’s stint on Maui resulted in being selected by the Aloha Section of the PGA as Teacher of the Year three times. Count Oscar-nominated actor Samuel L. Jackson as a student. If Shaft gets his swing from this man, he’s got to be good, right?

Asked about teaching golf, Pasquariello says, “Golf is counterintuitive. The harder you try, the worse you get. And what you feel ain’t real.” He says he sees typically four “fatal” swing flaws: a weak grip, a swing that’s too long, overactive legs and a set-up that is too open at address (resulting in a pull or slice). 

One of his favorite drills during a lesson is to have struggling students hit shots while taking half-swings because, he says, they produce straighter shots and illustrate one of his teaching principles. “I have never seen a swing that’s too short, but I’ve seen plenty that are too long.”

There are a lot of golf professionals in Pebble Beach, but only one with all of the vowels in his last name. Contact Pasquariello at pasquard@pebblebeach.com.

Tip from Dan Pasquariello:  If you slice the ball, try this drill: Take a stronger grip on the club, but remember to hold it lightly in your fingers. Set up to the ball and pull your rear foot back, creating a closed stance. Let your shoulders remain aligned to the right of the target. Hit only three to five shots. Start with your 7-iron, then move progressively to your 5-iron, 3-wood and finally to your driver.

Susan Claycomb

Susan Claycomb has been teaching golf for fewer than 10 years, making her a relative newcomer in some circles. Yet despite her relative inexperience as an instructor, in 2005 she gave more than 700 private lessons and another 40 group lessons from the teaching tee at Woodcreek Golf Club in Roseville. She is a Class A member of the LPGA Teaching and Club Professional division.

 “The number of women who are taking up the game is staggering,” says Claycomb. “Unfortunately, the amount of women that actually take their lessons to the course is quite low.” 

Driven largely by that observation, she has developed the FORE Women golf program at Woodcreek. The program is designed to give female players the confidence to “take the game away from the driving range and out onto the golf course,” says Claycomb. “The more confidence women feel with the entire golfing experience, the more they will continue to play the game.”
 
With individual students, she likes to create specific improvement plans, setting what she terms “realistic and obtainable goals.” One success story involves a student who began lessons with her in January 2005 with a golf handicap index of 28. Since most golfers typically shoot anywhere from two to six strokes per round over their handicap number, this player struggled to consistently break 100.

By mid June, her handicap had dropped to a 21 and she recorded her first hole in one. At the end of 2005, she was deemed the “most improved player” by fellow members of her golf club, after winning the club championship in her division.

Claycomb also is involved with teaching kids and serves as the lead instructor for the Girl Scouts’ Swinging With My Pals program. Contact Claycomb at susan@jpkgolf.com.

Tip from Susan Claycomb: To stop hitting fat chip shots, says Claycomb, take a 7-iron and set up a few feet off the green, with the ball in the center of your stance and club face square to a target. Align the end of the grip to the front of your bellybutton. This keeps your hands in front of the club head. Practice maintaining this angle throughout the chip shot. This will create a solid bump and run.

John Snopkowski

Great golf instructors often develop mechanical systems such as Leadbetter or Natural Golf. It comes from revelations on the teaching tee. For John Snopkowski of Santa Teresa Golf Club in San Jose, his revelation came while being taught. He attended one of Fred Shoemaker’s Extraordinary Golf schools, where East/West philosophies meet with the primacy of play. Where the mind is coaxed into enjoying the moment and the process. Where Aldous Huxley is as important as a golf score.

Snopkowski, so frustrated as a player that by 1997 he had given up playing and was only teaching, came away from his experience with a complete attitude makeover. “It was so profound for me,” he says. “I knew that was the way I wanted to coach for the rest of my life.”

With his newfound enthusiasm, in 1999 he became head golf professional and director of instruction at Santa Teresa, giving an estimated 900 to 1,000 lessons per year as well as conducting junior camps, adult group lesson programs and Golf Fore Women programs at his facility. His Little Linksters program allows kids 9 and younger to take a series of one-hour lessons for $10 a session (including lunch). During the summer, the last hour and a half of daylight every Monday is devoted to allowing parents and juniors to play free. Tuesday nights are for women.

Of his own teaching, he uses a digital video system indoors and outdoors on the range, finding it a valuable tool. “[But teaching golf] isn’t about me,” he says. “It’s about my students.” Contact Snopkowski at jdsnapper@aol.com.

Tip from John Snopkowski: The push drill. Tee up a ball and set up to it. Then place the club in front of the ball. Push forward to a balanced follow-through and hold it for three seconds. Then come back to the set-up position, place the club behind the ball, take a swing and hit the ball, again holding the finish. The goal is to match the follow-through. Finally, give it a numerical rating of 1 to 10, with 10 matching the rehearsal. The exercise affects “the rhythmic motion to balance” of the swing, says Snopkowski.

Denise Mazzaferri

Denise Mazzaferri has taught more than 50,000 golf lessons in her career. The daughter of a club professional, she became a teacher after an accomplished amateur career that included twice winning the Nevada State Women’s Amateur and playing collegiate golf at San Jose State.

She recently left a position at Hidden Valley Country Club to focus on an entrepreneurial golf venture with husband Mike. They want to bring a golf teaching and entertainment studio indoors to the Stadium Sport and Fitness club in Reno and offer complete year-round golf training including golf-specific cross-training—stretching, flexibility, balance, core muscle training and swing mechanics—all under one roof. The simulator features famous golf courses from around the world, so travelers can gain a bit of familiarity before actually visiting one of the venues. There’s also a state-of-the-art digital video teaching system. Since, ultimately, golf is an outdoor game, she maintains teaching privileges at ArrowCreek Country Club in Reno.

Her passion for developing a complete golf training program stems from a bout with fibromyalgia that almost caused her to quit the game. After improving her fitness, she found golf became enjoyable again.

Although her father was a golf professional, Mazzaferri clearly has her own ideas about the golf swing, saying, “I don’t even teach the way my father taught.” Further explaining that the “old school” method was to teach more drive with the lower body, she says, “I teach that the lower body comes through [the swing] equally together. It’s a huge difference.”

Her real expertise is in “teaching beginning women.”  Beginning women, she explains, often have trouble getting the ball in the air.

When asked about teaching marquee students, her voice grows a bit defensive. “If you’re truly trying to grow the game, who should you be teaching? It’s harder to teach what I teach than a Tour player, in my opinion.” To book an indoor or outdoor session with Mazzaferri, contact  stadiumgolf@pga.com.

Drill from Denise Mazzaferri: Set up to a ball and take the club one-quarter of the way back. On the through swing, keep the club low and hold the impact position about two feet past the ball. This will improve swing path and impact position.

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