Golf School 101

By local contributor
Tom Mackin

Every golfer wants to play better and shoot lower scores. That’s awfully hard to do on your own. So why not work with an expert to achieve those goals? Scottsdale is home to some of the best golf instructors in the country. Here’s a look at five area teachers who can help improve your game.


Pia Nilsson and Lynn Marriott, ranked by Golf Digest as the No. 1 and No. 3 Best Teachers respectively in Arizona, and among the top 25 in the country, lead their Vision54 program at Talking Stick Resort. They’ve worked with nine different major champions, including Annika Sorenstam and Brittany Lang, and focus on the elements that influence performance: physical, technical, mental, emotional, social and spirit of the game. Their program includes both group and one-on-one coaching, with options that include on-course training. “We believe golfers need learning and training on the golf course, where our game is played,” said Marriott. “We also believe all golfers need not only technical skills, but also the skills to manage themselves on the golf course,” said Nilsson.

The majority of shots you take during a round are from 100 yards and in. That’s where short game specialist Stan Utley, who works at the Grayhawk Golf Club Learning Center, can be of great assistance. Ranked the fourth best teacher in Arizona and 25th in the country by Golf Digest, Utley won once on the PGA Tour and three times on the former Nationwide Tour. He has worked with dozens of PGA Tour, LPGA Tour and CHAMPIONS Tour players. “I interview my students and try to ask as many penetrating questions as I can to find out what they believe about golf because I need to know what the barriers are,” said Utley. “When I find that barrier, it’s easy to go through it.”

The husband and wife team of Mike and Sandy LaBauve have been teaching students at the Westin Kierland Golf Club every October through May since 1996. Ranked No. 6 and 7 respectively in Arizona on Golf Digest’s Best Teachers in Arizona, the LaBauves have also both been ranked among the Top 100 Instructors by GOLF Magazine. They offer couples programs, family golf schools, individual lessons and online coaching. “We enjoy teaching students of all levels the whole game,” said Sandy LaBauve. “This includes the shots you need to score lower and skills to manage your decisions and emotions on the course. Sometimes we have to improve your technique and other times we just help you apply your own athleticism to utilize what you already know how to do. We want you to see what you need to do, own the feel and perform when it counts.”