You hear the term all the time these days, particularly when it comes to professional golfers. Butch Harmon was the biggest name in the business when he was working with Tiger Woods, but when the two split up in 2002, Harmon's name fell out of the headlines.
Kent Cayce and Chuck Turesco do the same thing that Harmon does - and they can do it for you. While they might not be able to help you become the No. 1 player in the world, their credentials are more than respectable and, better yet, you only have to drive to Laurel to benefit from their expertise.
Cayce, who was named as one of Golf magazine's top 50 teachers for the past 18 years, has worked extensively with seven-time PGA Tour winner Bill Glasson. Turesco is a former club pro who works with a number of male and female satellite tour players.
They are among dozens of local PGA-accredited teachers who for hourly fees ranging anywhere from $45 to $300 can help make a game that frustrates even the best players a little less exasperating. While they might have different methods, they seem to agree on one thing:
Practice won't make you perfect, but it likely will help you improve.
"I believe in [taking] lessons, and I believe in practicing in between," Turesco said one morning in early February at Laurel Golf Center.
Said Matt Rice, a teaching pro apprentice at Arundel Golf Park: "If you don't practice and work on what you've been taught, it's not going to do you any good."
For those who like to sneak away from work for an hour (or three) to get their games in shape, facilities such as the one in Laurel and Arundel Golf Park are perfect hideaways. To attract customers this winter, the Laurel Golf Center offered an all-you-can-hit deal of $12 for the day.
"People don't practice the proper way," said Turesco, who was planning on continuing that ball-hitting buffet plan through the early spring, if not longer. "They're hitting one bucket of balls. They need to hit every club in their bag."
There are many teaching pros who believe in making a priority of a pupil's short game, and at Arundel Golf Park there's a large area in which to refine that part of your game. But the Glen Burnie facility combines a custom-fitting golf shop with its 72 tees and short game-hitting area.
"We market ourselves as a custom fitting-teaching facility," said Rice, who has worked there for two years. "We don't want to think of it as people beating balls around all day. Club fitting is by no means a swing cure. We try to put club-fitting and teaching together."
Most teaching facilities rely on using videotape as an aid to improving one's swing, usually for a nominal cost. Many of the 2,000 lessons given each year at the Arundel Golf Park involve use of videotape, and it's not only good for those being taught.
"It helps me as a teacher understand the golf swing," said Rice.
Rice sees the benefit of working on the short game, but makes a valid point in assessing the importance of learning what he calls "a full iron swing," usually with a long or middle iron.
"If you can't get the ball close to the green, you're not going to be able to use your short game," he said.
For those just starting out, there's another road to travel in taking lessons and learning the game.
It's the road Dave Miller of Pasadena took after retiring a little more than four years ago.
Miller had played golf once, nearly 30 years ago, "with a club in one hand and a beer bottle in the other." He didn't have much interest and, more importantly, he didn't have the time. So when he retired, Miller took a course at Anne Arundel Community College.
It cost him $123 for 14 lessons with PGA professional Barry Root, and Miller now shoots regularly in the low to mid-90s, even breaking 90 once. It helps that he plays three days a week, nearly year round, and gets time to practice when he's not playing.
"If there wasn't snow on the ground, we'd be playing right now," Miller said as he was about to hit balls at the Arundel Golf Park.
Miller takes an occasional lesson, but seems excited (and more importantly realistic) about how his game has progressed. And he has one piece of sound advice for those thinking about getting started:
"Don't ever let a friend show you how to play golf," he said.
Swing doctors everyone - from Butch Harmon on down - couldn't agree more.
Golf parks in the Baltimore area
Arundel Golf Park
1501 Dorsey Road, Glen Burnie 21061 (410-761-1295)
72 tees (36 heated)
Chipping area, short game practice area and putting green. Lessons available for $45 for a half-hour; lesson packages are available.
Laurel Golf Center
9801 Fort Meade Road, Laurel 20707 (301-725-4646)
50 tees (15 heated)
Lessons available for $75 an hour (including video), beginner series of six lessons for $275. Special appointments can be made with Kent Cayce, founder of Golf Mastery.
Rocky Gorge Driving Range
8445 Old Columbia Road, Laurel 20723 (301-725-0888)
54 tees (12 heated)
Lessons available for $40 per half hour or six 30-minute lessons for $200.
Pasadena Golf Center
4358 Mountain Road, Pasadena, 21122. (410-439-4653)
34 tees (20 covered and heated)
Individual lessons are $80 per hour, 4-week one-hour group lessons for $150.
Severna Park Golf Center
1257 Ritchie Highway, Arnold 21012 (410-647-8618)
38 tees (5 heated)
Par-3 course, miniature golf and batting cages. One-hour adult lessons for $55, three one-hour lessons for $155 and five for $225. Junior (under 16) lessons for $35 an hour.
Churchville Driving Range
3040 Churchville Road, Churchville 21028 (410-838-1411)
30 tees (6 heated)
One-hour private lessons available for $55; half-hour is $40. Three one-hour private lessons for $140.