PRO-FILES: PGA of Ontario 2023 Teacher of the Year Ralph Bauer

In Ralph Bauer’s world everyone is making more putts – short putts, long putts, memorable putts, million-dollar putts, even life-changing moments – and he’s loving it.

At the 2023 Masters golf tournament at Augusta National Golf Club Bauer enjoyed one of those ‘aha’ moments that one never forgets.

“I went to the Masters to work with three of my players and they all finished in the top-50. One of them, Tom Hoge, won the par-3 contest, which was pretty cool, but what was even more rewarding for me was walking on to the practice putting green and watching another instructor teaching Tour Read at the Masters to his player,” says Bauer, who launched the Tour Read greens reading app in the Fall of 2021 through his member connections at Hamilton Golf and Country Club, where he has been the Director of Instruction since December 1, 2020.

After a year like none-other and entering his 28th year as a member of the PGA of Canada, Bauer received the nod as PGA of Ontario Coach of the Year for 2023.

 

Ralph Bauer IMG_3088

“The app can be a game-changer for everyone who wants to improve their putting. We have the scientific data that shows that it works, and we now have several hundred Tour Read certified instructors. However, to watch another instructor using my app and believing in it with his player on the world’s greatest golf stage was incredibly empowering in that moment,” says Bauer, who started 2024 working with a couple of his players at the Sony Open in Hawaii. “I had five players who are not students of mine come up to me at Wai’alae and tell me how much they love it and how much they are using it to help their game.”

Four of the top-10 putters on the PGA Tour towards the end of January 2024 were Tour Readers, Bauer notes. “That being said, we designed the system for the average player. I always think that if it helps tour players that much, imagine how much it can also help the average player who is looking to improve their putting. By the way, the average player tells us they experience a two-shot reduction in their handicap within the first month.”

He has had dozens and dozens of teaching professionals come and see him in person for lessons on how to use Tour Read. This interest encouraged Ralph to launch the on-line Tour Read app certification program in January 2023 that is proving to be a money-maker for teachers and coaches.

“Tour Read has been an amazing journey, developing it into what is quickly becoming the leading green reading training system in the world,” says Bauer, who has always been a numbers guy when it comes to teaching the full swing or putting stroke. With a focus now on putting, Bauer teamed up with a couple of forward-thinking members at HGCC to develop and launch the app.

“It has been an amazing experience being able to train people all over the world, to have users all over the world, and to be able to teach hundreds of golf pros how they can become better at their job. I feel as I become one of the wily veterans of the teaching world, that it’s imperative for me to pass on as much of my experience and knowledge as I can to any pro who wants to get better at their job and with their game,” he says.

Ralph also enjoyed watching Nick Taylor make his historic 72-foot putt on the 18th green in a playoff at Oakdale Golf & Country Club last June to win the 2023 RBC Canadian Open. Bauer had previously coached Taylor for five years. However, Nick was one of the first tour pros to give the Tour Read app a trial prior to its launch and he still uses it today. Thinking that he may have had a hand in even the smallest way in the most amazing putt of all-time in Canadian golf is a pretty good feeling. “When I saw the putt go in the hole I was thrilled for Nick, but I was also worried for Adam Hadwin, who I coach, that he didn’t get hurt,” says Bauer, who watched Adam get tackled by a security guard during the celebration.

Another pinch-me moment was watching Cam Davis, a new student in 2023, finish top-five in a major for the first time at the PGA Championship in August at Oak Hill Country Club. “It was pretty cool to see him warming up for his daily rounds at the PGA Championship using Tour Read and I think a lot of other players took notice,” Ralph says.

“What intrigues me is the fact that the app gives players like Cam a tool to adapt to changing greens speeds very quickly. We play the game outdoors. Green speeds change constantly. It could start raining. The greens get baked out. There’s humidity. Green speeds change week-to-week, day-to-day and from morning to afternoon, so Tour Read gives players a terrific insight into how to quickly adapt their reads to changing conditions.”

That’s lots of PGA Tour talk, but for the vast majority of his time you’ll find Bauer hanging out at HGCC on the practice tee, at the new chipping area or on the practice putting green during golf season from dawn to dusk six days a week – he takes Sunday’s off for family time in the summer. Ralph also has an indoor golf training and fitness centre in his home basement that is second to none. It’s a great spot for a private lesson.

“Working at Hamilton has been extremely rewarding over the last four years, both personally and professionally,” says Bauer, who originally interviewed for the lead instruction position at HGCC 29 years ago, but he didn’t land the job. “It has always been a dream of mine to work at this club. It was very exciting to get that call four years ago and to be living the dream is even better than I imagined,” says Bauer, who lives in Turkey Point with his wife Margaret and their three daughters – Rebecca, Rachel and Leah.

“It’s a great club. Building relationships with people has been a lot of fun,” Ralph says. “I teach everyone, of all abilities, from our youngest golfers, who are three or four years of age in our weekly Colts Program, right up to 85-year-olds who are trying to master the new greens at HGCC while keeping the ball in the short grass. The really cool part of it has been getting to know the membership and their golf games so now when I’m looking at my lesson schedule, I can plan ahead. I already have a great idea of what I need to work on with my students when they drop by for their lesson.”

Throughout the summer Ralph volunteers his time on Monday evenings to coach the Hamilton District Special Olympics Competitive team. One of the team members won a bronze medal at the World Special Olympics and won her division of the USGA Adaptive Open.

“I really don’t do any programs or weekly clinics. I focus on individual golf lessons,” Bauer says of using his time wisely to meet member needs. “Rightly or wrongly, I prefer individual golf lessons. I feel that if I have enough time with a person, I can help them. If I don’t have enough time with someone it stresses me out because I can’t guarantee that they are going to improve during the course of that lesson. I like an hour session with students, never longer.”

“I feel it is super important to have a structure to your lessons. I really learned that through PGA of Ontario seminars. Regardless of how much experience you have, you never deviate from that basic structure,” Bauer says. “If I was going to give advice to a younger instructor, that helped me a lot in my career, it would be don’t be afraid to take extra time at the start of the session to assess the issue. Typically, the player is going to want to get their problem solved right away, but don’t be afraid to tell them, ‘Hey listen, I’m going to take five to 10 minutes to watch you, to better understand your swing, before we talk about making changes’.”

“As you become a better instructor you can assess quicker and quicker. It’s fun for me when I have challenges and it takes 10 minutes for me to figure out what the issue is for the player. You always have to go to the underlying issue . . . the player might tell you what they’re feeling, and you have to take that into consideration, but it’s your job to come up with the root cause of the problem and help them fix it. It’s the same strategy if they are a 10-year-old or a tour player. They need to leave with a clear idea of what they need to work on, to feel that they got the most out of the lesson possible. Technology makes teaching a lot easier with follow-ups and apps for recordings of their lesson, which can be a good reminder for them. I always do a video recording during a lesson and give it to them, so that they can watch it later and have something to refer to.”

“The key is to make the lesson enjoyable for the student. Stay away from pain. If the lesson is painful, they are not going to want to come back. If you can also make the learning experience a fun one for them, you are much more likely to engage them and have them as a returning customer,” says Ralph, who started his coaching career back in 2001 with Golf Canada.

Over the winter Bauer presented a wait-listed education hands-on coaching presentation to 75-plus members of the BC PGA at Ace Performance Centre in Richmond. He spent a week coaching at one of Martin Chuck’s golf camps to learn from one of the best in the US and share information on Tour Read, and started a series of on-line Zoom clinics with the PGA of Australia, as well as teaching at the indoor winter academy at HGCC. He also finds time for social media and is getting better at it.

“I have a pretty clear purpose on Instagram. I’m trying to educate people on how to putt better… it’s that simple, but I will sometimes go off message and talk about the full swing too or anything else that is on my mind.” The Tour Read Instagram account had close to five million views in January 2024 alone – think about that!

In 2023, players Bauer taught won in excess of $40 million on the PGA Tour and at HGCC, where everyone is betting on Ralph’s success as one of the top golf coaches in the world – and the success all started with the PGA of Ontario!

Written by Brent Long

Fairways Magazine

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