Kip Puterbaugh's Aviara Golf Academy in Carlsbad: These guys know how to teach

By Mike Bailey, Senior Staff Writer

CARLSBAD, Calif. -- If experience means anything, then taking golf lessons at Kip Puterbaugh's Aviara Golf Academy would be a wise move for golfers looking to improve their game.

Aviara Golf Academy - Kip Puterbaugh
Kip Puterbaugh lends his extensive experience as a player and teacher at the Aviara Golf Academy.
Aviara Golf Academy - Kip PuterbaughAviara Golf Academy in CarlsbadAviara Golf Academy - video
If you go

Led by top-100 teacher Puterbaugh, the Aviara Golf Academy, based at Aviara Golf Club at the Park Hyatt Aviara Resort, is the longest continuous running golf school on the West Coast. But it isn't just that it's been around since 1987, the school is also bolstered by the fact that all its instructors have been with the school for more than a decade. In fact, the junior in the group, Grant Halverson, has been at the Academy 11 years, while Wayne Searle has taught at the school for 19 years. The other four teachers at the school are Ken Green, Bruce Nakamura, Bob Knee and Ted Norby. In all, Puterbaugh's teachers, most of them with playing backgrounds, total more than a century of experience among them.

"I would take my teaching staff against any in the world," Puterbaugh said, "because that's all we do."

And they do it well.

There's nothing gimmicky about what goes on at the Aviara Golf Academy. The staff uses the latest in computer video equipment to help students understand where they need to improve their fundamentals, and they go from there. They are not "method" teachers, meaning they have different solutions for each student – not a one size fits all – and they use training aids or whatever they need to do to get a student to feel the changes. But everything begins with an evaluation, Puterbaugh said, and most students are surprised to discover what they are really doing in their swings.

It begins with a swing sequence of eight pictures, breaking down different parts of the swing. Puterbaugh said 80 percent of all players share the same basic faults – terrible grips, bad alignment, poor ball position and bad posture. Correct those fundamentals, and some of the other swing faults are often corrected.

Many students are surprised to find out what they are really doing in their swings. "I just refer them to the pictures," said Puterbaugh, who played college golf at the University of Houston until he graduated in 1970 and learned from some of the best teachers in the game, including the legendary Paul Runyan.

Myths of the golf swing

Puterbaugh said most students have several misconceptions about the golf swing. Those myths include keeping your head still, a straight lead arm, and keeping your eye on the ball. He demonstrates these fallacies by showing video of some of the game's greatest players, like Annika Sorenstam and David Duval (in his heyday), who were looking up well before impact. Other great players, such as Jack Nicklaus, Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson, also exhibited head movement in their swing.

"You can't turn if you lock your head in place," Puterbaugh said.

Of course, there's a difference between lateral head movement and the turning of the head to allow for the turning of the spine, and that's the sort of thing the instructors at the Aviara Golf School help their students understand. They also help them understand other fundamentals such as proper weight shift, the role of the arms and how to start the downswing from the ground up. If this sounds like tried-and-true fundamentals, it is. But Puterbaugh has a profound understanding of how to teach these fundamentals, and he uses any means necessary to get his point across, including training aids.

Aviara Golf Academy's first-rate facility

It also helps that Puterbaugh and his staff have state-of-the-art facility in which to conduct their schools. It starts with a classroom setting, where students are given materials to help them follow along. Then the students are evaluated on video and work with their instructors in a hitting bay equipped with high speed cameras and computer software to help break down the swing. The school also has one end of the Aviara practice range dedicated to students.

In addition, the facility is only one of six sites in the world to offer the MAT-T fitting system to custom fit clubs for golfers.

Puterbaugh has authored a couple of books -- "What You Know Can Hurt You" and "Fundamentals of the Golf Swing." He combines that with a video version of the fundamentals as well as a DVD of the lesson to give students a comprehensive reference of the school and/or lesson.

For more information on the Aviara Golf School, including rates for groups or individual lessons, visit the Aviara Golf Academy Web site.

Mike BaileyMike Bailey, Senior Staff Writer

Mike Bailey is a senior staff writer based in Houston. Focusing primarily on golf in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America with an occasional trip to Europe and beyond, he contributes course reviews, travel stories and features as well as the occasional equipment review. An award-winning writer and past president of Texas Golf Writers Association, he has more than 25 years in the golf industry. Before accepting his current position in 2008, he was on staff at PGA Magazine, The Golfweek Group and AvidGolfer Magazine. Follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeBaileyGA and Instagram at @MikeStefanBailey.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • aviara

    charles brown wrote on: Mar 10, 2011

    i have attended the aviara academy and i have to disagree with your article. i went as a mid-high teem handicapper hoping to shave a few shots and came out a gibbering wreck who had forgotten what was good about my game because i had been told to change pretty much everything. there was 6 handicapper in the group who got a lot of attention while he worked out how to fade more effectively while l was told to hit balls on the range "properly". in fact i almost gave up golf i was so disillusioned.
    a year later i got my game back together and went to Golf Made Simple school. what a difference. they did not try to rebuild your swing but focused on fundamentals that help every level - hitting the ball in middle of club, weight transfer etc, hitting putts with acceleration etc. within 3 months i was down to 11 handicap. bow THAT is a golf school


    • RE: aviara

      Kip Puterbaugh wrote on: Jul 28, 2011

      Sorry that your experience of the golf school was less than satisfactory.
      We do believe that the fundamentals are one of the most important elements of good golf. We pride our school on repeat customers who have a 99.9% approval rating with our services.
      We would be happy to offer you a one on one follow up experience.
      Please call or email directly with any questions or concerns.
      Look forward to hearing from you.
      Kip Puterbaugh
      Director of Golf
      Aviara Golf Academy