Q&A With Corey John Higgs, Director of Instruction
Title: Director of Instruction, Compass Pointe Golf Courses, Pasadena, Maryland.
Years as a PGA Professional: 25.
Top achievements / honors: Operation 36 Top 50 Instructor (2021, 2022).
RELATED: PGA Professional Spotlight archive
What app is a must-have on your phone? SportsBox AI, for coaching and measuring students' mechanics in 3D.
What books would you recommend? Ben Hogan's "Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf"; Harvey Penick's "Little Red Book: Lessons and Teachings From a Lifetime In Golf"; Dr. Bob Rotella's "Golf Is Not a Game of Perfect"; and Dave Pelz's "Short Game Bible: Master the Finesse Swing and Lower Your Score." For those who like to really study the inner swing physics and geometry, then read "The Golfing Machine" by Homer Kelly.
What podcasts would you recommend? "Sub Par' with Colt Knost and Drew Stoltz — they can actually play the game at a high / professional level and interview tour players every week. "Earn Your Edge: Decoding Excellence in Golf and Life" — also has good content for full-time coaches like myself. After these two there are many out there for new or average golfers. I stay clear of those as I'm already in the industry and we hear it on a daily basis.
Who is your favorite golfer? Tom Watson.
What is your most memorable round of golf? The best thing about golf is you only need to hit one great shot to enjoy your round. In this case, I was playing with my dad's mates in Auckland [New Zealand] at a golf course called Formosa. The par-4, 18th is 340 meters or 370 yards, and I drove the green and ended up making the putt for eagle to win the match. The old boys still talk about this drive today. I will admit it was downwind, and in New Zealand it's not uncommon to have a 30-40 mph breeze behind you.
The First Call: What made you want to pursue a career in golf?
Corey John Higgs: I was playing high level junior golf as a teenager and one day I thought I'd like to become a full-time coach. I really enjoyed helping my friends and parents' friends play golf, so that's what I did. I remember asking my head pro Kurt if he thought I'd be a good coach, he said "Yeah you do a great job helping me with my junior clinics" and he helped me get started in the business.
TFC: What is your favorite instructional tip to share with a golfer?
CJH: The upside down golf grip drill. Take a golf club and turn it upside down. Grip the club by the clubhead — hover the grip about 1 foot off the ground. Swing the golf club to the top of your backswing and gradually swing your club back down, increasing the speed of the grip as you turn your hips towards the target. The goal is to hear the swoosh sound of the grip and shaft at impact and just after impact. If you hear the swoosh of the club at the start of the downswing (top of swing), the golfer is casting and losing their source of power. This would demonstrate incorrect sequencing.
TFC: What advice do you have for someone considering a career in golf?
CJH: If you are passionate about being involved in the golf industry, then go for it. There are many reasons why it's the greatest game and to be a part of it is very special indeed. I would also say it's important to consider how our industry works. We are busy when much of the working population is off. Make sure you ask yourself this question: Are you good working weekday evenings and weekends?
TFC: What is the best advice you have received on your career path?
CJH: Work hard, back yourself and never give up. I had many days where I thought "I can't keep going," and on these days you need a voice of reason. I have had three great mentors over the years and all three told me to call them anytime when it gets tough and they will talk it through with me. Find a mentor. They have been in your shoes many times before and in tough times they will reassure you of the solutions that you may not be able to see. This person will be instrumental in helping you achieve your goals.
TFC: Is there a particular area of your job that you find most rewarding?
CJH: For me it's seeing the look on my students' face when they succeed at something. Hearing from students after a successful tournament result or seeing a student make their first par. I see so many different levels of joy each day and that's so rewarding as a human being. There's just about nothing like seeing a student get the golf bug — when you see them go through our player development pathways from start to finish. It's why I love this job.
TFC: Do you have a preferred style or philosophy for teaching golf?
CJH: My teaching philosophy is to first get to know my student well enough to understand how they are going to learn. This is often done over the phone or in person before their first lesson. Only after listening to the student can I start to develop a personalized development plan. If the student is looking to improve their swing mechanics, we will work on the driving range. If they need help with their short game, we focus on putting, chipping, pitching, bunkers and specialty shots. I like to see all students playing on the golf course — as part of all student plans we focus on all types of lies and cover course management strategies. A lot depends on our first conversation and really identifying the elephant/deficiencies in their game. Developing a player development plan that produces results has to have structure and a road map that gives the student all the tools they need to accomplish their goals. I strongly encourage all students to sign up for a monthly plan or even a lesson package to ensure they commit to ongoing lessons. I explain using this analogy: If you wanted to learn the piano, would you take one lesson and expect to learn/master this instrument?
TFC: Where is there room for growth within the industry?
CJH: AI — artificial intelligence — will help us coaches get faster access to students' deficiencies. Apps that measure students' overall game, driving range and course analytics help us identify and diagnose solutions in real time.
TFC: When you look at your career, in what area(s) do you believe you have evolved for the better?
CJH: I love working with people, so, first and foremost, developing a strong team dynamic is something I prioritize when I walk in and out the door each day. I'm only as good as my team, and it is not about me. This has been a tough lesson learned. I used to work 70-plus hours a week with a month or two of taking no days off. I was caught up in profit margins and running a successful business, but almost burnt out because of it.
I have gotten a lot better at managing my business, learning the art of making your own time the most valuable commodity. Lawyers would call this billable hours. However there is still room to improve and grow — being transparent, reaching out to my mentors when I need their help and allowing staff to take on greater responsibilities.
TFC: How does being a PGA/LPGA Professional add value to your brand?
CJH: It means we took three years in an apprenticeship program to earn the credentials to coach, operate and manage within varying roles in our industry. The qualification allows people to see we are experts in the entire game of golf and are given the opportunity to grow the game.