George Gankas: Golf’s # 1 Instructor?
During my tenure at GOLF Magazine, as senior editor of instruction from 1984-1998, I was involved in selecting the 50 Best Teachers in America and the 100 Best Teachers in America, and was honored to have worked on how-to golf articles with many of these talented teachers, particularly several considered gurus, who were anything but cookie-cutter because of how much they separated themselves from basic instruction put forth in the Professional Golfers’ Association of America teaching manual edited by Gary Wiren; part free-thinker, part-fundamentalist.
In short, each of these elite teachers added his own twist to golf instruction and believed in a theory of their own that worked well for their amateur and pro students.
For example, Jim McLean’s 8-Step Swing was, and still is, his (and his students) link to hitting good golf shots consistently, whereas another Florida-based top-teacher, Mike Adams, helps golfers play better, via three type swings – Leverage, Arc, and Width – each designed to match up with a particular golfer’s body type, flexibility, hand-eye coordination, and natural tendencies.
Teacher Jim Hardy believes every golfer is either a one-plane or two-plane swinger and that each should heed only setup and swing fundamentals that apply to his or her ideal technique and no golfer should mix one- and two-plane fundamentals.
During their best earlier teaching days, every guru teacher, just like today, earns more coverage on television, and on the internet, once word gets out that he was responsible for turning a PGA Tour player’s game around.
In the case of golf instructor David Leadbetter, his name went up in lights once the golf world found out “Lead” totally revamped the swing of Nick Faldo and made him a major championship winner.
In the case of Claude “Butch” Harmon ll – son of Claude Harmon, Sr., the renowned golf teacher known for instructing members of Winged Foot Golf Club in New York and Seminole Golf Club in Palm Beach, Florida – he replaced Leadbetter as the number one ranked teacher, due to his great success teaching Tiger how to swing more efficiently and effectively, and hit a higher percentage of powerfully-accurate drives and irons, according to a teaching system revolving around four cornerstones, all put forth in the book, The Four Cornerstones of Winning Golf, written with me.
Butch also raised the level of his teaching reputation by instructing Tiger how to shoot low scores at Augusta by sharing insider tips about the golf course passed onto him by his father, Claude Harmon, Sr., who was the winner of the 1948 Masters Tournament. The lessons paid off for Butch, yet most of all for Tiger, with five Master Tournament green jackets to his name.
Stan Utley, a putting guru, was a while back called “golf’s hottest instructor” by Sports Illustrated magazine, for helping such golfers as Jay Haas re-enter the winner’s circle. Utley went against common putting instruction that calls for the putter to be swung straight-back then straight-through, and is advocated by fellow putting expert, Dave Pelz. Instead, Utley recommended the golfer swing the putter just like any other club – on an inside-square-inside path.
Well, now there is another teacher gaining in popularity – fast: California-based George Gankas, who is not tied to a fancy club, like his fellow gurus, does not fly around the world in private jets, does not teach, exclusively, cast-in-bronze fundamentals, does not give students favorable bull-analysis of their swings, does not revamp a student’s setup and swing to fit a mold of his favorite technique or the favorable technique of the month, and is not a crazy mad scientist as his jealous competitors giving golf lessons for a living would like one to believe.
Gankus teaches at the anything but meticulously manicured practice area, where golfers hit off mats, connected to the anything but meticulously manicured tees, fairways, and greens of the Westlake Golf, twenty-five miles or so from Los Angeles.
Gankas, rather than meet up on the road with students, prefers to stay put, waiting for his pro, amateur, or junior students to arrive in California for lessons.
Students include Matthew Wolff, former NCAA champion, out of Oklahoma State University, who just recently won his first pro-tournament as a rookie, the 2019 3M Open at the TPC Twin Cities golf course, in Minnesota, with a 21 under score, Braden Thornberry, the world’s number one ranked amateur, and Akshay Bhatia, the top ranked junior.
Gankas, instead of teaching setup and swing fundamentals, and one technique, he’ll buy into any unorthodox position the golfer employs, such as an exaggerated strong grip position and say, too, a John Daly-like past-parallel position at the top, provided each of these positions matches up with their ideal compensatory counterpart-position of the downswing, allowing for the golfer to deliver the club’s face squarely into the golf ball, at impact.
Gankas, a 47 year-old eccentric, wears a giant-size flat brim cap and flip-flops to a lesson.
Gankas calls students dude and pro, rather than Mr. and Sir.
Gankas believes every swing is different, like one’s fingerprint.
Gankas physically moves golfers into position so that they learn to play by feel and instinct, rather than according to tense robot-like mechanics.
Gankas gets students to increase club-speed, through a leverage action, and, in turn, one’s power-potential.
Gankas is so big on leverage that, according to a California-based golf instructor I know, when a student employs the right match-up moves delivering the club into impact, he will move the mat forward by at least a couple of feet. This is the most amazing thing, since seeing the great boxer, Roberto Duran, show such strength and spring in his legs, to be able to squat down and jump rope.
Taking all this into consideration, in addition to the fact that Gankas has 100,000 Instagram followers, is paid $350 for an hour golf lesson, is booked around four months in advance, and is a student of psychology, physiology, philosophy, physical fitness, and mindset, I would agree this man, who takes everything he can into consideration when giving golf lessons, is, right now, definitely golf’s hottest teacher.
What I cannot wait for is a formal golf lesson in Florida, with Gankas, that a California-based friend and scratch golfer is trying to coordinate, presently.
After that tutoring session, I will tell you if Gankas gave me the best golf lesson ever. Todd Graves, who has simplified the Moe Norman golf swing, gave me a great lesson not so long ago. That said, I’m optimistic about Gankas winning the best lesson battle, simply because I share a lot of his philosophy, and look forward to seeing where we differ, so that we can both learn more about the mystery of the golf swing.
I’d like to hear all about your George Gankas golf lesson experience.