The Teacher of the Year Award bestows special recognition on a Colorado PGA Professional for excellence in golf instruction, along with overall performance. Congratulations Nick Clearwater, PGA, Vice President of Instruction at GOLFTEC, for being this year’s award recipient!
Clearwater grew up in Illinois and didn’t play golf until his family moved to Michigan just before high school. He realized pretty quickly that he played well and was not only interested in playing golf but also in pursuing it as a career. Clearwater played on the high school golf team and continued to play in college when he attended Ferris State University in Michigan for the PGA Golf Management Program.
During the PGA Program, Clearwater had internships at Hilton Head, in Vail and Arizona. After graduation, he moved to the East Coast where he spent time as the Head Golf Professional and/or Head Teaching Professional in Connecticut and New York.
After a short time in Florida as an independent contractor, Clearwater returned to Illinois in 2012 and found a position with GOLFTEC before moving to the company’s headquarters in 2015. Currently, he has the responsibility to oversee the training and lesson quality for over 800 coaches. It is here that he creates and trains a systematic approach toward golf instruction, which has enabled GOLFTEC coaches to view a golf swing and golf instruction similarly.
To mention some of Clearwater’s accomplishments, he was named a Top-50 coach in America by Golf Digest in 2019, he appears regularly on the GOLF Channel Morning Drive and has over 300 pieces of content that annually air on the Golf Channel. He also speaks nationally and internationally at Teaching and Coaching Summits, Section Events, PGM Universities and Golf Biomechanics Seminars.
What does it mean to you to receive this award?
It is always super exciting to be acknowledged by your peers saying I have done something worth recognizing. I am incredibly honored. There are many in Colorado who are worthy of being the Teacher of the Year, it’s exciting to have even been nominated.
What are the qualities you possess that you believe supported you receiving the Teacher of the Year Award?
I have had a lot of unique experiences in the teaching world. I have taught on the PGA TOUR as a PGA Tour Credentialed Instructor for 13 consecutive years, and during that, I have helped around 50-60 PGA Tour, Champion Tour Players and Korn Ferry Tour Players. To be around some of the best golfers in the world for that long is not usually a sustainable challenge that most people get to be a part of or that happens often. That has been super rewarding and gives me a different perspective on how the best players play the game, what they are thinking about, what types of shots they hit in different situations – really, how to help someone play better at that level.
I have also learned from some very smart people who have taught me how to measure someone’s swing and have an objective way of teaching golf. Over time I have tried to refine that to be a scalable trait. I oversee designing, training and managing the teaching system that every coach (800+) uses at GOLFTEC. I have had to learn over time how to get other people to teach quality lessons and give any golfer who walks into GOLFTEC a really good experience.
Personally, I have taught thousands of lessons and can teach in a variety of platforms whether they are standing next to me during a lesson, 5,ooo miles away or even through another instructor.
What are two tools you use in your profession that help with your success?
I use different ways to measure a swing. I have a GEARS system, which is an optical (camera-based) motion tracking system. This is similar to what you see used in movies using cameras and markers to track movements.
The second tool would be experience with launch monitors. Understanding how the club is hitting the ball goes a long way in helping you make good decisions on how to help people and how to help them quickly.
As it relates to golf, what is the best piece of advice that you have received and what advice would you give to others?
The best piece of advice I have received that I would pass on to others would be to practice comparing anyone’s swing to Tour players. Place two pictures side-by-side at the same point in time during a golf swing and have a written description about what is the same and different. Use as few words as possible to make those comparisons. This trains your eye on what to look for when someone has a problem. It is a skill that if you can do well, there shouldn’t be any tricks when a strange swing shows up on your lesson tee.
What is your proudest moment as a golf professional?
I have many proud moments, but one that stands out is when I was teaching at the U.S. Senior Open. Tour Player, Tom Kite, had a rough time during his Wednesday practice round and asked me for help. After working together for a couple of hours, the next day, he went out and shot a 28 on the front nine, which is still the record for the lowest 9-hole score in a Major Tournament.
Share something about yourself that others may not know.
In 2005, I played my last professional event, and it just so happened to be with Michelle Wie. She was 16 years old at the time and she beat me by two shots.