This Novi golf academy will help cure your winter blues … and fix your slice
On a gray, frigid morning earlier this week, I hustled from my car, across a parking lot and through the front door of a welcoming Novi business where my mood elevated as quickly as a solidly-struck Jordan Spieth 9-iron shot.
Stocked with the latest golf-teaching technology — including four bays equipped with simulators and a hydraulics-operated putting apparatus that simulates every break on a green you can imagine — Golf Leadership Academy is a haven for everyone who has even a small degree of passion for the sport that leads off its name.
“People aren’t always in a great mood when they walk in our front door,” said GLA co-owner Ben Bockin, smiling, “but they are by the time they walk out.”
Bockin was referring to the endorphin-releasing effect improved swing mechanics and an enhanced mindset can have on a person — whether they’re a self-described hack or 5 handicap fairway stud.
Golf creates leaders
Bockin, a Wisconsin native, and business partner Chad Elledge (a former prep golfer at Detroit Catholic Central and Northville High School and graduate of Ferris State University, who was introduced to the game while caddying at Meadowbrook Country Club) launched GLA in 2018 with a business model that taught teams of youth golfers leadership traits through golf.
“It was going really, really well,” Bockin shared, “then COVID hit and we had to shut down. In January 2021, we moved from a 12,000-square-foot facility down the road to this place and we focus on individual instruction now.”
The business’s pivot couldn’t have unfolded much smoother, thanks to some out-of-the-box thinking by Bockin and Elledge.
GLA is unique to its competitors in that its facility is available 24/7 to members, who can open the front door with an app on their smart phones.
“We have members who feel like coming in at midnight and training,” Bockin said, “and others who feel like showing up at 5 a.m. to get some work in before they head to the office. The around-the-clock accessibility to our place is a big hit with members.”
As is the GLA staff’s adaptable instruction method that tees off with a three-lesson On-Ramp program that focuses on providing students with more clarity, comfort and confidence — a trio of qualities that often leads to guaranteed results.
Bockin said the quality many of their customers seek is difficult, if not impossible, to attain, especially considering the unpredictability of golf.
Easier said than done
Born and raised in a community just south of Green Bay, Wisconsin, he said he and his fellow Packers fans have been spoiled by the franchise’s quarterback-led consistency of success.
If only that trait was as easy to own on the links.
“Everybody wants consistency in their game,” he said. “When they tell us this, we’ll say there is nothing consistent about the game of golf. Even the players on the PGA Tour have up to 20-shot differentials from their low rounds to their high rounds on any given day. We’re big on selling adaptability, not consistency. We teach players how to adapt to the environment on the course and how to be their own best coach.”
Practice makes… almost perfect
Bockin said there are several drills golfers can practice in the comfort of their own homes, including putting with the assistance of rulers and working on where a divot should start (hint: it’s not behind the ball) by using a towel.
“And they can work on their club speed at home with jet sticks, which are shorter than actual clubs so they can be used in rooms that may not have higher-than-normal ceilings,” he said.
Since moving to Michigan 16 years ago, Bockin said he has embraced the variety of high-caliber courses scattered across the state.
He said he developed a special affection the first time he played the Bloomfield Hills Country Club layout.
“There are no tee times, so you show up and can get around in four hours,” he said. “It’s such a unique course and offers some of the best views in southeast Michigan.”
The biggest golf-related transformation Bockin sees on the near-horizon is technology-based.
“The cost of purchasing a golf simulator for your home has decreased dramatically; in fact, you can get a decent one now for around $1,500,” he said. “As a result, you’re going to see less and less people out on actual courses and playing more in their homes.”
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