MILWAUKEE -- David Leadbetter didn't single-handedly turn golf instruction into a cottage industry, but he arguably was the first swing teacher to achieve celebrity status.
Thirty years ago, teaching pros were all but invisible on the PGA Tour. Then, in the 1980s and early 90s, Nick Price and Nick Faldo won major championships while working with Leadbetter, a tall, lanky Englishman who had played on the European and South African tours with little success.
Leadbetter's stable of players grew to include Greg Norman, Charles Howell III, the late Seve Ballesteros, Michelle Wie and Ernie Els, among others. As his stature grew, competitors started making names for themselves, too: Butch Harmon for working with Tiger Woods, Rick Smith for working with Phil Mickelson.
Now, when a top player switches teachers -- Woods to Hank Haney and then to Sean Foley, for instance -- it's big news.
Leadbetter went on to publish books, produce instructional videos and DVDs, market golf training aides and launch a chain of academies headquartered at ChampionsGate Golf Resort in Orlando.
"It's been very gratifying," he said in a telephone interview. "Look, I wouldn't say I was a pioneer. You could go back to Jack Nicklaus and Jack Grout. Bob Jones had a coach, Stewart Maiden. So there's always been a player-coach relationship. I was fortunate in that I was in the right place at the right time.
"It's been really gratifying and exciting. It's enabled me to write books and open academies and bring golf instruction into people's minds. In the old days, the novice golfer might take a few lessons here and there, but I think the fact that people see top golfers working with swing coaches, it's helped the general business of teaching."
In June 2010, Leadbetter opened an academy at The Bog in Saukville, Wis. It is run by Matt Hilton, who won a Wisconsin junior title and went on to play at Marquette University.
Leadbetter is scheduled to conduct a clinic at The Bog on May 27.
"I know Wisconsin is a hotbed for golf," he said. "It's incredible the support that tournament golf gets up there. You cheeseheads love the game and we're excited to have an academy at The Bog. My wife's family is from La Crosse. It's a great state. If you could get rid of those 747-sized mosquitoes, you'd have a perfect state."
At the Masters last month, Nicklaus talked about how he used to see Grout once a year for tune-ups and bemoaned the fact so many of today's top players run to their coaches when the first little thing goes wrong with their swing. Nicklaus contended that players would be better off figuring it out for themselves.
Perhaps surprisingly, Leadbetter agreed.
"Years ago, there were a lot of self-made swings and they got it done through talent alone," he said. "I do think if you give players something, they have to take responsibility and work on it on their own.
"You've still got players who are largely independent. Rickie Fowler and Bubba Watson are two examples. But there is a large group who like to have somebody there all the time. Whether that's the best route, I'm not convinced.
"My goal as a coach is to help design a blueprint for players and then their feelings and sensations need to come out, because I can't hit the shot for them. We're always looking at teaching from a standpoint of giving the players the tools so they can help themselves."
Golf instruction and equipment have come a long way the last 20 years. Golfers can video their swings on their cell phones. Launch monitors and custom club-fitting allow players to maximize their potential. Balls fly farther than ever. Strength and conditioning programs have turned golfers into athletes.
So why has the average handicap remained virtually unchanged? Why is the game so hard for so many people?
"No. 1, it is a difficult game," Leadbetter said. "It's not easy. There are so many elements to it. It's not just striking the ball. It's short game, putting, it's thinking and it's attitude. It's an all-consuming sport and it does take time. In today's world, we don't have a whole lot of time. We have less time.
"You've really got to make a commitment if you want to get better."
There is so much instruction available to golfers and so many swing theories that it can become confusing. If certain positions are important in a golf swing, why are there so many styles and methods to teach them?
"Because we're all different," Leadbetter said. "We all interpret information differently. We all move differently and have different flexibility and strength factors and movement patterns. Ultimately, what everything boils down to is how you create energy. That's what golf is all about. How best for an individual to produce energy on a repetitive basis.
"If you don't have energy you're not going to hit the ball anywhere and you're going to hit it off-line."
So now you know. If you want to become a better golfer, you have to create energy more efficiently.
And if you want to know how to do that, well, Leadbetter has books, DVDs and training aides to help you figure it out.