I was bitten by the golf bug at an early age, having hit my first golf ball at the age of five. One summer afternoon, I watched some neighborhood kids through the fence that separated our backyard from the adjoining school yard, as they swatted and chased a little white ball across the two baseball diamonds and soccer field the connected them. Seeing that they were having a great time, I went into the garage and grabbed the closest thing I could find that resembled what they were using, a croquet mallet. Now I never said that I hit my first golf ball with an actual golf club, but unbeknownst to me, my life's ultimate direction was set in motion that day on the playground of Sawyer Elementary School!
The next summer, seeing my newly found interest in his life-long passion, my Grandpa Charlie took me to Roger's Driving Range in Ames, IA, where I grew up, and showed me the basics of how to grip and swing a real golf club. To be honest though, I think on some level this was a selfish gesture on his part, since up to this point, visiting family meant NO GOLF! Who could fault him? Wasn't he simply following his duty as a grandfather to meet all of his grandson's needs and desires, by making sure he took him to the course every day of his visit? Smooth move, Grandpa!! Even though the clubs were way too long, the golf balls were nearly smooth, and the AstroTurf we were hitting off was worn through to the cement, I had an unbelievable day. I must say that it is comforting to realize, that taking the club too far to the inside and shut, has only been an issue for me for that last 33 years, as seen in the photo below!
Although I played baseball from tee-ball through 9th grade, and basketball, tennis, soccer and football through middle school, golf was the sport that I always gravitated towards, spending every available moment playing with my friends Phil, Dave, Mike, and Jon. When they were unavailable, I would venture across the street to hit balls on the soccer field at Brookside Park- even chasing orange golf balls in the snow, when I just had to get out of the house during the long Iowa winters.
My high school golf career went by with little fanfare, except for shooting an even par 36 at Willow Creek as the sixth man on Varsity, where I earned the individual medalist and helped our team to a team victory at the 1993 Valley Classic, but I digress. Practicing at the local country club during the season, I ended up working there throughout high school, where I innocently started my teaching career at the age of 15, under the tutelage of PGA Professionals Jon Ward and Chris Winkle- my first golf mentors after Grandpa Charlie. Helping out with junior golf and taking a few lessons myself, I saw my future in the action of those two men. To this day, I still think of all three of the aforementioned gentlemen quite frequently, either while teaching or playing.
After a few failed attempts at walking onto the local university team, I fell into the traps of life like many of my students, which led me away from school and the game of golf for a number of years. As they say, you don't know what you had until its gone- no truer words for me! In my mid-20's I had a huge hole in my life without a name, and it wasn't until I was talked into going to a local 9-Holer one summer, with no woods, my MP-14's blades, and a borrowed putter, that I found out it was golf!! Just like riding a bike, eh? Not exactly!! But, even though I shot in the mid 80's that first summer, I once again knew that I was destined for a career in golf.
Having gone back to school, I picked balls and washed carts at the university course for a few years, before becoming the first Assistant Golf Professional, in the history of Veenker Memorial Golf Course (est. 1938) at Iowa State University, upon my graduation in 2004. So began my official pursuit towards membership with the PGA of America.
Since then, I have worked not only in Iowa, but Florida, and now Arizona, having been employed in public, semi-private, and private facilities. I have taught beginners, high school and college players, and single-digit handicappers alike. I have taught young and old, male and female, physically gifted and physically handicapped, and literally everything in between!! I am currently a certified PGA Professional, as well as a Nicklaus Academies Trained golf instructor, giving roughly 700 lessons a year. I relish the opportunity I've had to impact the lives of hundreds, just like my mentors Grandpa Charlie, Jon, Chris and now Mike Malaska, 2011 PGA National Teacher of the year, who I have worked under for the last several years in Phoenix. Having played the game for nearly 35 years, I am constantly looking to improve as a teacher, a player, and most importantly a person, realizing perfection is only a swing away.
Why am I telling you about the impact golf has had my life and how it brought me to this moment, you ask?
Because I am a golfer! I've been there and done that, trying every quick-fix gadget and secret move to play my best, and I want you to know that I have walked in your golf shoes. I have hit rock bottom on and off the course in my life many times, just like many of you have, and I want you to be comforted in knowing that I am a real person, just like you- hell I am you! I understand that golf is very important to you, I understand that your time is very important to you, and I understand that your hard-earned money is very important to you, and that is why it is so important to me, to help you be the best, most consistent golfer you can be!!
Mark Atchison, Golf Teacher
In order to own and enjoy a consistent and repeatable golf swing, one must base their approach on consistent and repeatable processes. But since there is no one golfer, there is no one swing. Based on my students physical and athletic capabilities, there personal expectations, and the time they have available to practice, I will quickly create a personal lesson plan based on the above criteria, for each and every one of my students.
With that said, I believe that every shot in golf is fundamentally the same, once the proper adjustments have been made for the shot at hand. In order to produce consistent and repeatable golf shots- be it a putt, chip, pitch, or full swing, every golfer must possess proper set-up fundamentals, have the ability to control the club face at impact, and be able to swing the club on a repeatable path with control and balance.
Once these concepts are understood, it's my duty as your teacher, to help you cut through the garbage and confusion that has clogged your mind up to this point, and teach you how to simply put the club face on the back of the ball.