• Michael Smith, ForeCollegeGolf CEO


First, let’s agree that some players are just more ‘coachable’ than others. The best have a set of behaviors and traits that lend themselves to deeper learning. It’s not that I don’t believe in each and every one of my player’s ability to change. I just think its critical that they believe in not only their own ability to affect change, but believe that they can and will reach their ultimate goals in golf.

Realistically, we also can say that some players approach the learning and development process with a really lousy learning mindset. Additionally, we can agree that coaching is a two-way street. Each player approaches the development process with a mindset that will determine how much progress they will ultimately make. I truly believe that my ability to assess and influence a players mindset is a key skill to the effectiveness of ForeCollegeGolf.

So, who are the best learners and what are some of their traits and habits? I’ve identified a few traits of the best of the best.


This trait is listed first for a reason. My favorite players to coach and the ones who experience the most success are, above all, conscientious. There is plenty of research that links conscientiousness to high academic achievement as well.

By definition, it means to ‘do one’s work well and thoroughly.’ So when I provide some coaching or guidance to someone with this trait, you can be sure they will work purposefully towards it. As a coach, I can count on them to do the work that is required to make progress. Not only will they do it, but they’ll be meticulous in completing it as assigned. No wonder this trait is linked to high performance in other fields as well.

Alternatively, my players without this trait rarely coming back having completed the assigned tasks or prescriptions. If in a previous swing lesson, you identified a critical technical point that required attention, the un-conscientious player is likely to come back with an entirely new set of ‘ideas.’ They’re just more likely to become distracted because they lack the discipline and organization to remain purposeful and focused throughout their daily lives.


My favorite players are also curious. I list this after ‘Conscientious’ because I want to be sure to clarify that it’s not compliance we are after. To remain an active participant in the learning process, we need them to stay curious and engaged in finding solutions to the various problems that we encounter. Rather than the ‘just tell me what to do to fix it’ player, they are eager to truly understand key elements of their college recruiting process. And when I feed their thirst for understanding, I can unlock the problem solver that lives within each of them.

Now they don’t depend on someone else to get fixed. So many golfers struggle on the course because they have no idea why bad shots occur and, similarly, players in the recruiting process because they don’t know the best practices of communication.


All players are quick to see the problems. Golf has a cruel way of making them painstakingly obvious whereas the recruiting process might not be so vivid. My most coachable players have a different reaction to encountering a problem than the vast majority of players. They all adopt a combination of optimism, curiosity and even skepticism that aims their focus towards finding a solution. Rather than slam a club, mumble a curse word, or give up completely— the best players believe in their ability to find a solution and take mental action steps to improve.


Call it what you want— grit, toughness, resilience, tenacity— the best players have it. They’re fueled by an unwavering self-belief that they can get through the toughest of obstacles. So rather than quit at signs of trouble, they persevere through them. They even relish them.

So many of the players out there are unwilling to fail or look foolish while undergoing a change or trying something new. Whereas, the best players are intrinsically motivated players are so dead set on their journey to mastery that they view temporary struggles as a necessary means to an end.


Golf is hard, really hard. At the highest level, I’ve personally have had plenty of reminders of just how hard it can be. The best players realize this and are “their own best friend” as they map the road to improvement.

I am shocked at some of the self-talk I sometimes encounter juniors saying on the golf course. If there was only one trait that I would require in all of my players, it would be Self-Compassion.



This is where the conscientious players thrive. They throw themselves towards a singular focus when they arrive, whether that’s on the practice tee, in the classroom or in ForeCollegeGolf meetings. They’re organized, they know exactly what they are there to work on and how they plan to attack it. Because so few players possess the self-discipline to attack their work this way, I try to do my best to make it as easy as possible for everyone that I coach. Players leave each FCG meeting with a detailed prescription of tasks, challenges, and actions to complete on their own.


The most coachable players take time to reflect. They reflect on our meetings, their practice, and their on-course performances. They take the time to sit back and enjoy their successes, learn from their failures, and develop an organized plan to fill the gaps.

Very few players have the discipline to do this but the best type of reflection often begins with journaling. The best players write down notes on their practice and play, in great detail.


The best are driven and purposeful. But first, they decide exactly where it is that they want to go and what they will strive to accomplish. Again, journaling or real goal-setting techniques are paramount to achieve success.

Mike Smith is the Founder & CEO of ForeCollegeGolf and specializes in assisting junior golfers & their families through the college recruiting process. Email him @

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Special Note- Per NCAA Bylaws, I do not market a prospective student-athletes athletic ability or reputation, negotiate or promise scholarships, or serve as an agent or swing instructor in any way. I may serve as a reference for PSA's. In addition, it is permissible for ForeCollegeGolf to distribute high school academic and athletic records to college coaches without jeopardizing a PSA's eligibility. I help my clients manage all forms of communication (email, phone calls, personal meetings) with college coaches, and encourage the players I work with to correspond directly with coaches as part of an effective personal marketing plan. 


In accordance with NCAA Rules & Bylaws, fees and services are not contingent on a prospective student-athlete being recruited or receiving financial aid. All payments are due based on the terms of the enrolled program. Michael J. Smith, Golf Excellence LLC and Fore College Golf do not serve or act as an agent in any way. ForeCollegeGolf TM, Ponte Vedra Beach, FL 


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