Most people hate going to class, but that all changed in 2011 when “School of Golf with Martin Hall” debuted on Golf Channel. Five years later, the award-winning golf instruction show is set to air its 200th episode, Wednesday at 7 p.m. ET. Hall was a world-renowned teacher long before he was The Professor. He won the 2008 PGA Teacher of the Year award, worked with major champions and is currently eighth on Golf Digest’s ranking of the Best Teachers in America. Hall recently sat down to answer some questions about the show.
How did you become the “School of Golf” host?
Golf Channel held a national instructor search and I was not going to enter because I thought I’d be too old. I thought they’d be looking for someone younger. Then T.J. Hubbard [a Golf Channel producer] called and told me to put my name in the hat because he believed I’d be looked at favorably. I sent in my audition tape and obviously it all went quite well. I ended up one of three finalists along with Karen Palacios-Jansen and Wayne Player [Gary Player’s son], we each aired a demo show, there was a popular vote and, to my delight, I won!
When you first started five years ago, could you imagine doing 200 episodes?
Absolutely not. When I first drove up to Orlando to meet Kevin Schultz [Senior Director of Lifestyle Content] and he said here’s your schedule, I expected to see probably eight shows for the year. I thought I’d do eight shows and that would be that, maybe. And here we are now at 200.
You’ve had so many great guests on the show, including seven members of the World Golf Hall of Fame. Are there any guests that were extra special?
They’ve all been very, very special for all sorts of reasons, but the two that stand out to me are Tom Watson and Sir Nick Faldo, eight Opens between them. Early on in the first season we had tapings scheduled with Watson on Monday and Faldo on Tuesday, and I was terrified! I was like a naughty schoolboy, I didn’t want to get out of bed. We got halfway up the turnpike to Orlando and I absolutely, seriously, totally wanted Lisa [Martin’s wife] to turn the car around. I said “I can’t do this,” because I was terrified of doing an interview with Tom Watson and Sir Nick Faldo. My how it’s changed now because if I had half a chance to grab a Tom Watson or Sir Nick Faldo on the range, I would put them in handcuffs and drag them on camera. I wouldn’t be phased by it at all, anymore.
What is the most common question or reaction you get from fans that recognize The Professor in public?
I like that people say, “Wow, you’re exactly the same in person as you are on TV.” I decided when I started doing this that the Martin Hall you will see on “School of Golf” is the Martin Hall you will meet at the grocery store or on the range at The Club at Ibis [where Martin is the Director of Instruction]. I’ve been seen all over the world, but I’m absolutely no different of a person than I was six years ago when we started.
You’ve taught so many people, but what’s the biggest thing you’ve learned since you started hosting the show?
I think like everything else in life, it’s all about preparation. I’ve tried to study people who are very good at their craft on television, and I think people who make it look relatively straight-forward and relatively uncomplicated have prepared at great lengths. They work very hard to make it look very easy and I try to do the same.
How do you come up with so many original drills?
That’s because I still teach four full days a week and the game still fascinates me. I love to read about stories of successful people. Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple, would tell his team every day, “There must be a better way.” Every day I teach I keep thinking there must be a better way.
You’re not the only “Hall” to make an impact in the golf world. Your wife Lisa has played on two European Solheim Cup teams. How has she helped you with the show?
She’s a great sounding board. Every idea I’ve ever had that I thought was great, I run by her, and many times realize it’s not so great. Before speaking with my producer, Bret Brillante, I’ve gone over a draft with Lisa two or three times. In terms of preparation I’m mindful of what Ernest Hemmingway said. “The first draft of anything is …” let’s say garbage because I think he used a stronger word than that. So I like to go through three or four drafts to sharpen the show.
What’s the one tip, drill or advice you believe every single golfer needs to know?
All golfers need to know the start direction of the golf ball depends almost entirely on the angle of the club face. I like the say, “The face sends it and the path bends it.” A lot of people think it’s the other way around but we have a lot of science now to prove it isn’t that way. The angle of the face is the most important thing in golf for direction, and just one or two degrees open or closed will put the ball in the hay somewhere, which makes it all the more remarkable what we saw last week with people like Henrik Stenson and Phil Mickelson at Royal Troon, or Dustin Johnson at Oakmont. They can swing so fast, hit it so hard, and essentially they are error-free with the club face at impact. Absolutely mind-boggling to me.
What does the future hold for “School of Golf”?
Well, I hope a lot more seasons. I’m going to keep doing “School of Golf” until they tell me they don’t want me, and hopefully that will be a long time. I made a promise to myself and the people that watch “School of Golf” that I will give every show 100 percent and that I’ll treat every show as if it’s my last. Every show I do is important to me, my personal Super Bowl, and I give it everything I can.