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Daily Inspiration: Meet John Hughes

Today we’d like to introduce you to John Hughes.

Hi John, so excited to have you on the platform. So before we get into questions about your work-life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today?
I began my career as a golf professional giving lessons to customers at a small golf retail store in Raleigh, North Carolina, over 35 years ago. To entice customers to purchase golf clubs, we offered a free grip lesson or a drill to assist someone with a simple flaw almost anyone could recognize. This was fun for a while, but it also enticed my appetite to learn more about the golf swing to assist my own game. Fast forward a few years, I found myself in Edisto Beach, South Carolina as an assistant golf professional at the small resort course on Edisto Island. It would become the start of my career as a PGA Professional as well as launch my thirst to learn everything I could to become the best golf coach I could be. From 1993 to 1999, I served in various capacities at four different golf clubs in four different locations within SC, ranging from General Manager to acting superintendent, and everything in between. It was fun and this experience opened my eyes to how a golf coach can function within any golf facility’s business plan, as well as understand the seamless role a golf coach needs to assume when provided the opportunity to provide instructional services at any golf facility.

It was late in 1999 I made the decision that being a full-time golf coach is what I was destined to be. So I took the leap of faith and found myself at a golf school in Pawley’s Island South Carolina. It was a fun yet challenging learning experience. And it was at this facility that I began to realize the potential I had to be one of the best golf coaches. After spending a season in Myrtle Beach, I moved to Sea Pines Plantation in Hilton Head Island SC to be part of the coaching staff at The Golf Academy of Hilton Head and the International Junior Golf Academy. For 3+ years, I honed my craft instructing amateur golfers during the morning hours, and elite junior golfers from around the world every afternoon. During that time I was fortunate to assist golfers who I still have a coaching relationship today. It was in Hilton Head that I began to realize my potential and learned a lot about how to operate a golf academy from behind the scenes.

After a management change in late 2003, I found myself looking for a position with another golf academy and also considering opening my own in the Hilton Head area. As I researched the opportunity to open my own golf academy, I found that there were several companies that actually sent golfers to locations for golf schools, somewhat like a travel agency booking hotel or airline reservations for travelers. I connected with one of those companies, Advantage Golf School. It was a start up company based in the Orlando area who had just split from another company. The company was in search of more locations and the Hilton Head area was on their radar. After a couple phone calls, I was part of their network of locations. And within three months of being part of the network, I was offered the position of National Director of Instruction for the entire network. As National Director of Instruction of Advantage Golf School, it was my responsibility to not only instruct clients at my facility and a couple others, I was also placed in charge of expanding the network and actually making the network a bonafide golf academy working under the same set of protocols at each location. I traveled the country contracting the best golf resort locations to host our programs. I trained and supervised instructors to deliver a consistent and flexible instructional philosophy. And I assisted with various other aspects of the business.

We soon grew from five locations to 13 high end resort locations across the country, with over 55 highly experienced instructors hosting our clients from around the world. Little did we know we were being secret shopped by an organization that positively influenced my career. Golf Digest had closed their golf schools in 2008 for various reasons and was anxious to reopen them in a different direction. Golf Digest Schools was the originator of “vacation golf schools,” and was the measuring stick that other golf schools emulated. Advantage Golf School specialized in 1-to1 instruction, allowing us to customize a golf school experience to the exact needs of every golfer we served. Several of Golf Digests’ management team came to our programs unrecognized and enjoyed a very positive experience. And in 2010, I received a call from the instructional editor of Golf Digest, Peter Morrice, asking if Advantage Golf School would take over the operation of Golf Digest Schools. We jumped at the opportunity and for the next 3+ years I served as National Director of Instruction for Golf Digest Schools. I’m one of only four individuals who ever served in that capacity. The experience provided me an opportunity to network with the best golf instructors in the world. And it opened my eyes to the fact that I had achieved a place within the industry that few others had experienced.

By 2013, my position was discontinued at Golf Digest Schools and Advantage Golf Schools. I found myself in the same position I was in at the end of 2003, looking to start my own academy. And by late 2004, I was able to secure a contract with Falcon’s Fire Golf Club to perform my coaching programs there. November 22, 2020, I celebrated my 7the anniversary at Falcon’s Fire, an achievement no other golf instructor has been able to achieve in the 28+ years of the facilities existence. I coach golfers of all skill levels at Falcon’s Fire from all over the world. I also conduct vacation golf school programs at Streamsong Resort. And as 2021 emerges, I’ll be expanding my golf coaching programs at not only Falcon’s Fire, but also at a 2nd Orlando facility, as well as through a virtual platform that I’ve been able to crate with a very creative and dedicated team of individuals.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Evolving as a business owner is never an easy road, with plenty of bumps, bruises, and pitfalls along the way. I’ve had my fair share of those experiences. But golf seems to mimic life in such a way that when you experience a bump in the road within your business or personally, you can find a way through it. I think golf is one of the ultimate problem solving games with each shot you make providing a unique set of circumstances along the journey we call a round of golf. Doesn’t life do the same thing? The two biggest bumps in my career has been the loss of employment and the decisions I had to each time that happened. I had a roof over my head to maintain as well as family who depended upon me. The decisions I’ve made along the way to work my way through hardship always kept family as the #1 priority, knowing that everything else could work itself out with hard work, discipline, creativity, and patience. A couple times these hardships forced me to make decisions that were extremely difficult. What I learned from these experiences is I do have the ability to assist people with their passion of golf. And I can operate a business that can serve many while fulfilling the needs of my family and my clients.

Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
John Hughes Golf specializes in customized golf coaching for all skill level golfers. My programs are not the typical “cookie-cutter” golf lessons most are accustomed to seeing or experiencing. I attempt to engage each of my clients in a coaching relationship that allows me to understand who they are as a person first, because the priority system of each person is going to dictate how much time and effort a golfer will place into developing improved skills. There are no quick fixes or band aids in golf or life. And being able to match a customized coaching program to each individual’s needs and goals has to fit seamlessly into the fabric of each golfer’s unique life experiences. I use state-of-the-art technology to confirm to my clients, in objective terms, what they are performing within their swings. My clients know that I’m not providing them a gimmick. I’m providing them a solution based upon the absolute cause of their issues and a therapy to resolve those issues that address the cause, not the symptoms.

My communication strategy is ever evolving, with listening being the #1 priority I strive to achieve. I can’t assume one golfer is like another, no matter how similar 2 swings may compare. Listening is a lost art, and its something we all need to relearn each time you meet a new person. Understand the person first is one of the ways that sets me apart. And its a communication strategy that is the basis for everything else I do. A new venture that will launch November 30, 2020 is www.InstantGolfImprovement.com. This sis virtual subscription service delivering golf instruction to individuals all around the world. The goal is to scale the business as more golfers subscribe. I will eventual add more golf coaches from around the world to provide customized video golf lessons and live streaming clinics to the Subscriber Members of IGI, as well as enhance the benefits of being a Subscriber Member. IGI has been a concept I’ve wanted to create for over five years. Due to distractions and another items that inevitably happen to you as a business owner, the project has been delayed.

But with the onset of COVID-19 and the other events relative to the illness, there’s been no better time to launch IGI than now. Like trying to plan for a family, there’s never the perfect time and you’re never really ready for that to happen, no matter how much you plan. As we launch IGI, there will be growing pains. But it will be the same growing pain learning lessons I’ve experienced in the past that fuels my passion and ambition for IGI to be a world leader in virtual/remote golf skill improvement and development. And by mid 2021, we will launch a TV Show by the same name to air on streaming channels. The pilot has been shot and is being finalized now for promotion. I’m also proud of the work I provide Golf Tips Magazine as one of their Top 25 Golf Instructors. The written and video pieces I’ve provided the publication the past few years recently earned me the title of being 1 of their senior instructional editors. As I produce more video content for IGI, I’ll be doing the same for Golf Tips Magazine.

I’m also very proud of the volunteer positions and organizations I’ve been a part of. I serve as Honorary President of the North Florida PGA Section, having served the past 6+ years as its Secretary, Vice President, and President. I also served in the same 3 chairs within the Orlando PGA Chapter from 2007-2013. I was a Member of the Parkinson’s Association of Central Florida. I got involved with this organization in 2015 when my Father, who lives in North Carolina, informed me of being diagnosed with PD. His Mother passed from complications from PD several years prior to my Father’s diagnosis. I felt the need to give back as best I could locally. Due business growth, I had to resign that position in 2019. I still provide reduced cost or complimentary golf coaching to the more than 6000 people who live with PD everyday. I’ve served other non-for-profits and will continue to lend my assistance whenever possible.

Any advice for finding a mentor or networking in general?
I’ve been fortunate throughout my life and career to have many mentors who I can seek counsel from. The common thread we share is sharing with each other, as “mentoring” is a 2-way street, not a one-way alley. For mentoring to work, it has to work for both the mentor and the person seeking mentoring. And mentoring does not happen by design, it happens organically. When two people share a common interest, the communication of “Mentoring” can harness a relationship that expands beyond the common interest. I’ve always had an unwritten open door policy regarding mentoring, whether within or outside my industry. It’s always about giving back, which is the hallmark characteristics of all successful businesses. When people seek me out to ask questions about how they can be a better person, coach, business person, life partner, parent, I’m always going to say yes. And the people who have organically surrounded me throughout the years who I believe serve as my mentors, have the same unwritten open door policy.

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Some Images by Russell Kirk / GolfLinksPhotography.com Streamsong Image provided by Streamsong Resort

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