Faldo Institute's Michigan Connection
By Terry Jacoby
When Nick Faldo opened the Faldo Institute of Golf by Marriott in 1997 he loaded his teaching roster with a Michigan flavor. Both Dave Dolengowski and Chip Koehlke have Michigan connections and both have found a golfer's paradise in Orlando.
The Faldo Institute combines a dynamic, team-oriented professional staff with a state-of-the art teaching facility. Faldo, who has won six major tournaments, including three Masters, didn't just slap his name on the institute. "He's very involved," said Dolengowski, who was interviewed personally by Faldo. "Nick wrote a book called, Swing For Life, and we use that as a foundation in our teaching."
Even though Dolengowski and Koehlke both went to Ferris State, their paths never crossed until they ended up in Florida. Now, they often cross paths--especially on the cart paths.
Dolengowski, the senior instructor at Faldo, was born and raised in Adrian. He graduated from Adrian High School in 1978 and was in the golf management program at Ferris, where he graduated in 1983. His first job in golf was as a caddie at Lenawee Country Club in Adrian.
He took the long way to Orlando.
"I lived in Arizona for eight years working for a number of private golf courses, including the Troon Golf and Country Club in Scottsdale and the Phoenix Country Club," Dolengowski said. "My first head professional job was at Eagles Nest in Colorado and I spent two years there." Then he came home.
"In 1992, my wife got pregnant and wanted to get back to Michigan and be close to the family," he said. "We moved to Traverse City and I managed High Pointe for three years."
Dolengowski was the head pro and manager at High Pointe in Acme, one of northern Michigan's better golf courses. He also worked with the junior golf program and was on the board of the Traverse City Junior Golf Program. But the opportunity to teach at a place like the Faldo Institute was too inviting to pass up. So he packed his bags and headed south.
"I interviewed with Nick," he said. "I think he was more nervous than I was. I have been interviewed by CEO's and Nick has never done an interview. He asked me a lot of questions like, 'tell me about yourself' and 'what do you like to do when you are not playing golf?' "My resume told him all he needed to know about my experience so it was a pretty relaxing interview."
As the senior instructor, Dolengowski is in charge of training new instructors.
"We call it 'Faldoizing.' We want everyone on the same page as far as consistency and philosophy. I am also busy teaching. I will teach over 1,000 people this year."
Koehlke is a native of Cincinnati but spent a lot of time in Michigan. After attending Ferris (the only school at the time with a PGA approved Professional Golf Management Program), Koehlke spent two years as an assistant pro at the Country Club of Jackson and then became the teaching professional at the Donald Ross designed Detroit Golf Club.
He wasn't done in Michigan. After the Detroit Golf Club, he spent five years as the head professional at Walnut Creek in South Lyon. "After that I spent a year as a consultant for golf schools," Koehlke said. "I researched the instructional industry. I was first a consultant for the Faldo Institute and they offered me the job of director of instruction."
One of Koehlke's latest duties is teaching Faldo.
"I started working with Nick since October of last year," Koehlke said. "Technique-wise he headed down a road he shouldn't have. I have tried to help him on his techniques."
What can you teach such a guy who has won so much on the PGA Tour?
"Everybody--even the pros--need maintenance with their golf swing," Koehlke said. "I try to give him some ideas."
When he isn't teaching Faldo, Koehlke is helping instruct every level of golfer. More than 5,000 students came through last year for various degrees of instruction. The goal of the institute is to focus on each player's needs, including full-swing skills, short-game skills, playing strategy and golf psychology.
"The whole purpose is to play better," Koehlke said. "We work on a person's game so they can play better and enjoy the game better. We fix golf swings and teach people how to practice and keep that good swing."
Dolengowski said, "We try to provide a map to help improve your game through your swing, golf-management skills and your short game." The facility includes a nine-hole course designed to help golfers work on their game and a state-of-the-art learning facility. They also will be opening a short-game specific school in January.
Classes range from a one-hour private lesson ($150) to a two-day program (weekend school) or a three-day school ($1,200). The facility is open to all ages and skill levels.
For more information on the Faldo Institute, call 1-888-GO-FALDO. Or check them out on the web at www.playfloridagolf.com/Faldo.
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