There are golf instructors who are more famous and teachers who work with the world’s best players, but nobody has a bigger audience than Martin Hall.
On his weekly School of Golf show on Golf Channel, Hall imparts his wisdom to more than 100,000 viewers every Tuesday night, giving him the largest teaching platform in golf.
Yet Hall insists the golfers at home receive the same type of information as if he were doing a one-on-one lesson at The Club at Ibis in West Palm Beach, where he has been director of instruction since 1997.
“I decided early on the Martin Hall you see on TV will be the same Martin Hall you see on the back of the range at The Club at Ibis,” Hall said. “I’m not sure what I teach on TV is any different than what I would teach on the tee at Ibis.”
But Hall’s life is a lot different since he started working for the Golf Channel in 2011. He originally wasn’t interested when Golf Channel started searching for an instructor. He thought he was too old or the network wouldn’t want him.
He was wrong: Viewers selected Hall over finalists Wayne Player (Gary’s son) and Karen Palacios-Jansen (wife of speed skater Dan Jansen).
“I’ve done more than 330 shows,” Hall said, “so it must have worked.”
It’s not easy doing what he does: trying to teach someone the incredibly difficult task of hitting a golf ball correctly. Then throw in the challenges of doing it on live TV and it can be quite a high-wire act at times.
“Because it’s live TV, you have to be louder, more energetic,” he said. “But at the same time, I’m still trying to explain to golfers why golf balls do what they do and what golfers have to do to get better.”
When Hall was growing up in England, he strived to play the game for a living. He was good enough to play on the PGA European Tour, but not good enough to stay on it.
His playing career ostensibly ended when he missed a 3-foot putt to fail to qualify at the tour’s Q-school in 1977.
“It turned out to be a very good 3-foot putt to miss,” Hall said.
The miss forced Hall to reassess his profession: He decided to start teaching the game for a living. He got a job in England before coming to the U.S. in 1985 to work at St. Andrews in Boca Raton.
“I decided early on the Martin Hall you see on TV will be the same Martin Hall you see on the back of the range at The Club at Ibis.” – Martin Hall
This proved to be a crucial time for Hall’s career because he started interacting with top teachers such as Bob Toski, Jim Flick and Peter Kostis. Hall was learning almost as much as he was teaching.
Hall’s next big break came in 1991 when he worked out a deal with Jack Nicklaus and Flick to open golf schools around the world. It was Hall’s first venture into mass teaching, and Nicklaus was impressed.
“Martin has the eyes, the head and, most important, the heart to help any level of player to improve,” Nicklaus said. “He has a passion for the game, and that comes through in his interpretation of how the best golfers in the world excel in the sport, and how the average golfer can benefit from these insights.”
Hall saw the game from a different angle: He is married to a professional golfer, Lisa Hackney, who was named Rookie of the Year and played in two Solheim Cups. He could tap into that insight.
He worked with Morgan Pressel for a decade early in her career, when she won a U.S. Women’s Amateur, became the youngest to qualify for a Women’s U.S. Open (at 12) and became the youngest winner of a major when she captured the 2007 Kraft Nabisco Championship at 18.
When Golf magazine first came out with its Top 100 Instructors in the U.S. in 1996, Hall was on the list.
The Palm City resident has been there every year since.
“To know you have weathered the storm of competition for 24 years is pretty significant,” Hall said.
“There’s only 23 teachers like myself who have been on that list from Day 1.”
Patricia Meunier-Lebouc, who is the only French professional golfer to win a major (2003 Kraft Nabisco Championship), has seen two sides of Hall. He used to teach her when she played, and for the past decade they have shared the practice tee at Ibis as instructors.
“He has unmatched knowledge of all golf coaches’ methods, drills, thoughts and techniques, which has allowed him to create his own vision and process as a coach,” Meunier-Lebouc said. “But also his passion for the game and the golf swing … and let’s don’t forget his character and personality.”
Hall can be sneaky funny, his humor as dry as Palm Springs. It doesn’t matter if he’s in the studio or on the range, Hall will say something that has you chuckling the rest of the day.
“Golf is meant to be fun,” Hall says.
Technology keeps reinventing the game, so Hall better stay up with the times. These days, players instantly know their swing speed, ball speed, the spin on the ball and how far it carries.
It can be TMI – for the instructor as well as the student.
“I have a lot more tools at my disposal, as all the teachers do these days,” Hall said. “We are way better equipped to help with people.”
Hall spends most of his time in the Golf Channel studio working alongside Blair O’Neal, a former college star and Big Break winner. The trick is to keep the show entertaining.
“I love working with Martin. He has my back and I have his,” O’Neal said. “We try to come up with new ways to teach the game. Martin makes it interesting.”
“I love working with Martin. … We try to come up with new ways to teach the game. Martin makes it interesting.” – Co-Host Blair O’neal
Hall the instructor always overrules Hall the entertainer. He may talk louder and with more energy, but his methods must be proven.
“I feel it’s really important the information is as rock solid as it can be,” Hall said. “I don’t put anything on the show that is off the cuff and hasn’t been researched. I’m not in the business to fabricate something because it sounds good.”
Hall realizes he’s fortunate to have spent time with all the great teachers, as well as legends such as Nicklaus, Gary Player, Tom Watson, etc. Hall has talked the golf swing with Tiger Woods.
With such accessibility comes responsibility.
“I’ve had so much great input from the game’s greatest players and teachers,” Hall says, “I think it’s important the sayings they’ve shared get passed on to the next generation. I don’t want their gems to get lost.”
About to enter his second decade as the preeminent instructor at the Golf Channel, Hall isn’t about to disappear at 64. He may have been reluctant to take the job in 2011, but he wants to remain there as long as he can.
“I came to America to make enough money as soon as I could, so I could return to England and retire,” Hall said. “Now that I can retire easily, I have more interest and passion for teaching than I ever have.”
You can see it every week, without having to leave your living room.