Ben Hynson sits in Lochmere Golf Club’s grill room on a Thursday morning, relaxed and looking refreshed. Around him golfers pass en route to tee times; a staff member wonders aloud if mats should be used on the practice range; and a nearby table of men debates whatever comes to mind.
For more than 25 years Hynson was in the eye of such daily clubhouse activity at MacGregor Downs Country Club. Last fall, Hynson and the club parted ways.
“The past is the past,” is all Hynson says about the split before taking a sip of lemonade from his cup. If it was an acrimonious break-up, then the 56-year-old Hynson is taking the high road, preferring to talk only about the fond memories and lasting friendships he made.
One such friendship is with Steve Ostroff, Lochmere’s general manager, who would occasionally seek Hynson out for swing tips on his own golf game. Earlier this year, Hynson and Ostroff began having broader conversations about instruction, which ultimately led to Ostroff hiring Hynson as Lochmere’s director of instruction.
Hynson, admittedly drained by the rigors of 60- to 75-hour work weeks, was rejuvenated by the prospects of the more specialized position.
“It’s been a very easy transition,” Hynson said. “I’m doing something I love to do, which is teaching and club fitting. I don’t have all of the responsibilities and I don’t have a whole lot of stress. What’s really nice is I get to set my own schedule and I get to do a lot of different things.
“One of the important things for me is that I have more time with my wife and my family. At this stage in my career that’s pretty good. You get to do what you love, but still have the time to do other things.”
Hynson, a PGA Master Professional, has the chops for the position. Golf Digest recognized Hynson as a top-10 instructor in North Carolina in 2002 and 2009-2012. He was also named the 2009 Carolinas PGA Golf Professional of the Year.
In his new capacity, Hynson works individually with Lochmere members and non-members, and develops new teaching programs, such as a series of clinics through the Town of Cary, for all skill levels.
Yet for all of Hynson’s years and ties to the area – MacGregor Downs and Lochmere are separated by about 3½ miles – in some aspects he is starting fresh.
“The biggest challenge is that I’m the new kid on the block here,” he said. “Yes, a lot of people know me from being in the area so long, but there are also a lot of people who don’t know me. So it’s getting people to know me and the quality and level of instruction that I can provide for them. It’s about the development of trust and credibility with the membership here. Once that is established, then the sky is the limit with what you can do.”
Hynson first began playing around the age of 10, learning the game from Bruce Lehnhard, the club pro at Evergreen Country Club in Haymarket, Va. Hynson’s aptitude and appeal for golf grew, and he played collegiately at Greensboro College before turning professional in 1979. He arrived at MacGregor Downs in 1987.
For Hynson, like teachers in other disciplines, the payoff from instructing is when a student accomplishes a new feat.
“Probably the greatest reward is when they go out, play, come back in and tell you ‘I just had my best round ever,”’ he said. “There are other parts that are rewarding, but the greatest part is when people say ‘thank you.”’
Golfers – and instructors – today are more sophisticated, Hynson says, thanks to advances in swing analysis data, video and training aids. This can create a conundrum for many golfers.
“They have a better understanding of the swing because of all this new technology, but as far as making the correction they don’t really know,” Hynson said. “They may have read one thing in a magazine, another thing online, been told by a friend what to do and then seen something on YouTube or the Golf Channel. By the time they get to me they’ve got all these different things going on and are going in circles. They just want one person telling them what they need to be doing.”
Every instructor Hynson knows has a copy of Ben Hogan’s “Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf,” which was originally published in 1957 as a five-part Sports Illustrated instructional series.
The reason it is considered the Holy Grail of instructional books? Simplicity.
“The basics all remain the same — grip, stance, posture,” said Hynson, adding that the biggest change he has noticed over the years has been in instructor-student communication. “Because there is so much science in today, you have a verbal and a visual way of teaching.
“When I was growing up and taking lessons, (Lehnhard) just worked with me by telling me what I should be doing. So when you can show someone, teaching and learning becomes easier, and that’s why I ask my students ‘What is the way you like to learn, visually or verbally?”’
Regardless of the choice, Hynson is right there to provide the answer. It is what he does – all he does – now.
“I’m having the time of my life,” he said.