Tom Ream’s work area is full of tools and workbench drawers, but even at first glance, it’s clear that he’s got something different going on in his space.
For starters, his setup opens onto the driving range at Prestonwood Country Club in Cary. His modified garage is actually a learning center, where Ream provides golf instruction that is heavy on high-tech devices. The floor space is spotless, and most of it is wide open, except for a laptop on a stand in the middle and some driving-range mats at the front. Ream watches over his students as they blast shots out to the range, while the computer tracks every imaginable bit of data.
When asked if all the scientific information trumps some of his own teaching expertise, he is quick with an explanation.
“You still have to have an eye as a teacher, but it confirms a lot,” he said. “It certainly gives a player a concrete answer as to what took place.”
Ream has been the director of golf instruction at Prestonwood since 2009, after spending time at Woodlake Country Club and Pinewild Country Club, both near Pinehurst. Just months after he was hired, current Prestonwood general manager Matt Massei interviewed for his position. Like Ream, Massei had come up through the ranks of golf management in the Pinehurst area.
“I came in for the interview, and there’s Tom Ream in the golf shop,” Massei said. “I didn’t know he had been hired here. I thought, ‘this is great! What a smart hire.’
“What makes him such a good teacher is he has a great demeanor. He connects with everybody. Everyone learns differently. Some folks are analytic, some are very visual. He’s able to adapt and relate to every personality type.”
Ream’s communication skills must be front and center in a job where he imparts scientific data to folks who are simply trying to put a good a swing on a 7-iron. And it doesn’t take long to see he’s got the hang of it. On his computer, he pulls up the analysis from a recent lesson. Immediately there are numbers all over the laptop screen. Ream points out the easy-to-understand concepts like mph, but also things like the attack angle and the relationship between the clubface and swing path. By itself, these are just numbers, but Ream quickly figures how this golfer can get the most out of his swing.
“Can I get him to hit it further, and can I get the ball to come down softer?” he said.
For Ream, everything about the learning center is a labor of high-tech love. He designed the facility when he arrived, and he enjoys the fact that the new-age approach is such a fit in the Triangle.
“Particularly with the tech that’s out there now, and with the clientele we have, it’s a very techie environment,” he said. “What we wanted to have in the learning center was all the latest bells and whistles. We needed video, TrackMan and SAM PuttLab. We wanted the technology to support where our teaching was going.”
While the majority of the learning center’s clients are Prestonwood members, lessons are available for non-members, too. That also goes for club fittings. At the back of the learning center are golf bags full of clubs from different equipment manufacturers. Ream knows where to start when matching a set of clubs for an individual’s unique skills.
“If a guy comes in and he’s hitting it too low, I’m immediately thinking TaylorMade or Cobra,” he said. “If a guy hits it too high and we need to help him flight it down, I’m thinking Titleist, Mizuno or Callaway.”
As manufacturers refine the types of clubs they bring to the market, PGA professionals like Ream have more options to offer golfers.
“There are two schools of thought on fitting,” Ream said. “There’s fitting for compensation, which is for a guy who never practices. You can fit someone with clubs that fit his current golf swing. It won’t help someone progress forward, but it matches what he does and helps him enjoy the game more. The other side is fitting through instruction. With students, you’re fitting them in the direction you would like their swing to go as well.”
Club fittings make up 30 percent to 40 percent of Ream’s work at the learning center, as golfers take advantage of the growing precision involved with putting the right tools in a player’s hands. Massei figures that all of Ream’s clients are getting something special, whether they come in for a fitting or a lesson.
Maybe that’s because Ream is good at simplifying the game. Not only can Ream turn complex data into a few simple swing keys, but he can make the game sound a little less daunting before you ever set foot in his high-tech garage.
“To me, it’s just the basics,” Ream said. “If you can get them set up properly and gripped properly, you just build the motion from there. When your golf game goes awry, it’s usually some sort of setup error or your posture or grip was off. If people looked more at non-moving parts, they would benefit themselves greatly.”
Ream dispenses that kind of advice easily.
“To me, it’s just the enjoyment of helping someone get better at golf, whether it’s full swing or short game,” he said. “You have got to have a passion to teach. If you have that passion, you can help somebody.”