The cofounder and operator of Golf Gem, Jonathan Dudley has taken a unique role at Forest Oaks Country Club and steered in perhaps, a surprising direction. A former GolfTec manager and head professional at Mill Creek and The Valley (formerly Indian Valley), Dudley wanted to return his focus to golf instruction. Dudley, who moved from The Valley in April, has been busy putting his program in place at Forest Oaks, running clinics and camps for juniors and ladies.
Golf Gem cofounder Scott Duerscherl, also a former GolfTec instructor, grew up playing junior golf in Thomasville area will be taking over as the director of instruction at Winding Creek Golf Course. The new revamped practice area will include technology based instruction and fittings, a new lighted driving range, target greens, a new covered teaching studio. In the spring of 2024, the new short game area will be opening. Duerscherl stated, “We try to help make people comfortable on the golf course. We try to help people find their place in golf.”
As for instruction, Golf Gem is focusing on individual lessons, coupled with group training programs to create greater golf community and camaraderie for Golf improvement. We call them “tactical plans” Many of our lesson takers will take two lessons a month and do two training sessions. Golf Gem’s approach to teaching is based on matching the components of your golf swing verses tearing down your entire golf swing. Duerscherl said, “We look at your swing like we look at a car. If you’re a Ford for example, we would want to make sure you have a Ford engine and transmission to match. If components don’t match, we will remove and replace as quickly and seamlessly as possible.”
Over the years our thoughts on individual, golf instruction, have changed, whereby realizing starting on the course or in bigger groups, energizes younger golfers. When they get on the course and they do not perform a certain way, they’re more motivated to train, and when they’re around their peers there often more interested in training And improve quicker as they challenge each other, and find a greater camaraderie. This camaraderie seems to have more staying power as I am seeing golfers who start here enjoy the game more. The individualized approach is often times not as dynamic. Also, competition is always important in the group atmosphere and small competitions provides some weekly excitement”.
At Forest Oaks, Dudley is assisted by instructor Jay Allred, whose Reagan High girls’ teams have won three Class 4A state titles and set seven of eight state records. Golfers have included Wake Forest recruit Macy Pate, as well as Virginia Tech No. 1 player Morgan Ketchum and High Point University recruit Anna Howerton.
But the focus isn’t on finding and developing the next Tiger Woods or doing one-on-one mentoring of elite players. The focus is on helping people understand the different components of the golf swing and make their golf swing efficient and try to fit everyone into the same mold.
Golf Gem’s junior camps for players ages 5 through 14, stress the basics and focuses on giving kids the tools and knowledge to have fun on the course.
The junior camps – next one is scheduled for July 24-27 at Forest Oaks– conclude with a Drive, Chip and Putt competition modeled after the national competition that holds its national finals at Augusta National.
“The main thing for us is just the help the game grow and all three instructors are U.S. Kids Golf Certified,” Dudley said.
The first junior camp in June had 20 kids at Forest Oaks.
“It’s hit the ground running,” Dudley said.
Dudley, once manager of a busy GolfTec location in Raleigh, is also an experienced club-fitter. Golf Gem has strong relationships with Callaway, Mizuno, Srixon, Ping, U.S. Kids and XXIO, a sister company of Cleveland and Srixon that specializes in lightweight clubs for players with slower swings.
“We kind of fit a niche between Golf Galaxy and Club Champion,” said Dudley, referring to the big box golf chain and the upscale club fitter that charges between $100 for a wedge fitting to $400 for a full bag fitting. We can fit clubs on a simulator and on a grass range.
Dudley praised the improved facilities at Forest Oaks, the former home of the PGA Tour’s Wyndham Championship which had suffered several years of instability under absentee Japanese ownership.
But in 2019, Forest Oaks members Terry Lee and Eddie Stephens bought the club and quickly began making improvements to the golf course, the clubhouse, clay tennis courts, fitness facility and the swimming pool.
Now, semi-private, the course’s improved conditioning has helped return the layout to the top tier of Triad courses. Forest Oaks also has an indoor stimulator, a popular winter and rainy-day option.
Superintendent David Stapleton arrived at Gillespie Golf Course about the same time Dudley came to the club. Garrett Smith is the head shop manager.
Dudley has also taken on the role of merchandiser for the golf pro shop, a rare opportunity for an instructor.
“It gives me an opportunity to help them grow their operation,” Dudley said.
With the addition with the Toyota megasite just down 421 and the resurgence of the housing market in the community, Forest Oaks and Golf Gem are poised for significant growth in the future.