Meet Estero’s Rising Star Golf Pro

LPGA-certified instructor Katie Dahl uses the latest technology and fine-tuned playing skills to launch her students to success.

BY September 1, 2023
Katie Dahl Golf Instructor
Honored as one of the best young teachers in America by LPGA and Golf Digest, Katie teaches out of West Bay Golf Club in Estero. She uses her communication background to tailor lessons to clients, who range in age from 2 to 92. (Photo by Brian Tietz)

Sandwiched between 21-story Jasmine Bay condo towers to the west and acres of preserved woodland to the east, West Bay Golf Club’s driving range is an office for golf instructor Katie Dahl.

On a steamy July morning, she works with 45-year-old Texan Joe Reid, who estimates his height at 6’4” or 6’5”. Katie is a decade younger at 34, and at 5’2”, more than a foot shorter. When Katie offers tips, Joe responds, saying, “Yes, ma’am.” Repeatedly.

Katie offers wisdom, demonstrating the proper form for a swing and emphasizing the value of stretching: “[It’s important to] reinforce the good,” she says.

“Yes, ma’am.”

When the lesson ends, Joe refers to Katie as a ‘Jedi Master.’

Katie’s one of the top teaching pros in the South. In 2022, she was named the LPGA’s Southeast Section Teacher of the Year, and she’s maintained her ranking as an LPGA Top 50 Teachers and Golf Digest’s Best Young Teachers for the past few years.

She embodies what it means to be a 21st-century pro. During lessons, she uses the top-of-the-line TrackMan launch monitor to record and analyze elements of swings: “Is the club coming in on a downward angle or upward? Is it swinging right or left? How is that ball spinning?” she asks. She emails summary videos to clients with notes on their drills to offer helpful insights and allow them to see progress. Since Katie is Titleist Performance Institute-certified, she can evaluate how the players’ physical strength and weaknesses affect their swing, as well as how to prevent injury over time. “It’s what I would want as a student,” she says. “Being able to get some of the best feedback, the things that a tour pro is getting.”

Katie knows golf is played as much in the mind as on the green, so she helps students work their mental game. “An NFL quarterback may work on their throwing form with a coach; they may break it down on a video. But you never see a player in a game checking their form mid-throw,” she notes. “The problem with golf is, because that ball is just sitting there, we sort of have all day to get in our own head.” Katie breaks down the complex aspects of the game, so golfers can get in the zone and tap into their intuitive, athletic minds. She’ll often have players hone in a cue, or ‘swing thought,’ so they’re not overwhelmed thinking about swing mechanics, projecting outcomes, past swings and all the other dozen-plus elements that affect your shot. When approaching a topic like swing tempo, she may give them the cue, “1, 2, 3, go,” to remind them of the ideal three-to-one ratio of backswing and downswing time. “I want to see my students not just have a pretty swing but be able to perform well,” she says.

Katie picked up her first club at 3 years old. As a kid on car trips, she listened to tapes from Dr. Bob Rotella, the pioneering golf psychologist. Katie recalls being 9 and attending the 1998 U.S. Women’s Open at Blackwolf Run in Kohler, Wisconsin. The tournament was a landmark game, with South Korean Se Ri Pak defeating American Jenny Chuasiriporn in a 20-hole playoff. Both women were 20, making Se Ri Pak the youngest player to win the Women’s Open. The tournament also signaled golf’s global takeover, with more international players getting into the game. “I was, like, ‘OK, this is really cool,’” Katie says.

By the time she graduated college, she had won four high school titles and become the first student at the University of Central Florida to receive the Academic All-America At-Large award (a top designation for college athletes). Since, she’s had stints on professional tours, was on a show on the Golf Channel, and she regularly appears on NBC’s membership golf platform, which features stars such as Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy.

At West Bay, she balances teaching club members and a limited number of public players, who range in age from 2 to 92. Katie’s communication background helps cater to the diversity among her students. “Whether I’m teaching an 85-year-old or a 5-year-old, which sometimes happens on the same day, being able to adapt that information and communicate it in a way that’s meaningful and that makes it fun, [that] ultimately helps them get better,” she says. Katie still dreams of making the top eight in the LPGA T&CP National Championship for teachers and club pros (in doing so, she’d automatically qualify for the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship and an opportunity to play on the tour). As she continues to compete, she keeps learning—which is essential for a good instructor. “I just love the game, and I love being around it and love helping others get better,” Katie says. Spoken like a true teacher. 

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