Long-time readers of this column know that I am not shy about taking golf lessons or about suggesting that you get them, too. You can learn things in a half hour that would take months to learn on your own, and find out things you never dreamed of.
What you shouldn't do is take a lesson just to have one. There needs to be a purpose, a well-defined problem that needs solving. Here are a few good reasons for taking a lesson.
1. You're just taking up the game. After you've played a few rounds and decided that golf is something you want to pursue, get lessons to learn how to play it the right way. Learn the right way from the beginning. The habits you acquire at the start will follow you through your golfing career. Make sure they're the right ones.
2. Three bad rounds in a row. Harvey Penick said to forget about one bad round, go practice if you follow it with another one, and see a pro if you follow those two with a third. It's likely you've fallen into a bad habit that will be simple to correct, but it's likely, too, that you'll never find it without help.
3. To learn a new shot. Odds are that once a round, at least, you will be in a situation that calls for a shot you don't know how to hit. So, do the best you can and remember what that situation was. When you get a collection of three or four of those, go to a pro and find out how to hit them.
4. To learn an old shot the right way. You can probably hit the ball onto the green from 75 yards, for example, just fine. Get a lesson on this shot like you've never hit it before. Learn it from scratch. You'll be amazed at how much better you hit it. Really.
5. Periodic maintenance. You take your car in for periodic maintenance every so often, you have a dental check-up twice a year. Why not do the same for your golf swing? Once your pro learns your golf swing, he can spot little things that show you're drifting away from what works and correct them before you start leaking oil (or getting cavities). Don't neglect your putting, either.
6. To get to the next level. In a recent post, I mentioned that the first step to playing better is not to improve your swing, but to use your best swing more often. That swing, however, will take you only so far. To improve beyond that point, the second step is to get a new conception of the golf swing. The pro will show you. Plan on doing a year of hard work and putting up with a lot of bad shots until the changes take hold. Then go out and enjoy the brand new game you're playing.