High-level instruction adds high-class touch to Half Moon's golf options

The Jamaican destination's Golf Guest Instructor Series offers a who's who list of teachers who can assist all playing levels of guests

As a David Leadbetter protege in the 1990s, Kevyn Cunningham had a front-row seat to eminence. 

He would watch as Leadbetter, an effective communicator, siphoned real-time results out of students while making it all look effortless.

As the Leadbetter Golf Academies steamrolled to success, Cunningham had the chance to ride shotgun. He ran Leadbetter's academies globally before one of them took Cunningham to Jamaica in 1997, where — for all intents and purposes — he settled. He bought a home, stayed on the Caribbean's third-largest island until 2007, left and came back in 2017 when he was offered Half Moon Resort's director of golf operations position by Guy Steuart III, chairman of the Half Moon board of directors.

In conversations, Steuart intimated that he would like Half Moon to raise its golf profile. It already had its pristine Robert Trent Jones Sr. 7,100-yard championship course in place and, for good measure, a coat of polish thrown on by Roger Rulewich by way of a renovation. 

David Leadbetter.jpg
David Leadbetter is one of several instructors who participates in Half Moon's Golf Guest Instructor Series.

What more could be done? Cunningham tapped into his mental Rolodex and had an idea. 

"I thought it would be a wonderful world where you could look through a series of instructors in a great setting and choose which one you wanted to go to," says Cunningham matter-of-factly.

Therein lies the birth of the Golf Guest Instructor Series, an intrinsically popular amenity at the resort. 

Since its launch before the pandemic, the series has attracted some of the industry's best. Gary Gilchrist, Mike Manavian, Mike Mogg, James Ridyard and Leadbetter have headlined, sometimes multiple times. Their collective cachet is nothing short of an all-star lineup. Cunningham's connection to each one made it an easier sell. 

"All these guys have a social media following, too," Steuart says. "That helps to elevate Half Moon's profile and to play good golf." 

For Leadbetter, he'll be returning in February.

"I'm pleased to be taking part in Half Moon Resort's Golf Guest Instructor Series," Leadbetter says. "Not only does beautiful Half Moon offer the best in golf and accommodations within the Caribbean, but also top-notch golf instruction geared toward every level of player.”

Kevyn Cunningham
Kevyn Cunningham, Half Moon's director of golf.

That's the key to the program, adds Cunningham. It's tailored to every type of golfer, from the beginner to the experienced. 

With northern winter months winding along like a slow-marching child's toy, come dead of season the mind might start entertaining thoughts of shoring up the golf game. Maybe the swing, or some other facet, could use a tune-up. Why, what better way to do that than with a top instructor in a warm locale? 

In addition to Leadbetter in February — with limited availability — Mogg is scheduled for December. As for Leadbetter, it's not uncommon for passers-by to see him hanging out in the pro shop, sometimes in beach attire.

It's hard to fathom that this golf sage who, since 1983, has grown a global network of 40 Leadbetter Golf Academies in 15 countries could be approachable in his flip-flops. Yet it's true. 

"The last time he was here two guys came in to play," Cunningham says. "They walked in, did one of those quick takes, and said, 'Aren't you David Leadbetter?' And David says, 'I was this morning when I got up.' One of the guys says to him, 'I really could use some work with you.'" 

Lickety-split, Leadbetter proceeded to go outside and examined the golfer's swing before continuing to work with him. Cunningham says the scene would repeat itself for several hours, adding that Leadbetter defines three words: "accessible, passionate and gracious."

The next day it started all over again; Leadbetter missed an off-site dinner, randomly helping other golfers. 

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So what would a participant expect from one of his instructional clinics at Half Moon? Cunningham hints that some sessions run over because, in the case of Leadbetter, he immerses himself in the tutorials. 

In his typical teaching method, Leadbetter's core philosophy stresses the transfer of energy (from posture to release) and synchronization. Working with participants hands-on, and through the use of pedagogical tools, various challenges are addressed while providing the means to obtain goals. 

When asked what makes Leadbetter stand out from others, Cunningham reflected on his personal teaching experiences working with him. 

"His communication level is amazing," Cunningham says. "His passion for helping is amazing. His eye for detail is fantastic. The evolution of his thought process is fun to watch because if you're not evolving, you're being left behind. Some of his thoughts and the way he goes about it has changed, but the core is still similar to the 1990s. 

"But it goes back to Percy Boomer's book in [1942] 'On Learning Golf' and it's still the same thing — large muscles move small muscles; the inside moves the outside; the axis drives the wheel. That hasn't changed." 

Deciding which Golf Guest Instructor Series to attend is a bit like selecting a favorite M&M color. Ultimately, it comes down to the golfer and their goals. It's likely best to research each instructor's philosophies and see which one seems like a comfortable fit. 

Other than that, no need to worry. 

Or as Cunningham says, "Just bring your swing, and a little bit of patience. That's all you really need."