“It was part of an article on the best things in golf,” said Morelli. He said it was an honor to be included alongside celebrity golf teachers like Michael Breed and Jim McLean, who often appear giving tips on the Golf Channel.
“We’re not celebrities here, we’re just trying to make a living,” said a humble Morelli.
Just scraping by might be a bit of an understatement for Morelli and his golf instruction program, known as the Accelerated Golf Method. Now in its fourth decade, the golf school has helped more than 90,000 men and women improve their golf game.
In its recognition article, Golf Digest editors said “The best golf academies offer something for the destination traveler and local lesson-taker. Other common threads: Staff teachers who rank highly on our best teachers lists, well-appointed teaching studios and access to great golf and accommodations. Our list is broken down by region, and with extra emphasis on the most popular golf travel markets—like Florida, California and Arizona. You can even find some great options in the cold-weather states.”
The Original Golf School checks off a lot of those boxes, while maintaining an everyman approach in its appeal. The article went on to say, “The most exclusive programs at any of these schools can run into five figures, but students with a day and a few hundred dollars can transform their short game at gorgeous Mount Snow and its Original Golf School in Vermont.”
First launched in 1978, The Golf School was an attempt to bring summer business to Mount Snow and the valley. Mount Snow had just been bought by Killlington resort. The marketing director at the time, Foster Chandler, approached Morelli about adapting a tennis academy that Killington ran. Morelli was the golf pro at Mount Snow, having arrived in 1975. Morelli and others, including former Mount Snow marketing gurus Bruce McCloy and Peter Johnson, were able to translate the program to the links and the rest is history.
The program rode the golf wave that crested in the 1980s and 1990s, as the baby boom generation matured and developed a voracious appetite for golf. That wave allowed The Golf School to expand to multiple locations including Crystal River, FL, and Ocean City, MD. At one point, seven schools around the country were affiliated with The Golf School and taught the Accelerated Golf Method, but as the golf wave broke, the school contracted back the three main venues in Vermont, Florida, and Maryland.
“We used to be bigger,” said Morelli. “We used to be all over the place and have as many as 100 golfers per day.”
Golf’s surge in popularity also brought a surge in golf schools. Morelli said so many golf schools attempted to copy the school’s program that Johnson suggested they add the word “original” to the name of the school to differentiate it from the copy-cats. Many of those copycat programs were started by pros who spent time teaching for Morelli before striking out on their own. Unlike The Original Golf School, most of those programs haven’t survived the downturn in golf’s popularity during the past decade.
“We’ve hung in there,” said Morelli. He now operates a downsized program with four full-time instructors at Mount Snow, along with five part-time pros. After Mount Snow was sold to Peak Resorts in 2007, the new owners decided they didn’t want to be in the golf school business, and Morelli took the programs independent. He still has a close working relationship with Mount Snow officials, and said he was thankful for the support they offer.
But just because the golf market has contracted, it doesn’t mean the quality of instruction has suffered. In fact, the program has changed to meet changing times, using advancements in video technology to offer more personalized instruction and using email and social media as a way to communicate with students and potential students.
The recognition by Golf Digest validates how Morelli’s approach has stood the test of time, surviving the ups and downs of golf’s popularity during the past four decades.
As for the program founder, he’s trying to comprehend how The Original Golf School was picked for the recognition.
“Whenever I won an award in the past,” said Morelli, “I usually had to buy somebody a drink for it.”
A complete list of awards can be found at www.golfdigest.com/story/best-golf-schools-and-academies. For program information visit www.theoriginalgolfschool.com.