Lessons Learned

Coloradan Nick Clearwater cracks top 20 in Golf Digest’s ’50 Best Teachers in America’; part-time Gunnison resident Jim Hardy named to Legends of Golf Instruction list

By Gary Baines – 12/14/2023

Golf Digest published its biennial list of the “50 Best Teachers in America” — as well as its new “Legends of Golf Instruction” — on Thursday, and Colorado had more than its fair share of representation.

Nick Clearwater, vice president of instruction at GolfTEC’s Englewood headquarters, continued his jump up the top 50 list, which is based on peer-review voting of more than 3,000 instructors. This year Clearwater checked in at No. 17, up five spots from the 2022-23 rankings. He was No. 33 four years ago.

Stan Utley, a one-time PGA Tour winner who teaches both at Maroon Creek Club in Aspen and Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale, Ariz., sits at No. 11 in the newest rankings, up from No. 20 last time.

Mike LaBauve, an instructor at Roaring Fork Club in Basalt and Talking Stick in Scottsdale, came in at No. 50 after not being among Golf Digest’s top 50 two years ago.

And though Mike McGetrick (No. 46) is now based in Gainesville, Va., he spent many years in Colorado, most recently at Colorado Golf Club. McGetrick is a member of Golf Magazine’s 2024-25 Teachers Hall of Fame.

For the entire Golf Digest top 50 — which is led by Mark Blackburn of Birmingham, Ala. — CLICK HERE.

Jim Hardy of Gunnison, with wife Marilyn.

As for Golf Digest’s Legends of Golf Instruction list, the 21 teachers who made the grade include Jim Hardy, who splits his time between Gunnison and Magnolia, Texas. Hardy was the 2007 PGA of America national Teacher of the Year. Hardy’s wife is 2022 and 2023 CGA Women’s Senior Player of the Year Marilyn Hardy. Among the others on the Golf Digest Legends list are Butch Harmon, David Leadbetter and Hank Haney.

Golf Digest also included a list of its best teachers by state. Here’s its rankings for top Colorado instructors:

1. Nick Clearwater, GolfTEC headquarters, Englewood

2. Trent Wearner, Trent Wearner Golf Academy, Denver

3. Ed Oldham, The Ranch CC, Westminster

4. Stan Sayers, Colorado GC, Parker

5. Patrick Number, GolfTEC headquarters, Englewood

6. Ty Walker, GolfTEC DTC, Denver

7. Dustin Miller, Black Bear GC, Parker

8. Nathan Morris, GolfTEC Westminster

9. Chad Miller, GolfTEC Chapel Hills, Colorado Springs

10. Dan Sniffing, Omni Interlocken GC, Broomfield

11. Josh Troyer, GolfTEC headquarters, Englewood

12. Vincent Downie, GolfTEC Highlands Ranch

13. Zach Lambeck, GolfTEC headquarters, Englewood

14. Elena King, ExperienceGolf at CommonGround GC, Aurora

15. Leighton Smith, Leighton Smith Golf, Colorado Springs

16. Kyle Voska, The Links GC, Highlands Ranch

About the Writer: Gary Baines has covered golf in Colorado continuously since 1983. He was a sports writer at the Daily Camera newspaper in Boulder, then the sports editor there, and has written regularly for since 2009. He was inducted into the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame in 2022. He owns and operates