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First-class golf facility in a backyard

Paul Hahn still loves to teach.

Only now, he offers swing tips and putting lessons from his North Laguna backyard, part of which he transformed into a somewhat intimate golf instruction facility. His first clients arrived in November.

And Hahn, who was let go from the Newport Beach Country Club in June 2012 after 17 years as head pro, has formed his own company, Laguna Performance Golf, and is currently working on its website.

He wanted to create an outdoor teaching area with all the amenities of an indoor facility. The 1,500-square-foot space, now covered with synthetic grass, has room for two golfers to hit into a net and an area to practice chipping. And it all comes with a view of the Pacific Ocean just above a neighbor's roof line.

He can teach clients of various ages and skill levels using the latest technology, including a launch monitor that can track a ball's speed, angle of ascent, how far it travels and the backspin rate.

Corona del Mar resident Scott Lucas was one of two golfers working on his swing in Hahn's backyard on Monday morning.

Hahn, dressed in a polo shirt, shorts and flip-flops, set the launch monitor on the ground and Lucas swung a six-iron.

"One-hundred seventy yards," Hahn told Lucas, a Newport Beach Country Club member. "The backspin of the ball gives lift. Hitting off a mat [opposed to grass] means not as much friction, so there's less backspin."

Lucas, a 2-handicap, appreciates the intimacy of Hahn's teaching environment.

"I get his full attention and all the latest technology," said Lucas, who has taken lessons with Hahn for the past five years. "I can get the most out of my time here, and it's relaxed and focused."

Hahn got the idea for the teaching facility from a conversation with good friend Jeff Purser, executive director of the Toshiba Classic, the senior PGA golf tournament, which is held each March at Newport Beach Country Club.

"He said, 'Why don't you build a teaching facility [in the backyard]?'" Hahn said.

Purser introduced Hahn to an employee of a company that installs synthetic putting greens, and the project started moving.

Hahn put $20,000 into the facility, hiring three separate contractors to install the hitting net, turf and low-height lights that border the putting and hitting area.

The project took about a month, and Hahn's wife, Marlene, offered her full support.

"She said, 'It sounds like a great idea,' so I ran with it," Paul Hahn said. "I could teach someone who knows nothing about golf to intermediate [players]."

Hahn sees the facility as a neighborhood practice center, where all are welcome, and is intent on being a courteous neighbor.

"If I'm not home, there are balls on the range, so people can always practice," said Hahn, who opened up his yard for kids to learn putting and chipping after school last year.

"I try to respect neighbors and not go past 6 p.m.," said Hahn, who has students adhere to certain rules.

"They get the lecture once they step foot onto the putting green about when to swing and where to stand, like on a golf course," Hahn said. "They learn etiquette even though we aren't playing."

Hahn is more concerned with grip, posture and alignment than ball flight.

"I used to teach by ball flight," Hahn said. "Now I can build a golf swing. A student is able to concentrate on what he or she is trying to do with the swing. On a [driving] range, the only thing a player is concerned about is where a ball is going.

"Some people don't feel comfortable standing on a driving range. When I was at the [Newport Beach Country Club] teaching on the range, I would be interrupted six or seven times. Now, there are no more interruptions. The learning process is much more intense."

Asked what he thought when Hahn first sent pictures of the facility, Lucas said, "Amazing."

"It's professionally done, highly focused, and when I'm done I feel like I learned something. I'm happy for [Hahn] because he should teach."

For specific information on lesson rates, contact Hahn at (949) 701-3278 or at pgapaul@cox.net.

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