Hi everybody, the Highlands of Scotland were our destination for the prestigious Scottish Open. This would be my 4th visit to the event and one I always look forward to, especially given the weather forecast! My company this time around was Chris Jelly, PGA Pro at Dungannon GC. Chris was keen to travel and learn as much as he could about how the top players prepare and practise – exactly as I had been a few years ago. I’m happy to help anyone like Chris who is wiling to travel and invest in their education. It pays dividends eventually, trust me.
So after the refreshingly short flight to Inverness, we headed for the course. Gareth Maybin was having a quick look around Muirfield in preparation for next week’s Open after his T8th in France the week before, so Chris and I were at liberty to do what we pleased. This translated into us chatting with the guys on the range, enjoying the sun and having a game around Spey Valley in the evening. There is no better place than Scotland when the weather is good. I won’t tell you who played better, but one thing is certain – we both decided to stick to coaching…
Tuesday was a ‘work day’ for me and after Gareth and I had are usual de-brief from France, it was off to the range to check the usual basics and answer any questions around the greens that had arisen from the week before. Some people might think that what I do during my weeks on tour is fairly repetitive, but to me that’s a positive. If something is producing results in a player’s game, then keep monitoring it! Ultimately you’d like to get to a position where the player has most of the answers himself once we have identified where the issue lies. This shows that the coaching process has been effective. I’m a great believer in the player being responsible for their own careers and being resilient in the face of adversity. In my opinion the player has to ‘lead’ the improvements and be aware of where they are on their journey at every step. The coach guides and informs, sometimes even inspires, but it’s the player’s application to the agreed plan that will determine if they are successful. So in the case of Gareth this week, after a good performance in France – If it ain’t broken…
One thing that did arouse my inquisitive mind was some Trackman data that Gareth had sent to me from France and I was keen to discuss the principles of it with him. It clearly showed what we had felt all along, that when he hits his ‘stinger’ 3 wood & driver shot, the swing speed goes up a little, path is more ‘out’ and face gets a little more closed to path. This can result in a shot that has too much right to left movement, or even a hook at times. So in simple terms we agreed when playing this shot which had been fantastic in France and would be very useful for two upcoming weeks on the links, alignment at address & tempo would be critical. After a brief but productive range session, we were all keen to get to the course and refine the shots like the ‘stinger’ and the ‘links type’ shots needed around the greens.
Michael Hoey joined Gareth for a few holes and it was interesting to see the way Michael prepared for the links challenge. Having competed with him and watched him over the last 20 years, I was very aware that along with numerous amateur championships, he has also won four tour events in what were all pretty much seaside conditions. So definitely worth learning from! It was also fun to chat with him, his caddie Gerry and offer some simple short game advice when asked. Michael always strives to improve his understanding of the game and I agreed with him when he said he had played his best golf when he had been clear and trusting of the elements of his game that he was trying to improve. A lesson for anyone here – golf coaching doesn’t necessarily have to be super simple or ultra complex, but it has to be understood by the pupil who is trying to digest & implement the information.
The long day light hours and an unusually quiet course, enabled us to be as thorough as we wanted. This meant that Gareth could feel confident knowing that he had hit all the different shapes from the tee, running shots into greens and distance putts necessary to feel ready for Thursday and thus have a productive and quiet Wednesday. I really enjoy this feeling of leaving the course known that we’ve been professional in our approach and knowing that player, caddy & coach are all reading from the same page. So dinner with Chris that night was enjoyable.
Wednesday turned out to be more of the same as Gareth went though the motions late in the afternoon. We started with some simple short game work – just playing a variety of different clubs from the same spot on the fringe and in the bunkers, trying to figure out how best the ball would react on the firm turf. Gareth always favours the ‘spinner’ shots which I’m fine with (as I’ve learned never weaken a player’s strength just to prove a point!), but I’m always keen for him to introduce some variety into his repertoire. The reason being that it makes you a more rounded player, it challenges you to develop your weaknesses and when I watch the top guys around the greens like Phil, Luke & Tiger I always see them choosing the right shot. Now you can only have ‘choice’ when you have ‘options’. So as we wound down with a thorough basics & trajectory check, again I was just monitoring that everything was in place, and it was. Gareth’s caddie Mark has introduced some new putting games and I was happy to let the boys finish off with these. Chris and I headed for a quick game around Boat of Garten GC on the drive down towards St Andrews for what would be a real treat for us the following day.
We finished off our trip in style as we strolled around both Kingsbarns and Scotscraig, and had a lovely bite to eat, then headed for home. Added to this I was able to sit in the clubhouse in Scotscraig and watch some good results for various JFGA student come over the internet from the North of Ireland, Leinster Boys, Challenge Tour and of course Castle Stuart! A satisfying end to a fun few days….I’ll have to get a real job some day!
Check out my next entry from my first major as a coach – The Open from Muirfield,