a stunning links course for the second time in three weeks was the challenge for the European Tour Players this week. Castle Stuart has a ‘Kingbarns’ feel about it with generous fairways and breathtaking views. I had a feeling the scoring would be good, but didn’t think that three under or above for two rounds would be a weekend off for a lot of the field! It again shows the depth of quality there is playing the main tours these days. Good is no longer good enough, you have got to be exceptional!
This week granted me the opportunity of working alongside regular European Tour coach Jamie Gough. I have gotten to know ‘Goughie’ quite well over the last few years as I have watched him guide his players to multiple victories. He has a useful skill of gently easing his players into ‘playing’ better which I realise is a very important feature of coaching at a tournament venue.
After I had played Royal Aberdeen the previous day (couldn’t resist after I had been there with the Walker Cup lads last September – see Diary entry), Tuesday morning meant a 6.45am start with the first of Jamie’s guys – David Drysdale. ‘Double D’ is an early riser, a good guy and a very underrated player. He hardly missed a shot in the 9 holes we walked with him in the pouring rain! It was very interesting to chat with him and hear how has had slow and steady progress by playing only a little amateur golf, a bit more on the PGA Regional tournament scene and only really flourished when he got onto the Challenge Tour and now the European Tour. A refreshing story of perseverance & professionalism – worth remembering when dealing with a young player who expects to rise 3,000 places in the World Rankings ‘by this time next year’! The phrase ‘overnight sensations usually take about ten years’ comes to mind.
Then after a quick coffee and review of David’s progress, it was straight back onto the range and short game area for the rest of the day with the ‘ball striking machine’ that is Anders Hansen! I have had the privilege to watch most of the great players of the last couple of decades up close & personal, and I can tell you in the mid iron department, this guy is up there with the best of them. The consistency and purity of the strike was top drawer. It’s absolutely no surprise that he has triumphed around Wentworth twice and is known by many on the Tour as a class player. Jamie continued on with the work the two have been doing for the last few weeks, trying to eliminate the very occasional high and weak shot to the right and improve the chipping. After this technical phase, I just admired as Anders tested some new Titleist drivers and irons with the help of Matthias and the Trackman technology.
Wednesday meant that I got to be involved with Jamie coaching Tano Goya and George Coetzee. Again, both very talented and driven guys. Tano was developing certain ‘wind’ shots by varying trajectory and learning that by playing these type of shots it would actually help the look of the swing. By the end of the session his tempo was visibly better and he had managed to lower the flight on his irons. Progress!
Tano had actually just ‘signed up’ with Jamie this week for the long term and these early sessions are all about getting to know the student, understanding his goals and learning style. Interestingly enough, one of the first issues with Tano was the work he was carrying out in the gym and how it wasn’t completely supporting what he wanted from his golf swing. So Jamie sensibly had a word with the trainers and together they moulded Tano’s pre & post round workouts to enhance the technical part of his game. Holistic coaching at its best!
George’s main concerns were with getting a putter he felt comfortable with and improving the rhythm of his stroke. So after testing a few of the many variations on offer each week, he settled on one he liked and then went through a few drills to make the stroke feel a little brisker and positive. Simple stuff.
As I left the golf course it was worth noting that there were only two players left using the practice facilities in the rain after the pro am – Ernie on the putting green and Jose Maria on the range…where else! It gives you a glimpse as to what has made these guys great. Ernie was going through his practice drills under the watchful ‘eye’ of Dr Sherylle Calder, a vision specialist who he has been working with this year. Worth noting that the top players will look beyond traditional golf coaching to try and improve, again evidence of the holistic nature of modern elite coaching.
Wednesday evening had one last highlight when I was asked to join Jamie, Johnny McClaron and Sean McDonagh for dinner, the latter two guys caddie for Luke Donald and Andy Sullivan respectively. They were great company and both very knowledgeable on the golf swing so it was a fun evening and an opportunity to discover a little more about what Luke Donald does to prepare. I can tell you he deserves to be number one!
My trip finished on Thursday with a friendly game alongside tour caddy Ryan ‘Guig’ McGuigan around beautiful Blairgowrie and another quick round in the afternoon on the Centenary Course at Gleneagles which will host the Ryder Cup in two years! It’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it!
Check out my next Tour Diary when I’m back out on ‘Tour’ in mid August at the Scottish PGA at Gleneagles,
Thanks for reading!