Hello again, I have just returned from the Scottish PGA and as ever I enjoyed Scotland thoroughly. Gleneagles is just made for golf – it has a wonderful mix of golf courses and the hotel is first class. I started off the week with a quick game around the Carrick on Loch Lomond. The course is situated just down the loch from its famous neighbour and is a mix of The Wisley and the course I was coaching at for the next few days, the PGA Centenary Course. I managed to get around in good time and made my way across to Gleneagles to meet up with Gareth Maybin and Michael Hoey, whom I have recently started coaching. Michael has been doing some good work with Justin Parsons (Director of Instruction Butch Harmon School of Golf) in Dubai, and they thought it would benefit Michael if he had someone to help him when at home and out on tour. So it’s been a great opportunity for the JFGA to get involved with a partnership that had just won the Russian Open a few weeks ago.
Gareth Shaw also received a late invite so that meant managing three players this week which would be challenging but will ultimately help me develop the skills of organisation and time management which are crucial in this job. Before I met up with the players, I had lunch with Kevin Duffy (Duffy Golf Fitness). He’s a really interesting guy whom I hope to learn more from in the future as he works with certain players out on tour and he answered some of my questions on how physique effects technique. Very interesting! So as Gareth Maybin and Michael set off for the back nine on Monday afternoon, I was looking forward to once again working alongside them and their caddies, Mark and Gerry respectively. The lads were joined on the 11th tee by Scott Henry and his coach Ian Rae – two of the friendliest guys on tour. We had a good look around the course which will be staging the Ryder Cup in thirteen months time and it was in top shape. Shortish rough, firmer than usual fairways and pure greens would mean low scoring!
Monday was just about the lads getting a feel for their games again and chatting through how best to use the practice days after a few weeks ‘off’. Of course having both recently started new families, their time at home has been hectic and I think they enjoyed the relative ‘peace and quiet’ between the ropes! That evening I had the always interesting and enjoyable experience of having dinner with Ryan McGuigan (caddies for Danny Willet) in Perth. As ever, ‘Guig’ was in good form having just had a decent British Open and USPGA Championship.
Tuesday started early for me as Gareth Shaw had just flown in and made his way to Gleneagles by breakfast time. We headed straight to the course as Gareth hadn’t been there before so it was a case of playing a variety of shots from tees, into greens and then getting a feel for the bunkers etc. These sessions help a player design their initial strategy for the week, which of course has to be flexible as weather conditions, pin placements and tee markers can change through the course of an event. He was hitting the ball well and with just a few subtle improvements at address and some more development of the themes we had been working on at home, I felt confident that he could build on the three ‘top 15s’ he has already amassed this year on the main tour. Again I learned that you get a much better sense of where a player’s game is by spending time on the course, not just the range.
The early afternoon meant some wedges and basics with Gareth Maybin. Gareth felt that his scoring clubs are an area of his game he could really sharpen in order to be more consistently competitive and I agreed thoroughly. I had watched him put on a ‘clinic’ in Dubai earlier in the year during a training week from 60 – 80 yards so I know he is capable of being world class in that department. So we planted a few seeds about how best to practice this length of shot and a couple of small technical improvements that I felt were needed to gain the feel he was looking for. The next few weeks on tour will allow him to grow the ides and I can can monitor during the weeks that I’m with him. The second half of the session was the usual basics and trajectory check with the full swing. I reminded Gareth that we were doing similar drills a year ago, thus proving the golf swing is organic – always subtlety changing and requiring constant attention. It’s a puzzle with no final answer.
Then it was off down to the far end of the range which was against the wind where Michael, Gerry and myself could do a little work on Michael’s wedge play – both the technical side and the distance control. Gerry placed out markers at 70, 80 and 90 yards and Michael played both high and low shots to the targets with a variety of wedges. This type of simulated practice is designed to replicate on course situations where distance and direction changes with every shot. We discovered a new shot for Michael to add to his game – a 90 yard ‘PW’ with a ‘sawn off’ finish. As this week, next week and the Dunhill are liable to be windy, we all agreed that this could be a very useful tool to control spin and trajectory. We finished off the session working on hitting draws and fades to random targets on the range. Gerry especially liked this as it was non technical and kept things instinctive and simple. So my long Tuesday came to an end with a quick game around the Queen’s course, just across the road form the tournament venue. Another quality course ticked off the list!
Wednesday morning provided the opportunity to spend a few worthwhile hours with Gareth Shaw as I haven’t had the chance to do that as much recently as he has played thirteen out of his last fifteen weeks. So we used our morning to invest some time in the bunkers and on the range, just basically making sure he is on the right track and knows the road going forward. It was great to avail of the facilities and put in some constructive work that will reap benefits down the line. His game has reached a higher level this year, and like most ambitious athletes he always wants to move forward.
After finishing up with Gareth, I headed out to watch Michael complete his pro am. He was hitting it well and crucially understood what we were all trying to achieve. So this gave him the peace of mind to accept his poor shots and enjoy his good ones. It’s really refreshing to work with players who can begin to answers their own questions and who realise that they have a lot of the answers within them already, they just have to learn to trust their opinion and ask about anything they can’t figure out. My experiences working with top class players has definitely cemented my belief in ‘self guided discovery’ being the corner stone of building self sufficient and resilient competitive golfers. I know Michael really enjoys understanding the finer points of what he’s trying to do and it’s Justin’s and my job to make sure it’s consistent, simple and clear.
Through the use of diaries and other powerful learning tools, myself and Phil at the JFGA have watched how the best students take responsibility for their own games and gather the skills necessary to compete. They understand that there are no magic cures and the coach isn’t a magician, he can only guide, educate and encourage. Ultimately it’s the player who makes the real progress and any successful competitor will tell you that they began to achieve results when they invested time in the process of refining what works for them.
So as I finished up another long day with an efficient session alongside Gareth Maybin on firstly the range and lastly the bunkers, I headed back down the A9 to Glasgow after a really satisfying week’s work. I felt it had been well organised, professional and most importantly been of benefit to the three lads. You never quite know how the results will pan out during the tournament, but I was certain that the paths that each were on were the correct ones for what they wanted. Of course that’s a tribute to each member of their respective team, not just me. I’m just glad to be part of it.
Next week would be a chance to watch two of the lads compete at nearby Galgorm’s NI Open on the Challenge Tour, which offers a good opportunity to see all the work come to fruition and farther refine the plan. So I’m looking forward to that and also to my next tournament on the European Tour, the Dutch Open from Kennemer.
Thanks for reading,