The famous Gleneagles resort was the stage for last week’s event on the European Tour. The tournament was played over the Centenary Course which will host the Ryder Cup in 2014. It’s perfectly equipped to do so as there are vast areas for spectators, tented village, corporate hospitality and also a course that has a good element of risk reward to it, especially with 2 par 5s in the last 3 holes. Drama is guaranteed!
My trip started with a quick game around Dalmahoy, a course I always wanted to play and scene of the Solheim Cup in 1991. I was done by lunchtime and the serious business of preparing Gareth Maybin for the tournament begun in the afternoon. We had a good quality range session in which I ran through our usual checklist like the address basics’ and continued on with the theme of tempo and controlling the club properly at the top. Gareth is very particular about ‘hitting his numbers’ as he calls it and it was great to see the range organisers had really paid attention to the yardage markers this week as the picture shows. Gareth very rarely hits a shot, even on the range that he doesn’t know the exact distance to the target he is aiming for. In fact according to Gareth’s caddy Basile, it was one of the best ranges and short game areas the Tour visits all year!
So after our ‘refresher’ on the range it was off to the course to get a feel for the playing conditions and a chance to see the game in more of a ‘performance mode’. A brisk 10 holes allowed Gareth, Basile and I a chance to communicate and talk through the things that we have been developing for the last while as we moved around. It could be anything from ‘what are your thoughts on this shot?’ to me setting Gareth some ‘par 18’ challenges which get him mentally sharper for competition. Mondays are an ideal day for this as usually there is very little traffic on the course and it was in excellent condition. The golf course offers the coach an excellent opportunity to see a player attempt all different types of shot and how he prepares and reacts to them. It has certainly helped my ability to coach Gareth and in fairness it was he who suggested we spend a little more time developing how to ‘play the game better’.
We all left the course in good spirits after Monday and the progress rolled into Tuesday when we had a similar day with plenty of short game work in the morning and then the playing the rest of the golf course in the afternoon in the company of the Welsh duo of Bradley Dredge and Philip Price. I had never me them before but they turned out to be two really pleasant guys and fun to be around.
One theme that really stood out during the three days of our preparation was the idea of ‘game related practice’. It was a concept I knew Gareth would like as he is a natural competitor and a born sportsman, so the idea of scoring how he was practising and having a little ‘wager’ with me was right up his street! I won’t tell you who lifted the cash but it didn’t take him long to start setting some pretty good scores, especially in the putting game pictured below! I will have to think of ways to keep the difficulty levels up if it is to remain ‘effective practise’. I wish I had structured my practice more like this as I grew up as it makes so much sense – it’s difficult, measurable and fun. Luke Donald has popularised it in many ways and European Tour short game areas are starting to see a lot more guys practising with a purpose!
So Tuesday was another positive day as we got a lot covered and it meant Wednesday would be a day of consolidation and really just taking off any ‘rough edges’ or answering any questions Gareth had. It started with the inventive idea of playing 9 holes on the nearby Queen’s course (as it was Pro – Am all day on the main course) and then some light short game & range work after lunch. Again I felt we had another productive couple of sessions as the mood was enthusiastic and the golf was competitive – exactly how you want both the day before a tournament. As we ‘warmed down’ on Wednesday afternoon by creating a few imaginary holes from the golf course on the range, I could honestly see the work we had all put into Gareth’s game over the past month and especially the last few days. It was satisfying to watch him swing the club with a better tempo and have much more control during his transition. A work in progress!
So I felt a job well done as I headed for Glasgow and a few days teaching back at home. I’m looking forward to catching up with Gareth and the rest of the lads I’ve come to know out there at my next event which is the KLM Dutch Open. I won’t have to wait long and I might even play a quick game when I’m there….well, when in Rome!