Hello once again and thanks for checking out my ‘tour diary’! The season is coming to a close for some and just rising hopefully to a rewarding climax for others. I was excited about this year’s Dutch Open for two reasons – firstly it was being played on a lovely golf course in Kennemer which would be a pleasure to walk around for a few days and watch shots being compressed off the links turf; and secondly, Gareth Maybin’s game was tuning up nicely with some decent results behind him. So, as I was rudely awakened at home at 2.30am for the 6am flight from Dublin to Amsterdam, I reminded myself of these two encouraging facts.
The early flight did have its advantages however – clear roads to Dublin and arriving at the course in Holland before 11am. Immediately we got down to some short game work around the practice chipping green. Gareth was keen to explore some new ideas of how to ‘hinge’ the wedges better and create some different flights and spins around the green. As ever, we talked through the various ‘pros and cons’ of various techniques and planted a few seeds that will grow and be monitored over time. Ideally, we’d both like him to have the running shot and the high ‘spinner’ as strengths of an already good wedge game. But it’s going to take time and effort. As Rafa Nadal says ‘there are no shortcuts in elite sport!’
As I was leaving the chipping green I noticed David Howell and Richard McEvoy playing a little game of matchplay with their wedges and putter – the sort of thing you would see kids doing at the local club. It’s refreshing to see two very experienced players preparing in the simplest of ways.
Tuesday night was a real treat for me as since the first time I had visited Hilversum, I’d wanted to play the venue of last years’s tournament. This course is right up me street – tree lined, classic and a fair test. I love those courses like Sunningdale and the The Berkshire that give you definition from the tee and ask you to shape the ball to suit the hole. Even the lashing rain for the last few holes didn’t dampen a thoroughly enjoyable experience. The only downside was trying to find my hotel in a monsoon with a sat nav that didn’t appreciate that I wasn’t fluent in Dutch and in a lifeless rental car! I will chalk the ‘Cannonball Run’ down to life experience.
Wednesday’s pro am meant that our range session was an early one. I had asked Gareth just to hit some shots on the range before be played so I could check where he was with his basics, tempo and feel for the swing. The reason I wanted to have a look before we got to the 1st tee was primarily so that I could see him swing clearly as sometimes it’s hard to stand exactly where you want on the course with all the other players, caddies and coaches. Also, I wanted him to verbalise where he was aiming and what shot he was attempting to hit away from the course so that he could spend his practice round taking care of his preparation etc. I was delighted to find that everything was as it should be, so I felt better prepared as Gareth headed out with Irish Walker Cup player Kevin Phelan (making his professional debut) and 16 year old wunderkind Dominic Foos. If you are golf enthusiast, it was a pretty tasty three ball – a European Tour player you are coaching, a very good amateur making his professional debut and a child prodigy.
I really enjoyed the nine holes and meeting Dominic’s father. Gareth’s game was in good shape also so it meant a leisurely afternoon off and quick canter around Noordwijkse, a quality track just down the road from Kennemer which used to host the Dutch Open. I’ve never been a fan of having lots of idle time so I’ll always bring the clubs and play when possible. As with Hilversum, Noordwijkse was a real cracker.
Thursday was primarily about watching Gareth compete and see how things were ‘under the gun’. It also gave me the chance to meet with Kevin Duffy, a PGA pro turned physio who has a good client base of tour players and travels with them most weeks. We had chatted over lunch at Gleneagles a few weeks before and he had said a few things about the body’s role in the golf swing that had sparked my interest. I was very keen to here more about how he viewed the ‘transition’ in the golf swing, purely from a physical standpoint. I was very interested to hear his opinion as I really feel its one of the last pieces of the jigsaw that Gareth Shaw and myself have worked on a lot over the last year. It was fascinating to meet someone who can answer my questions in the detail that I want and crucially offer a few solutions too. It’s meetings like this one that have really educated me over the last few years and quite honestly I’d happily fly to Holland to get the information I require to become a better coach. My commitment and desire to improve will always match that of the student, guaranteed.
As Kevin was extremely busy, the brief but revealing meeting meant I only missed a few holes of Gareth’s round. But it didn’t matter as I had seen what I needed to after nine holes anyway – his lines were good at address, his tempo was in keeping with all the work we have done on the range and happily I felt he was trying to hit the right shot at the right time. This last feature seems easy, but it isn’t. Gareth has made a big effort to learn the rudiments of creating different flights on the ball ie high / low / draw / fade, and it’s satisfying watching him start the ball on ‘safe’ targets and curve it toward the flag. The positives of this skill are that it enhances his practice, straight shots don’t hurt him, makes fairways and greens effectively ‘wider’ and appeals to his sporting sense.
After finishing our quick debrief at lunch, I made one last stop at the range and found music blasting out from the sponsors tent behind. There was a real party atmosphere going on and although only a few feet away many of the pros were in their ‘office’, it didn’t seem to bother the DJ! So as the opening round drew to a close and a few early starters pounded new Titleists into the evening sky, I headed for the lifeless hire car to a backdrop of Rihanna.
Admittedly I do see and hear some interesting things on my travels, but sure it beats working for a living!
Until Scotland and The Dunhill, thanks for reading,