I have just returned home from my first visit to The Netherlands and I can say I thoroughly enjoyed it. The people are friendly, the weather was ideal, the country was easy to navigate and the course at Hilversum was a peach! All in all it was a very productive trip and a real ‘eye opener’ about a country I knew little of.
The first flight out of Belfast on Monday meant that I arrived at the venue around 2pm and it was straight to the golf course with Gareth Maybin to get a feel for his game as we head into the ‘business end’ of the season. I was eager to see how the address position, tempo and short game were looking after Gareth said he had two really beneficial weeks practice out on tour. He had been unlucky to miss the two previous cuts a by a single shot but such are the margins in top flight pro golf – there is a very fine line between success and failure! During a relaxing practice round I gathered that a lot of ‘effective practice’ had been done in both Scotland and Switzerland during the previous two weeks. This rise in standards was evident in the ‘Par 18’ games we were playing. Basile, Gareth’s caddy had been good enough to record specific stats that we all agreed would be a good indicator as to our progress and there usefulness was one of the topic’s of conversation as we made our way round the gorgeous course. Hilversum is a tree lined gem, reminiscent of Sunningdale or The Berkshire in London.
Tuesday was another opportunity to log a quality day’s practice and continue to work on the themes that need to improve in Gareth’s game in order that he continues to move up the Race to Dubai rankings. It started fairly early on the putting green and short game area, as one of the ideas that we agreed on is that all short game work gets done first in the day so as not to neglect it or give it its proper attention. I have found with many students that the quickest way to get them scoring better is improved short game. Initially we worked on address basics and especially eye position on the putting green. I wanted Gareth to really deepen and develop the quality of his visualisation during his routine, so much of our time was spent rolling straight putts with a strict routine and of course with a wager involved! During this type of practice I like to keep the putt consistent to groove better mechanics, routine or whatever it may be. 30 minutes is sufficient for practice like this, then its time to change the environment. This type of practice together with some ‘feel’ games meant that a couple of hours passed quickly and we all agreed that these ‘instinctive’ sessions were very worthwhile and best of all, fun. They proved their value as Gareth said he went on to putt better during the tournament and that his mind was more ‘absorbed’ into the putt as he improved his imagery and focused more on his visual process.
The rest of the morning was spent around the chipping green and bunker working on a mixture of games, challenges and little technical work. We then headed to the course after lunch and played the front 9 which was in excellent condition and ready to be attacked if the ball was in play from the tee. Again, a score was kept for the diary and competition was simulated. The closer it comes to ‘real time’ competition on Thursday morning, the more the games and challenges take on an intense feel – great prep for the week ahead. The end of a long day came with a chance to reflect and design exactly what we needed to for Wednesday so that all bases were covered – again instilling confidence in the player that their preparation is as good as it could be. I stayed on at the club and had dinner with Ryan and Adam, who caddy for the English duo of Danny Willet and Ross Fisher respectively. It’s really interesting and usually funny to hear all the different stories they have gathered from their recent trips.
Wednesday morning was an early start as I left my hotel in Utrecht, about 20 minutes away from the course, at 6.50am in preparation for an early breakfast and warm up before the back 9 were played. The benefit of going early like this on Wednesday is to see how the ball flies/rolls during the early morning cold, to play a course that isn’t busy and to help the sleeping patterns, especially if you have a similar early tee time the next day. As I said earlier, when the margins for error are so small, you have to look everywhere for what I call ‘1% wins’! And this is a concept that Gareth believes in fully.
As we were getting closer to ‘game’ time and I knew that we were only working until midday, I really said very little in the way of technical feedback during this session, more just affirmation and feedback if it was asked. It’s at these times that the player is making sense in his own way of what we have worked on the previous two days and what he can really trust when the gun goes off. We finished off the short day with a really interesting session on the range which we had designed specifically for such an occasion. Gareth simulated playing 9 holes from the golf course on the range, using markers or trees etc to depict the golf course. In between shots I made him hit ‘super slow shots’ to increase his awareness of the club and also to enhance the work we had done on his tempo. The session worked a treat and everyone left happy & ready for battle!
Speaking of battles, before I left Holland I had a wonderful chance to play Kennemer which was close to the airport. It had been the venue for many previous Dutch Opens and again next year if I’m informed correctly. It’s a wonderful links course in the mould of Hillside at home and I thoroughly enjoyed ticking it off my list….but I won’t tell you how many balls I lost. Let’s just say I had no worries about over weight baggage on the way home!
In the event, it was really encouraging to see Gareth make the cut and get 4 rounds of golf as he has put in a lot of quality work on the right stuff. There were flashes of some really good stuff at times and I’m certain that this will lead to really valuable momentum which will carry him on for the rest of the year.
Thanks for reading and check out my next entry from the Alps Tour in Normandy,