It was great to feel some real warmth again for a few days before the bobble hat and waterproofs become the ‘coaching uniform’ at the JFGA over the next few months. Hopefully my next trip in 2012 will be if any students make it through to Final Stage of European Tour School at the end of November in Barcelona. Fingers crossed for Cian Curley, Niall Kearney and Gareth Shaw! After a 3am start from home to get the 6.30am flight from Dublin to Faro, Monday again allowed me to play golf and this time I had a look at Laranjal, one of the Quinta do Lago courses. It’s a typical resort course with generous fairways and bit of water here & there. Ideal to start off the week and get working on the tan!
I made my way across to the Victoria course at Vilamoura where I met with Gareth Maybin and we used what was left of the lovely evening sunlight to continue on the themes of the previous week in Scotland and get some feedback from the Dunhill tournament. Unfortunately, two average rounds and a good round weren’t enough to make the cut in Scotland but there had been promising signs with the putting and the scoring in general has definitely improved. So the goals from my point of view were to make practise as interesting as possible, to help Gareth find his best way of feeling/seeing a ‘draw’ shot when he needed it and of course to maintain the consistent themes that we have been developing from the start. We put the foundations of those down during a very positive session on Monday night. It’s true that with the weather, facilities and golf balls, a player and coach can get some really quality work done at tournament venues. However, it must be kept in mind that the tournament is only a few days away so any improvements being made must be very simple & playable. An interesting coaching challenge!
Tuesday was another early start again to beat the rush at the 1st tee. The course can get very busy on days like this with players who either want to have a look at the course early in the week or those who don’t get into Wednesday’s pro am and therefore use Tuesday as their day to get a really thorough practice round in. And by ‘thorough’ I mean five hour rounds! We were done with our ‘on course’ preparations by 1.30pm and we agreed to meet on the range later that evening for some short game work. This left time for me to have a chat on the range with a few friends and just generally have a look around and capture some video of anything interesting happening among the other players.
I ran into Henry Byrne, one of the Titleist ‘tour staff’ and club fitter. I had first met Henry when he was based at Carton House at home and he had built a few clubs for me. He also helped me understand Trackman a bit better and we have worked with the same players – him on the equipment, me on the swings. One of the interesting stories he told me from his time out on tour with all the Titleist players was that one player in particular was able to tell him that his 4 iron was out by 1 degree, and when checked it was! I imagine that’s similar to the Formula One drivers being able to give the mechanics very specific feedback on the car through their tremendous feel.
Gareth returned in the late afternoon and we spent some very beneficial time around the short game area – just working on chipping from the thicker grass and getting used to the different sand. This is a weekly feature on tour as the players change temperature, altitude, time zones etc., so environmental conditions vary the challenge each week. It’s definitely a case of ‘adapt to survive’!
As we were finishing up on the putting green with the customary ‘competitive practice’, I couldn’t help but notice the amount of clubs & equipment on offer for the players each week. They really are spoiled for choice. Around the putting green alone there were literally hundreds of putters with different heads, styles, lofts, lies, grips etc. Obviously the majority of the players have club contracts so they may be somewhat limited as to what they can experiment with and put ‘in play’. However, if any of them are serial ‘tinkerers’, then they are in paradise as just across the car park were five or six enormous club manufacturer lorries’ with more of the same onboard and a host of highly trained guys like Henry to help you get exactly what your game needs! I saw at first hand the help ‘Jesse’ from Taylor Made was able to give Gareth by advising how to set his driver up to create a lower ball flight but minimise the chances of missing it right – fascinating!
Having been around many of the leading people in their chosen field of nutrition, strength & conditioning, performance, equipment, caddying, coaching etc., I now am much more aware of the need for specialisation and ‘holistic’ coaching. It seems that virtually every player at the elite level has some form of ‘team’ around them. And a few players can have up to as many six with them in any one week. That’s a big pay role!!
Wednesday was an interesting day which started with breakfast at the golf club with some of the players, one being Shane Lowry who would go on to win! Shane has always been very friendly to me and a better guy you won’t meet. Congrats on his win and it farther enhances the profile of Irish golf – long may it continue! Gareth and I had planned to do some ‘finishing up’ work on the range but a strong wind wasn’t ideal for learning from ball flight and improving tempo – two of our big keys. So between us we had the innovative idea of going to a nearby course and playing a few holes with different winds so we could properly see the slightly ‘tweaked’ driver perform. So I was back where I had started on Monday morning at Laranjal and we flew round the front 9 in about an hour, hitting different tee shots and seeing how many birdies could be made. It was a refreshing way to finish up preparations rather than standing on a range hitting the same shot over and over. It was also the easiest 9 holes Bas will ever caddy!
So as we left to go our separate ways, it was another enjoyable few days in the sun and another good experience for me as a developing coach. I really appreciate the opportunity to meet and learn from all the people I come across.
Thanks again for reading and for sharing my experiences, hopefully there will be many more. If anyone has any questions relating to anything I’ve written or have done, please feel free to contact me through my website contact form.