Hello folks, 2013 is off and running and that means a search for the sun if you are a tournament golfer & his coach looking to kick start the season! Dubai seemed like the natural place for myself and Gareth Maybin to head and the Jumeirah Golf Estates in particular. As Gareth is a full member of the European Tour, he is given access to the wonderful facilities at the venue for the Dubai World Championship. The range is immaculate, there are a variety of greens for chipping, pitching, bunker shots & putting and of course 36 testing holes. Add to that the odd bit of sunshine in the Middle East, an endless supply of new balls and you have the recipe for some thorough preparation for next weeks HSBC event in Abu Dhabi. I never like to leave the JFGA at Greenacres, but I will make the odd exception in January!
So, we got our heads together and designed what we thought would be 3 solid days’ practice that would lead us into the official tournament practice days at the HSBC. Gareth was keen to play plenty of holes to get his ‘scoring’ feel polished again and I was determined to continue on the effective ‘basics’ work we had started last summer. Our itinerary looked like this -
Friday: test new wedges with competitive games, address basics check & putting. Par 18.
Saturday: putting, bunker and chipping tests & games. Play 18 holes with competitive elements & games. Chipping & putting practice. Par 18.
Sunday: distance wedges testing, address basics check & course simulations on the range. Play 27 holes competitive match. Par 18. Distance control work with wedges.
From a coaching perspective I was satisfied with what we had done as our work had covered all the elements that have worked for Gareth in the past – maintenance of the simple basics, practising ball flight control, competitive games, playing the course & lots of variety. The 3 days were well spent in a great environment with lots of other Tour players doing the same, and our hosts, Neal and Wayne couldn’t have been friendlier.
It’s amazing the quality of work that can be done when weather and facilities are on your side. It’s just a matter of agreeing what needs to be attended to and planning out the days. With a tournament to consider the following week meant that we needed to make our practice ‘tournament relevant’ ie now was not the time to be experimenting with swing changes! We had covered a lot of groundwork in the 8 weeks since the SA Open, so this was really a case of fine tuning and getting the confidence up.
Another point worth mentioning again was the fact that so many of the other players coaches there were either working with video, using Trackman, keeping stats in practice, measuring results etc. It’s proof once more that coaching is evolving and embracing new research along the way. You only have to look at the scores, especially the cut mark each week to see that standards are rising. Coaching is no different. ‘Experts’ are appearing in every individual area of the game with some fascinating information. Of course, as a coach you have to determine what is beneficial to the player and will it ultimately help performance. That is the name of the game!
One event I must mention was the match between student & pupil! Even though I was happy to take the easy route and drive the cart, GM insisted that we play a match. So out came the half set of clubs that I had brought and with a few very tight ‘sympathy’ strokes I was being given….the battle commenced. I’d love to say it was a fairy-tale ending for me, but reality bites! I kept it together to manage a net half for the first nine (damage limitation) and then the inevitable unfolded – the ‘Ferrari left the Ford’!! I think in 27 holes, my opponent managed to clear most of the bets I had won off him in the previous 2 days with fiendishly difficult chipping & putting challenges I had created to supplement my wages!
However, that drubbing didn’t take anything away from the visit to the Jumeirah Golf Estates and playing their lovely Fire course. As we made the short journey toward Abu Dhabi on the Monday morning we were both quietly confident that we had prepared well and now it was time to get ready for the tournament proper.
So next up it was Tiger, Rory & co!
Check out my next report if you would like to hear my thoughts from there…