Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Demise of the Junior Open?

During my countrywide travels around golf clubs this summer, it came to my attention that many golf clubs were struggling to fill a field for their respective Junior Opens. I was amazed at this news and the more clubs I asked the more disappointed I became.

Not only were clubs experiencing reduced entries, some even had to cancel scheduled events due to lack of numbers. Clubs were also battling to field enough players to make up a team for league matches.

The junior organizers at most clubs were at a loss as to explain why juniors had apparently given up playing competitive golf. A number of suggestions came up as possible reasons, such as cost, difficulties with transport, concerns about safety, parents too busy and so on.

All of these issues were around when I began playing as a junior in the mid 1970’s.The stark difference then was that I faced being balloted out of some events that had been over subscribed, because my handicap was too high.

Sports clubs today have to have a child welfare officer or volunteers who have sat Child Safety and Good Practice courses before they can even help out with junior programmes. Add to this being Checked by the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) to see if you are a fit and proper person to supervise children in your care makes it even more galling that all this effort is being made for and on behalf of junior golfers and then they don’t play.

The cost of a junior membership for twelve months golf, entertainment, fresh air and exercise would probably be less than £100 at most golf clubs. This, I believe, represents fantastic value and is demonstrated by the numbers of junior members in golf clubs throughout the country. But why do they not want to compete?

I know this sounds like a bit of a rant but I am astonished at this situation. Do we need to educate parents about the benefits of their children playing golf and competing? Do we need to take a look at the atmosphere created at some clubs with rules and traditions that may deter youngsters competing? Is there an over emphasis on getting the “right technique” before they enter competitions? Is this just happening in golf? My 13-year-old son plays cricket and football. Both those sports appear to be healthy with junior competitors so how do we turn around this worrying trend in junior golf?

Luke Donald


23 and 1/2 hours: What is the single best thing we can do for our health?

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Tee it forward



PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – To help golfers have more fun on the course and enhance their overall experience by playing from a set of tees best suited to their abilities, The PGA of America and the United States Golf Association have partnered to support “TEE IT FORWARD,” a new national initiative to be proposed for golf facilities nationwide from July 5-17.

TEE IT FORWARD encourages all golfers to play the course at a length that is aligned with their average driving distance (see accompanying chart for guidelines). Golfers can speed up play by utilizing tees that provide the greatest playability and enjoyment. The program will be promoted May 24-29, at the 72nd Senior PGA Championship presented by KitchenAid, and at both the U.S. Open Championship in June and the U.S. Women's Open Championship in July.

“Simply put, TEE IT FORWARD can make golf much more fun for millions of people,” said PGA of America President Allen Wronowski. “We believe that by moving up to another set of tees, golfers will experience an exciting, new approach to the game that will produce more enjoyment and elevate their desire to come back and play even more golf."

Barney Adams, the founder of Adams Golf, provided the concept that led to TEE IT FORWARD. By playing from forward tees, amateur golfers have the chance to play the course at the same relative distance as a touring professional would over 18 holes. The playing field is leveled by giving golfers the opportunity to play from distances that are properly aligned with their abilities.

With many more golfers hitting approach shots with 6- and 7-irons instead of hybrids and long irons, their chances for enjoyment increase. Also, playing from forward tees should result in fewer overall shots, shorter distance traveled on each hole, and potentially, fewer lost balls.

“The passion that golfers have for our game has the potential to be enhanced by the TEE IT FORWARD initiative," said Jim Hyler, president of the United States Golf Association. "This is an innovation that we think will appeal to golfers of all skill levels because it gives them a new challenge that better aligns with their abilities. We hope that TEE IT FORWARD will be embraced by players and golf facilities across the country."


Page 2\PGA, USGA Team for Tee It Forward Promotion

TEE IT FORWARD is not necessarily about creating a new set of tees—many facilities already have multiple tees in use every day. It is about changing the mindset of golfers in a positive way—encouraging people to consider setting aside playing from 6,500-6,700 yards and moving up to a length of 6,000-6,200 yards or moving from 6,000-6,200 yards to 5,700-5,800 yards.

The 6,700-yard course that many amateur golfers play today is proportionally equivalent to a PGA Tour player competing on a course measuring 8,100 yards—700 yards or more longer than a typical PGA Tour layout.

Jack Nicklaus, who shares the record with Walter Hagen for most PGA Championship titles with five and also shares the U.S. Open record with four victories, is a proponent of TEE IT FORWARD.

"I love the game of golf but I will be the first to tell you that there are things about our game we need to improve," Nicklaus said. "Now The PGA of America and the USGA have come together to develop ways to that can make the game more attractive and more enjoyable. Tee It Forward is the first of many initiatives we have discussed together, and I think families around the country will enjoy alternate formats like this to make the game more fun.

"All of us deeply involved in the game constantly encourage golfers of all skill levels to play the proper tees, but too often golfers want to bite off as much of the golf course as they can. What ends up suffering is their scorecard and their overall enjoyment. This program should help stimulate people to play the proper tees and maximize the golf experience."

TEE IT FORWARD also coincides in July with The PGA of America’s Family Golf Month, which has approximately 2,200 facilities already registered for that national initiative.

Friday, 12 August 2011

How do you read the newspaper?

"I always turn to the sports pages first, which records people's accomplishments.The front page has nothing but man's failures". -Earl Warren

Monday, 25 July 2011

Darren Clarke Open Champion

The Open Champion

Well if like me you watched the Open Championship unfold at Royal St. Georges I’m sure you were wearing a smile as wide as your face and a warm feeling of joy inside as Darren Clarke cruised to victory.

It was like a fairy tail ending for the Northern Irishman claiming his maiden Major Championship after turning Professional 20 years ago.

I’m not for one minute saying that this is the end for Darren but for sure this is what he’s dreamt about ever since he was a boy. So many false dawns, so many times he’s had to pick himself up off the floor after failing, not to mention having to cope with the cruel illness that claimed the life of his wife Heather. Yet still he kept going and with the aid of strong friends and management team around him he won the coveted claret jug.

So what happened to Darren that week at Royal St Georges? We know that what has always been a constant with him is his skill and ability to hit the golf ball better than the majority. This level of expertise has maybe been an issue for him. Why? Well when you don’t get the results you crave with the talent you have then frustration sets in and the patience you require to succeed slowly disappears.

Working with Darren at the Open were Michael Finnigan and Dr Bob Rotella, two experts in the field of psychology and performance. Between them they managed to create in Darren an acceptance that undesired outcomes, bad shots, were part of the game and that if he controlled his responses to them then his skills and ability would come to the fore. His reactions throughout the four rounds were those of someone who was in complete control of his emotions. I’m sure Darren has had weeks where he has hit the ball better, holed more putts, chipped in, had more fun and yet not won. What happened at Sandwich was that he combined his physical skills and experiences to produce a mindset that did not sabotage his chance of winning.

It all sounds so simple and easy so why has he not managed it before? I’m not sure. The pathway to winning and mastery has many different twist and turns. We do know that hitting great golf shots is not all we need to be a winner nor is working harder than the others. Discipline to control our state and emotions is a massive factor in our quest for mastery. Learning that failure is a process and a chance to learn and not a door closing. A better attitude and a creative imagination will work wonders for us on our journey towards being better golfers. Dr Bob Rotella told me he’d challenged Darren to “stop trying to be a rocket scientist. Instead putt like you did when you were 13 years of age. Putt from the subconscious.“

Darren Clarke is one of life’s givers, generous to a fault, which is one of the reasons why his Open win was universally acclaimed. On this occasion he gave himself a chance to win by controlling his own thoughts and emotions.

Five times Open Champion Peter Thomson once said, “The difference between winning and losing is always a mental one”

Rosemere Fun "Slippery & Wobberly"

Fun at fund raising Rosemere Golfers Against Cancer evening

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Missing Tiger

I was amazed to hear that Tiger Wood’s last Major victory was the 2008 US Open. The man who was predicted by so many as the man to beat Jack Nicklaus’s haul of Major wins has become derailed.

Obviously Tigers personal affairs haven’t helped in his quest to become the greatest player who has ever played the game but what else has gone wrong?

We do know that Tiger has had a knee injury that needed surgery and sidelined him for a while. He also changed coach from Hank Haney to Sean Foley. So is it any wonder that his game has lost the lustre it once had and he has become a mere mortal in the world of top professional golf.

We believe that Tiger’s work, originally with Hank Haney, was to change his golf swing to take some of the strain off his injured knee. This took his attention away from playing and more toward the technical side of rebuilding a swing. This was Hank’s swing and how he thought Tiger needed to swing. Not Tiger’s natural swing.

After his well documented personal problems, Tiger switched coaches to Sean Foley, who is a young coach with an ever increasing reputation among the US Tour pros. Again Tiger was receiving information and opinions from someone else about how he should swing the club. More technical thoughts and information taking his attention away from what he used to do better than anyone, PLAYING THE GAME.

Recently Tigers friend and practice mate Bubba Watson came out and said he thought Tiger was taking the wrong road to recovery.

"I'll just go ahead and say it. I think Tiger is going the wrong way,'' said Watson, "I just think he's so mental right now with his swing.

"It's just not the way I go about it. All of us are good at golf. Sometimes I think some of the great players, they get too wrapped up in the mental part ... when you start talking about other people trying to help you with your swing, look at this, look at that, I think they take a step back”.

Again this is only an opinion but Tiger is not the only player who has become worse when working hard at improving. Something doesn’t sound quite right with that last sentence. Surely the more we do something and learn the better we should get.

So is Tiger learning or just listening and taking in opinions?

He certainly appears to be playing at “swings” and not “playing the game” at the moment. When he was unbeatable a number of years ago he hit hundreds of the most amazing shots from some incredibly difficult positions.

What we must learn from this is not to get wrapped up the technical side of finding a perfect swing at the expense of understanding what works for us and playing the game. Remember that they hand out prizes for the lowest score and not the best looking swing.

Top 3 players in the world

At the US Open this year the USGA paired the top three World ranked players together in the first two rounds. Luke Donald, Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer have all held the coveted World No 1 position in 2011, yet all have different styles, strengths and weaknesses in their games.

Let’s take Lee Westwood OBE. When you watch Lee hit a golf ball his head moves, dropping into the shot through impact. His left arm bends yet the golf ball more often that not flies laser straight toward the target. If we listen to some experts his short game and putting isn’t great yet he’s still one of the best players on the planet. How can this be?

Martin Kaymer on the other hand looks so smooth and powerful with the “complete game.” Yet his performances of late are not that of a well-oiled, finely tuned piece of German engineering. How can this be?

Now the current No 1, Luke Donald, looks so neat and tidy and with his game completely under control. Yet Luke’s game doesn’t have the power or strength of the majority of the players on the World Stage and until his recent success in the Madrid Masters in 2010 had not won a stroke play event in Europe for 5 1/2 years. How can that be?

In my opinion and without going into the world of psychology these three golfers are comfortable in their own skins. By that I mean they manage what they do and get the best out of their own games knowing exactly what it is they are doing with the golf club. On the surface they all look completely different yet they are all supremely comfortable about what they are doing.

Luke puts his success this year down to culmination of a lot of hard work in the close season with his coach Pat Goss.

Lee on the other hand rededicated himself to his career after slumping to 256th in the World rankings in 2002.

Martin recent loss of form can be traced back to the point where he was trying to introduce a more right to left shape on his shot to be able to contend at the Masters earlier this year. He is still trying to add skills to his game.

So what can we learn from these three great players? Well the first thing is we must understand what it is we are doing when we swing the golf club, then we can start to manage what we do more efficiently. We must also continue to develop our skills to the point we can rely on them day after day and produce the consistency we all crave..

In the words of the great Ben Hogan

The average golfer’s problem is not so much the lack of ability as it is lack of knowledge about what he should be doing.”

Thursday, 9 June 2011



Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Inspired Coaching by Neil Plimmer

Inspired Coaching!

Learn Golf – Introducing the Game to Beginners by Neil Plimmer

One of the most enjoyable parts of my job as a golf coach is introducing the game to new players. There is no better feeling than seeing someone come for their first session then work their way from novice to regular player. And most importantly develop a love for the game and take charge of their improvement.

Neil PlimmerOver the years I have reviewed and reflected my sessions and now coach them in a very different way to when I began coaching.

The way that the game of golf is introduced to people, in my opinion, is one of the reasons why many clubs are struggling to attract new members and why many new golfers never continue playing the game.

Picture the scene, a new player turns up to the Pro shop/Reception at a club or driving range to book a series of lessons. Lessons are seen as the first port of call for all new players. The new player is handed one club, normally a 7 iron, and taken to the driving range to learn the "basic technique" of the golf swing. Most of you will know the rest. Very seldom, in my experience, is a new player taken onto the golf course in these first few sessions.

I want new players to be “Beginners” for as short a time as possible!!

My new players start with their first session on the golf course. This is a vital part of developing the skills needed to play the game. We start by the hole (12 inches away for their first ever shot – it is then guaranteed to be a successful one!) and we then develop "playing skills" working backwards from the green with the hole in mind. There is generally little mention of technique at this point, I want them to feel comfortable with the golf course environment, the equipment that they are to use (first clubs they are introduced to are, a wood, hybrid, 7 iron, sand iron and putter) and controlling the ball in relation to the hole. Within the first session we would cover putting, chipping, bunker play and fairway shots. Players would be encouraged to play golf after their first session! Emphasis is placed on developing playing skills rather than developing picture perfect golf swings.

From the very first contact with new players I introduce them to the same routines and disciplines that I work on with established players. They are encouraged to monitor/review/reflect their performance and practice, they are then in a position to plan their next playing/practice experience. Establishing these routines early creates a safe learning environment for the novice player to take ownership of their development; they are then also able to drive the coaching process

The questions I always get asked is, when do you coach technique? I have come to the conclusion that the best way to develop new players is to introduce them to the skills it takes to play the game. By developing playing skills first it still surprises me how well most players improve without any technical input, and by running a process of development they very often come back to sessions and ask questions about technique. They are then improving technique in relation to the playing environment. Much the same way other sports are learnt.

A few thoughts

Golf is a game of movement – The golf motion is a movement skill and I believe that it is vital that new players are introduced to the golf swing like they would throwing, kicking, baseball, tennis etc. Here is the implement, move that ball the best way you know how and we can then develop that movement pattern. In my opinion, breaking the golf swing down into small and complicated positions hinders the learning process of the game.

Equipment – Less is more at first. A bag of 14 clubs can be very confusing for a new player and thus makes it difficult to make decisions when playing on the course. Start with a wood, hybrid, 7 iron, sand iron and putter and add the extra clubs to the set as you need them when you play.

Play to Learn - Learn with the golf course in mind. People need to create opportunities to play the game as much as possible, every time we go out on the golf course is an opportunity to learn and develop.

Skills are transferable – what people do off the golf course will help them develop the skills needed to play golf. Link the skills needed to play the game of golf to the skills we all use on a daily basis.

Skill/Distance appropriate golf courses – New players are encouraged to play a smaller golf course to start with, maybe starting from 50/100/150 yards from the hole (relative to their distance/ball striking skills) and keep scores/stats so that they are able to monitor performance.

Review/Reflection – All of my new players are given a little notebook or given a password to Smartpro to write notes there, on the first session and are encouraged to take notes on our sessions as well as the sessions they do on their own. This will be the very best golf book that they read, because it has all of the info in there that will help them learn and improve.

Perfect Practice – Golfers spend most of their time away from their coaches so need to be able to practice effectively. I educate new players on how to “perfect practice” The key thing being, practice with the golf course in mind. A couple of things that I introduce them to;
Putting – practicing with one ball only
Chipping/Pitching – again using one ball, chip/pitch and putt and keep score.
Worst case scenario – As we all know it is very seldom we get a perfect lie on the golf course so I encourage my new players to experiment and experience from as many different lies/scenarios as their imagination will allow.
On the range – move off the mat after EVERY shot. Change target and club after EVERY shot. Practice with the golf course in mind!

My Influences

Teaching Games for Understanding – Rod Thorpe - www.tgfu.org
Andy Morrison – www.progolfmindcoach.co.uk
Michael Hebron – www.michaelhebron.com www.nlglive.com
Paul Schempp – 5 Steps to Expert - www.performancemattersinc.com
Pia Nielson and Lynn Marriot – Vision54 – www.vision54.com
Kendal McWade – Instinctive Golf – www.instinctivegolf.co.uk

Peter Mattsson – Director of Coaching EGU

Monday, 23 May 2011


t was a very sad day for golf with the news of the death of Seve Ballesteros after a long battle with cancer. Like many millions of golfers and golf fans I grew up watching the daring deeds of he swashbuckling Spanish genius on TV.

I was fortunate and privileged to play with Seve on many occasions on the European Tour. The aura and charisma he had is hard to describe, needless to say no other golfer came close. Every player would stop and watch Seve on the driving range and marvel at the imagination and skills he showed whilst just playing and hitting shots.

He was also very generous with his time always willing to help other players with their games, passing on tips and advice. I remember the first time I played with Seve I felt so nervous, like a schoolboy going to see the headmaster on his first day at school. He stood on the 1st tee swishing his driver dominating his world, the golf course. I don’t think I ever relaxed during that round but Seve was charming and so considerate helping me out as the crowds rushed to get into position to watch him, forgetting I still had shots to play.

On Seve’s passing Jack Nicklaus said: “Golf has lost a great champion and a great friend. We have also lost a great entertainer and ambassador for our sport. It was his creativity, his imagination and his desire to compete that made him so popular not only in Europe but throughout American galleries too.”

Tiger Woods said of Seve: “Seve was one of the most talented and exciting golfers to ever play the game. His creativity and inventiveness on the golf course may never be surpassed.”

Seve’s passion transcended golf and was appreciated around the world in other sports.

Jacques Rogge, President of the International Olympic committee said: “Seve was a man of incredible skill, charisma and courage as a sportsman, and the dignified way that he fought against the disease was characteristic of the man and was an inspiration to us all. He was a ‘once in a generation athlete’ in his sport and his influence on the game will live long after him.”

Of course we all remember Seve leading European teams in the Ryder Cup matches as well as the iconic celebration on the 18th green at St Andrews in 1984 after holing a birdie putt to win his second Open Championship. He was 16 years old when he turned professional and aged just 19 when he won the first of his 50 European Tour titles.

European Tour Chief Executive George O’Grady said: “We have all been blessed to live in his era. He was the inspiration behind The European Tour.”

Severiano Ballesteros RIP

(Paul Eales, patron of Rosemere Golfers Against Cancer)

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

The creative (playful) mind

Nice bar, even if you do not drink, this is worth seeing.. Was this taught?

Rory learning through play

An article in The Times by Matt Dickinson 11 April 2011

Sitting down with him this week (Rory) he seemed little changed from the kid I interviewed in 2007 who spent his time in between photographs playfully chipping at a wall socket trying to turn the switch on and off.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Great philosophy


The Brain Likes Novelty -- Changing the Training Environment Every 5 Min...

More from Rudy on Tiger

"Tiger showed me that golf is learned, it really isn't taught. I just tried to provide a setting in which he could discover.'

Rudy Duran

Tiger Woods - Famous Masters Chip in

"Tiger didn't respond well to traditional lessons. It I tried to move his ball position or alignment his success rate would go down. If I just gave him some guidance, backed off and let him work it out himself, his success rate would go up."

Rudy Duran Tiger's first coach