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 -
Andy Morrison –
Michael Hebron –
Paul Schempp – 5 Steps to Expert -
Pia Nielson and Lynn Marriot – Vision54 –
Kendal McWade – Instinctive Golf –

Peter Mattsson – Director of Coaching EGU