An interesting question coming from a golf coach who runs an academy, and yet one that needs answering.
Historically golf professionals have been appointed into positions as club professionals or teaching professionals at golfing facilities throughout the world. And having received a certain amount of training are now free to help golfers improve.
The sad statistic is that golfers are or have not improved now for many years and a quick search on the internet will find figures quoted of over 50 years since the average handicap came down.
I do not have all the answers and I can only share my experiences as a golf coach since I turned professional in 1985. Having decided that I wanted to play golf rather than coach golf, the coaching side became a means by which I could support my playing career. I discovered that I could communicate well with the individuals who came to see me to improve and that I could adapt their golf swing based on my swing knowledge gained from my PGA Training to get them to hit the ball better.
Whether this was by chance or good luck I do not know, I could just do it. As my playing career failed to flourish I embarked on becoming a club professional and automatically I was called upon by club members to help improve their golf games. This I was able to do and although I did not study the golf swing I found I was able to suggest the "right" things the golfer needed to do.
Although successful as a coach there were limitations and golfers did not improve as quickly as I would have liked as it seemed the learning would only take place during the actual coaching session. I decided that there mst be another way and after attending a seminar in 2001 at the Belfry titled 'The Art and Science of Coaching' my own journey would really begin in the world of golf coaching.
Having met Kendal McWade (Instinctive Golf) and Karl Morris and Jamie Edwards (Trained Brain) I began to look at the golfer in a very different way. I started to look at each individual as a person who already possessed the skill they needed, the challenge was to draw out this skill and to let it flourish.
This moment changed my approach and was to change the way I was to look for answers for the next few years. My discoveries were not made in the world of golf by studying swing manuals, they were made in the worlds of Personal Development, NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming), Hypnosis, Communication and Public Speaking. Each of these disciplines, as I studied them, gave me an insight into the people I was working with and the potential they possessed.
It was not a question of sharing information about a movement that mattered, it was more a case of how you shared the information and indeed what information you needed to share at that moment in time. The golfer needed a way to go away from the session and continue to learn, from every shot if possible, and to maintain a good attitude during the whole process as it evolved.
You see, the thought of a golfer making a phone call to a golf professional locally, who he/she has never met and turning up for a golf lesson and that professional being able to share the information necessary for the golfer to improve in that session is ridiculous.
Understanding the individual, their needs as a golfer, their personality, their job, how they process information, their background are all essential pieces to the puzzle that cannot be understood in a short time and gathering some of this information is essential to a golfer moving forward and improving.
Any coaching process needs to start with some sort of appraisal or assessment. As coaches we need to find out as much information as possible about the person we are about to spend time with and as the player you should find out who you are going to pay money to to improve your game.
The biggest challenge is that after and in-between each session when improvement has been made is to have process that will keep the golfer on the "right track" so that learning can continue.
Over the last few weeks I have had several golfers who have been playing the game for several years who have not improved and have been to several different coaches over those years and have said "Why has nobody mentioned these things to me before?" "Is it really that simple?" my answer as always is "YES".
As a golf coach I decided that I needed to be adaptable to meet the needs of the players I was working with and that they should not have to change to meet my style of coaching. Change does happen, the difference is we go about change in a completely different way to many academies, by discovering what you know about your golf and the shots you play and then by asking if you can do things in a different way. Your discovery is guided by us and we will help you improve.
I cannot say how long any coaching program needs to last. I know from my own experience that I am learning something new every single day and that the more I explore then the more I discover. Over the last 12 months at our academy the golfers who have made the most improvement have been the golfers who have continued the process of learning. A coaching session every 3-5 weeks has enabled them to explore and discover what works for them and it gives me a the opportunity to really find out who they are.
Our aim is to give you the tools to continue your learning in-between sessions, as we cannot be there all the time. The process we follow is our 'Golfing Success in 4 Steps' which we guarantee will make a difference and you will view you game in a completely different way.
Before you decide where you want to go for your golf learning, do some research, find out about your potential coach, ask questions, just because he/she is the coach at your club does not ensure they are the best coach for you. What have they studied to help them develop as a coach and just because they have coached for a long time does not make them a good coach. They should offer a 'risk free' appraisal which is not only for them to get to know you, but also for you to decide if they can help you.
The answer to the title question for us at Westwood Golf is "Absolutely YES" the issue is it doesn't happen everywhere.
On the 1st November 2011 Westwood Golf found a home. Chichester Golf Club became the new headquarters of the golf academy with BIG ideas.
Working alongside Tony Westwood was Sean Herron who had been based at Chichester for the previous two years or so. With excellent facilities at the club which ranged from the newly designed driving range, academy hole, 9-hole par three course, crazy golf and the two 18-hole golf courses, Cathedral and Tower, the stage was set for the future.
The first 12 months have been very exciting and both Tony and Sean have kept long hours in the development of their 'Centre of Excellence' here on the south coast. Progress has been steady and now many golfers have visited the academy and discovered that playing great golf is not just down to knowing how to move a club around their body.
As the year has developed Tony has been continually developing the learning process he started to create some 12 years ago and the journey has been well worth it, with many golfers now understanding the simple 4 step process which has now come to be known as 'Golfing Success in 4 Steps'.
Just after the academy opened in 2011,Tony had managed to land the position of compering the London Golf Show, Earls Court. The show proved to be a great success and he was asked to compere the National Golf Show, Birmingham NEC in April and for the second time he has just repeated the London Golf Show again at Earls Court.
The show is proving to be a great place for Tony to spread the word about the 'Golfing Success in 4 Steps' process with golfers of all abilities 'getting it' and being able to explore more what happens when they hit the ball.
Golfers of both sexes, young and old are really applying the process to their games and loving the freedom the process permits when they play. Having an understanding that it is possible to learn something from every shot and then move on to the next one and do something different.
The challenge as Tony sees it is that the golfer has never had a process to go back to to keep them on track when they play. The game has always meant swinging the club and trying to work out what went wrong, fixing something, hoping you picked the right thing and then hitting the ball more with hope than with trust, commitment and confidence.
Just recently Tony was sent a link to a website by one of the owners of Maple Leaf Golf which took him to a website www.thegolfswingzone. The website had been created by Professor Chris Riddoch who's research had led him to write a book called 'The Golf Swing........it's easier than you think'. Having started to read the book Tony contacted Chris and explained the 'Golfing Success in 4 Steps' process. A few days later Chris replied to Tony's e-mail with complimentary remarks about the fact that the work the academy was doing fitted with Chris's discoveries in his book.
Once Tony had finished reading the book more e-mails were exchanged and Tony and Sean are recommending the book to their clients and for them to use it as a simple study guide to complement their work.
The explanations are simple and golfers really do understand what needs to happen. And with a greater awareness of the learning process their clients are able to stay patient and maintain a great attitude whilst continuing to learn and move forward.
At the latest London Golf Show, Tony also co-hosted two Masterclass sessions with Andy Gorman, one of Europe's leading putting coaches and Gary Smith, a former England Golf Coach who stepped aside after 14 years last year.
These sessions allowed members of the audience to ask questions to three coaches, with a combined 110 years experience,and for them to give simple and effective answers without any real technical jargon. Simple is good enough and all three coaches really do appreciate that keeping it simple works for everyone, even the elite players they work with.
The academy has now begun it's 2nd year and the signs are looking good for a prosperous future. A schools program is being created with the help and support from Planet Sport who deliver PE in schools around the south of England, with a plan to show young people the benefits of exercise and learning to play a game that can be played for a lifetime.
In the Spring of 2013 the first 1&2 day 'Golfing Success in 4 Steps' programs will be launched with golfers getting the opportunity to understand the process in a 1 or 2 day format. Overseas schools are also in the planning with the emphasis on learning and playing in a relaxed atmosphere in the sun.
For more information about 'Golfing Success in 4 Steps' please contact us by e-mailing email@example.com.
Just over a month ago, one Bubba Watson, proved that once and for all there is no one way to swing a golf club. With prestigious drives and towering iron shots he pummelled his way around Augusta National to his first major victory.
And to cap it all in the play-off he played an audacious hook with a wedge out of trees on the right hand side of the 10th hole. To hook a ball that far with a pitching wedge takes great skill and hands and Bubba has both. The angles he moves his body at and the power he generates are incredible and it is certainly a swing that cannot be copied. What it does show is that if you understand which part of the ball you need to hit and what angle to swing the club with the relevant club face position, you are well on your way.
Lee Westwood came agonisingly close again and but for continuing troubles with the flat stick, he would have surely broken his duck in the majors. He played by far and away the best golf of the week, unfortunately it is a game about getting the ball in the hole and not just hitting it well.
Since the Masters I have again been on stage, this time at the National Golf Show, NEC, where as well as compering the show I co-presented with Andy Gorman, one of Europe's leading putting coaches, Gary Smith, one of the three lead coaches at England Golf and Geoff Swain, World Trick Shot Champion.
As one of the leading putting coaches in Europe,Andy gave me some amazing insights into the world of putting mechanics. Gary is one of three lead coaches for England Golf and his approach to the short game was truly inspirational and made perfect sense, when you understand how the club should work. His approach is already making our short game lessons more productive and fun, for us and our clients. And Geoff presented his amazing trick shot show in an educational style and wowed the crowds with his wit and skills. I am looking forward to sharing the stage again with them all at Earls Court sometime in November.
The academy at Chichester is growing and our new website is now live, www.westwoodgolf.co.uk, take a look and discover how you can play, learn and understand what is possible for you while playing this amazing game.
Yesterday I had a great day at the National Motorcycle Museum attending the PGA Breakfast Club Conference.
There were a wide range of speakers with the highlights for me being listening to:
Sophia Jowett - who spoke about the coach - golfer relationship and how the dynamic of this relationship can be utilised for the benefit of both, in terms of learning and development on both sides.
Andy Taylor, PGA Professional - who gave us his coach insights into his growth and development as a coach throughout his career. His presentation was thought provoking, funny and delivered with passion.
Dave Alred, coach to Luke Donald - spoke about his work and 'No Limits' approach to coaching and learning. An amazing insight into player development and growth delivered with passion, humour and a simple way. It helped me reflect on my own work and career and certainly helped me to put things in a better order in my own mind.
Thanks to the Education Department at the PGA for organising a fantastic event and I look forward to what you plan for next year.
The academy at Chichester has been operating since November 2011 and things are changing and developing at quite a pace now.
Working as a team me and Sean are having a great time helping golfers of all ages and abilities to learn, play and improve their golf. Sean has had a tough ask on the fast track to understanding what I do and my vision and philosophy. He is doing a great job and growing in confidence daily.
Plus having a team adds more power to the academy and our group drop-in sessions are growing in popularity and numbers. The feedback we are getting from our junior sessions is fantastic, with lots of support from both the juniors and the parents.
Next week we are away for two days on a biomechanics seminar at the London Club. The course, organised by a friend of mine Steve Orr, is titled 'The Golf Athlete' and is hosted by Michael Dalgleish and Dr. Rob Neal. Really looking forward to understanding more about the body and how it moves in the golf swing, plus how levels of flexibility and strength affect golf swings.
Thursday next week sees me at the Motorcycle Museum in Birmingham for a coaching conference. Networking and listening to some excellent coaches from many disciplines to increase my own coaching knowledge and find new ways to help golfers to explore and discover what they need to do to play, learn and improve.
Easter is now not far away and the golfing season really gets going with the US Masters from Augusta in April. Can't wait to see who will don the green jacket this year. Will a tiger be back? Will Rory make up for his demise last year? Will Lee Westwood finally break his major duck? Who knows?
Enjoy your golf and always go searching for what is possible!
The day finally arrived and I was off up to London on the train for the London Golf Show at Earls Court. Very excited as I planned the schedule for the 3 days of the show although building flexibility into the planned times just in case somebody famous turned up.
I arrived at Earls Court at around 12:30pm and started to get accustomed to the space I would be working in and performing for the next three days. As the afternoon progressed I was able to connect with the exhibitors I would be interviewing over the course of the show. The Innovations section was a challenging piece as I had 7 products to showcase in 25-30 minutes as a Golf Show meets Gadget Show idea.
As well as planning for this section I was keen to introduce myself to other exhibitors and discover more about their products. One of the first I chatted with was Mick on the Pure Strike stand. The concept was simple and I do like simple. The majority of putters have 4 to 5 degrees of loft and Mick had noticed that he had to make a forward press to putt well. His thinking lead him to creating a putter that did not require a forward press and the "Pure Strike Putter" was born. I tried it and the roll on the ball was amazing.
Later in the afternoon I was sitting on stage planning more of the schedule and I glanced up and noticed a "Walk Pain Free" banner. Having had trouble with my left foot since visiting and playing golf in Bulgaria in July and knowing that I would be on my feet for three days I was curious and wandered over. I introduced myself and had a chat with the guys and they asked me to remove my shoes and they put a pair of the insoles in them. I put my shoes back on and was informed that the pain would disappear straight away and it did, I was amazed and have worn the insoles every day since and the pain has stayed away, truly amazing.
Thursday came to an end and after dinner with Damian and others from the team it was time to get some rest and prepare for day one of the show. I awoke early, had breakfast and made the short walk from my hotel to Earls Court 2.
The final preparations were being made to stands and the adrenalin was flowing, at least for me anyway. Nervous excitement and a certain calmness was the order fo the day. 10:00am was drawing closer and soon the doors would be open. It was time, all mic'd up by my sound man for the three days Ian and we were off. Good Morning Golf Show hit filled the air of Earls Court and we were off.
The highlight of Day One was interviewing Iain Carter, the BBC's golf correspondent about his work and recent book "Monty's Manor" about Colin Montgomerie's love affair with the Ryder Cup. The interview went great and felt very natural and thanks Iain for helping me to relax.
Over the course of the day I interviewed several golf pro's about their products and ideas about golf including Dean Halford the Online Golf Coach and from Serious Golf, Derwynne Honan of 3D Motion Golf, Jon Farmer of Plaser Golf plus Gerry Crawford of MySP Performance about his amazing swing trainer.
The Innovations section went well as did my own tske on golf coaching. As the end of the day drew near a game of "Heads and Tails" was played and was won by Charlie who did not even want to come to the show. At 5pm the show closed and it was time to relax. I had dinner with David, one of the Directors of the Golf Show Company and we had a fascinating chat about the show and life.
I walked back to my hotel and after making a call to say goodnight to Anna and Hollie I settled down to watch Have I Got News for You and then Live at the Apollo. I never saw either and woke up at 01:05 with the TV still on.
Saturday morning arrived and it was off the show again. Well rested and ready for another day of presenting and interviews and this time I knew what to expect. Energy was high and at 10:00am we were off again. Timings were working well and at around 11am I was introduced to Derek Martin aka Charlie Slater from Eastenders. About an hour or so later he was on stage with me and I was interviewing him about Eastenders and golf and with two new knees he is getting back into golf. Thanks Derek for the interview, it went well.
During the afternoon there was also an impromptu chat with David Edwards of Trick Shot fame about all things golf from our life in golf so far. 5pm arrived and the day was done. Today was much better timed and the presenters were great at allowing for a bit of flexibilty. Thanks also to Vivien Saunders who I interviewed and then followed it with a great 15 minute talk on golf psychology. Well Done to Melissa whi won "Heads and Tails"
Dinner again with David and Penny, plus I was a lot less tired this night than the previous night. After a short walk back to my hotel and a quick chat with Anna sleep beckoned and preparation was done for the final day.
Sunday arrived and my final walk into Earls Court 2. Today's stage show was action packed with an hour less on the schedule, timing was key. It all went well with the guys for the Innivations section being more relaxed and practiced and all the other presenters followed my lead in keeping to time. Congratulations also to Harshim who won "Heads and Tails".
4pm arrived and the show was over. I was tired and very happy eith how the three days had gone. Thanks to Damian and the team for all your support and help over the 3 days of the show and to all the exhibitors and interviewees for your messages of support and thanks.
Looking forward to the NEC in 2012.
http://www.groovefix.com/ Ges and Adam Sheldrake and Gil http://www.purestrikegolf.co.uk/ Mick and John http://www.fedaboa.com/ Raha, Alicia, John and Leon http://www.plaser.co.uk/ Jon and Richard http://www.pleasygolf.com/ Joakim and Geoff http://gripeeze.com/grip-par-mens-golf-glove-6.html Stuart and Liam http://www.pain-free.co.uk/index.html John and Andrew http://www.sportsperformancebuddy.com/gerry-crawford.html Gerry and Simon http://www.golflessonbirmingham.co.uk/andy.htm Andy Gorman http://www.david-edwards.co.uk/ David Edwards