Flying off to Faro, Portugal on Saturday to meet up with my next golf school taking place at Robinson Tivira. I have been there several times and it is a great venue for me to host a golf school. The school this week is a group of ladies from Oslo, Norway. Over the years I have been lucky enough to host a school for a lot of different girls from Norway, organised by my very good friend Kristin Berg. She rounds up a group and brings them down to the sunshine in either Portugal or Spain. They are always great fun.
We started the week with a long game session during which I video the girls so we can view the recording later in the week. This was the first time in 2017 that the girls from Norway were able to hit balls from grass, so the session started with half shots and reminders about hitting the ball first and then the grass. I aimed at making the reintroduction to grass as pressure free as possible with the idea of building confidence. We built up to full swings concentrating on aiming the club at the target and focussing on keeping eyes on the ball. The sunshine was really lovely so after lunch we headed on to the course where I continued the coaching ‘on course’, helping the girls to acclimatise to the grass.
I started day 2 continuing with the long game. Firstly going over the sessions from day 1, building in balance and working to a rhythm to keep control of the club. I emphasised the need to avoid trying not to hit the ball too hard. Distance comes more from control and pace and not from swinging at great speed. I set up a drill with alignment poles placed between the feet to help stay centred at all times. Coaching in week long schools is also about providing variety and we popped over to the short game area to work on pitching, starting at 20 yards from the flag and moving outwards to 60 yards. I demonstrated and discussed the essential elements of making good contact with the ball, varying the length of swing depending on the distance to the selected landing point and maintaining absolute balance. It was a great session in which significant improvement was achieved by all. The most satisfactory for me is to see the group’s confidence develop. After lunch we again headed on to the course for more on course coaching. I got to play some holes with each of the playing groups and used these sessions to talk about how I see each of their shots with the thought of how to score best and not just “bashing the ball” in a hopeful way. The on course sessions provide the opportunity to talk about course management including risk and reward/ safety and security!
Day 3 began with us playing the course. Being the first out on the course we could move forward a bit quicker in the knowledge we would not get held up. The session is about strategy deciding the immediate shot with the thought of where would be the best place to play the next one. This is particularly important when having to play off the fairway and minimising potential damage. Being in a good position with the next shot pays dividends. After lunch we concentrated on the short game, this time chipping from off the green using a 7 iron. I call this ‘putt with a hop’. This was new to most of the group. The idea is for the ball to travel 25% in the air and 75% roll out to the hole. We combined this session with some putting, focussing on a repetitive set up – always maintaining stance with eyes firmly on the ball and waiting to hear it drop in the hole, not the alternative of watching the ballfrom the minute it leaves the putter head and watching it MISS the hole.
The next day is a free day. Some practiced, others used the gym and I guess everyone took time to look around the resort and spend some time on the beach. I went for a run and took some time to hit shots as well as chill a little.
We started day 4 of coaching with the long game covering the set up routines best for each member of the group. It is necessary to take these to the course to cement in consistency. I gave everyone drills to help improve their weaker points as well as improve their understanding of what they were trying to improve in their swing. It is amazing how they help each other.
Although we all try to avoid bunkers it does not always happen in practice, so I include a good session on bunker play. The trick is to remove from players minds the fear of hitting from sand by giving them the techniques needed to not only get out but to improve the outcome of these shots. We covered and practiced the essential skills needed. We followed this session with more work on the short game, working out how to angle the club face depending how the ball is lying. There are 3 different face angles depending on whether the ball is lying in a good place, a very good fluffy place, or perhaps a footprint or worse a hole. As I explained and demonstrated, one of the girls videoed it which has given them all something to refer back to at home. It is now on their face book page. We enjoyed a quick lunch and headed back onto the course. I enjoyed watching the girls trying the new shots they had learned and to observe the fun and laughter they had at the same time. Its great when people are uninhibited in trying new techniques and not being embarrassed when they go wrong and the high 5’s when they work.
The last day came around far too soon and unfortunately the weather was not at it’s best. Nevertheless these Viking girls were up for it and a bit of rain and wind was not going to stop them. We hit balls in a warm up, had some coffee at the bar and talked about what we had covered over the week. We went over again how to plan a way around the course and how to approach the difficult shots. I think this was a very good constructive session after which we braved the weather for a last round of golf.
For me it was a very rewarding week and I do thank all the girls for their hard work, good spirits especially as they were working in what is not their native language – their English is far better than my Norwegian and I am thankful for their understanding. There was much fun over the week and I wish them all the best for their golf season and very much look forward to hearing how it goes for them.