Valle del Este, Spain — 14-21 October 2018
This was my first school of the 2018/19 season. It was really lovely to be at Valle del Esta in Spain again. We were blessed with nice weather for the whole of the week, albeit with a little rain but oh boy was it warm!
The group enjoyed the desert layout and terrain of the course. For a change and for a day out we went to Desert Springs, which is just a short coach trip away. Both of the venues are good but different in many ways and therefore offer different experiences.
I enjoyed watching the group work out for themselves how the ball bounces and rolls depending on contact and trajectory of the shot as well as considering distance from the hole and whether there are any obstacles in the way. This aspect of the game really does bring in assessment of the situation and skill in selecting and executing the shot.
By the time we got to the last day round up clinic everyone was trying things learned and taking them to the course. I find the Q&A session on the last day really satisfying as it shows how much of the coaching has been absorbed and just how enquiring the group have become. As always at this time of the year I set out the things they individually need to work on over the winter months.
I want to give a big thank you to everyone at Valle del Esta for looking after us so well and to everyone who joined the school for their hard work and sense of fun over the week.
The winner of the lady day competition was Vivien with 32 points.
Islantilla, Spain — 1–6 November 2018
I left Stansted Airport on a cold wet morning and landed in Faro in warm sunshine… lovely.
We started the school with a welcome drink to get the group together and to talk over plans for the week.
Bright and early the next morning we went over to the driving range where I covered everything we were going to work on. The main focus was on better balance, improving contact with the ball and controlling the low point of the swing. These 3 requirements are so important for hitting good golf shots, whether they be driving, long irons or chipping into the green. Everyone practiced well which also served as a good warm up for the afternoon when we played on the course. I do appreciate it is very hard to make changes to habits when on the course so I always say don’t concentrate on marking the card, work on ball contact and the scores will improve as you hit better shots.
On day two we reversed the process by playing the course in the morning and worked on the range during the afternoon. As everyone was doing well I mixed up the skill and practice. First off we went over and practiced long iron shots and then worked on pitching and chipping. For this we worked out the difference between a 7 iron chip and the pitch with a wedge. A 7 iron is best used to give a low shot with a run out from the landing point when there is plenty of green to work with and no obstacle. Pitching with a wedge can be used when a high ball flight is needed and a quick stop when the ball lands.
On day three I brought the paint out to help show precisely where each players low point in the swing really is. A simple white line with the aim of making a divot after the line, not before or on the line. Practicing with this will give visual confirmation of whether the ball is being hit accurately, topped or being hit after the divot. Everyone got a much better understanding of where their own low point is – a job very well done. After lunch we played the course again in warm sunshine – always an encouragement to play well.
We started day 4 with more work on chipping before moving on to understanding the technique for making good bunker shots; I really like this session. The two essential elements are keeping eyes firmly focused on the sand behind the ball and not the ball. Secondly, always make a really full swing, particularly with a good follow through. We also continued to work on the long game and I was delighted to see how much everyone had improved particularly with better ball contact and flight.
The last day came around too quickly and as usual we spent time coaching and then played a competition. This was the first time the group had cards in their hands and it was very good to watch. We finished the day with putting tuition and a round up clinic where everyone has opportunity to get clarification on anything about which they are uncertain. This session also gives me opportunity to go over the key things to work on over the winter.
This includes things to do on the range, indoor putting and what to look for in the mirror if one is available.
It was a great 5 days; both Nigel and Jan scored a creditable 33 points on a tough course.
I really have to thank all of the group for their hard work and good fun. Thanks are also due to the staff at Islantilla for their help and to Tarleton as well.