In October World of Golf in New Malden opened a Performance Centre with advanced hi-tech coaching aids for game improvement. Glyn Pritchard was given a tour of the Centre by Duncan Woolger, an Advanced PGA Professional.
The Performance Centre is like an Aladdin’s Cave filled with the latest technological aids for golf coaching. There are five bays plus a putting area equipped with the SAM putting training system. Three of the bays have ball flight analysis with FlightScope, TrackMan and Foresight GC2. “FlightScope and TrackMan are radar based systems”, Woolger explains. “They both have their merits and TrackMan is the market leader. I use TrackMan with the under-18 England players I coach, but with other students we generally go with what they have used before to provide a consistency of approach.”
Woolger says the radar systems can have limitations in extreme weather conditions. “Neither system takes a direct reading of the clubhead position at impact so they rely on tracking the ball flight. The Foresight GC2 which we have fitted with the HMT (Head Measurement Technology) is an imaging system and directly measures ball and clubhead data through the impact area, but doesn’t provide imaging to the target.” There is also a Swing Catalyst bay with the balance and pressure analysis tool. “Our coaching team needed six hours training on the Swing Catalyst and it’s a terrific teaching aid.”
Each of the systems has its uses, but Woolger believes they are not necessarily suitable for all beginners. “We have all three because if someone has used one of the systems before, they can continue with that technology here. The systems are suitable for beginners but normally we don’t use all the technology. Generally you want to keep it simple, so we will just use video and record a commentary so they have the lesson to work on, following the coaching session. I use kinaesthetic learning techniques to try to get the student to feel where their body needs to be during the swing.”
At 40 years old Woolger has over 20 years’ experience. He is ranked by Golf World as one of the UK’s top 100 teachers and has just finished a post-graduate diploma in sports coaching awarded by Birmingham University. Woolger is also a qualified Mind-Factor coach with GOLF RETAILING contributor, Dr Karl Morris and has a diploma in sports psychology from Newcastle.
In terms of fundamentals Woolger is an advocate of the great John Jacobs maxim: “The sole purpose of the golf swing is to produce a correct repetitive impact. The method employed is of no significance as long as it is correct and repetitive.” Woolger comments, “There’s no right or wrong way to swing a golf club. What every player is trying to achieve from a beginner to Rory McIlroy is consistency of strike. My goal is to always get the student striking the ball better and more consistently after every lesson. I don’t subscribe to the ‘sign up for 24 lessons and it’s going to get a lot worse before it gets better’ approach.”
In 2002 Woolger started going to the US PGA Teaching & Coaching Summit. “I couldn’t get some of my students to improve so I was looking for a coaching technique that would help. I went to the States and there were over 900 golf coaches there with only six from the UK and Ireland, listening to speakers like Butch Harman. It was good stuff, but it wasn’t until a few years later that I heard Jim Hardy speak and then suddenly everything snapped into place for me. When he spoke I don’t think I blinked for an hour!”
Woolger has become a level three Plane Truth Certified Instructor, teaching Hardy’s one-plane and two-plane swing methodology. “Jim is a mentor to me and I’ve spent a lot of time out in Houston with him. For me the methodology makes sense and lets me teach absolute beginners and tour players alike.” Hardy developed the Plane Truth teaching method following discussions with John Jacobs in the 1970s. Put simply Hardy says there is the one-plane swing for more athletic players, and the two-plane swing, suitable for players of all abilities. For more details see, www.planetruthgolf.com
Not that Woolger is hidebound by methodology. “You have to tailor your approach to the student. Some are very technically minded and some are ‘feel’ orientated. You have to recognise the physical capabilities of the student and you need to set goals with them.” He is definitely of the opinion that students can be over-coached. “Once they’re swinging the club well I will say, ‘just go away and enjoy playing golf. Come back with your bad shot and tell me what you need to get rid of’. Hogan once said when you’ve got your swing all you need to do is ‘refine impact and ball flight’.“
Certainly the Performance Centre will allow students to do that. Six of the teaching pros at the World of Golf centre undertake tuition in the Performance Centre including Ian Clark and Jon Woodroffe as the other two ‘Master Professionals’ on the team. Woodroffe was recently named ‘Coach of The Year’ by The PGA England (South). “The team is fantastic”, Woolger confirms. “We’re all busier and helping more students attain a higher standard.”
Speaking personally Woolger says, “I qualified under Laurence Farmer at Moor Park who was an inspirational figure for me. I worked for over six years at Wentworth and have been the pro at clubs here and in Madeira. But all I really want to do is teach and I think this has to be the best facility in the country to do that.”
More at: www.worldofgolf.co.uk