By Robert Martin
ST ANDREWS will play host to more golf fans than ever at The Open this week.
But less and less of those people are actually picking up a club these days and going out to play.
World renowned instructor David Leadbetter wants to change all that.
The man who rebuilt Nick Faldo’s swing now wants to do the same for you and I. And he believes his new book The A Swing can help you do it.
Leadbetter knows people have less time to play and practice now than they ever did. He also reckons instruction has made the game too difficult for the average amateur player. Naturally as a 13-handicapper I was interested to hear what he had to say.
So, on Monday, I went along to see him at the Eden Club just outside St Andrews. And I have to say I was blown away by his ‘alternative’ approach to the way the game should be played.
He told me:
“It IS a problem that less and less people are playing the game. Golf can be fun but it can also be really frustrating as we know. If you are playing decently and hitting good shots it is always going to bring you back. But if you are getting frustrated and you don’t take any lessons and you haven’t got time to practice you think well why waste the money and why waste the time?
You could go and fish or ride a bike or go and watch football or something. So golf needs to be cheaper for the most part for people who want to play. And I think too that people need to get away from the thought that golf need to be 18 holes. Even if you can somehow get nine holes in or even six, just get out there and play golf.
Golf is a great traditional sport, it’s one of the sports that has maintained its links to the past. It’s great for kids, kids who play golf, generally speaking, are really good kids. They are well mannered, they understand etiquette, and that’s what golf teaches you, honesty and all the rest of it while in other sports anything you can get away with you will.
What other sport do you penalize yourself? I just hope the game continues to progress. And that’s where The A Swing comes in. In no other sport does technique play a bigger role. So even if you are not playing a lot of golf if your technique is half decent you’re going to go out and you’re not going to embarrass yourself.
You’re going to hit good shots. You’re not going to hit every one flush but the quality of your bad shots will be better.
And the A Swing in my opinion helps to do that. It helps people hit better bad shots and hit a higher quality of good shots. It’s an easy way to help get technique down and have something that repeats.
Because the problem is if you’re not playing a lot of golf it’s hard to get something going.”
In just a few minutes David was able to identify a number of my own swing flaws. I have a tendency to close my club face on my backswing, leading to a lot of low and left shots.
But by giving me a couple of simple exercises he was able to straighten me out. And it wasn’t long before I was hitting the ball higher than I had done for a very long time.
“The problem was easy to fix, it’s just how to get the message across and communicate. That’s why I gave you a couple of exercises, I wouldn’t just let you stand and hit balls — I don’t want people getting frustrated!
When we tested the A Swing I didn’t let the beginner we used hit a ball for two months! He just worked on his technique, he had no idea. And this guy will now never slice in his life. You’d swear the guy has been playing for ten years.
In your case I think if you do the couple of exercises you will find it really constructive.It’s scary. You get in a new position and your body freaks out, it says I’m not used to this. But you get used to it and start to swing with a little more rhythm and wow, you think this feels pretty good.
And you go out there with a whole different set of feelings, because in the end it is all about feelings.”
The A Swing isn’t just for amateurs, either. Women’s world number one Lydia Ko is a devotee, as is PGA Championship winner Byeong Hun An, a dark horse for the Claret Jug this week.
Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Alexander Levy and Scottish Open runner-up Raphael Jacquelin are others who will use it on the Old Course.
But Leadbetter admits golf’s current golden boy Jordan Spieth will take a lot of beating if the wind stays down.
“You just wonder if he has got over here early enough. I know he won last week and you can say there’s nothing like winning. But there’s a whole different set of circumstances winning over there to winning over here.
The key is how’s he going to play if the wind gets up? If it gets windy this is when experience really counts playing these links courses that he knows very little of. If it’s benign I think he has much more of a chance.
And I certainly wouldn’t be surprised if he was to win again here.”