Jeremy Dale
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Meeting Paul McGinley – Ryder Cup Captain

I was recently invited to meet European Ryder Cup Captain Paul McGinley at a product launch at Canary Wharf.

Golfers love to talk about how to improve and McGinley was really interesting on this topic.

He said ideally getting better at golf (or anything) in the long term was like climbing a tree. You need to stick to climbing the trunk and not follow the branches out too far.

If you spend too much time exploring the branches you reach dead ends and have to come back to the trunk to go upwards. For him, this was why he valued having a long term expert coach as a top priority. The skillful coach will stop you going out on too many branches and prevent slumps in form.

This means choosing a path and consistently working at the same basic things over and over without getting diverted by irrelevant information, otherwise you end up just trying different things out each time you play.

It is possible to do this with or without a coach but there is so much conflicting information in golf instruction that, for most people, a coach you trust is a very good filter.


The Monty method

McGinley also said the golfer in his view who had climbed the tree most effectively was Colin Montgomerie. Monty had the same swing now as when he was an amateur – he had just got better at playing his version of the game.

I think that is what everyone should do.

If I look back on my own golf career I spent almost no time analyzing trick shot techniques and I did not care if I was doing it wrong or right. I just did it.

It was a breath of fresh air and much less technical than the way I learned to play more normal golf. I still perform all of the trick shots in exactly the same way as when I first did them – I just got better at them through improving what techniques I had.

The result is that I have ‘done a Monty’ with trick shots and did more of a ‘Faldo’ on learning actual golf. I spent a lot of time on Paul McGinley’s branches!

This was bad for my game, but has made me a more knowledgeable coach.


How to improve when you have limited time

For most golfers, time for improvement is limited and the coach needs to understand that when changes are made they need to be easy for the golfer…..and that they need not necessarily be swing changes.

They also need to work almost immediately. There needs to be some evidence that what is happening is an improvement and can be easily incorporated into a golfer’s game.

My brother Chris is a very good golfer who reduced his handicap from 5 to scratch whilst working a full time job and practicing only at home.

When I asked him what he had done he said he replied that he had found a coach (at the Knightsbridge Golf School actually) and done EXACTLY what the coach had told him to do. Instead of hitting balls he just rehearsed his swing at home.

He had also practiced his putting on the carpet so he hardly ever missed a short putt.


Long term coaching – quick results

My coaching now is focused on long term relationships with my golfers because that gives both sides a chance.

This year I started an experiment with a group of five local golfers whose handicaps ranged from 11 to 22. We meet once a month for two hour Saturday clinics at my home club Heythrop Park.

The aim has been to improve their scores without them having to practice at all.

We have succeeded in improving every member of the group. One has cured the chipping yips, another has learned to drive the ball straighter than ever before and another has reduced his handicap by 3 shots. This has all been achieved in a straightforward, non technical way and we have often had to repeat the same lessons.

However, by staying close to the tree trunk on every lesson, we have spent hardly any time on the McGinley branches.


The real secret to golf

This is the value of regular coaching and the golfers have also benefited from being part of a committed group that encourages each other.

Unfortunately, most golfers do not do this. They either take no lessons or take them only when they are desperate.

The real secret to golf is that there is no secret. You learn our game in the same way you learn anything from driving a car to playing a musical instrument. Take the long view and with the help of a coach, try to develop a really good version of your own natural game.

If you like to know more about coaching from Jeremy please get in touch on 07748307849 or email

  • Hedley Calvert

    Great post and great lesson on life. When you talked about Monty, it reminded me straight away about another Montgomery, Roger. He’s an investment manager and blogger that is always warming about “climbing on branches” so to speak and sticks religiously to his core investment principles. Warren Buffet is another. All extremely successful by keeping itsimple and staying focused.

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