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With a state-of-the-art approach to every area of game improvement, from equipment to biomechanics, the Turnberry Performance Academy is the UK’s flagship ‘centre of excellence’ for aspiring golfers of all standards. In the interests of science (and his swing) Dominic Pedler headed for the Ayrshire haven to take golf’s ultimate MOT

The famous lighthouse on the Ailsa Course may be Turnberry’s defining landmark but golfers looking for the resort’s most enlightening experience are directed to a rather more modern complex, half-a- mile away across the legendary links.

Following a high-tech makeover, the Turnberry Performance Academy is the new nerve centre at the UK’s most complete golf destination, offering a multi-dimensional, cutting edge approach to all areas of golf’s technical and physical challenge.

Those lucky enough to have visited the historic Ayrshire venue will remember the original venture as the Colin Montgomerie Academy which opened back in 2000 with extensive coaching programmes for both visitors and residents of the famous five-star hotel. While the central ethos remains, the facility has evolved dramatically to embrace everything from state-ofthe- art swing and putting analysis to space-age custom-fitting concepts, biomechanical screenings and ‘inner game’ attack plans.

The 2013 version is a truly one-stop ‘holistic’ experience designed to give today’s aspiring golfers the opportunity to assess and address every element of their individual game. The sheer range of technology and expertise on offer means golfers can enjoy an ultimate golfing MOT and expert guidance normally reserved for tour pros.

Though, equally, Turnberry’s bespoke approach means that all golfers, including complete beginners, ladies and juniors, can easily select a programme that best suits their individual needs and pocket (see sidebar for details).

Always keen to sample anything that might help my game, I booked in for the full-day assessment embracing each of the various disciplines on offer. This included the revolutionary custom fitting experience at the TaylorMade Performance Lab, a full physical screening devised by the pioneering Titleist Performance Institute and a putting workout using the ultrasoundbased SAM Putting Lab. All provided an important context for the long- and shortgame instruction from Turnberry’s resident coaches, further armed with the latest video analysis, force plate technology and FlightScope ball tracking equipment.

It would prove a fascinating insight into the latest thinking in golf’s burgeoning – though too often unfocused – ‘game improvement’ culture. Here is a summary of my feature-packed day and the philosophy behind the various facilities.

1. FLIGHTSCOPE ASSESSMENT

The day started with a gentle warm-up incorporating an informal test of my distance and accuracy skills with my own existing set of clubs to give the experts an idea of my game. There was a fun early challenge as Michael Sweenie, Turnberry’s Head Teaching Professional and Academy Manager, asked me to hit a handful of shots to a sequence of targets at 100, 125, 150 and 175 yards, finishing with five drives. In each case, the famous lighthouse, basking at Bruce’s Castle in the distance, acted as the most perfect of marker posts.

FlightScope, the portable launch monitor which uses a ball-tracking radar system, measured the precise landing points of my shots and displayed them instantly as dots on a target-shaped graphic on Michael’s iPad. My score of 30/50 was encouraging but, equally, confirmed considerable room for improvement. Help was certainly on hand.

2. TAYLORMADE PERFORMANCE LAB CUSTOM FITTING

I was then ready for the ultimate equipment experience which takes custom fitting and swing analysis to a whole new level. With its 3D motion capture technology (used regularly by TaylorMade stars such as Justin Rose, Dustin Johnson and Sergio Garcia) TMPL is the most sophisticated equipment fitting operation available today, with Turnberry one of only two UK venues currently offering it to mere mortals.

While most modern clubfitters use a launch monitor to help home-in on a player’s ideal equipment specs, TMPL offers a far more detailed insight into the golf swing that actually delivered the data.

The unique selling point here is the MAT-T: Motion Analysis Technology by TaylorMade: a biomechanical-based camera/ software concept that tracks all the key movements and positions of both body and club at every stage of the journey from address to follow-through.

This requires you to slip on a lightweight vest and a few Velcro straps fitted with small sensors that are monitored by six infra-red cameras around the studio as you swing a specially doctored driver, or 6-iron, test club.

State-of-the-art golf lesson: The MAT-T system requires a player to wear a specially constructed lightweight vest which enables the computer to reveal the golf swing in 3D. With your virtual avatar on the screen (placed alongside one of TaylorMade’s tour ambassadors for comparison!), there’s nowhere to hide, as Dominic discovered during his visit. With every single aspect of the motion measured and analysed, the prognosis is not only incredibly accurate but arrived at in a matter of minutes

You, the golfer, are now depicted on screen as a very visual 3D ‘avatar’ whose every swing can be replayed in super slow motion, freeze framed and viewed from any angle.

This extra perspective provides a fascinating insight into the nature of your game while dramatically improving the task of recommending the ideal equipment and specifications for your game.

As Turnberry’s custom fitting expert, Euan Cameron, explained, the first priority here is to arrive efficiently at a driver and/or a full set of irons that best suits a player’s game as it is now.

As well as choosing the right loft, lie, shaft flex and length, the fitter can also use head weighting and face angle configurations to complement a player’s individual swing characteristics and individual launch conditions of ball speed, spin rate and launch angle.

In my case, a typical tendency to leave the clubface slightly open at impact was immediately mitigated by a TaylorMade R1 TP driver set up with a 2° closed face angle and a slight draw bias to encourage a squarer impact than I was currently managing.

All this is immediately possible with today’s adjustable clubs, with TMPL stocked with the latest R1 drivers and RBZ Stage 2 metalwoods. Most importantly, adjustability fits in perfectly with the whole TPA philosophy of an evolving golf game. For while the fitter can dial-in a welcome short-term fix, the clubs can also be re-set at any time in the future, as required, to complement any swing changes that a player may make down the line. Prompted, perhaps, by the biomechanical and instruction sessions that formed the next part of my quest.

3. BIOMECHANICS – THE BASICS

The MAT-T system is not just central to clubfitting, it also an extraordinary tool for swing analysis as the emphasis now shifts to a player’s mechanical movements and, crucially, his physical capabilities in this area.

So clearly are your avatar’s swing plane, shaft plane, posture and shoulder and hip rotation displayed, that anyone with even a passing understanding of the golf swing will enjoy several ‘light bulb’ moments as the instructor points out a few home truths.

Most poignant for me was when my grey avatar was overlaid with a red one representing a ‘perfect’ golfer compiled from all the swings that TaylorMade has recorded on tour using the technology over the years.

This immediately highlighted my slight sway on the backswing, a flat shoulder plane and bent leading arm at the top and incomplete rotation through impact. Meanwhile, special force plate technology built into the teeing mat revealed my suspect weight distribution, confirming the balance issues that the experts were already spotting.

Both Euan and Michael explained how these individual swing characteristics were consistent with my ball flight data – but that the best coaching strategy to address these faults would take into account my physical capabilities in terms of strength, flexibility and mobility, all of which we would now go on to assess.

4. PHYSICAL SCREENING – THE TITLEIST PERFORMANCE INSTITUTE

This link between conditioning and performance seems obvious in any other sport – but for too long has been ignored in golf. As we know, it’s only in the Tiger Woods era that even tour pros have gone anywhere a gym. But clearly it’s also the average, fitness-challenged chump (like me) that needs to make the connection if they ever expect to play to their full potential.

The Titleist Performance Institute is breaking new ground in this area, devising a standardised physical screening programme for all affiliated academies, and creating a vital biomechanical context within which to plan a player’s ideal instruction strategy.

TPI founder, Dr Greg Rose, is revered throughout the industry for his consultancy with tour players and manufacturers. He was the one to diagnose Luke Donald’s wrist condition, a few years back, as a result of excessive pronation through impact; while Ben Crane’s longterm back problem was cured overnight by prescribing longer shafts. Most recently Rose cropped up as consultant on the FootJoy M: Project shoe inspired by TPI’s research with force plates.

Turnberry is the first UK operation to adopt the TPI principles, with golfers put through some 30 simple tests to measure mobility, flexibility and balance in all areas relevant to the golf swing to identify physical limitations affecting their technique. In my case (I’ll be brief), I scored poorly in ankle and shoulder movement and hip rotations, while the hamstrings were particularly tight.

While this might sound like ‘too much information’, Michael Sweenie clearly explained how each had a major bearing on my ability to swing the club efficiently and contributed to my key faults of loss of posture, flat shoulder plane and early release. One particular ‘light bulb’ moment was the realisation that my difficulty in disassociating the lower body from upper body during the swing, was affecting the Kinematic Sequence – one of the key secrets to good golf.

In the downswing, the re-rotation of the hips should lead the torso which, in turn, lead the left arm and (only then) the clubhead, in a chain of events that releases energy in the optimum way. We always hear that golf is far more about timing than strength, and this is why.

But, in my swing, each element was firing almost simultaneously, as my MAT-T footage had confirmed. The physical screening had got to the cause, with a tailored exercise plan that Michael devised for me being one key solution.

5. PITCH, PUTT AND PERFECT ROLL – THE TURNBERRY PUTTING LAB

After a well deserved club sandwich in the clubhouse, I resumed my odyssey with a focus on the short game. Out in the TPA’s dedicated short game area, advice on a series of full, ¾ and ½ wedges from Senior Teaching Professional, Scott Clark, greatly helped me to focus on my distance control, before moving indoors to the brand new, state-of-the-art putting studio.

Fitted with a wall-to-wall Huxley allweather surface, this latest addition to the TPA boasts its own impressive technology, including HD slow-motion video cameras and the revered SAM PuttLab system that track your putting stroke and every revolution of your golf ball.

Standing for Science & Motion, SAM uses ultrasound to generate key data on all the clubhead positional parameters, as well as tempo and the ball’s roll characteristics following impact.

Along with correcting some basic alignment issues I hadn’t noticed, it gave me a valuable insight into the nature of true roll and the nuances of putter-head path.

6. SHORT TERM FIXES & LONG TERM GOALS

It was now time for the team to devise a strategy for me in the context of the various specialist assessments so far. As with the earlier equipment solution, this encompassed both short- and long-term goals.

Short term, I received a highly practical lesson to address the most pressing issue of my ‘over the-top’ swing that we now analysed using frame-by-frame video from the Academy’s G.A.S.P. system (Golf Analysis Software for Professionals). Of the many possible remedies to my common fault, Michael used his TPI training to help me develop an inside downswing path without the extended takeaway that my dodgy shoulder was rebelling against.

From the Academy’s arsenal of coaching tools, he also selected the NMS Fault Fixer, a T-shaped bar placed in front of the player at address to keep the hands and arms closer to the body in the delivery position. Amazingly, within a few swings, my ball flight was transformed in terms of contact and accuracy, while the shallower, straighter divots that have always eluded me were further evidence of the expert diagnosis.

I left Turnberry with a spring in my step, clutching a CD-Rom from my TMPL session and an Attack Plan of golf-specific TPI exercises. A gentle reminder that more substantial improvement, while well within my grasp, is now down to my personal discipline.

There’s no question that the Turnberry Performance Academy represents a major step forward in UK golf coaching culture. The ‘holistic’ tag might sound New Age but, as with all the best modern sports training, it reflects how golf’s exacting challenge demands a multi-disciplined, personalised approach to ensure genuine, effective improvement.

It’s an engrossing experience but don’t forget to smell the roses – or, in Turnberry’s case, take in the spectacular surroundings that make this such a special destination.

Beyond the famous lighthouse is the Isle of Arran and the perfect peak of Goat Fell while, to the west, the Mull of Kintyre. All viewed most spectacularly from the Turnberry Hotel itself, basking since 1906 on the hillside above this sweep of unsurpassed linksland.

Not forgetting the awesome granite dome of Ailsa Craig – which you’ll also spot, straight ahead, as you glance up from your session in the new Putting Lab. Perfect rock, perfect roll.

TURNBERRY PERFORMANCE ACADEMY A PACKAGE FOR EVERYONE

While many golfers will want to sample all the various facilities on site, the TPA offers a complete range of packages to suit every player’s requirements and pockets.

Instruction starts at £70 per hour, with a family lesson at £99, rising to £349 for the Duel In The Sun experience where a teaching pro will join you personally for a meal in the clubhouse and a private practice session before taking you out on The Ailsa or Kintyre to offer tips and guidance in technique and course management.

There’s also a special Scoring Zone assessment focusing on the short game, including a session on the SAM device in the Putting Lab, for £150. Meanwhile, corporate clinics can be fully tailored on a bespoke basis. The clubfitting experience in the TaylorMade Performance Lab starts at £75 for a one-hour wood or iron fitting, rising to £150 for the full 14-club recommendation.

The Titleist Performance Institute facilities start with a one-hour physical screening at £100, rising to £150 for a 2.5 hour complete game assessment. Serious golfers will be tempted by the 4.5 hour Turnberry Performance Experience. A four-hole warm up on the Arran will give your pro an initial idea of your game before continuing with an equipment assessment in the TMPL, a TPI physical screening, lunch, an extended lesson on the range and a fully formulated Attack Plan to go home with.

The Academy also has taken great care to formulate special packages for ladies and juniors. The Ladies “back to front” programme starts with putting and chipping before moving onto the driving range (£300 for two days, including golf on the Arran); while, along with various residential packages, are others that combine treatments in the hotel’s stunning ESPA spa.

As well as individual junior coaching from £20, the TPA offers many junior initiatives: including three-day schools (£150) and summer camps, with Turnberry forging special links with other Ayrshire golf clubs for the promotion of the national junior Clubgolf scheme.

For more details on TPA packages call 016355 334 190 or email turnberry.teetimes@luxurycollection.com For information on the Turnberry Resort visit www.turnberryresort.co.uk; turnberry@luxurycollection.com; or call 01655 331000.

Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine





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