Full disclosure: I have not had many golf lessons in my life. As someone who was introduced to the game almost as soon as I could walk, I have shied away from filling my head with too swing thoughts or advice that might complicate what has always been a natural move. But over the years, flaws have unquestionably crept in. As have compensating moves.
Perhaps that’s why the handful of golf lessons I have had, have been difficult experiences. Often I’ve found myself coming away more confused than I was when I arrived. One coach has suggested one thing, the next, something completely different. And so it was with a degree of trepidation that I drove through the gates at Hillside Golf Club to spend an hour or two in the company of Gareth Benson. The truth was, I knew this would be different, better.
There were two reasons for that: the first was Gareth himself – his reputation goes before him not only as one of the nicest people in golf but as one of the leading golf teachers in the UK and over the past 30 years has coached some of the most talented golfers around, from grass roots, to county played, right up to the very top of the game. The second was where this lesson was taking place: it is no exaggeration to say the indoor teaching studio at Hillside is one of the best facilities in the world. At the time of writing, there are less than five places in the UK where you can find the technology Gareth has at his disposal at Hillside.
It goes without saying that Trackman is here, of course it is. It is no longer the rarity that it was once. But Gareth’s teaching studio goes much further: the real star attraction is the cutting-edge 3D force plates and when you combine that with the cameras that film you not only from face on, down the line but also from above, you have all the raw materials to build as complete a picture of the golf swing as it is currently possible to find anywhere. The force plates are game changers, they allow Gareth to measure pressure and weight distribution during your swing, tracking and mapping how your centre of mass moves. It’s revelatory.
In recent years we have seen the rise of the golf scientist, with the likes of Dr Kwon, a professor/biomechanist at Texas Woman’s University, Dr Sasho Mackenzie, the inventor of The Stack System, and Chris Como, the man who helped Bryson DeChambeau, reinvent himself, among the names at the forefront of the movement. Gareth has worked closely with those at the forefront of this development in the game of golf, going right back to his days with Mac O’Grady, one of the original innovators and ground-breakers in the 1990s. And all that means he is combining his natural instincts with data and science – it’s a formidable combination. Because what you get from a golf lesson with Gareth Benson is total certainty.
You see, this was not a golf lesson where Gareth gave me his opinion on my swing or how I should change it. And it was not a lesson where he tried to change my natural move. What made it so different and memorable, was that it was the first golf lesson I’ve ever had where the evidence of how I can get better was right there in front of me, in black and white. I could see it, not only with the camera angles, particularly the one from directly above me, which showed my shoulders pretty closed at address, but also the force plates which showed me how I could move so much more efficiently through the ball than I have done, up to this point.
Gareth is such a draw that players fly in to Liverpool to come and spend time in this studio. Among his most exciting young players, currently, is the 13-year-old phenom from Switzerland Kai Notteboom, who is playing off a +3 handicap and seems destined for great things. Thailand’s TK Chantananuwat, the 16-year-old, who last year became the youngest male player to win a tournament on a major tour, has also spent time in Gareth’s studio. The better the player, the more they get from time in Gareth’s company, it seems. And yet he clearly still enjoys the challenge of helping amateur golfers like myself get better too.
And it feels good. I come away from my time with Gareth not only with something to work on, something I have seen will improve my game, but with a renewed energy to actually go away and work on it. It makes me wonder why I have taken so long to seek out someone like Gareth. But the truth is, there just aren’t many golf coaches around that can do what makes look so easy, in a teaching studio which boasts the tech Gareth has at Hillside Golf Club.
I have written extensively about the world-class golf courses along England’s golf coast – they’re magical. But it has taken me until now, to realise that right under my nose, that in the shape of Gareth Benson and his teaching studio at Hillside Golf Club, there is a truly world-class teaching facility that can actually make you tangibly better at golf. That in itself, is real magic.
*To find out more or to book a lesson with Gareth, visit GarethBensonGolf.co.uk