Golf, like life, is a journey. And, when it’s all said and done, it’s a journey that we can only really make on our own. After all, there’s no one else out there on the course to help us. Just our clubs, a ball, the rise and fall of the links from the tee to the hole and — invariably — the thoughts that swirl around our minds like so much random flotsam and jetsam.
It’s what we love about the game. And, if we’re honest with ourselves, it’s also what — all too often — drives us crazy.
I say this because I am one of those who willingly rides this emotional roller coaster round after round. And I’m also one of those who, having taken up the game at an early age and being essentially self-taught, has always preferred to go it alone.
But, you know, I’m not getting any younger. The days and the years are ticking away. If I really do want to take my game to the next level, perhaps it would be wise to open myself up to some expert outside help — someone who could point me in the right direction and, hopefully, guide me along a different and more enjoyable path. Before my aging body can no longer implement what my brain envisages.
Someone, say, like David Ord.
About a month ago, I met up with David on the practice range at Goswick for a 45-minute lesson. To be honest, I had no idea what to expect. Would he take one look at my swing and run in the opposite direction? Would he bombard me with various swing theories and direct me to make wholesale changes? Would I come away from the experience more confused and conflicted than before I started, setting the stage for a run of worse golf, higher scores and deeper bouts of depression?
I am relieved to report that none of those things happened. Quite the contrary, I came away from that initial session with a new setup position, a few drills to practice and — most importantly — a strong belief that better times were ahead.
Even more importantly, I initiated a relationship with a golf instructor who, I am convinced, has the perfect balance of knowledge, experience and temperament to suggest and bring about real and lasting change.
A Leap of Faith
David’s personal story hints at why he’s able to bring this optimum mix of traits to every encounter with the lost souls looking for the way to golf’s promised land.
He first started playing the game at the age of 12, not long after his family moved into a house adjacent to the 12th hole at Magdalene Fields Golf Club in Berwick-upon-Tweed. Just two years later he was playing in the men’s member competitions and at 16 was the runner-up in the club championship. He didn’t take his first golf lesson until he was 23, which was also the year he got his first set of matched irons (a secondhand set of Wilson blades).
In 2002, he was working in an office for a company based in Newcastle that wanted him to relocate to Leeds. That forced him to make a momentous decision: remain on the safe path of steady employment or take the leap of faith that he could become a PGA club professional.
“At the time, I had played some golf with Paul (Terras, Goswick’s head pro) and knew he needed some help in his shop,” says David. “It was a big step. I took a massive pay cut. I had to move back in with my mom and dad. But I believed it would lead to a better career and a better life.”
David went on to win the Goswick club championship in 2003, then turned pro a month later — completing his qualifications by the end of 2005. He set up shop at Goswick and coached there and other venues in Northumberland before leaving in 2012 to devote himself to full-time coaching. Since 2020, he’s been proud to call Goswick his primary coaching home, offering appointments Saturdays through Wednesdays.
Set-up Change — The original me is on the left. Note the wide stance with the feet turned out. The new me is on the right, with my feet shoulder width and more perpendicular to the line of flight. This is allowing me to turn my hips and, in turn, my shoulders more freely — lengthening the swing.
One Size Doesn’t Fit All
While he’s never lost his desire to compete, the past 15 years have nurtured a love for coaching that was there in his youth when he spent countless hours poring over a huge collection of golf instruction books and studying the methods of such luminaries at Seve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo and David Leadbetter. Though continuing to expand his knowledge and understanding of the golf swing as an adult, David’s turning point as a coach came when he developed an appreciation for the fact that people receive information differently.
“You could have two players with virtually the same swings. But if you asked each what they think and feel, you could get two completely different answers,” he says. “Some people respond to positions. Others like to focus on mechanics. And for others it’s about the feels. No one size fits all.”
“I can pick up on the differences as I chat with people,” he continues. “That’s how I learn what they think and feel and what they’re trying to do. I also look to see how people move. Everyone’s physique and flexibility are different. Look at the way Adam Scott swings a club vs. John Rahm. The key questions are: What do I need to do? Why do I need to do it? And how am I going to do it?”
David is also quick to acknowledge the influence of the people who have coached his game as well as the opportunity to share insights and strategies at coaching conferences.
Down the Line — Here’s another view of the impact of the set-up change. In time, I’m hopeful that the fuller swing will lead to more consistent ball-striking and increased clubhead speed/distance. There’s not a chance I would have come up with this solution on my own.
Defusing the Fear
David recognises that most students come to the lesson tee with a certain amount of fear and trepidation. Are they going to have to make major changes that, at least in the immediate term, are going to make the game less fun? They might also be anxious about having someone look at them swing a club with a critical eye or seeing what they actually look like on video. We all know, intuitively, that there are flaws in our technique. But often the path of least resistance is to live with them rather than try to correct them.
I’m certainly not immune to those emotions. But I have to say that David’s gentle touch and step-by-step approach very quickly put me at ease. It also didn’t hurt that the day after the lesson I went out and posted 41 Stableford points to finish third in the weekly Holmes Wilson comp. It was a wonderful result. But even more thrilling was the improved ball striking and knowing it was a direct result of the setup change David had prescribed.
I wish I could report that the feel of my swing and the ensuing numbers on the scorecard have remained on that higher plane since. But I still have much to learn as I incorporate not only the new stance but also the fuller and more powerful swing it makes possible. Thankfully, David remains ever present to answer questions and offer continued guidance along this new path, greatly aided by his use of the CoachNow interactive online space where he posts notes, photos and videos of each lesson and encourages feedback and discussion (see the photos in this blog post). Without that follow-up support, it would be all too easy to lose the plot and slow the progress.
If your personal golf journey has ground to a halt, or if you find yourself stumbling along a dubious detour, I heartily recommend you seek David’s help to get you back on track. Just send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or give David a call at 07752007516 to book an appointment. You’ll find more about David and his approach to coaching at his website.
It turns out we really don’t have to go it alone.
By Dan Miller