I was at the British Masters at The Belfry on Friday. I visited the British Masters, which is part of the ongoing research and development of interest in the game. The venue has a rich background and history, with the Ryder Cup being played there through the 80s and into the early 2000s.
Then, it went through a period of struggle, losing its way a little bit after the credit crunch. It effectively went into insolvency and was owned by the banks. In the last few years, the banks sold it back to the De Vere group, who historically managed the whole facility. They are now restoring it to its former glory.
There used to be a renowned nightclub on the premises, which unfortunately ruined the careers of many young golf professionals! The Belfry is where we deliver all the training for the young professionals. Now, with the restoration underway, the venue is looking good, and the courses are in great shape.
One thing that struck me was a change in philosophy, particularly emphasized on the 10th hole. As we played down the 10th hole, the music was on full-time throughout the tournament. Initially, I found it amazing, reminiscent of the Waste Management Open and the feature hole in the event in Adelaide. So, it remains to be seen if this will become a new characteristic of events or specific to certain courses.
The tenth has always been a standout feature hole, especially since Severiano Ballesteros drove the 18th hole back in the early 80s, there’s a great little plaque there to mark the event At that time, he used wooden headed clubs with steel shafts, and it was quite a feat to cover a distance of around 300 to 310 yards. Nowadays, professional golfers routinely achieve that distance and more.
The tenth hole still offers two options: going for the green or taking a more cautious approach. While the yardage is manageable for modern players, the entrance to the green is narrow, requiring precision. I observed that most players chose the safer route, using mid-irons or even shorter clubs to lay up in the middle. The music playing around the green was either inspiring or distracting, depending on the player’s mindset. I would be curious to hear the players’ views on this aspect.
Moving on, as a coach, I spent quite a bit of time on the practice ground observing various elements of what the players were working on, including their practice routines and mechanics. It was very interesting. If you visit my media site www.AndyTaylorGolfmedia.com golf media site, you can find detailed discussions about the elements I observed, the faults players were addressing, and the improvements they were making. (I'm currently working on final edits of some brand-new content and you can expect the videos to be ready on Monday so stay tuned!)
It was an interesting day, and I also had the chance to meet a long-term friend of mine, Mark, with whom I started out playing tournaments with in our early careers back in the mid-80s. Mark has moved on to great things within the administration and management of golf events. He is now the lead referee for the main European tour. We bumped into each other at the Ryder Cup four years ago in Paris, and we had a nice little buggy ride around the actual event.
Overall, it was a really good day, filled with interesting experiences. I have a couple more comparable events lined up over the next couple of months, and I'll be happy to share my thoughts on those as well. The next one is in a few weeks, so stay tuned for more updates. I'll upload my thoughts in due course.