What do professional golfer and British Airways ambassador Justin Rose and Johnny English AKA Rowan Atkinson have in common? On face value, not much, except that they both “starred” at Brocket Hall Golf Club in Herfordshire, England, albeit four years apart.
One of the scenes in the 2011 movie “Johnny English Reborn” was filmed at Brocket Hall. Recently Rose presented a golf master-class at the renowned course, revealing his personal techniques, thoughts and drills which have made him one of the best players in the world.
I was fortunate to be among a group of amateur golfers and members of the international media to attend the British Airways golf event at Brocket Hall, where the former US Open champion gave VIP guests a fascinating glimpse into his training regime and offered advice for players of all abilities.
British Airways has supported British star Rose since April 2013, helping him to compete and train around the world. The airline offers golf breaks at around 80 golf resorts and 500 golf hotels around the world. Customers can take golf clubs as part of their normal checked baggage allowance.
Displaying his prowess, ability and agility at Brocket Hall, Rose showed why he is currently the world’s number seven golfer, wielding wedges and drivers with equal skill.
He took us amateur players through his best tips for improving technique and talked through some of his own drills, which he carries out before tournaments and during practice. Among these were his warm-up, driving range train tracks, his secret to getting close to the pin and mastering the driver.
Rose won his first “major” at the US Open at Merion Golf Club in 2013, becoming the first English player to win a major since Sir Nick Faldo in 1996 and the first to win the US Open since Tony Jacklin in 1970.
South African connection
In an exclusive interview after playing the course’s par 3 5th hole with each of the four-ball pairings, the South African born Rose spoke exclusively to the group of four international journalists.
“South Africa is very near and dear to my heart. The country makes me feel at home. I love the rhythm of life and the sense of humour of the people,” he says.
His brother still lives in Johannesburg and his grandmother in George. His mother regularly visits the family too.
“While I was invited to play at Sun City this year In December, I might not make the trip down to South Africa as I am supposed to play at Tiger Woods’ Hero World Challenge at my home course, Albany in the Bahamas.
“I will, though, definitely look at a future date to play in South Africa as I use my trips to South Africa to visit with extended family and especially my grandmother.”
Reminiscing about his first Major win in 2013, Rose acknowledged that he was on top of his game and ranked number five in the World Golf Rankings then. “I was in my thirties already and gave myself five years to win a major championship. Needless to say I am relieved and grateful that I have accomplished that.
Relationship with British Airways
“It is also a tremendous honour to fly with the national carrier and being an ambassador for the past two years has helped me reach the top of my game. It has been a fun ride indeed,” he quips.
Rose is a humble professional and even when I birdied the hole that he only managed to par, he gave me the thumbs up and said: “Lekker putt!”
Rose’ best tips for improving technique
Rose shared his very best tips for improving technique and talked the group through some of his own drills which he carries out before tournaments and during practice.
I know a lot of people don’t have the time to dedicate to a good warm-up and tying your laces and slamming the boot of your car is often about it. But if you can find the time, it can be very valuable just to spend half an hour on the range before going to play.
Driving range ‘train tracks
I think it’s valuable to put down something to help you aim consistently straight. Use a marker in the distance and think of a train track: your feet are on the inside of the track and the ball is on the outside. I draw a parallel line and use my club to imagine the outer lines of the track to create a ball target line.
‘The incremental drill’
One of the first things I do prior to a round is try and develop feel and touch and get my hands warmed up for the day. One drill I always start with is the ‘incremental drill’. The first ball, don’t pay too much attention – just chip it in front of you. Then the goal for the next shot is to hit the ball one yard past the previous shot…then one yard again…then one yard again. Or another way to do it is to try and land the next ball on top of the ball you’ve just hit. It’s a great way to practice your short game.
The secret to getting close to the pin: my shot ‘matrix’
I regulate my distance with my wedges using a clock face theory. By this I mean I use my left arm and with my 60 degree wedge, if I swing to 9 o’clock and using a nice consistent rhythm that’s going to produce a 50 yard shot. And when I swing my left arm to 10 o’clock, that’s going to produce a 70 yard shot, and then a full lob wedge is going to produce a 90 yard shot. I have what I call a ‘matrix’ with about 18 wedge numbers I can pick, so whenever I find myself anywhere from 135 yards, I’ve got a shot that I can pull out. That’s how often you see so many players get so close to the pin because it’s something we always practice.
Setup and posture
Posture and set up is the one area we should all be able to get right; it’s the one chance we all have as equals. I tell people ‘how would a goalkeeper look in goal?’ He’d be ready to move in any direction to react to a ball. It’s the same with golf. You want to start in an athletic position. I like to feel the ground, and by that I mean have a nice flex in the quads and a bend at the hips, feeling like I’m heavy into the ground.
It might look fairly effortless but it’s all about developing power at the right moment in the swing. The back swing doesn’t have to be quick to have a lot of speed at the ball. One of the thoughts I say to myself is to let the backswing develop. Then, in my mind, it doesn’t make it a rushed movement. Because of the consistent rhythm I’m putting into my swing, I’m creating consistent distance control.
Swing fast last
I tell amateurs to feel like the fastest part of your swing is a foot past the ball. Mentally, that gives you the time to let the club drop into position and then release. I think most of us, from the top of our backswing, are thinking ‘hit.’ This can cause us to cast the club and do everything too early. If you’re storing the power instead, you deliver the speed at the right point.
Boost power with the medicine ball technique
One of my favourite swing tips is if you were to think of throwing a medicine ball into a wall with the most amount of power, wouldn’t just use your arms – you’d get your bum into it. You would really drive the whole body through and have this feeling of your arms and your torso connected to one and other to create the power. I try and encourage people to use this generic swing tip. It also stops you from coming over the top, which is a key fault for a lot of amateurs.
Mastering the driver
This is the only club really where the ball is in the air and we hit on the up. Because we hit it on the up, we want it as far forward as we can feel it. One of the big tips I give is get the ball up. It’s a great feel because it gives more time to square the clubface. I have the ball up on my left toe.
Putting: listen for the hole, don’t look
This is one time when it’s critical to keep your eye incredibly still. Most of the time we miss puts because we look too early. If you look early, you’ve probably over-released your body and experienced a slight pull. I like to put my golf ball down in a way where I’ve got something to look at. So I’ll look at the No1 and listen for the hole. If you do that, you’ll see a little shadow where the ball was. That’s a great drill.
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