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The Undercover Pro

Coaches who prey on the weak

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Editor's Note: This article first appeared in The Undercover Newsletter, where we grant anonymity to people in golf who’ve got something to say. This newsletter comes from a current DP World Tour player interviewed by Contributing Editor John Huggan. To receive the The Undercover Newsletter, you can sign up via Golf Digest+.

I'm a veteran golfer of the DP World Circuit. I have a good relationship with my coach, who has seen it all before. He has a flag from a major championship, won by another client of his, on which the player wrote: “Thanks for the bollocking. I couldn’t have won without it.”

I've learned a good deal from my coach, as well as a lot by simply being out here. Without actually witnessing a shot, I can walk down any range and know with close to certainty which of my fellow players is swinging well and who isn’t, just by the people they are talking to.

The “techno-frauds,” as I like to call them, are the so-called instructors who prey on the weak and more susceptible players. They're not hard to spot, but they're clever. They know how to go fishing.

In this case, the “fish” are usually to be found at the far end of the range. They go there to escape after shooting yet another 74 or 75. They then start hitting balls with no discernible plan or pattern to their shots.

The give-away is that these players are invariably discussing their swing with their caddies. There are two things I’ve learned during my time on tour: Don’t listen to your caddie’s opinion of your swing. And don’t listen to your coach about your yardages.

Those conversations - too often conducted at high volume - open the door for the preying coaches. Immediately, these vultures know there is dead meat to be had and seize their chance.

The initial approach is subtle. It’s not "I can help you." Oh no, it all starts innocuously with a bit of general chit-chat.

"Where are you staying this week?"

"How did you get here?"

"How did you play today?"

Which leads into the killer comments. Stuff like:

"It looks like you are struggling a bit." Or "Your swing doesn’t look as good as it normally does." Or "Your takeaway has certainly changed." Or "Your set-up looks a bit off."

And so the bait is on the hook.

It is then that the ‘coach’ is nearly always asked to "take a look."

“Oh, I’m happy to. If that’s what you would like.”

There is an inevitability about what tends to happen next. It’s a bit like trying out a new putter. Nine times out of ten, it works beautifully at first. Then you pay for it and soon enough it’s just another putter.

It’s the same with coaches.

So it is that the player, after a few shots and a bit of advice, starts to hit the ball a bit better. The fresh ideas are producing positive results. Which isn’t hard to do. Because the player was hitting it so poorly before. It’s a bit like our football teams. They often see a bump up in performance, at least in the short-term, when a new manager comes along. The only way is up.

Anyway, the player is encouraged. But here’s the key to the coach’s plan. He doesn’t hang around. He leaves, saying something like, "If I can help you in the future, here’s my number." That is the killer phrase. Our ‘nine times out of ten’ rule kicks in again. And soon enough the player has regressed to the state he was in when he walked off the course. At which point he thinks to himself, "I was hitting it great when X was here. Let’s give X a call."

It’s a dark art. And so the paychecks to the techno-frauds begin. It can happen to just about anyone. The victim I just described can often enough be a good player with a surprisingly strong record. Which only underlines how insecure and emotionally unintelligent professional golfers can be. As you watch us in action, never underestimate that fact.