2005: Features - An expert’s tips for unchaining secrets of the links

Turnberry, Scotland

Turnberry Golf Club, located on the southwest coast of Scotland, has been a popular topic of conversation this year among golfers in the United States.

Reliable sources have been reporting that Turnberry will be chosen as site of the 2006 Senior British Open, and also will be selected as host for the 2009 British Open. Neither event has been announced officially.

The last time the Open visited Turnberry in 1994, Nick Price edged a stumbling Jesper Parnevik. Turnberry, of course, also was the scene of a memorable duel between Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus in 1977. (Watson finished at 268, Nicklaus at 269, and the next best score was 279.)

For ordinary golfers, Turnberry is a golf mecca – with two 18-hole courses, a nine-hole course, a 12-hole pitching course and the Colin Montgomerie Links Golf Academy.

It is the Montgomerie Links Academy, which opened in 2000, that has changed the complexion of Turnberry.

Catering to tourists and visitors, Haversham & Baker Golfing Expeditions of Cincinnati offers a blockbuster Turnberry golf package that starts with instruction at the Montgomerie Links Academy.

Why hasn’t this been done before, offering links instruction before golf? Perhaps because nobody saw the need.

The 99-year-old Westin Turnberry Hotel is famous for its accommodations and food, but now Turnberry is coupling golf and instruction with its more economical yet spacious lodges that sleep parties as small as six golfers and as large as 16.

Said the straightforward Chris Brown, Turnberry’s head teaching professional: “There is no longer any reason that Americans should get beaten up by links golf. We can quite easily give them some tips and pointers that will help them play better golf and have more fun.”

Many of these tips focus on address position.

Brown has been at Turnberry for almost six years. With the opening of the Montgomerie Links Academy, he began teaching more American golfers. It didn’t take him long to realize that most Americans do not pay attention to what they are doing at address.

Although these tips may seem simplistic, Brown reminds that a proper swing cannot occur without a proper address position.

Playing the bump-and-run shot around the green. There are three keys at address: ball back in the stance, weight on the left leg (for a right-hander), hands forward.

“If one of these three is wrong,” Brown said, “you will be compensating throughout your swing.”

As soon as a golfer develops a feel for this shot, Brown supplies his air-to-ground ratios for links golf: a 6-iron is 30 percent air (carry) and 70 percent ground (roll), a 7-iron is 40/60, an 8-iron 50/50, a 9-iron 60/40, a pitching wedge approximately 70/30 (depending on loft) and a sand wedge roughly 85/15.

“If you get your setup correct, even if you’re swinging pretty badly, you will generate decent results,” Brown said. “The address is crucial here.”

Hitting a shot from a tight sidehill lie. At address, aiming in the proper direction is essential. This may seem apparent, but Brown said that many golfers forget to do it.

“There are not too many level lies on links courses,” Brown said. “All the time, you’re getting tight lies that are above your feet or below your feet.”

For an uphill lie, aim sufficiently to the right. The swing plane will be flatter because of the lie, and the ball will fly to the left.

For a downhill lie, aim to the left. The swing plane here will be more upright, with the ball flying to the right.

Brown has other simple advice that often is overlooked or forgotten by golfers. When a ball is hit into heavy rough, wedge the ball back into the fairway. Avoid the temptation of hitting a less-lofted iron.

“Americans want to be superheroes out of the rough,” he said. “I tell them to take the medicine.”

The Montgomerie Links Academy offers a wide selection of lessons and clinics. The most comprehensive is called the Full Monty, which includes several hours of individual instruction plus lunch and a playing lesson with a Turnberry pro.

For golf fanatics, links golf is heaven. And links instruction can be heaven-sent.

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