Thursday, 11 February 2016

PGA Professional Courtesy Top 100 UK

Value for Money, PGA? Pfff.

I hear very often through various mediums that PGA professionals in the UK sometimes question what value they get for their subscription fees. Yes, there are online resources, monthly magazines, insurance and a free yearly diary but apart from that.

I believe, deep down in most professionals there is a player who either still does or did enjoy playing the game of golf and riding out some of the good times and many of the bad. Following that assumption I have contacted all of Golf Monthly's Top 100 Golf Courses of 2015/2016 to see how they assist the players in the professionals to experience some of the best the UK has to offer. 

Not all responded or were available to confirm or deny what they could offer but here is a good sized list of what the PGA professionals of the UK can take advantage of but firstly the golden rules.

Courtesy Golf - The Rules

1. Take your own PGA ID card that is valid and in one piece. This is a must.
2. Book in advance, some courses requested 2 weeks notice, others 48 hours. Speak to the secretary or the office who may then direct you to the Head Pro, Director of Golf. These are not a right, they are a privilege. It's advisable to phone a day before also to check that it's still okay and nothing has changed.
3. Play only from the tee's that you are allowed to play from. No stealth whites where you start the first from the tee-of-the-day and then onto the championship tees on 2.
4. Be a professional. Respect the rules of the club. Don't change in the car park and wear pumps if it doesn't fit the location.
5. Again, be professional. If you are able to take a few paying guests and it's allowed under the rules of their club then they will likely be more than pleased.
6. Talk to the pro-shop staff, a little small talk goes a long way and nobody can predict where life may take them. You may meet again.
7. These replies are only accurate the day I received them, always check beforehand.

Okay - Now enjoy my time and research. Share this post rather than try and copy and paste it!


Sunningdale GC (10 New Course) – Yes*, Assistants and Qualified once per year. New Course only, Mondays only.

Royal Liverpool, Wirral (12) – Discounted, Assistants and Qualified - £30 pp.

Ganton GC, North Yorkshire (19) – Yes, Assistants and Qualified plus European and Challenge Tour players plus female equivalents.

St George's Hill GC, Weybridge (24) – Assistants and Qualified if three paying guests are provided.

Hillside GC, Southport (30) – Yes, Assistants and Qualified although one pro per four-ball and green fees are £65 midweek in February, £85 in March and £130 pp in summer.

Saunton GC, North Devon (35 East, 61 West) – Yes, Assistants and Qualified booking via the Pro Shop.

St Endoc GC, Cornwall (36) – Yes, Assistants and Qualified with advice to avoid Saturdays due to members competitions.

Wentworth GC (42 West, 86 East)– No following new management.

The Berkshire GC, Royal Ascot (43 Red and 57 Blue) – Yes, Assistants and Qualified weekdays only. Guests at £150 March – November and £70 - £90 outside of that.

Notts (Hollinwell) GC, Nottingham (48) – Discounted rate of £25 per PGA professional.

Silloth GC, Cumbria (51) – Yes, Assistants and Qualified.

Alwoodley GC, Leeds (52) – Yes, Assistants and Qualified. Guests full price.

Royal Cinque Ports, Kent (56) – Yes, Assistants and Qualified with a preference to provide paying guests.

Hunstanton GC, Norfolk (64) – Yes, Assistants and Qualified.

Royal North Devon GC (72) - Yes, Assistants and Qualified.

The West Lancashire GC, Liverpool (79) – No, however £25 only per Pro.

Bearwood Lakes GC, Berkshire (81) – Yes, Assistants and Qualified although NO guests allowed due to it being a private club.

West Hill GC, Woking  (85) – Yes, Assistants and Qualified Monday to Thursday with 48 hours notice.

Parkstone GC, Dorset (91) – Yes, Assistants and Qualified with 48 hour notice. Guests £90 April – October and £65 November to March.

Close House GC, Newcastle (100) – Yes, Assistants and Qualified although there is a limit as to how many times this may be used.


Ballybunion Club, County Kerry (16) – Discounted for Qualified Only. 50% off normal fees if alone. Courtousey if providing a fourball. €95 April and October, €185 in peak months.

Portmarnock GC, Nr Dublin (25) – Yes, Qualified ONLY. Weekends €45 unless providing a group of 8.

Lahinch GC, County Clare (26) -  Yes, Assistants and Qualified.

Old Head GC, Kinsdale (39) – PGA rate is €75pp.

Rosapenna Hotel and GC (45) – Yes, Assistants and Qualified if guests pay a green fee.

Doonberg, Trump International, County Clare (32) -  Yes, Assistants and Qualified.

Carne Golf Links, County Mayo (99) – Yes, Assistants and Qualified (Very friendly secretary/professional Eddie)

Northern Ireland

Royal County Down GC (2) - Discounts available dependent on factors of how many and the attached club and how many paying guests provided.

Royal Portrush, County Antrim (11) – Yes, Assistants and Qualified.

Tralee Golf Club, County Kerry (53) - Yes, Assistants and Qualified – One Pro per 4-Ball with others paying normal rate.

County Louth GC (59) – Yes, Assistants and Qualified.

Lough Erne Resort and GC, Fermanagh (78) – Yes, Assistants and Qualified.


Royal Porthcrawl GC, Between Swansea and Cardiff (22) – Yes, Assistant and Qualified.

Aberdovey GC, Gwynedd (65) – Yes, Assistants and Qualified, Visitors £49.50 in Summer Rate and £35 Winter Rate.


Trump Turnberry GC, Ayrshire (4) – Discounted rate of £80 pp on the Alisa from June to October and £55 November to December. Courtesy on the Kintyre course.

Trump International, Aberdeenshire (14) – Discounted, Assistants and Qualified £75pp April, October and November. May to September £100 pp.

Carnoustie GC, Angus (6)– No unfortunately, £165pp.

Royal Aberdeen GC, Aberdeen (17) – Yes, Qualified and Assistants. Overseas PGA receive 50% discount.

Castle Stuart Golf Links, Moray Firth (23) – Discounted, Assistants and Qualified at £75pp. Guests would need to  pay £190pp. Open March to October only.

North Berwick GC, Firth of Forth (28) – Yes, Assistants and Qualified.

Royal Troon GC, South Ayrshire (29) – Discounted rate, £165pp between April and September with a complimentary round on the Portland Course also. Mid-September to October is £125 on the main only. Course closed outside of those dates.

Nairn GC, Moray Firth (34)– Discounted rate, Assistants and Qualified at £60 between April and October.

Gleneagles GC, Perthshire (40 Kings, 63 Queens)– Yes, Assistants and Qualified once per year.

Prestwick GC, Prestwick (46) – Discount of 50% for PGA professionals both Qualified and Assistants.

Machrihanish GC, Mull of Gintyre (50) – Yes, Assistants and Qualified once per person per year.

Western Gailes GC, North Ayrshire (54) - Assistants and Qualified, Overseas PGA professionals receive 50% off (£100 in shoulder months March/April and October, £150pp May – September).

Gullane GC, East Lothian (68) – Yes, Qualified ONLY

Cruden Bay GC, Aberdeenshire (89)– Yes, Assistants and Qualified all year around. Oversea PGA pro’s pay £25 in the Summer season.

Ladybank GC, Fife (96) – Yes, Assistants and Qualified. Guests full price.

As above all, please share this and subscribe if you wish. If you have any comments or recommendations on where to play please comment below. I think you'll agree the subscription fees don't seem so bad now.

*The list may be updated following new responses so feel free to check back or update me if you believe policies have changed!


Thursday, 29 October 2015

PGA Year One - UK Edition - Assignments

Following the first year of the PGA I will give you a brief overview of the 2014/2015 assignments to give you an idea of what to expect.

1. Club Fitting

This assignment is a simple one really. The idea is to do a complete fit on a regular golfer. This includes creating a fitting form and then listing a systematic approach to the fitting process. Following the completion of the assignment you are to include the club specifications (Loft, Lie and Length) of the recommended clubs.

2. Sales Skills

Generally this assignment was met coldly by other assistants and as a pointless 'filler' assignment.

The assignment required the assistants to look at two sales attempts in the work environment, one that failed and one that was successful. Following reviewing what you did well and poorly you could make recommendations such as trying to up-sell.

3. Golf Retail

This assignment request Assistants to conduct a Mystery Shop on a larger golf store
and then to compare against your own pro shop. Following this, again we make two recommendations. This was felt like another 'filler' assignment by most with no real purpose.

4. Golf Coaching

This is an assignment that actually felt like it merited being a Professional Golf Assignment. This assignment presented three golf shots with data provided by Trackman, maybe the PGA is waking up to the 21st century...

The task was to identify the ball flights as fade, draw, pull hook etc, and then to detail the impact factors that caused the shots. This is essential whilst coaching so really there is no excuse for failing this if coaching is what you enjoy. 

It also requested that we compare what a change of grip to the golfer may cause to happen. All in all a good meaty assignment.

5. Sports Science

This assignment appears to be a pain BUT out of all assignments this was the assignment I learnt the most from.

The assignment had Assistants research the rates that juniors grow and develop looking into things such as Peak Height Velocity and different Athlete development models. It was interesting to compare that people of the same age may have different biological ages therefore you may teach two 12 year old children differently.

6. Other Stuff

Aside from assignments there are things such as knowledge tests that you must complete before you attend the fun filled residential week at the Belfry. One of which was a 4 man sports science presentation on fundamental movement skills.

Taylor Made R15 430 Long Term Review - 5 Things

So following a season with the R15 430 as my 'Gamer' here are my 5 thoughts.

1. It Launches Higher than the 430 SLDR

I always had the SLDR 430 set on 12 in a 10.5 head and it was high and flat flying.

On my first competition with the 430 R15 I matched the set-up and wow, it launches higher. Over the course of the season I know have the 430 set at 9.5 degrees and it plays perfectly. If you had the 430 SLDR, expect to loft down!

2. It's more User Friendly

I 100% agree that this is the friendliest TM driver I've used.

Gone are the toe hooks that plagued the R1 and the SLDR 430. This club offers the most forgivness I've seen from a 430cc head driver. You can also spread the weights for even more forgiveness... praise the lord!

3. The stock TP shaft is actually decent

I had mine delivered with an Speeder Evo Tour Spec and it performed well, very well. I did however swap it for my trusty Matrix Black Tie 7M3 but I then sold the Evo shaft for £70 to a friend.

Better the devil you know but when I tried it, the feel, performance and flex felt very good. Worth of the TP upcharge.

4. The Headcover Works

Initially there was several people complaining about the oven glove appearance of the R15 headcover BUT I feel it performs very well. I've experienced no scratches or marks on the club and not yet had it fall off like other brand 'socks'.

5. Distance

The distance, yes, Boom! I've found once set up correctly I really peaked my distances achieving some long drives but what was noticeably up was my driving average. The poorer strikes still harpooned straight and with speed so I found myself playing shorter shots more often. I'me very impressed.


This driver is the real deal! I know the M1 430 is avaialable now but I am so impressed by Taylor Mades R15 that I don't feel the need to stray just yet.

5 Things you learn as a Golf Professional.

Here is a quick 5 point list of what you learn as soon as you leave your amateur status at home.

1. What Do You Mean, 1 Ball Rule?

That's right, as soon as you turn Pro then these 'Conditions of Competitions' apply, one of which is the make and model ball that you start a round with you must use for the full round.

That means no playing a Titleist on the 1st and a Srixon on the 5th. It also extends to no playing a Titleist 2013 Pro V1 on the first and a Titleist 2015 Pro V1 on the 3rd. It has to be the same make, same model, same design.

Wow, that means stock up on either what you like, or what you can afford a dozen of!

2. You want it to Rain!!

That is right, gone are the days you pray for sunshine in summer. Now you are hoping for that old downpour to give you time to sit by the heater, load up your laptop and to update you schedule for the year, start an assignment or just have a break for a cup of tea.

3. Your stroke Average has gone up 4 shots.

It happens to the best, the most dedicated. For some reason hitting balls and chipping at the place you've spent a gruesome 12 hours at in the shop doesn't appeal to you, yet the sofa and Netflix does.

It starts skipping a range session, followed by not putting on the shop floor and finally you realise 4 weeks have passes and you aren't sure if the clubs are in your car or at home.

The Struggle is Real!

4. You develop a love / hate relationship with Social Media

It starts off as it left off as an amatuer golfer, only you may expand social circles into groups to further your golfing knowledge... or so you expect.

Everyone has an opinion, haters appear, if you read good advice then two comments down someone will contradict it and belittle it. There are also people you will never meet that you wish would fall off the Earth.

5. Assignments - Get them done straight away.

The assignments are generally released in October, with some not due till March the following year yet many of your friends will have excuses for not completing the assignment.

If you fail an assignment it is a world of hurt, re-submitting modules whilst catching up on others, trying to study for exams, playing and practicing for tournaments.

Basically, we are gave assignments with plenty of time its just hard to motivate yourself but whilst its dark and wet in winter it is essential to pump them out.

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Mike B

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Yesterday's Golf Balls that Performed

This is a post that brings back fond memories of the days of finding a golf ball in the rough that excited me.

Here are my game changing balls that delivered that little bit of something special.

Strata - Tour Ultimate

Top Flite produced more than the Top Flite XL back in the day, they also knocked out the £9.99 for three Strata Tour Ultimate, easily identifiable by the orange spiral above the logo. This ball was claimed to be made from a soft cover and a tungsten core and I can confirm this ball provided more spin than a high spec Whirlpool washing machine. If you ever left one of these in your car on a warm day it was possible to pick it up and leave your fingerprints on it, it was that soft... the downside, any putt over 30 foot could leave the cover on your putter face. They were soft, high spin, fashionable and played by Furyk. What more could you want?

The downside? They struggled to keep up on the distance side with other comparable balls of the time, not very playable in the wind and have similar durability to that of stale bread.

Callaway - Rule 35 Blue

Again, another personal spin favourite. This ball had my heart when I saw one of the old boys play on a firm fast municipal, hit a 40 yard pitch onto a down-slope and get one hop and stop. From that moment my pocket money was spent on buying all of these up from every ball collector I could find who was selling balls he'd found when walking his dog. These balls spun so much you could almost see them fighting gravity refusing to hit the ground. From a fairway bunker it was possible to experience 40 foot of backspin quite easily with a well struck shot.

Easy to spin on a firm day with no ball to this day having spun as much as this in my opinion. This ball behaved very well when trying to intentionally shape the ball... or when unintentionally trying to shape the ball and there lies the problem. It would slice and hook for fun, especially into the wind on a slightly poor swing... mad worse by the fact it had more hang time that a Michael Jordan dunk on super slo-mo.

Callaway - HX Tour

Callaway toyed with the hexagonal dimple pattern in the HX Red and Blue variant before deciding they would make an extreme distance version, the HX Tour. This ball was like a conker in the oven and varnished, it was nails. Super firm with a strong hard cover that rocketed off the driver and nuked down the fairway. Callaway created a great ball here. The hexagonal dimples of HEX pattern created less drag in the wind we were told but whether it was a placebo effect or backed by science I will never know although it did give me the sense that this genuinely worked. Although this ball sounded harder than 'my mate Dave who works on the doors' it did check up really well... sometimes. I'm not sure of the science behind this but this ball occasionally checked really well when paired with the Callaway Forged wedges of the day but then occasionally they'd just ignore me or refuse to bite. I believe this was down to the temperature on the day. If it was warm they'd activate, when cold they played similar to a cheaper two piece ball.

Maxfli - Revolution

The original amateur 'players' ball. If I ever tee'd it alongside the old and bold low handicap players back in the day they would peg up a trusty Revolution. With a combination of elastic bands and an egg white cover this ball would never look new and barely appear round but for some reason the feel of them and all round performance attracted the elite club champions. This ball was an enigma, someone please enlighten me as to the attraction to this ball. The distance was average, the spin was average (for a premium ball) and the durability was poor... but this ball was everywhere and felt like a balata. It was a ball that you could trust would perform in all conditions until the slightly thin shot would change its performance characteristics to that of a rugby ball. That aside, it was a very trusty ball.

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Mike B 

Friday, 13 June 2014

The Truth About Aimpoint Express Read - Review

I've been fortunate to have an inside look at the teaching and use of aimpoint express read up close in the hands of various levels of skilled males and females and I provide my honest opinion here.

What is Aimpoint 

Aimpoint in basic terms was created or first brought to light by Mark Sweeney. The idea of Aimpoint is to include science into the putting aspect of golf by assisting greatly in the reading of greens and then following a read being made using science and research to assist in picking the line to match the read.

There are several varieties of Aimpoint;

Introduction to Aimpoint which teaches the fundamentals matching Aimpoints belief and the use of a chart to match the read.

Mid-Point which again takes the fundamentals a step further dealing with longer putts. 

Express Read; as used by Adam Scott and Stacey Lewis the world number one male and female is a quicker system that has no need for a chart system. It is designed to be a quick system for making a read and matching the line.

Express Read - Does it work, is it accurate?

In simple terms, Yes. I'm not associated to Aimpoint in anyway but I can say it works and I believe anyone can pick the system up quickly. I will not go into detail on the technique due to Aimpoint having to sell this product or service but the idea that greens are read using the feet over the eyes is incredibly accurate, especially on courses that are USGA greens where they have subtle breaks and optical illusions. Optical illusions don't trick the feet.

Once a read is made as a percentage slope usually between 0 and 4 then depending on the length the same amount of fingers are aligned with the hole to the high side. This varies by each person and a certain element of personal calibration is allowed in this system but people often say 'well I have smaller hands than XYZ so my read is less' but due to these people generally having shorter arms the read is similar and so the system works incredibly well.

Having watched this in use and seeing people experience this for the first time the level of reading is incredibly accurate with people generally in the first half hour predicting slope 70% accurately with this increasing at different levels. The hardest break I noticed for people to spot is 0 percent slope because we as golfers generally want to find some break.

Then picking a line using the finger technique which has minor adjustments due to various speed greens is a great way to putt. I wholeheartedly would say that people prior to Express would under read break by 30-60% or at least the perceived break by that much. It's often seen where people don't believe the line, are told to trust it and then proceed to hit a very accurate put on the trusted but I believed line.

I again agree that everyone I have seen use express read in practice and play have made more putts in the areas that matter between 0 - 12 foot or 0 to 4 meters. It's a great system and in all honesty a read and line up can take 4-10 seconds maximum. It's quick.

Are there negatives to Express Read?

It depends what you declare a negative. Here are some points that you may need to be aware of.

This system is different. Playing partners may be used to Geoff plumb bobbing, Terry doing a press-up to do a low to the ground read and Margret reading the putt from 3 sides but no body has seen someone stand facing the hole trying to feel slope in there feet, possibly with closed eyes. You will undoubtably have people question you as to what are you doing? Are you okay? Where did you learn this? But If I had anything at stake I would bet you will read greens more accurately.

It requires practice to improve. To recognise a 4 percent slope vs a 2 percent slope is quite easy but to recognise a 1 percent vs 2 percent requires training over time. The good news is that with the correct capture pace of roughly 30cm or 1 foot is that a 1 percent read will go in on a 2 percent slope as long as you are accurate to one with exception to the 0 percent slope read outside the hole.

The good thing is there is an app called Clinometer that can be downloaded for free to use your iphone or iPad as a digital spirit level for practice.

The importance of speed control.

Prior to any Aimpoint clinic I would recommend practicing putting to a level where the starting line is accurate to a respectable level but more importantly you have good pace control. Aimpoint depends heavily on the golfer controlling the pace of the putts to roll 30cms past the hole which meets the formulas to predict the break amount. Practice this element of putting and you will save time at a clinic trying to improve this.


This works, very very well. The results are instant and Adam Scott uses this system just to hit home. There are plenty of videos on YouTube to check so look there also but from me I love this system. You really must use an authorised instructor because I have heard from word of mouth several variations on this that they believe is correct but is a misunderstanding of the system. Buy cheap and buy twice or see the real deal for roughly £80-£100 for normally two hours of tuition.

From me,

Mike B

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Titleist 915 F Patent - 915 D2 D3 to use Taylor Made technology?

It is known that Taylor Made have a very active R&D department and it tends to appear that other major brands watch then follow. Not always but often. Well it may have happened again.

A leaked patent requested by Titleist shows a fairway wood display similar design qualities of that of a Adams or Taylor Made.

As you can see above there looks to be a 'speed slot' both on the crown and sole.

Also a patent is requested of which little can be guessed in the way the sole weight is fixed. This appears to be a Driver, possibly the D2 or D3.

Is this Titleist's version of the Big Bertha Alpha? Is the weight there to adjust the COG rather than the swing weight?

The patents are vague but one thing is for sure... The fairway wood seems a little different. Not as 'Titleist playing it classic and safe' but not as extreme as the 907 (thankfully).

Hope this is new to you,

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Mike B