The Gulf Club

David Leadbetter wants you to get a (proper) grip as he opens his first Middle East academy in Dubai

Clarkwin Cruz/Motivate Publishing
Leadbetter holds court at the JA The Resort clinic as Rafa Cabrera Bello, Amy Boulden and Oliver Cowan look on. 

By Kent Gray
Fret not if you weren’t one of the fortunate few invited to the official opening of the Middle East’s first Leadbetter Golf Academy at JA The Resort Golf Course on Monday.

Sure, you missed quite the show as former Ryder Cupper Rafa Cabrera Bello ripped drivers deep into the newly extended range at the remodelled Jebel Ali nine-holer before Ladies European Tour stars Amy Boulden and Oliver Cowan wowed with a series of pure mid-iron swings and pin-point wedge shots respectively.

But David Leadbetter was the undoubted star of the clinic and shared one particular tip that you can try at home.

What the world renowned, England-born, South African-raised and U.S.-based coach wishes every amateur would do is to check the glove currently in their golf bag. Chances are there’s a worn patch in the palm of said glove, if not a gaping hole. If so, your grip, dear amateur, needs urgent attention.

Rafa Cabrera Bello launches into a drive.

“The biggest fundamental problem people have is the grip, it’s as simple as that,” Leadbetter said at the opening of his 40th academy worldwide and eighth in 2018 alone, a network now spanning 15 countries.

“Ninety percent of amateur golfers grip the club incorrectly and by that I mean, most amateurs, a right handed golfer, they grip the club too much in the palm of the left hand. Any golfer that wears a hole out in the glove, you can be certain that is their issue.

“And from there steams a whole host of errors. One of my favourite sayings – Ben Hogan coined the phrase many a year ago –  is ‘Good golf begins with a good grip.

“The way you place the hands on the club, controls the club. Yes, the body moves and the power comes from your body but it goes through your arms and your hands and finally into the club, so if your hands are in the wrong position, first of all the club doesn’t swing, you have to forcibly get the club swinging.”

Leadbetter shared another one of his “pet sayings” as the freebie lesson continued.

LET star Olivia Cowan showed a deft touch with her sand wedge.

“The dog wags the tail, the tail does not wag the dog. Meaning that the body actually controls the swing but if you’re going to control the swing you’ve got to grip it properly.

“You see time after time how players grip it up in the palm, wear a hole out in their glove, create so much tension, they lock their shoulders in, their upper body and arms, create the movement back, create the movement down and before you know it , you haven’t got a swing, you’ve got a hit.”

If you find exhibit A on your glove, Leadbetter now has a solution in Dubai. They come in the form of JA The Resort Golf Course’s long-serving head pro Stuart Fee who has just completed his Leadbetter Academy accreditation and former European and Asian Tour pro Yasin Ali who is part way through his.

But with so many big name coaching academies in the emirate now, what will set Jebel Ali apart?

“I’ve been doing this for a long time now so we’ve got certain protocols we follow that enable us to get to the root cause of the problem in a very short space of time,” Leadbetter said.

“I think if you’re going to play golf you should do it to the best of your ability and there is a distinct lack of understanding about how you can play this game at a higher level and fulfil your potential. So our goal really is to help people understand their game and give them a plan for future improvement as well.”

That help extends to even the youngest, budding Rafa’s, Amy’s or Olivia’s across Dubai.

“We’ve got some neat plans for starting a ‘Leadbetter Kids’ program looking at kids from a very young age which we’re starting to do all over the world now. Lots of academies work with your older juniors and your older golfers but very few really focus on the really young kids, the say, four to 10 year olds which if you can establish the passion and the seed of success at a young age, you’re going to capture them for life in some form or shape.”

Chances are, the grip will form a very significant part of any early learning at Jebel Ali.


Kent Gray

Editor of Golf Digest Middle East. Has written about golf since 1989 and owned a suspect short game even longer.

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