Coaching Greats: David Leadbetter

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Coaching Greats looks to shine a light on those coaches the world over who have left and indelible mark on coaching as we know it. These pieces are not biographies but rather they look to explore what makes these coaches so revered. In this edition we’ll consider the trailblazing David Leadbetter.

Golf instruction is as popular as it is because of David Leadbetter.
Golf is taught and learned the way it is because of David Leadbetter.
If you work as a golf coach you probably have a job because of David Leadbetter.

It really is that simple.

No other golf coach, living or dead, has had quite the effect on what we know as golf coaching as David Leadbetter.

An innovator. A risk taker. Often admired. Sometimes ridiculed. Always respected. He has moulded this profession like no other.

The Leadbetter Effect

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Even though we will talk specifically about his coaching, we would be remiss to not point out the significant contribution tht Lead has made to the golf coaching industry as a whole.

The Popularity of the Golf Coach. Although there were of course many well-respected and well-known coaches before him, Leadbetter was really the first one to bring golf coaching to the masses. He was the catalyst for finding new ways of providing golf related information that is still just as prominent in modern day.

Coach as Businessman. A real innovator in this regard. Part Golf Coach. Part Marketing Maestro. Part Media Mogul. Part logo himself. He opened up new possibilities for himself and those that followed him in new ways to make passive income as a golf coach. Buinessman/Business…man! type of thing.

Coaches. Through his LGA Qualification framework he has worked with and guided some of the best in the biz. Chris Como, Robin Symes, Andrew Rice, Adam Young, Laurence Brotheridge, David Bradshaw, Denis Pugh, Stuart Morgan, and Adam Schriber are just some of the names that have one time or another worked at a LGA Academy. Even a little known Anthony McCarthy has worked at an Leadbetter Academy and is LGA qualified. It must be good then.

The Way Golf is Taught. If you were to ask a golfer about David Leadbetter then they would probably mention “technique” and “swing” a lot. For really, that is what he was known for. He was one of the first advocates of using a video camera. His first published book in 1990 was titled The Golf Swing. His most famous success stories with pupils have been with Faldo and Lydia Ko, both of whom he completely remodeled their swings with.  Obviously not all his job but he is admittedly technique heavy. What is the golf industry right now? Technique heavy. He of course isn’t the sole contributor to this but he has certainly played a part.

What Makes David Leadbetter Such A Great Coach?

Here are a few things that we can learn from David Leadbetter, the coach…

  • He does the fundamentals really well. He is brilliant with remembering names. He makes people feel instantly at ease. His ability to get his message across is second to none. Personally, I believe that although he is famed for improving swings and is often seen as a “technical coach” (too technical for some)  his coaching and communication skills are massively underrated.
  • Technical but simple. If you were to watch a Leadbetter lesson you wouldn’t come away from it thinking, “What on earth was he talking about!? I am so confused!” Although technical in nature, the application of his concepts are not particularly confusing or complicated. He does in fact keep things simple.
  • He keeps his players focused on the future. The future brings new hope and new possibilities. Tomorrow everything can be better and tomorrow I can be better. If you keep players in the future then great things can happen. For Lead, there is a sense of building rather than fixing. Normally starting at setup, the foundations are created and then construction begins bit by bit with each passing step ensured to be mastered before moving onto the next. This is a wonderful way of keeping players in the future with the sense of constantly working towards an objective.
  • Branch out. If Lead has taught ourselves anything it is to branch out. To try things. To think of new, innovative ways for coaches to market themselves and make some good money in the process. This really can’t be overlooked.

• • •

It often perplexes me when people heavily criticise David Leadbetter. Whilst it must be acknowledged that his way of working may not be for everyone, his contribution to golf coaching and the game of golf in general is undeniable.

He has been one of the leaders in golf instruction for over 30 years, constantly pushing the envelope and has created thousands of jobs for people just like us in doing so. And even though he is nearing 70 now and he begins to take a backseat more, his philosophies around golf instruction will most likely live forever on. 

We should all tip our straw hat to that.

Recommended Reading:
The Golf Swing (1990)
Faults and Fixes (1994)

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