We recently had a visit from one of the most influential figures in golf.
Four decades of coaching the best players in the world. Seven of them went on to become the world No 1. He’s the man whose headwear silhouette alone lets people know which golf academy they are stepping into.
David Leadbetter grew up in Harare, Zimbabwe, and for the first time since we opened what has been affectionately referred to as his ‘Homecoming Academy’ here at Royal Harare, David returned home. Every moment we spent together was filled with memories recounted. Most of them featured his longtime friend, and our other hometown hero, Nick Price. From riding their bikes up the hill towards the club with their golf bags on their backs, to respective Hall of Fame careers. That’s a helluva ride.
Simply by watching David engage and communicate throughout our junior golf clinics and masterclass, he reminded me why I fell in love with the art of coaching in the first place. David’s way of communicating a message to a player is unmatched. His track record of coaching more players to world No 1 than any other coach in the history of the game is remarkable on its own. But when you watch him interacting with the range staff, our coaches, a waiter in the clubhouse, or an over-enthusiastic member chatting his ear off, while recalling his last game hole by hole … that’s when you see why he became the greatest instructor of all time.
‘Coaching is unlocking a person’s potential to maximise their own performance. It’s helping them to
learn rather than teaching them.’
– Tim Gallwey
‘The best coaches really care about people. They have a sincere interest in people.’ – Byron and Catherine Pulsifer
David told a great story about a 16-year-old junior golfer from California,
to our young members. He said that
he was once asked by this junior’s dad
to give him a lesson, at Bay Hill, near David’s home in Florida and then discuss coming out to possibly coach him full-time in California.
At the time, David was coaching the top players in the world. Most notably, Price, Greg Norman, Seve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo and Ernie Els. As a result, he politely declined the offer to move across the country to coach a junior golfer.
Decades later, that same junior golfer was interviewed by David’s daughter on NBC Golf Channel in a special episode which aired across America recently.
As the camera crew filmed around his house, David’s daughter, Hally, asked if he remembered that lesson. To which, Tiger Woods replied that he did and
said it was the first time he’d ever been instructed to ‘cover the ball’ when hitting his irons.
Throughout Tiger’s career, he undoubtedly became one of the greatest iron players of all time. David now
jokes, by saying that if he knew then, what he knows now, he would have booked himself on the next flight
– This column first appeared in the January 2024 issue of Compleat Golfer magazine.