Tim Taylor finds out why this six-times European Tour winner knows the right way to pass on his knowledge to players of any ability.
It’s no coincidence that Pete Cowen and Butch Harmon are the most famous coaches in the world. They may be based on opposite sides of the Atlantic Ocean, but they think alike in inspiring the raw material they are presented with rather than churning out robots forged in the same mould. Cowen guided Simon Dyson to six victories on the European Tour and we are delighted to announce that Simon, now a coach himself at his own elite academy, is offering
his extensive knowledge and advice to our readers.
The way Simon speaks about Pete’s coaching methods brings to mind some of the words Butch used following Dustin Johnson’s victory at Augusta, where he became to the first player in the 86-year-history of the Masters to sign for a tournament total of 20 under par.
It is two years since Simon retired prematurely following wrist surgery, having banked prize money not far short of £10m and he has spent the time investing thousands of hours into perfecting his academy and coaching methods.
He enjoyed a couple of top ten finishes in majors, twice made the cut at Augusta and has something in common with major winners Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell, Louis Oosthuizen, Danny Willett, Sergio García, Darren Clarke and Henrik Stenson in that he has been coached by Pete, a fellow Yorkshireman.
Said Simon: “I started going to golf lessons with him when I was 16 and his vast knowledge of how to show somebody how to play any golf shot is something I have learned from, especially the way he keeps things simple.
“In the 24 years I was with him, Pete hardly ever changed my swing and that’s the approach I try to take as much as possible when my students come to see me, in that there is nearly always something natural you can work with. It’s more about a golfer’s performance than banging on about technique.
“I like pointing out things you do well and things you need to do a bit better, the way Pete did with me. He was a good mentor and had a great way with words. The best thing Pete ever did for me was to calm me down. I was quite fiery as a young golfer player and it was when he managed to change my temperament that I started playing really well.”
Much of that resonates with a part of what Butch Harmon said during his post Masters verdict on Sky Sports. Dustin Johnson is coached by Butch’s son, Claude Harmon.
Butch, now 77, made his name globally by guiding Tiger Woods through the early part of his career and preceded Claude as Dustin’s coach. On Sky, Butch recalled the first time he first met Dustin.
“Whatever a student of mine has experienced on a golf course, I will have experienced and I know how to help them deal with it.”
The player was concerned the coach would want to change the bowed wrist position at the top of his swing. Butch recalled three major winners when he replied: “Why should I? My dad played that way. David Duval played that way. Lee Trevino played that way.”
Students of the golf swing will be interested to note that Butch added: “Dustin releases his head as he goes through the ball because he has to from that bowed left wrist position.”
Lovers of golf history will be aware Butch Harmon’s father, another member of his family named Claude, won the Masters in 1948. Like Dustin, this particular Claude Harmon triumphed five shots clear of the field at Augusta although he received a first prize of $2,500 as against Dustin’s winnings of $2,070,000.
The advent of Simon Dyson’s academy was helped by Chubby Chandler, one of the world’s leading sports agents who has handled Simon’s affairs for over 20 years. Chubby suggested Mottram Hall as the venue and set up the initial meeting for Simon with the director of golf, Jason Davies.
“I spoke with Chubby about what I wanted to do after it became clear I could not carry on as a tour player,” said Simon, 42. “I needed top-notch facilities within easy reach of where I live in Hale, Cheshire, and he said there was only one place I could go.
“Chubby pointed out that Mottram Hall boasted a championship golf course and had everything I needed in terms of a gym, driving range, short game area and putting green and that it was the only place within a range of 20 miles which ticked all those boxes.
“Also, this was around the time Champneys the health spa people became the owners of Mottram Hall and as soon as their name went up on the door, they were never going to settle for anything other than the best of everything.”
The only qualification you need to enter Simon’s academy is a burning desire to improve. All comers are welcome . . . from wannabe tour stars to regular club comp players to friends who simply enjoy playing the sport together when and where they choose.
Said Simon: “I am doing something across all aspects of the game including fitness, course management, psychology and simply getting to know your game better – every single part of the sport a player needs to improve.”
Among his students are eight professionals from the LET Access Series, the development circuit for the Ladies European Tour, and the men’s Europro Tour.
In the Spring of 2021, Simon will oversee two-week-long coaching tours in Turkey. His professional students will travel in March and what he calls “The Joe Public Tour” sets off a month later for 12 players, with only a few spots vacant.
“All players get the same TLC from me,” says Simon. “I love giving playing lessons on the course, looking at things like the best way to play a certain hole, and there is no better way to do that than on tour with the sun on your back.”
Sporting excellence runs through three Yorkshire generations of Simon’s own family. His grandfather Ginger Dyson was a leading Flat jockey and his uncle Terry Dyson a free-scoring left winger with the Spurs football team who pulled off the first Cup and League double of the 20th century in 1961.
In sport, as in life, nothing lasts forever and Simon says: “Since stepping away from playing I have put a lot of thought into advising future generations of golfers on how to practice in a way that would get results.
“Instead of trying to replicate what you are going to do on the course, so many golfers just bash balls endlessly on the driving range without putting real thought into what they are doing.
“I think of practice and preparation purely as something it is essential to divide between the gym, the driving range, the short game area and the putting green. This is the only path to progress. It takes a bit longer but it stands the test of time.
“Most people in golf want a quick fix, but that is like putting a band aid over a problem. It might be good for a day or two but then the wound will soon open up again.”
Having made a study of psychology, Simon points out negative thoughts are five times more powerful than positive thoughts. “It only takes a split second for a negative thought to get into your head, but once it does it is very hard to get it out.
“You need to train your mind to only see the positive in that you need a clear intention in your mind of what you want to do and certainly not what you do not want to do.
“A classic example is water on the course. Thinking about the water increases the chance of dropping into it. Focus on your target area, then at the very least, that is a big step in the right direction.
“Whatever any student of mine has experienced on a golf course I will have experienced and I know how to help them deal with it.”
If you can spare 76 seconds and would like to see a snapshot of what went into Simon becoming a Tour star, go to elitegolfperformance.co.uk, click on “play video” and take in what Mottram and the new coach on their block has to offer.
It’s impressive viewing.
Simon was runner-up in the English Amateur Championship, won the Finnish Amateur and was a member of the Great Britain and Ireland side which won the Walker Cup at Nairn.
He won the Asian PGA Tour Order of Merit, Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year in 2000, clinching three titles along the way.
His breakthrough on the European Tour came in 2006, with victories at the Enjoy Jakarta HSBC Indonesia Open and the KLM Open.
2006 HSBC INDONESIA OPEN
2006 THE KLM OPEN
2009 KLM OPEN
2009 ALFRED DUNHILL LINKS
2011 KLM OPEN
2011 IRISH OPEN