As I watched the PGA Tour wind down 2012, it has never been clearer to me that unlike most other sports, golf is a nomad’s game. Every week players travel around the globe to engage in competition with an international field that seems to live out of suitcases.
One week they’re dodging baboons in the Serengeti; the next they are heading to the finish line in the Race to Dubai, before hopping the pond to California where they’ll face a formidable group of world challengers.
But it’s not just the playing professionals that globetrot for work. Teaching professionals are also spreading their wings, bringing their expertise to amateurs and professionals who are looking to take their game to the next level.
Such is the life of Claude Brousseau, Senior PGA Teaching Professional at the Kapalua Golf Academy on Maui and the “2008 Aloha Section PGA Teacher of the Year”. In 2009, Claude became the Director of Coaching and Instruction at Golf Court Academy, the first and only golf school in France dedicated entirely to the short game. Now he spends his winters in paradise and summers in Paris. It just doesn’t get any better than that, eh?
I first met Claude in 2010 at Kapalua where we talked about what LUCK really means – Learning Under Correct Knowledge. After one lesson with Claude, It occurred to me then that he was much more than a swing coach. Claude’s teaching encompasses the entire player – inside and out. I wasn’t surprised to learn that he incorporates many of the philosophies of the co-creators of Vision 54 (Lynn Marriott and Pia Nilsson,) into his coaching.
Last month I got together with Claude to play some golf at Kapalua and catch up on what’s been happening with him on Maui and in France.
On the “Valley Isle” Claude continues to coach mostly island visitors who return year after year to sharpen their skills with lessons from Claude. They enjoy unlimited practice at Kapalua’s world-class academy and can play the 3 holes at the golf school before they tackle one of the worlds most spectacular and dare-I-say intimidating venues – The Plantation Course – home of the PGA’s first tournament every year, The Hyundai Tournament of Champions.
There is no question that the Plantation Course is a good test of golf. But after playing it a number of times over the past few years, I think it is a better test of your mental fortitude, especially when it comes to putting.
Luckily, Claude’s focus on helping people have more fun in the game goes a long way to making a challenging 4 hours feel like a privilege, rather than a painful reminder that “we’re not good enough to get angry”.
Claude not only teaches you the fundamentals of a golf swing, he teaches you how to “Dance with the one that brung ya!” i.e. Learn how to use what you’ve got to improve your score and have more fun.
You don’t need the perfect swing or hit a perfect shot to enjoy golf. What you need is a repeatable swing that can be adapted to every shot you face on a golf course. Because face it, no two shots are the same.
As Claude explained, “Most people don’t train for that. Sure, we need to have a swing that is fundamentally respecting the laws of physics, but too many people try to groove their swing over and over on the range. But when you groove, you need to move, which is why I enjoy giving playing lessons so I can help people learn to adapt their swing to all the different shots they face on the course.”
Claude also encourages his students to focus more on their short games, especially if they want to play (and putt) well on Maui. Take it from someone who played 20 games of golf in 21 days in November – putting on Maui is difficult. I swear sometimes when putt your ball, it looks like the ball is breaking up hill.
But that’s just an optical illusion. The last thing you want to do is trust your eyes on those grainy greens, which is why Claude teaches people to read putts using the AimPoint Green Reading System. If you have ever watched the Golf Channel and seen that predictive green line showing the path of a correctly putted ball, then you’ve seen AimPoint at work.
Just as a pilot must always trust his instruments even when his eyes tell him something else, AimPoint teaches you how to systematically read greens by paying attention to the things that influence the ball, such as the distance from the hole, the direction and severity of the slope and the angle at which the ball will roll.
AimPoint takes out the guesswork which removes doubt and gives you more confidence on the greens… and a lot fewer 3 putts!
Claude also applies the principals and practices of Vision 54 into his coaching. As Claude explained, “We all know you need to be more confident and committed on every shot. It’s easy to say, but how do you build your confidence; how do you commit on every shot?”
“Vision 54 gives you the programs and exercises you can practice on the range which helps you reach your full potential. This way, it will be easier to transfer your skills to the golf course. You learn to rely more on your senses and feelings; you learn how to identify what you are doing when you are playing so you can repeat it or fix it. For example, you can feel when you are in balance; you can feel when there is tension in your arms or hands.”
“The other thing I like about Vision 54’s approach is that it is all about YOU. Too many people try to swing like to Annika or Rory, but you need to swing like Gayle. Gayle is the expert on Gayle, not Claude, the instructor. Vision 54 helps you know yourself better and know the difference in your body and your mind when you play well or not. It’s all about you.”
In 2009, Claude decided to expand his horizons and take on a personal challenge to create a golf school from scratch and incorporate what he’s learned about the short game from the 10 different golf schools he’s worked with (2 of which were in the top 25 in the US). Together with Jean-Claude Forestier, Claude founded Golf Court Academy in France.
The academy serves golfers of all skills levels from around the world, from beginners who never picked up a club before, to tour players – players like Cassandra Kirkland. Claude has worked with Cassandra for about two years helping her with her putting and management of herself on the golf course. The hard work has paid off — Cassandra had her first win on tour this past November at the Sanya Ladies Open in China and she finished in 51st position on the LET Order of Merit for the 2012 season.
“Basically if you want to score better, you need to work on your short game,” said Claude. “But the good news is that you can kill two birds with one stone by doing that. Improving your performance within 50 yards will also improve your long swing since they share the same mechanics.”
And, as you might expect, a strong short game helps build confidence as well (that’s that word again ;)) because you know you can recover and save your personal par even after a bad tee shot.
Claude’s mission is to make the Golf Court Academy at Golf PGA France du Vaudreui the teaching facility tour players and professionals call home, especially when the Ryder Cup heads to France in 2018.
So where’s Claude heading next? Stay tuned for future updates on Claude’s travels and golf tips. Next time, I’ll share with you his thoughts on the new Trump International Golf Links in Aberdeen, Scotland, and what you need to do to play it well.
Meanwhile, get out and take a journey to find yourself in golf, because as Claude likes to say, “Golf = Game of Life First.”