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Nick Faldo-searching for perfection-part 2

Weathering the choppy sea-but land was in sight.

Continuing the swing change process that had been started in 1985

Nick Faldo, Ryder great. Few would argue who the greatest Ryder cup player of all time is. A record spanning 20 years with 11 matches and a total collection of 25 points for his team.

With the first year behind him and virtually only disappointment throughout Faldo had to use all his supplies of self-belief to ignore the detractors, of which there were many. Yet there were some even lower moments when even he must have been considering throwing the towel in. Faldo would later say that one of the most difficult moments of them all was during the 1985 Ryder Cup. Contrary to being happy Faldo wasn`t overjoyed when captain Tony Jacklin picked him using a wild card. He even had to be encouraged in a Jacklin phone call before he accepted the invitation. In Faldo`s mind, it was too early.

Sure enough, Faldo failed to gain any points with the worst performance in his Ryder Cup career. The only consolation was that he was, for the first time, on the winning side (although that probably only increased his embarrassment).

Nevertheless, Faldo continued to believe in his path and his new coach.

It was in this year that I had another encounter with Faldo that left me with plenty of food for thought.

Faldo at the top of the backswing watched by interested colleagues on the driving range of Bremen club Zur Vahr in 1985

My career had taken me to the best land for a golf teacher (in those years)- Germany in 1985. I had left England and begun teaching five months before the German Open on the driving range of Soltau Golf Club, about a hundred kilometers south of Hamburg. My first day of work in March had seen rain, snow, hailstone, and sun. I gave 22 half-hour lessons and in three days my book was full for the whole year. When the big boys were coming to town in September (Bremen was 100 kilometers away) I couldn`t get my cameras together quick enough. This was of course a long time before high-tech digital cameras were available, so to be allowed to use my noisy 35mm spiegel-reflex on the players on the range I would need to get a press pass. Fortunately, my old coach Bernard Cooke could arrange that.

Not my 8mm Bolex Cine camera, although the film still exists. This photo is taken from a sequence made by Bernard Cooke.

I arrived at 10.00 AM and got myself to the range as quickly as possible. The first player I caught with my 8mm cine camera was Brit Simon Bishop. The Bolex cine camera was a specially prepared instrument finely tuned by Irv Schloss. I still have it today.

After a short chat, I left and began using my 35mm.

It took only a short while before the big guns started appearing, including the much-idolized home champion Bernard Langer.

The German crowd only had eyes for one player regardless of his form, Bernard Langer. This would be his Tournament although it would turn into a three-day affair as heavy rain on a course susceptible to waterlogging joined forces.

About half an hour later with Langer now walking down the first fairway followed by a huge entourage, Nick Faldo appeared. Apart from the caddy and a couple of players working on their game, Faldo was alone. I was able to film him in relative peace, taking enough time between the camera shots to look up and take in his developing swing movement. Things were still not right. I watched him hit a couple of drives that were close to the crown, he didn`t make a very happy appearance, but why should he? This was business and he had sponsors to please, contracts to fulfill, and a reputation that was slowly turning to dust.

Teenie Britz from Johannesburg, South Africa won just once on the European tour. Coincidentally it was the German Open in 1977.ust

On finishing he turned around and went on to the practice putting green, directly adjoining the range. At that point, a fellow playing colleague, Teenie Britz, greeted him and asked how he was doing. This was when the famous Faldo aloofness showed face. "OK" and off he went, no time for friendly small talk or repartee.

It didn`t take me long to figure out this wasn`t deliberate, Faldo was just so wrapped up in his thoughts. I know the feeling very well and sometimes cannot remember the name of the person who suddenly greets me.

Faldo played 18 holes in peace. Nobody followed as he walked down the first fairway of Bremen Golf Club. It wouldn`t have bothered him. He was going to be back where he

belonged soon, of that he was sure. So was I.

A short reflection on developing a new swing.

When considering the process followed by Faldo and Leadbetter to achieve success it is not rocket scientist stuff.

Faldo would repeat the new habits with thousands of repartitions until the old ones were forced out, and he had developed a new movement.

Changing the established mechanics of a golf swing is a serious business for anyone, let alone someone who is making a living from the game. For Faldo, an athlete, hitting over a thousand balls a day, may be possible, but it will take a lot of courage, singular determination, and faith.

Any amateur, who can at best hit only a fraction of the necessary balls should beware. Also, in most cases, even if you succeed you will only replace the old pattern with another that is no better. There have been many tests over the decades to find the numbers involved in such a project; should you decide to try. I think the most interesting one is the number 1260. Twenty-one days of sixty repartitions make 1260. Unfortunately, if you miss a day-you start again!


The following year the German Open went down South East to the city of Dusseldorf in the region Nordrhein-Westfalen and the famous course of Hubbelrath.

A little more physically `beefed up` and now looking established as HIS movement.

By the time the German Open was played in 1986, I had moved on from Soltau Golf Club and was now taking part in one of the many newly established clubs in Germany. Celle Golf Club was being built on a huge "kiesgrube" (gravel pit) about 8km out of the old town.

Camera shots from the early days of Celle golf club. 3rd green/pond on 4th fairway/ view from 9th green.

Celle golf club is worth a visit should you be in Northern Germany.

At this time golf was taking off in Germany. The Boris Becker effect was starting to fade and the wealthier elements of society were now becoming more interested in the golf sport.


It only seems like yesterday that I had a cine camera in my hand and triggered the button to let the film material spin back after carefully winding the handle up. Up until 1984 and the first VHS camcorder made by JVC, there was no better option for capturing the golf swing. Even when the early recorders appeared it would be another five years before the swing contact area could be captured without being blurred and lacking definition.

My mentor Bernard Cooke had been using the camera since the late sixties to help his swing observations.

Professional photographers would use extremely expensive 35mm single-lens reflex jobs with high-speed shutter combinations, but that was not an option for the average Teaching Pro.

Today it would be unthinkable for a teacher to not have access to a camera or other swing analysis data while teaching. Teachers before 1990 had to use other routes to evaluate their pupils, particularly in the contact area. Ball flight, the sound of contact, and even the shape of the divots were methods that would reduce the guessing process.


Unfortunately, the swing that Faldo had on the Hubbelrath driving range was still not producing on the playing field. He was to shoot 75 (bad weather) and 74, missing the cut by two shots.

Of course, this was all part of making a real swing change. Not only was Faldo mentally active with the technical aspects of the course, but he also had to deal with the new ball flights, variable lengths, and even effects on his short game.

Faldo would have to learn to score again was so nicely put by the late great Canadian Moe Norman.

"The longest walk in golf is the distance from the driving range to the golf course."

See the link on this website. Moe Norman on canvas.

The poor result meant a week on the driving range and some more work with coach Leadbetter on the swing instead of participating in the Swiss Open. After that, he would be near home and playing at Sunningdale in the Panasonic Open. Faldo would finish in fourth place, tied with Seve and Olazabal, one of the few good results of the season.

The year 1986 could only be seen as a failure for Faldo, he didn`t win anything, nor finish in the top ten of the order of merit, it had been back in 1984 when he had last won a Tournament. Nevertheless, he felt encouraged by his improving ball striking, and he had a growing feeling that next year would be his year.

Part 3 will be available in 4 to 6 weeks

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Philippe Bordonado
Philippe Bordonado
Aug 06, 2023

Great stuff!! When is Part 3 coming?

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