6 November 2012

Golf's Cutting Edge

On a recent trip to Jakarta, Indonesia I had the privilege of sitting down with the Senior Director for the Leadbetter Golf Academies in Asia, Phillipe de Busschere. I wanted to ask him about his experiences in Asia and find out what sets the LGA apart from the other academies out there today?
What's in the Bag?

Driver: Callaway Razr Fit 9,5°
Fairway: Callaway Razr Fit 15°
Irons Callaway Razr Muscleback
Wedges:Callaway forged 52,56,60°
Putter: Odyssey Protype PT10
Ball: Callaway Tour iz

What's your favorite course in Jakarta and the world?

In Jakarta it would have to be Royale Jakarta and in the world I would have to say Fancourt Links in South Africa.

If you could play only one more round of golf in your life...who would you choose to make up your dream foursome and why?

If I were to not include my family members I would say first Arnold Palmer as I feel he always a real person while interacting with people around and really seems to care about the world around him. Then Phil Mickelson and Fred Couples to fill out my group.

1. Philippe, I would like to thank you for taking time to visit with us. Tell us a bit about what brought you to the game and when you knew to was going to be such a big part of your life?

When my parents began to play golf I was lucky enough to get brought along with them. I remember taking a PW and trying to copy what they were doing. This was way back when I still lived In Belgium. I was hooked pretty quickly and got my first set of clubs shortly there after and this led to begin practicing on a daily basis. As my life progressed it became a true passion and I decided I wanted to move to Orlando to go to school where I would be able to combine golf with it. Throughout my schooling I kept practicing and playing and became more interested in the instruction part of it. I took lessons with the coach at Bay Hill in Orlando and he knew and introduced me to many great instructors around the Florida area. After I assisted with Alan J Flashner who is a PGA Master professional for over a year I began to realize that a career in golf was what I really wanted to pursue.

2. How did you first get involved with the Leadbetter Golf Academy?

While I was helping out Alan Flashner we spoke about the Leadbetter Academy as it was located also in Orlando and I had seen it many times. This academy was famous for working with the best tour professionals and that immediately attracted me. I was introduced to Bradley Turner who was a good friend of Alan Flashner who knew the right hand man of David Leadbetter, one Steve Wakulsky. It was through this introduction that it pretty much all started. You have to prove yourself of course and getting offered and opportunity to work at this level requires dedication. I seized the chance and eventually was sent to Austria to learn about LGA teaching methodologies and go through my certification process. As it was a seasonal academy it gave me the opportunity to travel to many other LGA's around the world and see first hand how they were built and operated as well as how the instructors were teaching. By doing this and developing my own teaching skills, I was basically able to create a picture in my mind of how best to set up and run an academy on a daily basis.

I was asked later that year to go back to Austria and help set up a new smaller LGA which allowed me to put those thoughts into practice. It didn't always go perfectly of course, but I learned much in those years. From Austria I was sent to IMG Academies Florida to work at the biggest junior academy in the world allowing me to work together with many different instructors and juniors. However shortly there after, LGA was planning on opening up a new location in South Korea. This was the perfect opportunity for me to take all that I had learned and develop a new academy from the ground up, literally, as there were no plans yet. I wrote and created all the design plans for this academy.

After being there over a year I needed to go back to Europe for private reasons and while there I opened up a new LGA in Munich, Germany. I was there for 3 years and developed that academy to a point where we had 4 full time instructors. In Munich I met my friend who told me about Indonesia and how it would be great to have a LGA there so we decided it would be good for me to come to Jakarta and have a look at it. On my first two visits I just had a look and met some of the local people, but after my 3rd visit, that's when it all started click and began to go fast into the opening up of the new LGA facility here now in Indonesia. It couldn't have happened so fast without the correct and passionate partners we found here.

3. What were all the factors you had to consider before moving forward?

Apart from finding the right location, finding the right partners was key. After we had done this, all the pieces were in place and it all went fairly quickly. I was lucky enough to get introduced to others in the area looking to improve the level of Indonesian golfers and they in turn introduced other key people who shared in the same passion. It really was a culmination of all of us sharing the same vision and I think this shows in our academy.

This facility was built completely new from the ground up. Our location at Cengkareng golf club allows us to work closely with them and this synergy helps ensure the facilities grow. Our main training area is sectioned off on the right side of the range and includes a fairway bunker and many target greens and practice bunkers. But to set yourself apart from other academies you have to go the extra step. We built a new academy building with a fitness room which includes all the best golf related fitness equipment in the world. We also have an versatile indoor hitting room which can also be used as a conference room or class room. The actual construction of all this is easy, but coming up with the ideas is something that only comes over time. You need to have seen a lot of good and bad academies to then decide for yourself what really makes an academy great!

I think that the ideas that I created and developed over time here are all the result of my past experiences within golf. I never shy away from innovation and never stop innovating. I am constantly looking for ways to further better and develop our academy. As an example we already have changes in the works that will be implemented in 2014. The customer needs to see that we always give them back value, not just in the teaching part but also the small things around that. This is called the "experience" and this is what separates LGA from others. I think the driving force behind an academy needs to be more than just teaching the customer and I think we have achieved that here in our Cengkareng location.

4. What makes it unique to Asia?

The experience makes it unique. This experience is created through the use of the world class, cutting edge, technology we have together with our first class facilities. One highlight is the swing catalyst, which is a full functioning force plate with a balance board attached to it. It basically measures up to 1/100 of a second correct on where you generate your power in your swing and we can relate that directly to your weight balance in your feet. This means that we know "for a fact" how you build up your power and how we can increase that power or time it better. This whole system is then also attached to 3 high speed cameras which can show us everything else that goes on in your swing. So once we have all your swing specific information, we then take it to the trackman system which measures everything the club and ball are doing.

We are sure that we can find your actual root cause of both the good and the bad in your swing. We do not guess and it is not subjective, just factual. This scientific level of assessment can not be achieved by somebody who does not use any of these systems. As an example, the eye can see about 7 frames per second and our cameras see over 100 frames per second so which do you think is more accurate? Technology is only as good as the instructor using it of course and therefore within LGA we have a year long certification process making sure that the quality of our instructors is maintained at the highest level. Even a certified instructor will have to do a yearly re-certification to be able to work for LGA.

Do we always need all this technology to teach somebody? It's not always needed depending on the student and instructors area of focus, but the moment it would benefit the student, we are able to unleash the best technology the world has to offer! It works both as great feedback for the student and instructor as the instructor can see detailed information on how to improve the student and the student can see his improvements so he gets more confident. Technology does put more pressure on the instructor than on the student, as he or she is now put on the spot and the student will be able to see clearly their improvements.

There are no guarantees in golf but actually being able to monitor and see your improvements and knowing that you are becoming a better golfer does actually make for a pretty good guarantee! Should you find during the lesson that you aren't reaching your full potential due to lack power or flexibility, we have yoga trainers and fitness trainers on site to help you develop your body along with your swing. The culmination of all of these things makes the LGA experience and our passion to innovate keeps us unique!

5. Is the swing catalyst, mentioned above, with the force plate and balance board a technology LGA has developed?

No, It was created by a person in Trondheim, Norway who came up with this a couple of years ago and he developed the first full functioning force plate for golf. We work closely together with him to further develop the hardware and also software. We use the technology with tour professionals here and give the developers input on what aspects need to be further focused on. The force plate alone has around 2900 sensors as a top layer to measure weight distribution at any point in the swing and the balance board is placed underneath that plate. The huge amounts of data we are collecting is also helping modify the product to allow for improvements to the software that in turn will provide more tools that we as instructors can really use.

6. Is this technology in all LGA academies?

We are the only LGA at this time which uses this technology. Every new LGA that I will build up will have this technology as it clearly provides the best feedback for our customers. The reason not all of our facilities have it is that it is a relatively new cutting edge product and it doesn't come cheaply! Also not every academy has the indoor and outdoor facility required for something like this.

7. Do you have any plans to open a LGA in Japan at some point?

LGA has had an academy in Japan for a long time located in Ishizaka Golf Club in Saitama prefecture. See: http://www.leadbetter.com/ishizaka_golf_club.html. However with only one LGA certified instructor we certainly need to expand our presence in Japan. In general we are always looking for good quality locations for new academies. Just the sheer number of golfers in Japan makes it a good market for LGA. I am of course always open for conversations with golf courses on hosting a LGA at their facility.

Philippe, thank you for your time and we look forward to seeing the LGA continue to expand here in Asia as well as bringing and embracing the latest game improving science and technology out there for the betterment of the game.

Bennett Galloway, 6 November 2012    

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  • About Bennett
    Bennett is a long time resident of Japan and the Director of Golf for Gotemba Golf Club and Belle View Nagao G.C., in Shizuoka near Mt. Fuji. Member of the Golf Writers Association of America and a teaching professional, providing lessons for all ages and abilities, in English or Japanese. He also specializes in in-bound golf tours to Japan with Golf Shizuoka and Golf Hakone.

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