Meet the PGA pro: Nike Golf brand ambassador Matt Antell

Jenny Yu
By Jenny Yu August 21, 2017 06:09 Updated

Matt is a PGA Performance Coach who works with England Golf and Surrey Golf, and delivers the Hugh Marr Performance Systems for the Surrey Golf Lab, which he launched, at Reigate Hill Golf Club

What year did you turn professional and how has your career path developed since?

Having completed my undergraduate degree in sports and exercise science at the University of Portsmouth in 2006 I took on my first professional role at Tyrrells Wood Golf Club in 2007.

As a junior I played a number of sports to a high level and always wanted to follow a career in sport. I originally aspired to play cricket professionally, but following some early golf coaching experiences I gained whilst doing seasonal work for Clive Bonner (at Bramshaw Golf Club where I was a junior member), I discovered a passion for golf coaching and helping others improve their game. Inspired by these early experiences – which aligned with my academic interest in sports performance and athletic development – I pursued a career in professional golf coaching.

Picture by Matt Gore iconphotomedia
SGL Golf

I was fortunate in my first professional role to have access to a number of top coaches through the company that operated the pro shop at Tyrrells Wood at the time (Premium Golf), including PGA Master Professional Jim Christine and the man who I was later to go in to business with – European Tour coach Hugh Marr.

I started working with Hugh in late 2011 and we launched our Surrey Golf Lab academy facility in early 2012 at Reigate Hill Golf Club. Our vision was – and remains – to be the best location for golf improvement in the country by providing the highest quality of coaching and customer experience to each and every customer, be they a European Tour star, aspiring junior or recreational club golfer.

As a result of the success I have been fortunate to enjoy with my junior players, my involvement in governing body coaching has grown and grown. At county level I lead both the U14 Elite Squad and the U14 County Academy Programmes for Surrey Golf; at national level I deliver the U16 Regional Programme in the south east for England Golf and have recently been invited to assist the women’s national squad in the upcoming home internationals.

In 2014 we also partnered with Whitgift School to deliver the performance programme for their Golf Academy. The programme has been very successful to date with the school winning multiple national titles and developing players that have represented England.

What have been your greatest highlights to date as a PGA professional?

I have been fortunate to have seen the players I work with achieve lots of personal successes in recent years, whether it be overcoming a particular challenge or getting down to a certain handicap; winning a club, county or national championship; getting selected to play for England or achieving their tour card. I see each of these as the culmination of multiple small successes which have been achieved on a day to day basis.

A personal highlight for me within county junior golf however came in 2015 where I coached the winners of every age group Surrey Junior County Championship (u12, u13, u14, u15, u16, u21) bar one (u18)!

 

There are a lot of products / technology in the market which help players advance their games. As a teaching professional what would you say have been the most beneficial to you and the academy and what would be your personal recommendations to other PGA pros?

I tread carefully in answer to this question as the use of technology in coaching can work both ways! Used well, it can allow for accurate and effective analysis, intervention and improved communication. Used poorly, it take you down a road that completely misses the point and can confuse and bamboozle the player in front of you!

On a daily basis I have access to range of hi-tech coaching tools such as high speed cameras with slo-mo video analysis; TrackMan radar; 3D motion capture for biomechanical swing analysis and digital platforms such as Golf Data Lab and Edufii.

Whist use of one or a combination of these tools can definitely speed up and improve the accuracy of the analysis process, it is often far simpler and less expensive tools that are the most effective when it comes to making positive change. Simple resources like poles, tees, mirrors and face alignment tools are often the most effective! I believe that if you are going to prescribe the use of something for external feedback when training then it needs to be something the player has access to when they are on their own! This provides a retailing opportunity for the coach to then sell on the appropriate training products to their players to support their learning outside of lessons.

If I was to pick one piece of kit from my ‘toolbox’ that people may not be so familiar with that has helped players really improve how they move and the effectiveness other swing it would the range of training equipment produced by Australian company Gravity Fit (www.gravityfit.com).

Picture by Matt Gore iconphotomedia
SGL Golf

What would you say are the key criteria for running a successful golf academy?

Firstly, not losing sight of the fact that the customer is paying you to help get them play better! As discussed earlier this requires effective analysis, intervention and communication to help the player find solutions that work for them.

Secondly, for amateurs in particular, it is their recreation time and they want an enjoyable, engaging and inspiring lesson experience. What this may look like will differ from person to person which is where getting to know your customers and developing relationships with them is so vital so that you can best provide a rewarding experience.

One thing I believe we do really well is making all of our clients feel really valued and welcome to the facility and ensuring that the culture is not only one of excellence but also one of community, where juniors, club golfers and tour players can train together.

What involvement do you have with junior golf? What is the academy currently doing to introduce the younger generation to the game? Are you reaching out to any schools, how are you doing this and what are you offering them? Other than your work with schools, how is the academy marketing itself to attract additional business?

As mentioned, the majority of my coaching business is focussed on the aspiring and the elite junior golfer. As a result of the local and national success my colleagues and I at our academy have achieved we are fortunate that nearly all of our business comes through word of mouth and recommendation from the juniors (and the parents of) that we coach, so we don’t do any external marketing other than via our website (www.hughmarr.com) and our social media feeds (Twitter @MattAntell, Instagram @MattAntellGolf).

If there were one thing about the game of golf you could change what would it be? And one thing to change which you feel would introduce new people to the sport, what would it be?

If I could change one thing it would be the time it takes to play! The R&A and England Golf are making positive strides towards extending the provision of nine-hole competitive golf which can only be a good thing. Courses that are geared up to provide a quality golf experience within a 90 minute window would be very attractive to many people who, like me, have a busy work schedule to balance with family time which leaves limited time for recreation.

Picture by Matt Gore iconphotomedia
SGL Golf

What is the best golf complex you have ever been to and why do you feel it is run so successfully?  

As a customer, the best experience I have enjoyed is at The Woodlands Resort, just outside Houston, Texas. Every time I have visited, each staff member you come in to contact with is genuinely keen to serve you and make your experience a personal and welcoming one. The attention to detail in the presentation of the facility is also fantastic and the courses are fun to play as well.

 

Jenny Yu
By Jenny Yu August 21, 2017 06:09 Updated
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