From Chepstow with love – Bond’s TRS training aid hits the jackpot
PGA Professional Liam Bond’s decision to promote his TRS training aid at the PGA Show in Florida in preference to attending the Staysure Tour Q School has proved inspired, writes Adrian Milledge.
So much so that Bond has been inundated with orders for the device that is used regularly by European and USPGA Tour star Tommy Fleetwood and a host of elite level golfers.
TRS stands for ‘tour rotation stick’ and the aid helps with body rotation through impact with chip and pitch shots as well as achieving perfect rotation in the full swing.
Bond’s invention is a sophisticated and more user-friendly version of an alignment cane that aimed to achieve the same results, either by being inserted into the club’s shaft or held adjacent to its grip.
“That arrangement had several drawbacks,” explained Bond, a former European Tour player who runs the Liam Bond Golf Academy in Chepstow, Monmouthshire.
“If drilled down into the club, the cane vibrates and makes a hell of noise. Alternatively, holding the cane against the grip can become painful and it’s difficult to hit a full shot.”
Bond cured those issues by designing a rod that is fixed to the top of the club by a thumbwheel and enlisted the help of a local manufacturer that makes plastic mouldings for Aston Martin and Jaguar Land Rover to create a prototype.
“The TRS is silent and leaves the hands free to hold the grip and keep the drill as natural as possible,” Bond added.
“Making one at a time initially was quite expensive but the more we made, more and more people wanted one.
“Tommy Fleetwood’s short game coach, PGA Master Professional Graham Walker, ordered some. And when Tommy was seen on Sky TV using the TRS while warming up for a tournament in Dubai interest in it rocketed and we couldn’t keep up with the demand.”
Extolling the virtues of the TRS, Walker said: “It helps players understand their swing movements.
“I’ve used it successfully with all levels of golfers – from Tour to weekend players.”
At least 20 players on the European Tour are using the device, not least Robert Rock who, as well as competing, coaches 30 players.
Costing £29.99, the TRS continues to be made locally by WCM in Chepstow and, as Walker stressed, its use is not restricted to elite level golfers.
“I could have it made in China, which would be cheaper,” Bond said. “But being British-made is a big plus for me as is the fact it can help players of all ages and abilities. It’s good drill for everyone who plays golf.”
Which is what golfers in the USA are about to discover following Bond’s trip to Florida.
“The show coincided with the first stage of the Staysure Tour Q School, which I thought about playing in,” said Bond.
“But given the interest in the TRS at home and on the European Tour, I opted to go to the show to promote it and see if I could find some distributors.
“In that respect, I’ve now got distributors in the USA, Holland and South Africa and 30 pros met me while I was at the show.
“It was obviously the right decision to go and I can’t thank the boys from Asbri Golf for the help they gave me.
“I couldn’t afford a stand at the show and, as well as let me use theirs as a meeting place to talk to potential clients, they publicised what I was doing on social media, especially Instagram
“As for where I go from here – there’s another 800 units going out this week and
TRS has effectively taken over everything I do.”
Home run for David Llewellyn
One of Europe’s top coaches and former World Cup winner, David Llewellyn, will return ‘home’ in the spring to Carden Park, Cheshire, as executive golf professional.
Llewellyn, 68, turned pro in 1968 and was named Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year two years later. He won 10 tournaments worldwide, was Welsh Professional Champion in 1985 and, representing Wales with Ian Woosnam, won the World Cup in 1987.
He was also Cheshire and North Wales champion in 1994, the first of the eight years he spent at Carden Park, a spell that coincided with golf legend Jack Nicklaus and his son Steve designing the now famous Nicklaus Course.
He will be responsible for looking after Carden Park’s private members and visitors as well raising the profile of the new golf academy, which was awarded PGA Accreditation in January.
He plans to use the knowledge he has gained from playing with the world’s best players to encourage local youngsters to get into golf as well as help professionals at the start of their careers.
Commenting on his return, Llewellyn said: “I am very excited about coming back home. Carden Park has the opportunity to be one of the best golfing destinations in the UK and I will be working with its general manager, Hamish Ferguson, to realise its full potential.”
Ferguson added: “David has always been one of the team and is a great asset to Carden Park.
“His worldwide experience, our recent PGA Accreditation and our ongoing programme of investment means we are poised to become one of the finest golfing destinations in the country.”
Coffin is swinging in the rain
Converting a cowshed in the middle of nowhere into a golf studio is, no pun intended, par for the course for Richard Coffin.
“It’s totally in keeping with my career path,” reflects the 55-year-old who, as a teenager, harboured ambitions to become a PGA pro but took a circuitous route to get there.
“I managed shoe shops, got into sales jobs and was a golf rep for years – for Cobra and various other companies in the 1990s.
“Then I had a moment, jacked it all in, sold my house and blew all my money going round the world for a year.”
Bookending this colourful CV is a stint working in the pro shop at St Mellion in Cornwall in his teens and qualifying as a PGA Professional three decades later.
That was in 2012 and, given the wettest winter in living memory that has spawned a plague of ‘course closed’ signs at golf clubs up and down the land, Coffin’s decision to open Silverleigh Golf Centre four months ago is also a case of perfect timing.
Not least because, situated in a business centre comprising former farm buildings adjacent to the road that links Tiverton and Exeter and is in view of the swollen River Exe, the venture is not subject to the vagaries of the weather.
Coffin, however, admits going it alone in such a remote location was a huge leap of faith.
“I’m good at those sort of things,” he says. “I’ve had a few goes in the past and they’ve not been overly successful. Hopefully I’ve learned a lot and kept my feet on the ground a little bit more this time.
“I found this place just up the road from where I live and ummed and ahhed for a while. Eventually I asked to be showed round and one unit had the height and space I needed. What’s more the rent was affordable.”
Cost also played a huge part in Coffin equipping the business and making the unit fit for purpose. As a result a lot of self-help was involved.
“It wasn’t expensive as it might have been,” he explains. “I didn’t have the budget or finance to go to a company and say this is what I need so please build it. I have done most things myself, including building the stage, and saved a few thousand quid.
“I had to borrow the money to finance the hardware such as the projector, a big gaming computer and the launch monitor.
“As for the launch monitor, I went for a SkyTrak. My budget meant it was case of that or nothing. Not that I’ve got any regrets - I’ve been really pleased with it. I’ve seen comparison tests on YouTube between SkyTrak and much more expensive kit and the results are arguably equally as accurate.
“They were within a few feet of each other in every test. I know what my distances should be when I hit a ball and it backs it every time.”
Having embarked on his latest leap of faith, Coffin had to make it work by attracting custom. To that end, he employed two tactics. One, in his experience, is time-honoured. Not so, the second – social media.
“My existing clients have followed me,” he reports. “Loyal clients will follow you anywhere within reason. Some were a bit reticent about being indoors but they’ve all gone away happy. The feedback the customer gets is much more than they would on a range unless there was a launch monitor there. Moreover private coaching here is private. There are no distractions from other range users.
“In addition, I’ve used Facebook to generate business. I’ve had an account for years and used to go on there every so often to see what old friends were up to but never posted much. But I knew I needed it for my business – I sought some marketing help from people in the know and I’ve got a business page on Facebook which I promote.
“And so far so good – it’s working for me. I set up the Facebook business page a couple of months ago, posted a couple of things and then boosted them. So I suddenly hit five to six thousand people in the local area – obviously they’re not all going to be golfers but I got some good feedback. The boost only costs a few quid and I’ve got some business from it.”
That business includes young people who use the facility for social occasions and, rather than have lessons, play courses such as Gleneagles, The Belfry and Pinehurst on the simulator.
“More people play golf these days than ever but they are occasional players and not traditional golf club members,” Coffin adds. “I’ve had a few of those come in and it’s been brilliant. I’m going to try and get an alcohol licence and boost the social side of the business. That, club sales and repairs are spins offs.
“The most profitable thing to do is teaching and I plan to do that on the course as well as here in the summer. I see this primarily as being a winter business and once people are used to it I’m confident they will keep coming here.”