Marcus playing mind games...

May 15, 2018

BAWTRY coach Marcus Bell is walking the road less travelled when it comes to teaching golf.

Bell is already an accomplished teacher, but he’s combining his interest and expertise in sport biomechanics to help his pupils achieve what he describes as ‘enjoying the experience of swinging a golf club’.

And perhaps more importantly, his methods are built upon using an individual’s unique physiology and natural movement to enable their natural swing to emerge in his role as ZEN Director of Coaching.

“Everyone has that natural swing inside of them and by putting them in an optimum learning environment we can enable that to surface to the point where the golf club becomes a part of them,” said Bell who works out of the ZEN Golf Studio at Bawtry Golf Club.

 

Marcus with ex-England footballer Lee Sharpe and Alex Belt

 

He is currently working on a Sports Science Research project that explores the biomechanics of the golf swing at Sheffield Hallam University, and which has led Bell to look further into the theory that how you walk may also dictate the way you swing a golf club.

“The motion of walking is the only movement where every joint in the body goes through every possible plane of motion in a repetitive fashion, and when you consider that a golfer can go through this motion over 20,000 times a day it leads to habitual movement patterns, which leads to a constraint system.

“What we do through holistic biomechanics is correct those constraints using the body’s intuitive intelligence in movement and flow and access its natural movement to develop a great golf swing through perception training.

“Through challenging the body to see how it responds we can rebalance the body and start to see the natural swing emerge. This invocation enables the individual’s true, efficient blueprint movement to emerge in a task specific application.

“The human body has gone through 2.8 million years of evolution, so we are dealing with the ultimate machine and one that has the ability to self-organise, and that is the basis of our teaching philosophy.

“Movement is like a road map in that you have a destination to get to and our own process of mapping is used to catalyse the FlowMotion drills and invoke change naturally, so the player’s signature style swing emerges naturally.”

The FlowMotion element of Zen golf mechanics was born from a visit Marcus made to Paris in 2014 to meet with Stephane Bachoz.

Stephane is a French PGA professional and was trained by a Welsh PGA professional called Bill Owens who has just received the President’s award for golf development by the PGAs of Europe.

Around 25 years ago Owens devised a coaching system based on natural learning and has been delivering this throughout France to thousands of children over three decades as part of his national project Golf Educatif, which is a Ryder Cup Legacy project.

This project uses golf as a vehicle to teach children, from all walks of life, both social and human values.

“Stephane trained me in this unique system, which produces proficiency and success very quickly for all levels of golfer, but particularly beginners.

“I brought this system back to the UK and developed it further by fusing it with a biomechanics application linked to gait mechanics.

“The evolvement of this method has created a very potent element of our ZEN Golf Mechanics coaching system and is delivered using our MIND-BODY-MOTION philosophy.

“Bill and Stephane have also had a major influence on my coaching style and personal development as a coach. We work closely with them and have delivered several coach education workshops over the past couple of years.”

It’s fair to say that Bell’s approach flies in the face of some of the current methods of coaching where the swing is seemingly broken down to hundreds of movements, with some Tour players looking like contortionists as they try to groove a specific movement by repeating it time after time before hitting the shot

His journey in golf has been an interesting one. His first memory of witnessing elite level golf coaching close up was with Tony and Howard Bennett when he was a 19-year-old trainee at Newark Golf Club.

“At the time they were the Portuguese and Irish national coaches respectively,” he said. “I remember Howard would invite me to sit in on lessons when he was coaching Padraig Harrington at Newark. Padraig was an Irish international youth player and I would sit on his bag as he hit balls all day practising what Howard had taught him.

“Howard would involve me in lessons, even asking what I thought as we looked at Padraig’s swing on a 14” TV in

Continued on facing page

 the back of the shop whilst Howard would analyse Padraig’s swing by drawing lines on the screen.

“Obviously I knew nothing, but that showed what a warm and fantastic person Howard was by making me feel a part of it.

“Looking back, this was a golden time for a young trainee to be immersed in such an environment and it was those days at Newark that inspired me and set me off on my path as a coach.”

He was also influenced by Lindrick professional John King, who is another hugely respected figure in the coaching world.

“It was under John’s tutelage that I was encouraged and helped to develop my coaching,” Bell continued. “John played a huge part in shaping my beliefs as a coach and inspired my desire and attitude towards coaching and to develop a thirst for knowledge, “he added.

He then moved to a busy academy at a golf resort in Germany, enjoying moderate success on the EPD Tour in Austria and playing golf in South Africa in the winter, and “living the dream.”

“I worked with another British PGA professional John Parkinson who had learned his trade as an assistant to Pete Cowen at Lindrick and he helped guide me at a very important stage of my career.”

On trips back to the UK he used to pass Misterton, a nine-hole course in North Notts, as he made his way back to Hull to catch the ferry. When he decided to return home in 2008 he approached the owner, a local butcher, and asked if he could teach there.

“It was a great facility, a real little gem of a course and I started a pro shop in a Portakabin, but did it out really nicely and it just took off.”

So did his reputation as a teacher and he was soon head coach for all levels of junior golf in Notts, which gave him great satisfaction having started the game at Retford Golf Club.

The local pub was the clubhouse and the village hall was pressed into action for strength and conditioning  work on his pupils, but he had found a blueprint that was ahead of its time and when his under-18s won the four counties title for the first time in many years against  teams that included the likes of Tommy Fleetwood, Bell knew he was onto something.

He continued to coach players like Luke Jackson who was in the victorious Under-18 side and now plies his trade on the PGA EuroPro circuit, but he found national recognition when factory worker John Singleton qualified for the Open at Hoylake in 2014.

Singleton’s story is equally as compelling, as Bell recalls.

“The Press really jumped on the bandwagon when they found out John was working in a factory and heralded him as a working-class hero when he won the final qualifying at Hillside, especially since he was a Scouser,” said Bell.

“But he had been a very good college player in the US and had played a few events on the PGA Tour before he had a freak accident. He snapped his cruciate getting out of a car before he was due to play the first round of a tournament and then, incredibly, as he tried to support himself his other cruciate snapped.

“He came back to the UK to rehabilitate and when he was ready to play again we started to work together. After Hoylake I didn’t hear from him for three  years. He joined a management company and I think he got caught up in the whirlwind of the Open, but we are back working together and he’s a phenomenal player and still has the ability to make it.”

 Bell’s  ‘lightbulb’ moment came when he met Zen founder Nick Middleton who introduced him to Zen Golf’s mind-body-motion philosophy.

“The more I heard the more I wanted to know and when I started to research biomechanics I knew I had to understand the subject better, so I went along to Hallam University and after talking to them started a Masters Degree in Sports Biomechanics.”

Bell knew he would be pushing his academic boundaries.

“It was daunting at first as I hadn’t done anything academically since flunking my A-levels because I was too interested in sport and played both cricket and golf at county level.

“I had the pro shop at Misterton, which was a full-time job, and a pregnant partner, but they were really supportive and gave me four years rather than two to complete the Masters.”

He graduated in 2012 and now works for the University as a consultant in 3D analysis.

Bell has disciples new and old based on his premise that the concept works for everybody irrespective of age and ability.

His pupils include several high-profile players including European Tour winner Mark Foster, who like Bell cut his teeth as a junior at Worksop Golf Club, and former professional footballer Lee Sharpe.

He is also the biomechanics and conditioning coach for the Yorkshire Boys’ B squad.

Middleton was instrumental in introducing Alex Belt to Bell and they have been working together for a couple of years with the role of the feet in the swing forming the basis of their work.

Belt, who is currently competing on the PGA Tour China, said: “Marcus is unique in my mind due to his credentials in the academic world, his thirst for learning and his applied research in the field.”

His latest devotee is Yorkshire PGA Secretary and former English amateur champion Aran Wainwright, who described his first meeting with Bell as a “breath of fresh air” as within 10 minutes he was getting into positions that he had not seen since he was 17, which is an indication of how quickly changes can emerge.

Mind Factor founder Karl Morris, who is widely regarded as Europe’s leading mind coach, believes Bell ‘looks at golf through a different lens’, adding: “This is an exciting development, something I haven’t seen in the best part of 30 years of being involved in the game.”

Perhaps the last word should go to Rory McIlroy who immediately after his win in the Arnold Palmer invitational said: “I freed up and didn’t think about mechanics. I used visualisation and reacted to my target, pretty much what sport psychologists say.”

Perhaps Bell is on the right path after all.

Marcus Bell (centre) will pupils Lee Sharpe (left) and Alex Belt.

Continued from facing page

the back of the shop whilst Howard would analyse Padraig’s swing by drawing lines on the screen. Obviously I knew nothing, but that showed what a warm and fantastic person Howard was by making me feel a part of it.

“Looking back, this was a golden time for a young trainee to be immersed in such an environment and it was those days at Newark that inspired me and set me off on my path as a coach.”

He was also influenced by Lindrick professional John King, who is another hugely respected figure in the coaching world.

“It was under John’s tutelage that I was encouraged and helped to develop my coaching,” Bell continued. “John played a huge part in shaping my beliefs as a coach and inspired my desire and attitude towards coaching and to develop a thirst for knowledge, “he added.

He then moved to a busy academy at a golf resort in Germany, enjoying moderate success on the EPD Tour in Austria and playing golf in South Africa in the winter, and “living the dream.”

“I worked with another British PGA professional John Parkinson who had learned his trade as an assistant to Pete Cowen at Lindrick and he helped guide me at a very important stage of my career.”

On trips back to the UK he used to pass Misterton, a nine-hole course in North Notts, as he made his way back to Hull to catch the ferry. When he decided to return home in 2008 he approached the owner, a local butcher, and asked if he could teach there.

“It was a great facility, a real little gem of a course and I started a pro shop in a Portakabin, but did it out really nicely and it just took off.”

So did his reputation as a teacher and he was soon head coach for all levels of junior golf in Notts, which gave him great satisfaction having started the game at Retford Golf Club.

The local pub was the clubhouse and the village hall was pressed into action for strength and conditioning  work on his pupils, but he had found a blueprint that was ahead of its time and when his under-18s won the four counties title for the first time in many years against  teams that included the likes of Tommy Fleetwood, Bell knew he was onto something.

He continued to coach players like Luke Jackson who was in the victorious Under-18 side and now plies his trade on the PGA EuroPro circuit, but he found national recognition when factory worker John Singleton qualified for the Open at Hoylake in 2014.

Singleton’s story is equally as compelling, as Bell recalls.

“The Press really jumped on the bandwagon when they found out John was working in a factory and heralded him as a working-class hero when he won the final qualifying at Hillside, especially since he was a Scouser,” said Bell.

“But he had been a very good college player in the US and had played a few events on the PGA Tour before he had a freak accident. He snapped his cruciate getting out of a car before he was due to play the first round of a tournament and then, incredibly, as he tried to support himself his other cruciate snapped.

“He came back to the UK to rehabilitate and when he was ready to play again we started to work together. After Hoylake I didn’t hear from him for three  years. He joined a management company and I think he got caught up in the whirlwind of the Open, but we are back working together and he’s a phenomenal player and still has the ability to make it.”

 Bell’s  ‘lightbulb’ moment came when he met Zen founder Nick Middleton who introduced him to Zen Golf’s mind-body-motion philosophy.

“The more I heard the more I wanted to know and when I started to research biomechanics I knew I had to understand the subject better, so I went along to Hallam University and after talking to them started a Masters Degree in Sports Biomechanics.”

Bell knew he would be pushing his academic boundaries. “It was daunting at first as I hadn’t done anything academically since flunking my A-levels because I was too interested in sport and played both cricket and golf at county level.

“I had the pro shop at Misterton, which was a full-time job, and a pregnant partner, but they were really supportive and gave me four years rather than two to complete the Masters.”

He graduated in 2012 and now works for the University as a consultant in 3D analysis.

Bell has disciples new and old based on his premise that the concept works for everybody irrespective of age and ability.

His pupils include several high-profile players including European Tour winner Mark Foster, who like Bell cut his teeth as a junior at Worksop Golf Club, and former professional footballer Lee Sharpe.

He is also the biomechanics and conditioning coach for the Yorkshire Boys’ B squad.

Middleton was instrumental in introducing Alex Belt to Bell and they have been working together for a couple of years with the role of the feet in the swing forming the basis of their work.

Belt, who is currently competing on the PGA Tour China, said: “Marcus is unique in my mind due to his credentials in the academic world, his thirst for learning and his applied research in the field.”

His latest devotee is Yorkshire PGA Secretary and former English amateur champion Aran Wainwright, who described his first meeting with Bell as a “breath of fresh air” as within 10 minutes he was getting into positions that he had not seen since he was 17, which is an indication of how quickly changes can emerge.

Mind Factor founder Karl Morris, who is widely regarded as Europe’s leading mind coach, believes Bell ‘looks at golf through a different lens’, adding: “This is an exciting development, something I haven’t seen in the best part of 30 years of being involved in the game.”

Perhaps the last word should go to Rory McIlroy who immediately after his win in the Arnold Palmer invitational said: “I freed up and didn’t think about mechanics. I used visualisation and reacted to my target, pretty much what sport psychologists say.”

Marcus Bell (centre) will pupils Lee Sharpe (left) and Alex Belt.

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