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Culford pupils top class

2023 has provided a compelling endorsement of Culford School’s golf programme, devised and delivered by three full-time employees – all of whom happen to be PGA professionals.

Lawrence Dodd, Charlie Sadler and Adam Trett have overseen a year of incredible individual and team success by the Suffolk school’s pupils, both boys and girls. Culford’s two leading golf stars Tyler Weaver and Nellie Ong have made their mark in significant fashion on the national stage. Tyler, 18, won the Carris Trophy and Nellie, 17, was pipped in a play-off at the English Women’s Open Championship. Both went on to star in the Home 

Internationals – Tyler for England’s men and Nellie for England Under-18s. 

Other pupils have also recorded notable individual feats. And in team play, Culford won the Independent Schools Golf Association title. Clearly, the trio of PGA professionals are doing a lot of things right in nurturing elite juniors. Dodd heads the golf team, having launched the school’s programme to a handful of pupils in 2015. 

To say that it’s grown since is a serious understatement. Dodd, who was a Tour pro for a short stint, said: “We have 107 pupils taking part in golf at some point during the week. That’s everything from our five-year olds in pre-prep doing a fun plastic club session all the way up to our elite golfers.

“Anyone that takes an individual lesson while they’re at school, they’re on a programme. We have 53 pupils now that take a designated golf programme. That could be anything from one-hour-a week individual coaching all the way up to a high-performance package – 15 hours of golf a week. That’s two individual lessons and three group lessons. We’re just gradually getting bigger and bigger each year.”

So what is it that Culford’s golf programme is getting so right? Firstly, pupils have incredible facilities available; Culford has great access to two nearby golf courses, a spacious on-site range with covered and outdoor bays, a Huxley short-game area and a magnificent indoor studio with TrackMan and video/data capture to hand.

But it is the level of expertise that has taken Culford and its golfers to the next level. Dodd, Sadler and Trett work especially closely with the school’s strength and conditioning experts. And PGA knowledge in tandem with science is proving to be a powerful alliance. Regular tests of physical characteristics .– such as height and weight – allow the ‘S&C’ staff to forecast the Culford golfers’ respective rates of maturation and growth spurts. The insights have proved invaluable to Dodd when constructing each pupil’s bespoke programme, always mindful that the load has to be managed.

“We very much work on specific things based on their developmental ages and when these growth spurts hit,” said Dodd. “One of the biggest things for golf is the power element – how far the top guys and girls are hitting. So we try and target specific areas in and around their growth spurt windows to do lots of the speed development and skill-based stuff: ‘

Right you’re approaching your growth spurt, we’re just going to smash this golf ball. We’re not going to worry where it goes, but we’re going to learn how to hit it really hard.’ You gain more speed in and around that window than you will at any other point in your life. We know the further juniors can hit it – all golfers can hit it – the more scoring potential they have.”

Through his own work experiences in the past eight years at Culford and learning from the school’s strength and conditioning team – in particular its head James Earle – Dodd has understood that sudden growth not only offers a chance to increase distance-hitting, but also can offer challenges in other aspects of the game. In particular, a pupil’s touch may seem to have diminished. “It’s the fact that they’re growing really quite rapidly and 

co-ordination has gone out of the window,” explained Dodd. “So then you work that in…we won’t do as much of their finer, finesse kind of shots. We’ll just work on something else that best fits in with what’s happening with the body.” He also indicated that such times can toughen a young golfer’s resolve if they approach the challenge with the right level of focus and determination. 

Training golfers while they’re changing physically is the main difference Dodd has found from when he coached adults in the past. Another contrasting area is in the sheer amount of hours he gets to monitor and mentor his young pupils. The fine-detail is examined…sports psychology, weights and fitness training, even how to make up your own protein bars for the golf bag.

“We get so much time with them,” said Dodd. “Whereas you might see one adult client once a month on a normal coaching programme, we get to see them every single week, often for several hours a week. We can drip feed them more content over a longer period of time, so it feels like they’re constantly on this development path where they’re just creeping along, getting better and better. “I’m able to sit with them and look at their timetables and know what they’re doing in school, after school, know what homework commitments they’ve got. I get a real in-depth look at these children’s lives and can help them maximise their time, be more efficient in what they do. They’ve all got time available, they’ve all got bags of passion and they want to get better, so you don’t really have to push them that much.”

With the word now out there about the Culford golf success story, the programme is increasingly drawing pupils from far and wide. Dodd, Sadler and Trett are currently teaching children from – among other overseas territories – China, Germany and Mexico. The boy-girl balance is also becoming more equal. 

“It’s probably 60-something, 30-something now, which is encouraging,” said Dodd. “We’re getting lots more girls into golf and do girls-only sessions in the senior and prep school, although we mix them too.”

Dodd’s team takes a collaborative approach in the instances where their pupils may have an existing coach. However, in many instances it is the Culford professionals only to whom the children call on. So much so that Dodd keeps time in his working diary for alumni who have moved on to higher education or adult life. He also uses modern media platforms to help retain associations with former pupils that are internationally based.

“I never expect them to just because they’ve been here,” said Dodd, referring to the post-Culford tuition that he offers. “But if ever they request it, it’s always available to them. And I always appreciate it why they get back in touch.”

By Tony Rushmer | Images Leaderboard photography

Martin Webb is a keen amateur golfer and has been the editor of Suffolk Norfolk & Essex Golf Magazine since 2023.

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