If you ever wondered what goes on at the Darren Clarke Golf School, nestled away on the Greenmount Campus in Co Antrim, here’s your chance to find out, writes Cheryl Hamlyn.
The School runs numerous programmes, ranging from a full time, two-year Golf and Education Programme through to a one-year Golf Performance Programme where students have the opportunity to travel to either Florida or Spain, or both, during the winter months.
Two girls, who are completing their Transition Year programme at the School, recount their experiences.
Amy Condon, 16, Terenure:
“Last summer before I started at the Darren Clarke Golf School I was just going out and playing golf. When I say playing golf, I mean just going out on the golf course, hitting the ball and hoping for the best. My mind wasn’t in the game. You could say I wasn’t ‘in the zone’. Now when I go to play golf my mind is in the game, I’m focused and I have a game plan.
“In September 2012 I joined the Transition Year programme at the Darren Clarke Golf School. Throughout the year we have been coached by PGA Professional Jack Murgatroyd who clearly is so dedicated towards us. Jack puts his heart and soul into teaching us young golfers and I honestly feel we couldn’t have a better coach.
“If I had to choose one thing that I learnt from Jack about the game, it is to have a lot of patience. Last summer I had none. If I went out and hit a bad shot, I wouldn’t be able to just forget about it. Jack has taught us to be patient and how to enjoy playing golf even when you have an off day, since the start of the year I and my game have matured.
“The Darren Clarke Golf School has benefitted me in many ways. I have learnt that you can’t play golf without practising, having a game plan and concentrating, three important factors in the game of golf. I personally don’t think I would be where I am with my golf if it wasn’t for the School and the coaches. Had I not signed up to the Transition Year programme I don’t think I would be playing as much golf, I may have even given it up.
“I would rate the school 9/10 - I took a mark off as unfortunately during my time I have not had the opportunity to meet Darren Clarke himself which was disappointing. Otherwise, I have made great friends, especially fellow female students Caroline and Sophie but not to forget about the guys too! I personally have thoroughly enjoyed the Transition Year programme and absolutely love the Darren Clarke Golf School.”
DCGS coach Jack Murgatroyd said: “Amy’s greatest asset is her willingness to learn and her desire to be better. From day one Amy’s attitude and personality has been fantastic and her improvements are no surprise.”
Caroline Hewitt, 16, St Marys, Arklow:
“I was always interested in sport from basketball to gymnastics to GAA, I loved it all! When I was 13, I got involved in golf at Arklow Golf Club. From the moment I took the game up I was fascinated by the challenge that the game offers. Every day was different, every shot was different and there were so many facets to the game.
“Initially I had coaching from Ciaran Carroll, father of a current second year student, in Bray Golf Club. My game quickly developed and my handicap started coming down. I then read about the Darren Clarke Golf School online and was very keen to find out more.
“I persuaded my parents to go and visit the college in Antrim where I met the director of golf. He showed us the wonderful practice facilities the college had and we meet several full time students working on their game.
“The director of golf said the most important thing would be my attitude and hard work. I was accepted into the school and started training in September 2012.
“We got straight to work the first weekend we arrived. We met the other students, who quickly became good friends of mine, and started working on our swings. Jack Murgatroyd focused on improving all aspects of my game.
“He started by videoing my swing and made comparisons with Michelle Wie. He worked a lot on my chipping technique and taught me how to vary my shots around the green. The programme continued with two trips to Desert Springs in the south east of Spain for winter training, where the facilities were second to none.
“We had ten hour long days of non-stop training, practice, playing and fitness, and the competition was fierce! I even got to meet Trish Johnson who owns a villa in Desert Springs. It was a lot of fun and hard work!
“It’s been an exciting year, my game has improved dramatically and I am loving every moment that the game of golf provides as a challenge. I would recommend the Darren Clarke Golf School experience to anybody who has a desire to have a career in golf.”
DCGS Coach Jack Murgatroyd said: “As a coach to be around keen young golfers is a great joy. The students on both our Transition Year and full time programmes are all enthusiastic and willing to practise.
“The girls in the Transition Year programme have all got on so well that I think their own improvement has sky rocketed as a result, it is a very positive bunch of people and I know we will have a great last few sessions together.”