Hillside leading the way off the course

Hillside leading the way off the course

03/08/2022

Lead coach Gareth Benson on how the North West club has now become a world-class facility off the course as well as on it.

Hillside has long been considered as one of the leading clubs in the UK with the course ranked in the upper echelons of any self-respecting Top 100 listing. Greg Norman famously wrote to the club after playing in the 1982 PGA Championship touting that the back nine holes at Hillside ‘are the best in Britain’. None other than Jack Nicklaus also singled out the back nine for special praise.

It forms part of a brilliant trio of courses, sitting in the middle of Royal Birkdale and Southport & Ainsdale, and it recently staged the highly successful Cazoo Clasic on the DP World Tour where Richie Ramsay claimed a dramatic victory over the local boy Paul Waring.

The course has undergone some changes in recent times, some sweeping and some subtle, while off the course it now boasts a world-class performance centre.

During the various lockdowns of the Covid pandemic Hillside used that time wisely to do a lot of the renovations and, when the golfers finally returned to the fairways at the end of March last year, the North West club were able to unveil their new state-of-the-art facility. 

Gareth Benson, a Top 50 coach with Today’s Golfer, would join the club in a newly-created role as lead coach from nearby Formby Hall. The expansion in the club’s teaching and fitting facilities required a new team and there are now four PGA teaching professionals.

“I’ve been involved in coaching at grass roots, county coaching and high-level coaching for 30 years now and I’ve always been involved with studios but this is on a different scale. We wanted to create a world-class teaching facility and we’ve built that now and, for me, it’s almost like a polished product of those 30 years.”

The club now boasts two studios on the driving range, a full-spec tournament grass tee, two indoor studios by the 1st tee - one for club fitting and one predominantly used for coaching – and there is all manner of technology with GASP and TrackMan systems, putting turf and cutting-edge 3D force plates which measure the pressure around your centre of mass.

This is one of only a handful of clubs that can boast the ground reaction plates and there are fewer than 20 all over the world.

“Most clubs would have to convert a trolley shed or have a room in the back of the shop but we’re lucky enough to have these purpose-built rooms by the side of the 1st tee. 

“The force plates are set in the ground and there are something like only 14 sets in the world, they’re the same as the ones that Bryson DeChambeau uses, and we’re right at the forefront of what’s going on. I’ll always update things and do what we need to do and we’ll make sure that it’s always straight out of the top drawer. Unless you’re a specific type of research centre there’s nowhere really better for high-level coaching and obviously we’re very proud of the facility.”

Hillside was able to open its doors to the DP World Tour players and coaches at the Cazoo Classic and they all liked what they saw. 

“A few coaches brought some players in and got some data from a force- plate perspective. Obviously a tournament week isn’t the time to be fiddling with anything too big so they would come in, hit a few balls and we collected some data for the coaches. The players were raving about the course and the feedback on the club and its facilities was first class. It couldn’t have gone any better really.”

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