Tim Barter - My Journey from club pro to renowned golf coach and popular TV presenter

Tim Barter - My Journey from club pro to renowned golf coach and popular TV presenter


Tim Barter has been part of the Sky Sports Golf fabric for the past 31 years. He was part of their first-ever European Tour broadcast and, in the early days, found a way to combine it with his club pro job at Botley Park, in Southampton.

When the Sky job grew in scale, Barter went full-time with the broadcaster and, throughout the past three decades, he has educated and informed audiences, making us laugh and even cry on occasions. He is a friendly face for all the players whether interviewing them during or after a round.

As a coach, he has worked with the likes of Seve Ballesteros, Darren Clarke and Andrew Coltart. The main constant has been Richard Bland, with whom Barter has enjoyed a 21-year partnership which peaked at The Belfry in 2021 when the Englishman recorded a maiden win on his 478th tour start at the British Masters. The tearful post-round interview, conducted by his coach, was one of the highlights of the golfing year.

Where do your skills lie as a coach?

I feel I’m at my best coaching club players. I like to keep things simple and easy to understand. I never wanted to coach tour players and I had no ambition to do so. There are some coaches who focus on that elite level – to me they’re like Harley Street specialists whose knowledge allows them to fine-tune the best in the game.

I started as an assistant at The Downshire GC in Berkshire aged 16. At 19 I won my tour card and planned to ease Seve and Co aside but quickly realised I didn’t have the talent to do so. Being ambitious, I turned my attention to becoming a top-class club pro. I worked for a great professional called Roger Mace whose speciality was merchandising and he ran a very successful shop. He was a merchandising lecturer for The PGA so I was brilliantly taught in that respect. I had been lucky enough to work under a guy who taught me how to repair clubs to a high standard, I played well enough to be competitive as a club pro but needed to strengthen my coaching which I considered a weakness.

Whose brains would you pick while you were learning your trade?

I wrote to a lot of the best coaches in the world and asked them whether I could come and watch them work. I’d read books and watched videos but I needed to actually go and see how the best coaches actually did it. To a man, they allowed me to do it. A couple of them charged me, most of them didn’t. I went to America and watched David Leadbetter, Chuck Cook, Hank Haney and in the UK the likes of John Jacobs, John Sterling and Ian Connelly. I just sat and watched them teach and formulated my own style of teaching. I now felt ready and got my first club pro job at Hartley Wintney in 1983. I quickly got a reputation as a good teacher, which I didn’t really expect. I then got into the county and national set-ups. 

What made you stand out?

I think my ability to communicate is probably my best asset. People seem to understand the way I put things and I worked hard at trying to find lots of different ways to put the message across. Everyone learns differently – some by listening and having things explained, others from feelings and images. So that is where I put a lot of my energy and that appears to have been key. I got into TV because they wanted a coaching mind as part of the Sky team.

In your career interviewing, which wins have stayed with you?

When Justin Rose won the US Open at Merion in 2013, that was big. I’ve known Justin since he was seven or eight when he was at North Hants and I coached him a little bit when he was part of the Hampshire juniors. I knew his dad, Ken, well – he was a brilliant guy who did a great job on him. When Justin won the Order of Merit at Valderrama I was there to interview him so that was special.

The US Open was a funny one. Generally, when a player wins a Major, there is a very strict protocol that has to be followed over who gets to talk to them first. Phil Mickelson was coming up the last, and Justin was in a sort of holding position in the scorer’s area, and my producer said to try and get hold of Justin because it looked like he was going to win his first Major. I was looking through the window and one of the officials came out and said “no, no, no, don’t even think about it” as the American host broadcaster was always given the first interview. At which point, Justin came outside and said “Barty did you want me?” and told the official that it was fine as we’d been mates for 100 years. So that was terrific, we had a lovely interview and we talked about the gesture of looking up to the sky and saying ‘hey Dad, we did it’.

I get emotional now thinking about it. Unfortunately, when players get emotional so do I. I cry a lot.

You and Jose Maria Olazabal have also shared some special moments?

I had two massive blubs at the 2012 Ryder Cup with Jose Maria. I had developed a close relationship with him over the years and particularly in the run-up to that Ryder Cup. The Miracle at Medinah comeback was completely and utterly ridiculous and being close to him and knowing what it meant to him made me emotional too. I knew through the grapevine that they were going to wear images of Seve on their shirts on the Sunday and that when I asked him before the singles about Seve, which I had to do journalistically, I knew that he would lose it. So I saved that for the end and he just burst into tears, couldn’t speak. That then set me off and I burst into tears and could not stop crying. Then when Europe won I asked how it felt to lead his team to victory in such dramatic fashion he just looked at the skies and says: “This one is for him!”. His hat went over his face and he’s in floods of tears. I’m incredibly privileged to be in that position.

What do you remember about coaching Seve?

The first time I coached Seve was at a corporate day. Ewan suggested to Seve that I look at his swing as he was struggling. Seve quite liked what I said, we ended up doing a little bit of work together and he played a bit better which was nice. Then at the Spanish Open in Madrid in 1995 Seve was asking Ken Brown about his swing. Ken would acknowledge his expertise is more in the short game and he spotted me and, again, suggested that I got involved.

In short, Seve had misdiagnosed what he was doing wrong. His destructive shot was a pull hook, which is often caused by an out-to-in swing path, with a closed face to that path, and Seve assumed it was and was working on swinging more to the right. But there are occasions where an extremely closed face can cause the ball to start left even when the swing path is to the right – and this was the case here.

I explained this but he needed proof so I placed a headcover just outside the ball, blocking an out-to-in swing path. He flushed the first shot dead straight and said: “You’re a very clever man. You have cured me but you are completely wrong in your analysis, you have put the headcover down to prove I’m not swinging to the left, but seeing it there stops me swinging left and the ball goes straight.”

I explained the shot was a one off and asked him to hit some more and, before long, he hit one of the pull hooks, starting 40 yards left with hook and the headcover was still sitting there. I repeated that it was a double closed clubface and that he wasn’t swinging to the left as he would have hit the headcover.

“Maybe I came over the headcover?” I politely pointed out that he’d picked the ball cleanly off the tee and, had he come at a steep enough angle to come over the headcover, he would have squashed the tee into the ground. Then we started to work on fixing it. He actually won the tournament, and I’m not saying he hit everything dead straight but he played a little bit better than he would have done and it was a dream come true to coach my hero. It turned out to be his last win as a professional.

What is most worth paying attention to when watching the tour pros?

I had one guy who wanted to join a very famous club and he was having a playing audition. He told me that I had 10 days to make him at least look like a 10-handicap player because that’s what he told them he was. He was actually nearer 20. I chose to spend 10 days working on his short game as I knew we could make an instant impact on his scoring and give him a chance. On the day, his pitching, chipping and putting were sharp, he shot 12 over – his best ever round – and they let him in.

So I would say if you are going to watch a tournament, pay particular attention to their short games. Go and watch them on the practice greens, take a mental note of how they set up to different shots and copy it. You can’t build a good house on poor foundations.

Who would you have a lesson with?

Butch Harmon – all day long. He is a great friend, but he is a wonderful coach. He has this incredible knowledge but he just keeps it very simple. I listen to people talking about his coaching, and they say it is too simplistic – how can you be too simplistic? I have watched the evolution of people’s swings under him and it is just a gentle improvement. It ends up looking, quite often, reasonably different but it is a gentle process and done in the right way to keep them playable while he works with them. He would be the guy that suits me personally. If you are a player who likes intricate detail, then Pete Cowen is hard to beat. Pete has an incredible knowledge and he’s taught me a lot about the swing.


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