Dan Whitby-Smith is the head professional at Staffordshire-based Drayton Park and last year he represented Great Britain & Ireland against the United States in the PGA Cup.
What have been your proudest moments as a player so far?
I mainly play PGA Midland region events. I also play our Staffordshire events, so I’ve had quite a lot of wins in the region. I suppose the one thing I’ve done that no-one else has is that in Staffordshire we have the Open, the Stroke Play, the Order of Merit and the Match Play and a few years ago I was the first person to win all four in one year. In our county, we’ve had the likes of Peter Baker and David Gilford, so Ryder Cuppers and good players. Rob Rock was in the county years ago too, so it’s quite a nice claim that no-one else managed to do all four in one year.
What tournaments do you most look forward to on the schedule?
I always enjoy the PGA Professional Championship. I mainly play in the region, where the event is one day and we stay at home, so it’s always nice to play the national events, where you get to go away and spend five days away for a four-day tournament.
What would you say to other pros who want to play more but feel like they don’t have the time?
I would say delegate. I’ve got really good staff that work for me as well. I know some head pros try and do a lot themselves and perhaps only employ one assistant. I’ve got two very good assistants. I’ve got one other guy that helps out, and then I’m very fortunate my mum helps out on the accounts side too. I’m in quite a fortunate position, although I do a hell of a lot myself. Even when I’m away playing, I’m constantly on my phone messaging, but I can trust them to get on with certain things and to keep doing their tasks, as opposed to trying to do everything myself.
What do you love the most about coaching?
The main thing I enjoy is that every day is different. With coaching, I don’t specialise in good golfers or beginner golfers. I literally teach from plus handicap and pros to complete beginners, male or female, old or young. I get my enjoyment meeting different people, from different walks of life, every single day, and no two days are the same.
Can you give us a coaching success story?
I’ve had a few that have come to me as complete beginners as juniors. When I was working at Whittington, previously, Izzy is quite a good example. When I first started teaching Izzy, she’d never hit a golf ball before, and I think she’s down to two now and plays for the county. I think the majority of the lessons up here, with the demographic of the members, we’re teaching a lot of older guys that have played golf for years, and, although we’re looking to improve them, we have realistic expectations. You’re never going to turn one of them from an 18-handicapper into a scratch golfer. But those juniors, when you’re getting them from 10 or 11 years old, that have never hit a golf ball, you can mould them into a really good golfer.
What are your coaching principles?
You’ve got to put the time and effort in outside of the lessons. We can only do so much in a lesson, then it’s down to them to go and work on it. It’s that dedication from the individual as they expect the dedication from the coach. It’s working together to get to a goal as opposed to someone just feeling like coming for a lesson is going to be an instant fix.
What technology do you use?
For lessons and customer fits we’ve got TrackMan 4, so we’ve got an indoor studio. We use that for data collection and obviously we use video as well.
Who are your inspirations?
I’m a rugby fan and rugby was my main sport growing up. Jonny Wilkinson was my idol, and his dedication and obsession to be the best version of himself definitely inspired me.
What is your best teaching tip?
I think it’s getting the basics right. It’s pre-swing. If you’re getting yourself into a bad set-up, you’re having to play catch-up. Pre-swing, if you can set up a routine and get yourself in a good place, you’re giving yourself the best chance of actually making a decent swing.
What is the secret to productivity?
I think it’s good timekeeping and planning, then making yourself accountable. At times, we’re all not as productive as we’d like to be but analyse that performance to make sure you can improve. My time is scheduled two or three weeks in advance. Schedule everything in so you can hit times and make sure you complete everything you want to in a day.