Popular golf teaching Professional Ian Stafford was recently awarded the Fellow designation by the PGA. The Innishannon and Kinsale based pro has continued to invest in his continuing professional development and now becomes only the second PGA professional in Munster to hold the fellow status. Ian’s latest qualification was approved by the APAL process (Accreditation of Professional Achievement and Learning). Each application is considered by the APAL Council which consists of longstanding PGA Members, representatives of the R&A, the golf industry, an advisor from the university sector and two PGA Senior Staff members. On the island of Ireland there are currently over 500 PGA Professionals only 12 of which currently have Fellow status, with Stafford being the youngest to reach Fellow level at 36. This follows on Ian’s qualification as a Level 3 Advanced Coach which he achieved in 2016, and his motivation stems from one of the cornerstones of his teaching. “As a coach I’m always getting my players to set goals and help them find a pathway to achieve their goals” explained Ian, “I think if I’m the one demanding that then I need to be seen to be doing the same. The PGA pathway is a way to stand out in a very competitive industry.”
Stafford is a constant student, and his quest to continue improving his qualifications is ongoing. In the past few months he recently qualified as a PGA certified putting instructor, one of only two in Munster. In addition to specific coaching courses and exams, the PGA Pathway covers A Class, AA Class, Advanced, Fellow, Advanced Fellow and Master. Currently there are three advanced fellows and one master professional in Ireland. Stafford is now well into his second decade as a teaching professional and has had great success with club golfers, individual clients and ILGU and GUI elite teams. Since Ian qualified as a pro 15 years ago there have been some huge changes in equipment on and off the course. While technology has become embedded into the teaching element, Ian believes that the teacher still holds most of the cards. “With the advent of launch monitors (trackman etc) in the past number of years there has been a big shift towards coaches being a lot more technical in their approach to teaching which I don’t necessarily think is a good thing” said Stafford. “One of my core philosophies as a coach would be helping people obtain the lowest scores possible with the technique they have rather than trying to achieve perfect numbers on a launch monitor. Being technically proficient is very important but it is only one of a number of factors involved in making a golfer a better player and achieve lower scores consistently. I like to think of myself as a ‘golf coach’ rather than a ‘swing coach’. I think that one of the best advances I have seen in coaching is the invention of some of the scoring analyses systems, I use the Shots to Hole system which allows players to input what they have done in their rounds which allows me to analyse where the strengths and weaknesses lie in their game and we can make big improvements in scoring by adopting better strategies on the course before we even think about technique changes.”
While focusing on the coaching, Ian also has access to the latest technology, including a 240 frame per second slow motion camera, launch monitor and a new HMP putting stroke analyser to give players a better understanding of their own techniques. “When I qualified 14 years ago I could never have foreseen that you would be able to analyse what the club and ball were doing only using Doppler Radar readings so who knows where technology is going to take us in the next 15 years, my only hope is that as coaches we will continue to coach the individual rather than us becoming robotic and letting our approaches to coaching be dictated by what technology says. Advances in technology is a good thing but only if the information provided is used in the right way.” Although he’s kept busy with the three bases and the Kinsale, ILGU and GUI teams, Ian still has time for several individual clients, offering lessons in the Innishannon range as we as on course tuition on both Kinsale and Lee Valley.