30 Years of Paul Girvan at the Kings Links Golf Centre
30 Years of Paul Girvan at the Kings Links Golf Centre
Headhunted by Bruce Davidson in 1990, Paul Girvan has been a constant in an ever-changing business. Now Director of Golf and overseeing the entire business, Paul has witnessed first hand the changes in golf, golfers and golf technology. We thought we’d delve into the mind that makes the Kings Links tick!
In your 30 years, what are the biggest changes at KLGC and what has remained the same?
Prior to the internet we the professionals held all the information related to product information. Everyone now has the very latest information on the newest equipment at the touch of a button. People's buying habits have changed but thankfully due to our price match promise we can match the internet's price. Custom fitting has made a huge difference to our customers when purchasing new equipment. This process gives them the very best chance of improving their performance and enjoying their game. In years gone by everyone pretty much used the same heads, lofts and shafts.
How have golfers changed over the last 30 years?
The Golf Professionals of today have a lot to thank the likes of David Leadbetter and Butch Harmon. They were both instrumental in making golf tuition popular. Generally golfers have more knowledge than before and do take the odd lesson but not nearly enough in my opinion. A golf swing is invisible to the player so without the help of a good professional bad habits are inevitable.
How has the market in the north east changed over the years?
Wow this is a big one! When I first came to Aberdeen golf clubs were much the same as the ones I had left in the Prestwick/Ayr/Glasgow area. They were bursting with golfers in all age categories. Joining fees were the norm, waiting lists were expected and every golf club had healthy junior sections. So much so the Scottish Boys under 18 match-play championship back then had a handicap limit of 4! We used to sponsor the Junior Pennant League run brilliantly by Gordon Murray. It wasn't unusual for a club to enter 2 teams such was the pot to choose from. Sadly it’s a very different story today with most clubs struggling financially, no joining fees, no waiting lists and very few junior members.
Has technology made coaching easier or more difficult?
I've always been of the opinion that less is more. Yes technology has made coaching easier for the instructor and easier for the student to understand whether it be through video analysis or trackman data. Just the same as advancements in the medical world where the specialist can diagnose problems and advise treatment. We have never been in a better place to give an excellent golf lesson and just as important, keeping the advice simple!
Top 5 golfers you’ve coached at KLGC and why?
Scott Henderson - Arguably one of the best ball strikers Scotland has produced. There are fewer greater achievements in golf than playing in the Open Championship. Scotty has played in 3. Having witnessed him playing with the worlds best in the Open and out-playing them for the most tells that not only does he possess great ball striking ability but a strong mental game to boot.
David Thomson - Technically as good as it gets, wide and short backswing! Just prior to Davy playing on the European Tour in the early 90's he 'had the secret'. His ability to hit long irons (1and 2 irons ) miles in the air coming down 'like a butterfly with sore feet' was exceptional. He came into his own when the fairways and greens were hard and fast and could therefore stop the ball where others could not.
Craig Cassels - Walker Cup player from Cruden Bay. One of those 'to die for' elegant golf swings. Completely effortless power with a slow motion like rhythm, never forced. Whist practicing on the practice ground at Wentwoth during the PGA Championship back in the 90's, Sir Nick Faldo and others would halt in their tracks to stop and watch Craig clip a few effortless mid irons, such was the purity of his action and ball striking.
Michelle Thomson - Michelle worked for us back in naughties as retail assistant. Not that she required much help but I did have the odd look at her swing. She was always a head turner on the range! The ball flight and quality of strike as the ball fizzed away wasn't that of a young girl but more of a professional on the mens tour! Michelle is now doing very well on the ladies European Tour.
Bruce Davidson - The boss! It was down to Bruce that the Kings Links Golf Centre came to be. With the help of a few investors he created which at the time was one of the largest off course facilities in the UK. Not only was he an entrepreneur but he was (and still is) an awfully good golfer, a smart golfer! I could count on one hand the number of bad decisions or really bad shots he ever hit in lessons or on the golf course. It was always the correct shot with the correct club, like Jack Nicklaus there was never a mental error. Bruce always seemed to play within himself, took all the pressure off himself, which is a talent in itself!
Top 5 celebrities who have been to KLGC?
Steve Elkington - USPGA Champion and 2 time winner of The Players Championship
Tom Weiskof - Open Champion and winner of 16 US Tour events.
Dick Harmon - Butch's brother. Coach to many US Tour players, Fred Couples for one. Sadly no longer with us.
Claude Harmon III - Butch's son. Coach to Dustin Johnson & Brooks Koepka.
Doug Sanders - Open Champion runner-up to Jack Nicklaus. The guy who missed 'that putt' at the 18th at St. Andrews.
What is your favourite golf swing?
Over the years there have been so many swings to admire, from way back in the 1940's like Sam Snead to current day Justin Rose.
For me I'd be hard pushed to choose between these though: Ben Hogan / Tiger Woods / Louis Oosthuizen / Seve.
If I had to choose one it would be Tiger.
Drive for show or putt for dough?
You cannot compete at any level without being able to hit the ball a fair distance off the tee but to putt well is the absolute key.
A consistently good putter, that is to average around 29/30 putts per round, is a match for anyone irrespective how far or straight they hit it off the tee.
18 pars, birdie run or Albatross?
I once had 18 straight pars at an assistants tournement at Ladybank GC. Never done it since.
Best birdie run - i've had 6 birdies on the bounce a few times. Royal Lytham & St. Annes was most the satisfying.
Albatross - 1 (5th @ Royal Aberdeen G.C.) using a hybrid.
Top 5 golf clubs that changed the industry?
Ping Anser putter - Heel and Toe weighted putter. The club that put the company on the map, Karsten's wife suggested leaving the 'w' out so the name would fit on the putter's toe! It has won more that 500 pro events and 26 majors.
Ping Eye 2 irons - Held 35% of the market between mid 80's and 90's. First square grooves and a sensation among amateurs.
Callaway Big Bertha - Exploded onto the market in 1991, it's 190cc head was radically larger that anything else on the market.
TaylorMade R7 Quad - Introduced in 2004 this driver 410cc offered adjustable weights in the clubhead which created 6 different launch conditions. Most companies use this technology today in shape or form in their 460cc capped heads.
Hybrid / Rescue - A cross between a long iron and a fairway wood, hollow head construction, wide sole and short shafts. Long irons are rarely seen in the average players bags as these long iron replacements are so much more forgiving and easier to extricate from light rough.
Funniest moment you’ve seen at KLGC in the last 30 years?
Difficult to single one out as there have been so many belters over the years but watching my colleague Spike in a left handed golf ball throwing competition still has me in tears!
The biggest technological advancement in your 30 years?
Apart from larger metal heads and golf ball technology there have been so many amazing advancements in the golf industry. We have always tried to offer our customers the best experience possible. Here are a few advancements we have made in chronological order.
1st would have been our original video academy back in the early 90's where we used VHS tapes and played back drawing lines on a tv screen. Now we offer V1 video computerised software. The video lesson can be emailed to the students home computer. 2nd would have been a Vector launch monitor in the early days of custom fitting, moving onto Flightscope and now the super accurate TrackMan launch monitors. This ensures the customer are buying the correct equipment for his/her size and ability. But without a question the biggest advancement we have ever had is the recently installation of TrackMan Range. It's like having your own personal TrackMan every time you practice. In fact it's so new I haven't tried it yet due to the lockdown.
Where will you be in 10 years?!
No idea! Hopefully above ground doing the same job, surrounded by great people and helping customers enjoy their passion even more.
The Staff (past and present)
Steven Strachan aka Spike.
Chris Law / Hamish Love
Scott Henderson / Chris Law
Scott Henderson / Billy Fyfe / Ryan Penny
Best custom fitter?
Steven Strachan / Iain Fleming