Sunday, September 4, 2011

20 Questions with Darren Hopwood

I'm really excited about my next 20 Question with interview. I decided to go across the pond and get another perspective. Age 39, Darren Hopwood is the PGA UK Head Professional at Penwortham Golf Club in Preston.
Since turning professional in 1996 Darren’s main duties have been as a Club & Teaching Professional in and around the North of England, however as a player he did enjoy some success on the mini tours in and around the UK as well as national PGA events, providing him with a well rounded perspective of the game. Along with improving his students mechanics Darren is also keen to work on the mental game and is a qualified mental skills coach his main goal with any student is to make them a better player, not just a better swinger.

It’s safe to say that Darren is a Stack and Tiltist. As in cultist ;-) He coaches all levels of golfers and focuses on teaching and coaching players to play golf and not just improve the golf swing.

A big fan of The New Ball Flight Laws, Darren’s influences include, Andy Plummer, Butch Harmon, Jamie Edwards, Dave Pelz, Ben Hogan, and Seve Ballesteros.

  1. What are the biggest misconceptions Americans in general have about golf courses in the UK, in particular the Open Championship Rotation?

Depends on the player, Ask Tom Watson and you’ll get a totally different answer than from Bubba Watson, the more you play them the more you love them but they can’t be learned in a week so keep coming guys. Having played the majority of the courses on our Rota I can say with confidence that the conditions and challenge offered are (although different) second to none. Best for me would be a tie between St Andrews & Royal Birkdale.

  1. What do you think Americans fail to understand about how we are perceived across the pond as it relates to sportsmanship.

I'd tend to say that, in my own experience, the Americans in general get an unfair deal in regards to this, most of the players attending The Open or other events (including the Ryder Cup) conduct themselves impeccably. Yes there is the odd “situation” but I think that’s true on both sides of the pond. My main criticism of the  American players as a whole would relate to the amount of travel outside the US the majority partake in.

  1. How bad do you guys want to pound us in the Ryder Cup?

You are kidding right? We want to whoop you bad (and id imagine you boys want the same) that’s the way Ryder Cup is and always should be.

  1. Why do you think American players are not on the same level as the rest of the world?

 First of all id say you have got a lot of good players however the PGA Tour is no longer an American strong hold therefore players from overseas now feature more heavily in the tours top 50. I think the initial reaction most people have is to question the toughness of the American players although I personally don’t think that’s the case, my own take would be that the vast majority of American Players are not as well traveled as the Asians, Europeans Australians etc as a result they lack somewhat in regards to their Golfing education. Add to that a massively different demographic within your tour and peoples perception of the American players is bound to be different.

  1. How would you rate the countries in order of dominance on the world golf stage?
America, Britain, Northern Ireland, Ireland, Spain, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Scotland, Korea, Japan, The rest ( Canada, Germany, Mexico, South America )

Tricky as in depends on what you base the rankings on. At the moment the world rankings suggest a European dominance within the top 10 however does that then transcend down to the top 100? Do you look at Majors or week to week events? My own feelings would be in regards to dominance would be:
1: Europe 2: America 3: South Africa 4: Asia 5: Australasia 6: South America.

This is based more on week to week over last few seasons. (Maybe the stats show different but that’s my perception of events)

  1. The Office UK or The Office US?

Neither, much prefer Family guy ! Stewie G all the way for me.

  1. Who is the best teacher in the world?

I would have to select Andy Plummer & Mike Bennett however as a European I do feel that Pete Cowan is way underrated your side of the pond. Ultimately I’m not a fan of such polls as it is heavily biased on what works for each student.

  1. Who is the best teacher in America?

See number 7

  1. Of the Eight areas of the game, list them in order of importance of scoring 1 through 8

2. Course/Game Management
3.Ball Striking (I'm a S&T guy this is a fundamentalJ)
4. Putting
5. Chipping and Pitching inside 50 yards
6. Wedge Game
7. Fairway Woods and Hybrids
8. Specialty Shots

  1. Jack or Tiger?


  1. What’s the most important major championship as it pertains to boosting a players career?

 In regards to boosting his career worldwide I’d say the Masters

  1. Open Championship or Ryder Cup?

Open Championship

  1. US Open or Masters?
  1. Zeppelin or Stones?

  1. Path or clubface?
 Both (bit like France without Paris)

  1. You have a golfer come in off the street and he is out side in 15 degrees, Coming right over the top of it and hitting a 30 yards pull slice. How do you go about correcting that?

First port of call in this situation would be to explain what is going on at impact and clarify what actually starts the ball and what actually bends the ball so that the student has a better understanding of impact and what is required of them. Once the understanding is there then id begin work on improving his overall action

As with any golfer the changes applied depend on the individual and his/her tendencies ball location, weight location, basic movement etc would all be assessed before moving on however the bulk of the work initially would relate to path & face.

Path or face 1st ?  in this situation I’d have to say a little of both, my initial suggestion would be to calm the clubface down so that the “need” to come across the ball is reduced, however at the same time I would be blocking the outside so as to improve the path. The remainder of the session and changes made would then depend heavily on the student’s reaction to the initial changes. Some guys get it straight away others take more “convincing”.

  1. What’s all the rage in regards to technology in European instruction?
More and more coaches now use FlightScope or Trackman as an integral part of their coaching, The Online support is becoming increasingly popular and beneficial. K-Vest & other 3-D analysis is available however not at most facilities.

  1. Why do you think there is so much criticism of Stack and Tilt and is it as hostile in Europe?

Stack & Tilt is criticized largely due to individual’s ignorance and or unwillingness to embrace new information. If you ask most coaches and so called “experts” to explain the basic pattern they would be so far off its untrue, or would decline (based on a lack of knowledge). I think that one of the main criticisms S&T encounters relates to its “unsuitability to hitting Driver” this is largely due to the void of information out there relating to the changes required to hit Driver within the pattern, things are also is not helped by the media’s constant misrepresentation of the method.

  1. Would you rather qualify for the Open Championship as a player or have a student qualify for the European Tour?

That’s cruel !! I’m going to be honest and say both, however ones “the dream” and the other is more of a reality. As a Coach getting a student on tour would be very satisfying especially if the student was someone whom I’ve worked with from the very beginning.

  1. Coach or Teacher?


Bonus Question-
In regards to putting, what’s most important- Stroke mechanics or Green reading and alignment?
Green reading (provided there is a basic stroke in place)

Double Bonus  Question-
Is there any such thing as golf specific fitness training or is that like saying jumbo shrimp ? J  Before you answer, I’m a TPI guy.

Lol …..Jumbo shrimp please ;-)

Yes there is golf specific training, as to how much of an impact this would have on the overall performance of a player would depend heavily on the individual. I think the biggest impact such training can have is on injury prevention and longevity, I know the TPI guys will not like me when I say this but I think it’s a bit over played at the moment in regards to its overall impact on a players score.

I want to apologize to Darren for just now getting around to publishing this interview. He was kind enough to take the time to allow me to conduct it nearly two months ago. I really appreciate his time attention.


  1. Nice.

    Still my favorite stuff online.


  2. At age 69 I'm a late convert to stack and tilt but as a retired doctor am convinced about its rationale and evidence base. Darren Hopwood, for me, is as good as it gets in explaining in simple terms what stack and tilt is all about and how to apply it to your own game. Keep up the good work, Darren.