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Robert Rock: Balancing the role of player and coach in Scotland

Robert Rock: Balancing the role of player and coach in Scotland

Robert Rock’s balancing act as both a player and coach continues at The Renaissance Club this week as he remains in contention at the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open.

Robert Rock

In recent years, Rock has become widely regarded as a coach to a number of players on Tour but it’s a role he only resumed in person this week, which marked the first time coaches have been permitted to enter the ‘Tournament Bubble’.

The two-time European Tour winner doesn’t work alone, but rather enlists the help of Liam James and Benn Barham to help coach a group which had reached nearly 20 players.

“Well, before everything changed, we had quite a good group of players, nearly up to 20 players,” explained Rock.

“It wasn't just me. I've got Liam James and Benn Barham that have been helping me. And they did more of the work than I did really because once they started coming out on the road with me, they were able to say yes to a few more people. So we ended up with quite a large group.

“We weren't seeing all of them - this is the first week coaches have been allowed back. Liam is here, Benn is coming next week, and we'll see what the guys feel like. They've been looking after their own games really for the last few months, and some might like that, some might be dying to see coaches again and start planning for next season. We'll see. It's a good group. I think it's possible that it might change, I might decide on other plans, but we need to have a chat about what these tournaments are going to be like.”

Robert Rock (2)

For Rock, who is playing his 19th season on the European Tour this year, the role of coach has had something of a dual benefit for him on the course too.

“Yes. Definitely,” he replied when asked if helping others has improved his own game.

“Because you get a little bit closer to really great players. Normally, up to a few years ago, you're watching a little bit from afar and how players do things. And it's different watching from 15 yards away and being right there, practicing with them, playing with them, asking them questions that you might not otherwise do. So it's been useful, all around golf education has been great.”

Rock, who also coaches himself, said he has managed to find a balance by putting work into his own swing before turning up to tournaments.

“I generally do all my swing work at home before I travel.

“The last few weeks it's been really working at home on Monday and Tuesdays and I've been arriving on Wednesday morning, so I'll practise at home, just video my swing, hit a few shots, what it feels like, and I like to have my mind made up on what I'm going to concentrate on for the week. And I've done that for the last maybe ten years or so.”

It's a great feeling watching somebody that you've maybe contributed a little bit to

Writing in his European Tour player blog earlier in the year, the 43-year-old Englishman said becoming a coach had always been part of his long-term plan in professional golf.

"My amateur career wasn't great, so I knew I was going to be a coach one day," he wrote.

My background was in coaching, I started off as a club pro, and during my amateur career I felt there wasn’t anything there that showed I could be a professional. I knew I could win money in smaller events but doing it on this stage for twenty years, I’d never have thought that, so my plan was to be a coach because I’d always worked on my own game and always studied. I wasn’t in county golf squads or getting England coaching, so your choices are paying for lessons, which for a young pro are expensive, or you learn it yourself and that was the only option really for me. So, I learnt as much as I could, through books, watching, listening, then I got to play out here surrounded by the best coaches and best players, so I kept my eyes and ears open.”

"Before I came out on Tour I'd only had a couple of lesson. had one or two from local pros growing up but the people you want lessons from, your David Leadbetters and Butch Harmons, was just unrealistic. They’re busy and expensive. So, I learnt through the best way I could – just for my own benefit. I also thought it might help my teaching, which I was doing at the time, and then some of the pros started to trust my opinion after seeing the work I put in over the years. Sometimes as a golfer you get a little confused as to what you want to work on and you want to be able to ask somebody, so I guess I was the fella who was around who would give an honest opinion and it’s gone from there really.”

And while he still puts a huge amount of focus into his own game, Rock also admitted that watching others he has worked with enjoy their own success has been a ‘great feeling’ for him.

“The best feeling, of course, is winning tournaments, and that's why we play. But it's a great feeling watching somebody that you've maybe contributed a little bit to, watch them have a good bounce in, the enjoyment in that.”

It’s evident than managing to split his time between these roles is a fine balancing act of investing focus, but it’s one that Rock has so far judged perfectly this week after once again finding himself near the top of the leaderboard at a Rolex Series event.

Rock, who produced a record-breaking round during last year’s Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Lahinch, said an attitude change about enjoying his own opportunity to play at the top level has helped him become more relaxed – something he became more keenly aware of thanks to Thomas Bjørn. 

“I’m playing while I've still got a chance to play.

“I'm getting a little bit older, so the years are ticking by. But while I've still got a chance, I've got to enjoy those. Thomas Bjørn has actually made me aware of that. As soon as you're over 50 or older, the chances are limited and you don't play as good as you did. So enjoy it while it's still there.

“I'm relaxed. I might not be playing many more Scottish Opens or Irish Opens, so I'm determined to enjoy them at least.”

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