Garth Milne is a Golf Fitness Specialist who is based at Fancourt in George and works with some of South Africa’s top golfers, including Dean Burmester and Garrick Higgo, as well as six-time major winner Nick Faldo.
Q: How would you describe what you do?
A: I work on improving the functionality of the human body so that a golfer has a greater ability to execute an efficiently-powerful golf swing. A golf coach will then be able to teach you the skill set to improve your golf, but that is very difficult to do if the student does not possess the physical ability to do so.
Q: What’s your business model and how do you generate your income?
A: I have two sources of income – direct consultation and training on a traditional, hourly basis, and building a team of wellness practitioners to support our academies. However, my primary source of income is selling my expertise to elite-level professional golfers. My elite professionals pay me a monthly retainer, supplemented with a percentage of their winnings. I, however, have to cover all my own costs of international travel to attend professional tournaments on the Sunshine, European and PGA Tours.
Q: Do you have any sponsors, and if so, what sort of return on investment can you offer them?
A: I am an ambassador for Callaway Golf as well as Cutter and Buck apparel. Being at the forefront of the golf wellness industry has its benefits. I am perceived as the expert in a sought-after and respected field. I engage regularly with PGA professionals, medical practitioners and high-level business people. My extensive travels within South Africa as well as across the globe create much valued exposure for brands with whom I am associated.
Q: What’s the commercial relationship between Wanna Be A Champion and the clubs you work out of – Serengeti, Woodhill and Fancourt?
A: We have a symbiotic relationship with our host golf clubs. Our primary responsibility is to offer high level golf coaching to the membership base. A membership that plays better golf gains more enjoyment from playing the game, hence they tend to play more golf. This leads to more rounds at the golf club as well as higher spend at the facility. Secondly, as the leading golf instruction corporation, Wanna Be A Champion draws many outside golfers to our facilities and these visitors’ spend extends to the golf clubhouse and on-course pro shop, as well as their food and beverage departments. Many of our elite amateur students take up membership at the host club as they align themselves with the Academy.
Q: When you’re at your South African base at Fancourt, what does your daily routine look like?
A: When I am at home in George, I prioritise my family, so I enjoy taking my boys to school. Then I head to The Academy at Fancourt (including obligatory coffee stop) and will spend the morning training the clients that come to see me there, be they Fancourt members or outside visitors. I will spend some time each day training my tour players and will be sure to spend some time out on the range or putting green with them. Then I see our junior contingent for their after-school junior clinics as we believe in building young athletes. Building a base of physical literacy is a cornerstone of our junior programs and this gives our juniors a far better chance to advance their golf.
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Q: When you’re on tour at tournaments, what will your work focus on?
A: On tour, my main focus is to help my players prepare appropriately for the event. We will schedule a workout on Mondays and Wednesdays, as physical conditioning is an important part of the process of constant improvement. Tournament days are comprised of a pre-round warm-up routine, during which we focus on mobility, stability and overall activation of the body and stimulating any relevant golf-specific movement patterns. I’m also pedantic about my players having the correct nutrition and hydration on the course, so will ensure that they have the appropriate drinks and snacks in their golf bags before the round. I like to walk the course with my players, where possible, as it’s important to witness their on-course habits and movement to better gauge their performance on the day. Post-round will include a light stretch or mobility program, just to aid the recovery at the end of what can be a long day. Sometimes it’s just a case of being a sounding board for them to discuss the day and on occasion, be the voice of reason!
Q: What impact has the coronavirus pandemic had on your job?
A: Our academies across the board have seen an increase in the number of lessons taken. This is due to the fact that golf is the one sport that has been granted permission to continue during the less stringent lockdown measures. Being a non-contact, socially-distanced sport has meant that many new golfers have taken up the game, as it’s a form of exercise that people are permitted to engage in. This influx of new golfers has been seen in many countries and golf has seen a global resurgence since the pandemic struck.
Q: Give us a sense of how the golf fitness space has evolved and grown in the past 10 years?
A: Golf fitness has certainly become more prevalent in the game over the past 10 years, mostly thanks to Tiger Woods. He took the game to a whole new level and forced the rest to follow. The World Golf Fitness Summit is held every second year and we have seen the number of attendees grow over the past 15 years that it’s been held. The summit brings together global coaches from the realms of fitness, medical and golf instruction. What’s interesting is that in 2016 we had more golf instructors at the World Golf Fitness Summit than fitness and medical practitioners combined. That shows you how important the functioning of the body is perceived in golf coaching and certainly where the game is going. Many golf clubs have seen the benefit of installing a fitness centre on their premises, especially for growing their membership within the 30-45 age group, as well as seeing far greater levels of membership retention.
Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
A: Make your passion your occupation and you won’t work a day in your life.
Q: Once sport in general is back up and running fully, post-Covid-19, do you anticipate change, in terms of how golf is run, consumed, commercialised etc?
A: The pandemic has certainly forced the technological application of golf lessons and instruction to improve and many tech-savvy instructors have reaped the rewards. As an example, I am working with one of the most respected multiple major tournament winners to develop online fitness programs for more mature-aged golfers. We expect this to be embraced by golfers and sponsors across the globe. This move to more online-driven coaching will force many more to follow suit. However, there is still a lot more to be gained from an in-person golf lesson, so I would still recommend visiting your local PGA professional. Once golf truly opens up for spectators, I’m sure we will see a massive influx of fans returning to watch live golf. However, many will prefer to watch it on their devices as its something we have now become accustomed to. Golf tours and organisations will have to look at other platforms on which to showcase their tournaments. If this is done correctly, it can only be good for the game.
Q: Who are the hardest-working golfers on tour, from a fitness point of view, and who are the laziest?
A: Most golfers these days are working on their fitness and all of the best players in the world know this and have invested in having a qualified golf fitness trainer in their team. The hardest working that I’ve witnessed would be Rory McIlroy and Danny Willett, although Dustin Johnson is always in the gym at the start of every day too. As for the laziest, I think you only need to take a look at them to know who they are!