One of the top facilities they are most proud of at renowned Costa del Sol resort Finca Cortesín is their Jack Nicklaus Golf Academy. In this interview, director of instruction Ricardo Jiménez Eliaeson reveals some secrets about his life in golf and teaching.
Ricardo was born in Stockholm (Sweden), moved to Spain when he was three years old and has been living here ever since. "I started playing golf in 1986 at Torrequebrada," he recalls, "and, believe it or not, my first teacher was Miguel ángel Jiménez."
Ricardo was born in Stockholm (Sweden), moved to Spain when he was three years old and has been living here ever since. “I started playing golf in 1986 at Torrequebrada,” he recalls, “and, believe it or not, my first teacher was Miguel ángel Jiménez.”
I started to play golf in 1986 at Torrequebrada Golf Club and, believe it or not, my first teacher was Miguel Ángel Jiménez. I owe so much to the Jiménez family and without their support in my youth, I would never have played golf. I did all kind of sports growing up but, when I tried golf, I was hooked immediately. From the very beginning, I understood that I could never master this fantastic game and that I was not playing against other players but that I was playing against the golf course, and I think that was one of the best lessons I have received from Miguel Ángel Jiménez.
When did you know you first had a thing for golf?
This is one of those questions that is very difficult to answer but, in my case, I always knew that I could be a very competitive player because I love competition. I consider myself a very good competitor but, having said that, it’s one thing to play against amateurs and quite another to play against professionals. I remember one tournament when I hit two drives in a row to rough on the left-hand side. In both situations, my ball was deep in trouble and I had to use my sand wedge to leave myself exactly 100 metres to the flag. In both distance wedges approaches I left my ball next to the pin, that is when I knew I could become a much better player.
Being director of instruction at a Jack Nicklaus Academy, how does this association help in your coaching and your student’s development?
I have always been fortunate enough to be surrounded by great teachers. Many of them were more technical teachers while some were more ‘feeling’ teachers and others were more mental teachers. I have also been fortunate to have seen all the best teachers over the last 20 years and, together, they gave me a pretty good understanding of the whole picture.
Golf is not about instruction; it is about teaching people. If you teach people, you can help them to improve their games but if you keep teaching instruction, it will be very difficult to get good players and the best of their games. We are all different; we are built differently, we think differently, we understand differently, we learn differently so, therefore, we have to adapt to our students. Nicklaus Academies help me to deliver a more comprehensive and easier message to players. In general, coaches make golf too complicated and use terminology that doesn’t help, so I consider myself more like a skilled developer coach. If a student can improve their skills around their game, then I think they will be happier because they will feel that they can perform much better. That is my passion, to make them better.
What’s the greatest joy you get from teaching golf?
You probably will not believe it but the greatest joy I get from teaching is when you can get players striking the ball like the Tour players (with this, I mean the proper sound of the club hitting the ball and then the turf) and then turning around to me, with a big smile on their face, and telling me “What a shot”.
What’s the one thing you’d like to teach your kids about golf that will help them through life?
I believe golf is like life, a long path with a lot of obstacles in the journey. You are going to fall down plenty of times and you have to learn to stand up and keep walking. Do it step by step, grind, be resilient and enjoy the journey because that is when you are going to learn about you and your game/life.
Tell us a story about your last non-golf adventure.
Since I was 20, I always had the dream of going on holiday to the Black Forest in southern Germany. Last year, knowing that my kids were getting older, we planned the trip to the Black Forest and the Austrian Alps so we could spend 10 days traveling in a car and living together. It was a fantastic experience that I highly recommend to anyone. It was fantastic to be able to spend some quality time with my wife and children, and we fell in love with the Black Forest and the Austrian landscapes.
Continuing insight into Ricardo Jiménez Eliaeson secrets about his life in golf and coaching:
“I was a Tour player for 25 years, playing mainly on the Spanish Tour and European Challenge Tour, but also playing some events on the main European Tour. I was fortunate enough to play with all the best players who were around then. That was an amazing part of my life and I was very grateful to all the pros who I learned so much from.“
“My only goal was to earn enough money so that I could play the next tournament but I also thought about raising a family and when that moment came, I, of course, realised that I had to find a more stable job. I opened a golf academy in Marbella that quickly took off and became a success and I was lucky at this time that the academy allowed me to both teach and continue to play competitions. “
“At the beginning of 2006, I received a call from Javier Reviriego, director of golf of a new project called Finca Cortesín. I came and played the course and was then offered a job that I simply couldn’t turn down. The project was just awesome and the rest, as they say, is history! I have been working at Finca Cortesín for 14 years and I only have thankful words for the trust they have placed in me for all of these years. In some ways, I prepared all my life to get this job. I am 100 per cent convinced that education is a key factor in becoming a good teacher and when I was playing competitively, I spent all my time researching, assisting at seminars, watching the best instructors and training myself in different areas to become a golf coach.”
Best tip you ever got from a Tour pro?
The best tip I ever had was from my lovely Scottish teacher Don Ross. I was a very technical player and I was in the middle of a big slump. It was so bad that I was thinking about quitting competitive golf. He was my teacher in the last part of my amateur career and I never hit the ball and scored as well as this part of my life. He returned to Spain after six years working abroad and he gave me a call and told me to come and see him in Montecastillo. When he saw my swing and the way I was hitting the ball and performing on the course, he could not believe it. I had lost my inner essence; resilience in the search of the perfect swing. He looked deep into my eyes and told me to stop thinking and to just start hitting the bloody ball. I spent the next month with that sole thought on the golf course and it really worked. I was the perfect example of a player that had got lost trying to reach perfection.
What kind of exercises do you do to warm up?
The main exercise I focus on is stretching. I’m a true believer that the more flexible you are, the longer you can play in time, especially when you get older. I also do functional exercises and strength exercises.
Describe your golf game in four words.
What player on tour does your game most resemble?
All the players that miss a lot of greens!
What is your favourite memory of beating your fellow golf professionals?
In 2003, I won a big tournament on the Spanish circuit where I beat Pablo Larrazabal the last day. We were playing together in the last group on the Sunday and I never in my life felt so tight in my forearms than when I had a one-metre putt to win the tournament. I moved back from the ball, took a deep breath and put the ball in the hole. The job was done. I remember driving home and I was so proud because I had finished first out of 144 players playing that week. And that will never change. That was a cool feeling.
You have been a vital member of the Finca Cortesín team for 14 years. Tell us something the average golfer doesn’t know about Finca Cortesín’s golf course?
Finca Cortesín is an amazing golf course and I’m still trying to learn how to score here. I love courses which require you to play all the clubs in your bag and Finca Cortesín is one of them. You have to be long but accurate from the tee and you have to learn to attack the holes, with that I mean that sometimes you have to play away from flags if you do not want to mess a hole. When you get to the green, you have to put yourself in the right spot if you don’t want to three-putt, and if you miss the green, your short game has to be precise and creative. If you learn to play the course the way the designer wanted us to play then scoring is possible, but if you want to really enjoy your round, forget about being aggressive and think about how I can put the ball in play and play to the widest part of the green. In order to do so, you need to know the strengths of each hole and what your weaknesses are. Never try to play one of your weak shots against the strengths of the hole.