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Knightsbridge Golf School is one of the area’s best-kept secrets. Their wall of fame is testimony to the many celebrities and pros that train there. Passed around only by word of mouth, this is a real find for any golfer looking to get back into the swing of things. Seth Rowden takes look
As I approach the unassuming — and unmarked — doorway of 47 Lowndes Square, I notice the discreet CCTV camera. I am about to press the buzzer when the door clicks open to let me into the building; into the most exclusive golf club in London.
I am here to meet Steve Gould, renowned golf trainer and co-owner of the Knightsbridge Golf School. Steve is friendly and straightforward in his greeting — something that is appreciated by the numerous A-list celebrities he teaches. I comment on the absence of any sign on the main entrance and Steve says, “That’s right. Nobody even knows we are here. It’s all done by word of mouth.” Perhaps this is what has led to such a star-studded clientele.
The main entrance hall contains floor to ceiling photographs and letters of thanks from some of the most famous faces imaginable. Steve says, “Everybody has been here. I don’t know where to start really. Colin Firth came this time last year, for a film called Arthur Newman, which was a small Indie film. He plays a down-and-out golf pro and there was supposed to be one golf scene in it. I don’t know if they cut it or not. He came to us to learn to swing and to look the part.” This seems to be a familiar theme, with their most famous past student being Sean Connery, who learned to play golf for a scene in the Bond film Goldfinger.
“I won’t do golfers, I’ll do celebs,” Steve says, as we walk along the corridor. “Christopher Lee, he’s still a regular to this day; Trevor Eve from Waking the Dead; Geri Halliwell; Bruce Forsyth; Ant and Dec; Michael Flatley, the dancer; Vernon Kay; Nancy Dell’Olio; Bryan Ferry; Adam Faith, the singer; Ronnie Biggs, the criminal — I taught him in Rio when he was in exile; Gianluca Vialli; Gianfranco Zola; David Jacobs; Ed Stuart; Anton Du Beke; Graeme Edge from the Moody Blues; Richard Branson’s mum! Oh, and the best one of all: Hugh Grant. He really helped us out. He did an introduction to our second book.”
I ask Steve about his books. “The Golf Delusion is my favourite. It is about golf technique, but it is also as much about the celebs and pros that come here, and about their experiences and how they learned their swings.” Steve’s latest book, Golf’s Golden Rule, is purely technical. It’s a complete manual on how to play golf, Leslie King style.
Leslie King founded the Knightsbridge Golf School in 1951. “He was a pioneer of golf instruction,” Steve explains. “He said that anybody could learn to play golf regardless of age or ability, if they learned a method.” This might not sound so revolutionary today, and indeed you might even be thinking that you have never heard of Leslie King until now; however, in his day, he was a revolutionary trainer. “In his time he taught amateur champions, Curtis Cup players, Ryder Cup players, along with all the movers and shakers of the generation — Lord Lucan and the aristocrats, along with cab drivers.” The truth is, until Leslie King came along, golf was all trial and error.
The Knightsbridge Golf School is not exactly what you might expect from such a prestigious postcode. It is underground — literally under ground level — in the basement of an imposing Georgian building, laid out within a series of converted squash courts. There is no club bar, no fashion parade and no politics. Just obsessive golf.
Photograph: DJ Wilkinson and Steve Gould (below left), Dave Lamplough, DJ Wilkinson, Phillip Talbot, Steve Gould (below right).
Although the teaching style at the Knightsbridge Golf School is based on Leslie King’s method, Steve and the team have introduced their own ideas. For example, the club now has state-of-the-art technology, allowing golfers to use it as a practice ground as well as for lessons.
Their latest software, FlightScope, projects an image of a golf course onto the back wall of the old courts, while golfers hit the ball into a practice net. The software features 80 famous golf courses around the world. The graphics are impressive, and it allows users to change the weather conditions and other variables. Steve explains, “They hit the shot, the radar picks it up, and you see on the screen really accurately where the shot goes. It gives you a readout of where the club goes when you hit the ball, the path of the club, the speed the club was traveling, the angle of the club, everything. It is very, very accurate. It’s not gimmicky at all.”
The Knightsbridge Golf School, although frequented by so many celebrities, is still an exclusive whisper between those who are really passionate about golf. It’s not a flavour of the month, because it has never been advertised, and the members tend to stay once they have found it. “Dave’s longest standing client first came here on 5th August 1957. He still comes in once a month for a check-up.”
As I am leaving, Steve says excitedly, “Someone came here last week, but I can’t tell you who. I’ve got to keep that one under my hat!”