FOR more than three decades Gary Barter has plied his trade as a teaching professional at The Australian Golf Club in Sydney and was recently recognised for his passion and dedication to the game by being named NSW PGA High Performance Coach for 2021.
The long-time coach of multiple US PGA Tour winner and two-time Aussie Open champion Matt Jones and up-and-comer Blake Windred, who recently claimed the Vic PGA title, Barter has also mentored and influenced the careers of numerous elite players over many years.
It was his third NSW PGA coaching accolade.
In 2001, Barter received the Australian Coach of the Year Award and while he cherishes the awards, he has never been one to actively seek the limelight and is always quick to shift any conversation away from personal achievement.
Barter would prefer to talk up those he teaches, or to speak of his preferences and influences when on the lesson tee, whether that be when coaching club members or high achieving tournament pros.
“I always say I was lucky to come through an era where it was what we saw, what we felt,” Barter said. “Now it is an era of science.
“There’s so many different ways to play, so many different swing patterns. I just worked out the non-negotiables, the match-ups.
“I’m really against the rebuild. I’ve never wanted to try to make someone perfect. To this day I still respect a player’s pattern, their history, where they’ve come from and to make it as playable as I can,” he added.
After a successful amateur career, where he represented NSW at a junior level, before taking on a PGA apprenticeship under Ron Luxton at The Australian, Barter played for a time on the pro-am circuit until an inquisitive mind saw coaching become his focus.
His first posting was at the windswept Dan Cullen Driving Range on top of the hill overlooking the St Michael’s Golf Club before returning to The Australian where he has been a constant presence for 30 years.
From a competitive point of view, Barter hung up the clubs in his mid-20s and turned his energies to learning as much as he could about the swing.
For Barter, it’s been a successful career by any standard – one that was kicked along with an astute investment back when it all began.
“I bought a video camera in 1988, when they were $7000 and you could buy a Ford Laser for $9000,” he revealed. “I went to the bank to get a loan.
“I bought that camera, started reading golf books, one was (Nick) Faldo’s book after he’d just rebuilt his swing with (David) Leadbetter and I said, ‘I’m going to figure out the golf swing’.”
A search for answers evolved into a lifetime quest for knowledge, one that has developed into an understanding of what works and what doesn’t, but through it all Barter has stayed true to his beliefs and remained confident in his own ability.
“I’ve never used anyone as a model,” he said. “I’ve had my own preferences, watching (Ben) Hogan has been my high watermark. What he did and how he swung the club.
“I’ve always looked at other teachers, been to a lot of seminars, talked to Sean Foley, Butch Harmon, high profile coaches, for many hours and said ‘yeah that sounds alright’, but I’ve never gone away and thought that I don’t know what I’m doing or had a feeling that I wasn’t going down the right path.”
He embraces technology and uses it when and where necessary at the impressive teaching set-up he shares with another respected long-time instructor at The Australian, Alan Bull.
But much of what Barter teaches he discovered in the dirt at Hurstville golf course, in the parks of Peakhurst in Sydney’s south, and in the well-used golf net set up downstairs at his Oatley home.
Add to that too many hours watching videos, reading books, looking at swings, talking technique and living and breathing the game of golf.
A PGA teaching award won’t change anything about Gary Barter or the way he goes about it, but all the same it’s a small way to acknowledge someone who has dedicated his working life to making golf more enjoyable to the many who have crossed his path.