Former Hearts forward John Colquhoun helps to unearth golfing GEM that was 'secret' for 15 years
Having swapped his boots for an entrepreneurial hat, Colquhoun has provided the financial support that has allowed Fraser Mann, a well-known face in Scottish golfing circles, to finally unveil a swing aid he’s been keeping “secret” for 15 years.
Called GEM on the basis of it being deemed to be helping with ‘golf’s essential move’, Mann invented the aid when he was still the club professional at Musselburgh and has always felt confident it could be a game-changer for golfers of all abilities.
Fellow pro DJ Russell concurred when he first clapped eyes on it and now the pair have gone into business with Colquhoun, who was one of the brightest individuals to ever kick a football for a living and has become a respected businessman since retiring.
“It was almost exactly 16 years ago when I came up with it,” said Mann, who hails from Carnoustie but now lives in North Berwick, of the swing aid, which, simply through visualisation and feel from the weight attached to it, encourages the wrists, elbows and shoulders to work in sequence and help golfers to make the correct move in the swing.
“I was fishing on the River Dee and I kept catching my fly on the bank behind me, costing me £10 a time, as I was standing in the river,” added the former Scottish PGA and Senior PGA champion, as well as a World Hickory Open winner.
“The ghillie came across and said, ‘Fraser, all you need to do is, with your right hand, point across the river with your index finger and, if your finger is above the water, the rod will be too far behind you and that’s why the fly is catching the bank’.
“Right from the word go, it felt awkward, but my casting was much better. That got me thinking as I knew that when I swung a golf club at the time, I would shut the face going back so when I was chipping I’d sometimes hit it heavy.”
Without needing to consult any scientists or equipment boffins, Mann invented his simple rod device, initially using a weighted golf ball to help balance the club, and knew straight away that he’d come up with something that worked.
“I made one up and I used it on two people at Musselburgh who sliced the ball and right away they hooked it as a result of them changing how their hands released through,” he said, a glint of genuine excitement appearing in his eyes as he told that tale.
“At that point, I realised that I had something that was special, so I went and had a meeting with patent lawyers in Edinburgh. They told me that if I wanted to proceed, it was going to cost this, this and this and that I shouldn’t show it to anybody and, if I did, I should note it in my diary.”
A chance encounter with Colquhoun, who also played for Celtic, Millwall and Sunderland before ending his career with a short stint at St Johnstone, at Archerfield Links, where they are both members, was the date he’d been looking for in the interim.
“I wanted to do it so it could be done properly,” declared Mann. “Over the years, I had been working on various different ways of making it and it was through meeting John and talking about it that we formed a company and are now in a position that we are ready to go. I don’t have the business expertise whereas John is much smarter than me and that’s why we are now working together.”
Colquhoun disagrees that he’s the key component in GEM finally hitting the market. “The invention is the smartness in this gig,” he said, smiling. “You can have all the business acumen in the world, but you need a product.”
They say proof is in the pudding. Helped by using the swing aid himself, Colquhoun has reduced his handicap from 6.6 to 3.2. “My bad shots always went right,” he said. “I’m not Dustin Johnson, I can’t get the club back in position.
“I was with Fraser one day and he said he would get me hitting some draws and I remember saying to him: ‘Tony Hart couldn’t get me drawing golf balls (laughing)’. But the first two shots I hit went straight left and, even with manipulation, I couldn’t have done that. It was just such a massive immediate difference. I felt it straight away and I kind of understood it. This aid made me understand the golf swing.”
GEM is being manufactured by a Macmerry company, which delights the three East Lothian-based co-directors. “I’m really excited about this as I’ve never been involved in a retail product in my life,” added Colquhoun, who made two appearances for Scotland. “I’ve got to a stage where I want to invest in some things in the tech industry but also something like this, especially as it has resonated with me and helped me start enjoying my golf more.
“Fraser has a real passion for this and that’s why I’ve decided to invest in it. It might be the most expensive reduction in a handicap anyone has ever had (laughing), but it’s great to see it getting to the market. It’s great that we are doing this with a Scottish pro in the home of golf with local businesses and hopefully it can help a lot of people enjoy their golf more like me.”
According to Russell, the aid is already transforming club golfers. “Since we started trying it out on people, the results have been remarkable,” said the two-time European Tour winner and designer of both the courses at Archerfield Links. “One guy has gone from being one of the world’s worst golfers to a single-figure player.
“It does many other things, but the eureka thing for me is that you put it in people’s hands and they get it straight away. It teaches complete beginners and also experienced players how to release the club correctly.”