PLAY ENJOYABLE GOLF – my road back to golf

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Heres a thing to tell you, I discovered over the New Year that whilst I still love the game of golf I had lost the enjoyment of playing golf! It isn’t unusual to be honest – to go from playing full-time to playing very sporadically and never practicing means a drop in performance yet the expectations are still to perform at an elite level – strange but true!

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Well it finally dawned on me that I can no longer consider my standard of play as tournament level, that just leads to frustrations and ultimately a lack of enjoyment which spills over to my playing partners – sorry Dad! So now I need to take myself through the same processes that I advise to you, and I have the same time limits that are imposed on you. So why not share the learning process?

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The Background:
I hadn’t been playing much at all in 2012, but knowing Dad was coming to Thailand for five weeks over Christmas and New Year I wanted to play with him. There are some issues with my back – that I will go into later, but gradually with each round I played I became more frustrated and the wrost thing I just wasn’t having fun out there. In the end I just wished I could walk off the course, at Green Valley it was after as little as 6 or 7 holes and that was enough to jolt me into action.

In the heat of the moment I made statements like “I am just going to stop playing” – fullstop, however anyone who knows, knows that just isn’t in my character, I can’t give in quite that easily. So what was the next option? Take my own advice and look at the situation honestly, assess exactly where I am and my current level, then create a plan to work on areas that will get my enjoyment back in the game and then create some level of performance.
Before I share my trials and tribulations that you will certainly connect to I need to detail an underlying issue that played a small part in the lack of golf I have had in the last 2 years. Of course the major part is to many other things to do but we all have to face that!

For many years I have suffered with cronic lower back problems, dull nagging pains that are consistently there. When I played full time I managed the problem with a good fitness program, regular accupuncture, excellent warm up and cool down and most importantly I controlled my weight at around 77kg (nearly 10kg less than now!) Gradually over the past 4 years the situation got worse. I lost the strength in my core, I put weight on and I stoped the treatment. The result severe stifness in the lower back that would come on before I had even finished 18 holes – in golfing terms it meant I would play well for a while but would not get through 18 holes, if I tried to play within a day or two of that round I wouldn’t make it through the front nine.

I need to fix this problem and I had already started with a chriopractor in October – after a few teething problems we seem to be on the right track, it will be a long term project but I am hopeful that, eventually, I will be able to manage the problem to be able to play tournament golf again, one day – at least from a fitness point of view anyway!

The process:
The first job was to make a time commitment to the project of playing golf (for fun.) It was quite an easy task as the back is really calling the shots here – once per week is the maximum the back will take! However work plays a key role as well and I made the decision that Friday morning would become my mornings for golf. I would dedicate 5 hours every Friday morning to either practice on the range/short game or playing 18 holes.

Where is the level of my golf game? Week one was on the range and I started with the swing. I took some video to assess why my impact was inconsistent and quite clearly saw two issues that need fixing, the main one unfortunately is related to the back issue and a lack of rotation, so until I can fix the problem and regain my core strength I will have to work around it – one side issue is that the movement that I make also has a contributing effect on my back. The other I got to work on with some drills and clear focus on the movement I wanted to make and only that.
TIP: It was important that I worked on just one thing and placed all my attention there.

Next was my chipping and this is an area that really needs work. This was the part of the game I used worked on hardest on to get up to tournament standard, with more hours that I could even begin to estimate I became a compentent short game exponent (relevantly to the tournamnet golf I was playing). However 12 months previous in Australia, for a reason I am at a loss to explain, I re visited an old issue that is a form of the chipping yips! The good news, I have no fear of the issue as I understand it fully and know with time to practice I can regain my touch. Actually in just 1 hour around the chipping green I was hitting most shots exactly how I wanted – but it needs a lot more time to be consistent and ready to take to the course.
TIP: Paticence is needed and taking skills from the practice area to the course takes time and focused practice.

Finally some putting – my distance control is as strong as it has always been and this is one area where I have great control over my thoughts. However for the shorter putts I know there is a technical issue in my impact position which means I ever so slightly don’t get the ball started on the line I want, but my good friend, Pro Pompetch a true putting expert, will have the job of putting that straight! (No pun intended)
TIP: Identify a ball flight/roll issue then get expert advice to help put it right

Circumstances dictaded that the next 3 weeks would be on the course, I made a consious decision to play from the forward tees playing the first 3 rounds from there before moving to the back markers. The move forward definatly helped as it allowed me to hit the ball a little easier and left less long shots into the greens however the scoring element is not up to scratch yet (78, 79, 77, 78). The new movement certainly helped in the first round and my ball striking was much better, more importantly I had total control over the driver trajectory for the first time in years but it wasn’t to last – why? It needs more work on the range to make it a permenant change.
TIP: Don’t expect a change to be permenant after just one practice session, no matter how well that session went
TIP: Don’t keep slogging away from the back tees, move forward and learn the art of scoring first

Now you may notice that there were 4 rounds in 3 weeks and that doesn’t match with the once a week, practice/play schedule. Well yes I broke my rule all ready but I learnt because it certainly had an impact on my performance. In the final week where I had a full break, I played my best so far even with the move back to the Pro Tournament tees. I finished with a 78, but I managed to shot -1 on the front 9, was level par with 3 to play but it wasn’t to last as I finished with 3 double bogeys!
TIP: It is OK to make mistakes as long as we learn from them – then they are not mistakes

The lessons:
So what have I learnt in the first month? The most important fact is that I can enjoy playing again, once I set realistic expectations of myself.

  • Playing with better golfers is still a great motivator to perform…my final 78 came playing with Asian Tour players Thammanoon Sriroj and Varut Chomchalam.
  • I need to spend more time in the early months on the practice range than on the course (because I only have one day per week).
  • I need to get new clubs, my body can’t get those heavy stiff shafts moving like I used to!
  • Getting my back right is the most important thing I can do in 2013.

Moving forward, I will put my focus on the new swing move and getting my mind in the right place more often to chip to a level that makes the game easier. I also need to see you more often for lesson to pay for my new clubs!
I hope you enjoyed the read. I will be setting goals for what I can achieve in 2013, right now I would assess my game as a mid single figure handicap golfer, but my main focus for the first quarter is just to enjoy playing and practicing.

See you for the next update in March.

About the author

I am a professional golfer and a Class AA member of the PGA GB & I. I inspire and improve golfers of all levels, currently at Thana City Golf Club, Bangkok and have been in Thailand for seven years. I am passionate about golf and want to bring the game to life making it fun for all including creating dreams for elite performers

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