Road to Scratch: Lessons Learnt in 2018


2018 has been a big learning curve for my golf, so in this article I want to share the things I have learnt, so I can help your own game…


I Can Swing it very Differently on the Course


This is where my swing work has been the most frustrating this year.


Every practice session, I film my swing to see whether I am doing the things I should be doing…


But one thing I have never done is film my swing during a round. I have often had this perception that if its in sync on the range, then it will nicely transfer to the course.


A few months ago, I was playing at my local course and I was hitting these big high blocks, so I knew things were off so I asked one of my playing partners to film my swing.


And to my horror – my swing appeared to be back to square one. 


Now this is one thing I have really taken on board this year. When you’re making swing changes, very often when you are in a pressure situation, you will go back to what you feel comfortable doing. 


This is where perseverance and patience really come into it, because yes, you may get in a good rhythm on the range and you might start to find things become more comfortable, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that the change is pressure proof or ingrained yet.


So, my advice, if you have a good understanding of where you want your swing to be, film it on and off the course.


This will give you a much greater understanding of what your tendencies are when you start to get in a game like situation and will show you whether more work is required on the moves you are trying to create.


Or you may need to look at your practice schedule to gamify it more often.


Block practising on the range is nothing like course conditions, so very often golfers have real transference issues.


If you want to know how to gamify and add some course like pressure to your practice, give this a read.



Becoming a Scratch Golfer is Going to Take A lot More Work Than I Thought


This is by far my most glaring realisation of 2018…when I set this goal, I thought with a bit of work, it would be a breeze.


I reached a 2 handicapper quite easily when I was 15, but now like most people, I have a full-time job, a family and commitments which far outweigh me hitting a small ball on a field in the fewest shots possible.


Last year was the first year for a while where I have knuckled down and tried to take my golf to the next level, and although I was practising 3 days a week and getting out once a week, I have realised it’s not enough to get from my current handicap of 4 to a scratch level.


Something Bob Rotella once stated has been ringing true for me this year. He thinks, golfers who aspire to reach a scratch handicap must practice for at least an hour a day.


However, this is not a defeatist speech. In 2019, I am going to increase my practice time, maybe not to Bob Rotellas requirements, but if I can add in one more session, and focus more on my putting and chipping at home, then I can start to edge closer.


My main goal for the end of 2019 is to reduce my handicap to 3, as I think this is achievable with the amount of time I have at my disposal.


I think it’s important when you’re setting your own goals, to make them inspiring and make them things that you would be pleased with, but also make sure they are realistic.


Aiming high is OK, but in my experience, if your goals are too unrealistic, they are not as effective. 




Swing Changes Take More Time Than I remember


During my time this year, I have focused on two main areas of my swing. Firstly, in the back swing, I shift my weight too far to the right with a head dropping movement. This then causes me to shift my weight way to the left on the downswing which inhibits my rotation and clubface control.  


A DIY Training aid which helps me with my faults


The other issue I have, is I tend to get my hands to out in front of me in the downswing.


This creates a shaft angle which is too steep, and then I have to stall my body at impact and flip my hands which leads to inconsistencies. 


Since my first lesson with Shauheen back in July, I have been working on improving these moves relentlessly and it’s only now I am forming new motor patterns, so I can access these moves without too much thought.


My strike pattern has improved, my dispersion is better and when I am getting it right, my flight is far more controlled.


But it’s taken nearly 6 months to see real benefits.


I am not suggesting all changes take this long, but if you are going through some swing changes at the moment and you are getting frustrated, this should be a bit of reassurance that things can take time.


Most golfers do not give changes nearly enough time.


‘’Pro was rubbish’’

‘’Lessons don’t work’’

‘’That tip isn’t right for me’’


Are often statements from golfers who haven’t got the perseverance to see changes through. They go skipping from one tip to the next and then when you add it all up over a year, their game has gone nowhere or even worse, regressed.






Getting a Home Setup Was One of My Smarter Decisions in Life


If you have followed our page for any length of time, you’ll know I got a practice net installed in my garden this year, shown below.


This was easily one of my better golfing decisions I have ever made. I ummed and ahhed about it constantly, is it worth it? Will I see any benefits? Will I get bored of it?


But I decided to take the plunge in May and I am glad I did. I feel like I can practice much more than before, which has given me more motivation and enjoyment.

Yes, I am only hitting into a net, but with the addition of Skytrak, this is pretty much as good as hitting on a driving range due to it’s almost faultless feedback. 


If you want to see exactly what’s involved and costs etc, I wrote a detailed article a few months back which you should find very useful if its something you want to do for yourself.



You Can Enjoy it Even When Things Aren’t Going Well


I have spread the message on the page a lot last year about the importance of enjoying golf even when things aren’t going well.


The fact is, we are going to play below our expectations more often than not, so if you can only enjoy It whilst things are going great, then its not going to be an unpleasant time. 


I have had some horror rounds this year where I couldn’t hit a barn door, but with my new ingrained mindset, I have still managed to get some enjoyment from them whereas In the past, I would have written these days off as a disaster.


Far too many golfers fall out of love with this game (like I did when I was 21) because they get so wrapped up in score and performance.


There is more to golf than shooting great scores and I think if more people focused on other aspects of golf they enjoy, then golf courses would be far happier places.




So, my advice for 2019 and beyond – find some other things that you love about playing golf and you’ll be happier and in the long run, you’ll play better.


Here’s a short podcast Episode I recorded if you want to delve into this topic deeper.  



Process Goals Are Very Powerful and They Were a Huge Factor in Me Winning My ‘’Club Championship’’


No doubt my biggest achievement last year was winning our unofficial Club Championship (net & gross).


I say unofficial because it wasn’t the club championship as such.


I have a corporate membership at my club which although allows me to have a handicap and play whenever I want, it doesn’t allow me to play in the actual Club Championship. (my score would have come 3rd in that)


The conditions were really tough, wind was up, and the course was playing hard and fast. 


And before I teed off, I set myself my process goals. This has now become a habit of mine before each round I play. 


If you are unfamiliar with these types of goals. They are goals you set before each round that you can 100% control. They are not score based or performance goals which are things you cannot fully control.


The beauty I find with process goals is they keep you in the moment and they help you put your score to the back of your mind.


These are two aspects I have really struggled with in the past and I know other golfers struggle with them too…


I made a solid start to the Championship – I was 1 over through the first 4, which is fine as they are some of the trickier holes on my course.


But on the 5th – it really unravelled. I had to reload twice off the tee, which cost me a 9.


I even had to run back to the tee after losing my second provisional whilst the two groups behind glared at me for not hitting another provisional. It wasn’t pleasant.


And although, I didn’t exactly come off that 5th green with a gleaming smile across my face, because I was judging my round on how well my process goals went, I was quickly able to regroup and just focus on completing my processes on the next shot.


I shot 1 under par for the rest of the holes and won the tournament by 1.


   I am the unshaven one…



Yes, winning this event was satisfying, but the real buzz came from keeping it all together after such a horror hole and I put this largely down to this habit.  


In the past, this round would have unravelled very quickly and there is no way I would have played the last 13 holes like that. 


So, wherever you are in your game, I would suggest setting some process goals before each round.


I just jot them down in my phone as seeing them has been proven to increase the likelihood of you sticking to them and then you judge the success of your round on whether you complete these things.


I set goals like:


  • Visualise each shot.
  • Trust my first feel on each putt.
  • No reaction from any poor shot.
  • Use small object in front of ball for alignment.


I at least challenge you to try this approach for 2019 – it might really help you – especially if you tend to let score dominate your thinking or you tend to get very nervous in certain situations on the course.


 Online Lessons Can Be As Good As Face to Face


If you have ever considered Online lessons and wondered whether they are beneficial, in my experience, they can be.


Of course, there are variables in play here – quality of coach, your own commitments and your current level etc.


Warning though – when I say online coaching, I am not referring to watching a video online that you think could be relevant to your golf swing and trying to mimic the information – this is not something I would suggest as a long-term strategy.


I am referring to finding a coach who offers online lessons in a format whereby you send them your swing and they critique and advise on your specific action.


The coach I used in 2018 is a gentleman called Shauheen Nakhjavani . Shauheen has a very impressive Instagram following and that’s where his coaching expertise caught my eye.


With Shauheen, it’s a pretty simple process, you just record a video of your swing from a ‘’down the line’’ and ‘’face on’’ view point and then you upload to an App called Skillest.





He then reviews your swing and sends you back bespoke videos with information on what you need to do to improve. I have had 3 lessons and he has responded within 4-5 days everytime.


Here are a couple of the lessons which I have documented on the blog if you’re interested to see what’s involved and to see my personal progress using online coaching.


The only thing I would beware of when it comes to going down this route… I have quite a good understanding of the golf swing and my own swing in general.


I could be wrong, but I think a much less experienced golfer would be better off seeing a coach face to face.


This is because during a face to face lesson, the coach can physically put you into positions, can give you much more feedback and generally far more attention which you will need if you are at an early stage with your golf.



Thank you for reading and now I would like to hear what you learnt in 2018 and what changes you need to make in 2019 in the comment section below.



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