Golf can be better with less practice and my story is going to tell you how while share my golfing achievements, disappointments and most importantly how at 64 I am playing the best golf of my life as well as feeling great!
I know if you have any sort of game you will improve and if you have no game then you will definitely learn a lot.
Hope you will see the messages to yourself and understand – Golf can be better with less practice, just listen to your self talk and you will understand!
1981 Blackmoor Golf Club Hampshire
Its a foggy morning and my friend and I decide to go a play at a proper golf course for the first time, we decided to go early so we could hopefully play on our own, however it’s a very foggy morning and not knowing the course we are in for an interesting time to say the least!
First hole is a short par 4 and from what the card tells us there is a ditch across the fairway right where our drives will end up, that was irrelevant as my T shot sailed right clattered on roof of a house which we didn’t know were there!! anyway can’t remember much more of the round but knew I had found something very challenging and would be back.
I took some lessons with the Pro there who back then was a chap by the name of Renton Doig, great teacher and great player, first set of clubs were Dunlop Blue Flash!!
I used to go to Blackmoor most years to watch the Selborne Salver/Hampshire Hogg, one round at Blackmoor and the other at North Hants Golf Club Fleet, home of Justin Rose and where my son and I were Members for sometime.
The first club I joined was Silvermere golf club a Public course but with a membership that would allow one to gain a handicap by playing in their competitions, that was the reason I joined as I wanted to get a handicap and see how I would fair.
Well my first handicap was 21, after 6 months or so I got to 19 and then I was able to join Hindhead Golf Club, where by practicing and playing in all competitions I went from 19 to 9 in my first year and then 9 to 6 the following year.
Before joining Hindhead I played in a Care Care Plan sponsored event in around 1982/3 with a friend, it was better ball format, nett score. Mike my friend was a very good golfer, handicap 5 and he was very instrumental in my progress with his simple way of teaching.
This event was at Walton Heath and the top 2 teams qualified to play in the finals at La Manga in Spain, when I entered the event I had just joined Silvermere and had not received my handicap as I had not played enough rounds so I put down 16, well we qualified and were off to Spain for the finals about 1 month later.
Then I got my handicap certificate from Silvermere and I was 19!! This was my introduction to being called a bandit, sandbagger etc as Mike & I played very well together in Spain and were at the top of the leader board going into the last round!!
Of course all the other teams had been discussing handicaps etc and found out that we qualified at Walton Heath and I was a 16 then and now playing in the finals off 19!!
Now I can relate to how these other established golfers felt, as I would have been a little upset too, finding out that one of the team who were at the top of the leader board had more shots than he did at the qualifying event.
Of course I had no real understanding of what was going on and was just enjoying the golf and that we were in contention and eventually we came out as winners.
I was focusing on the golf.
On the way home one of the other team members was sitting behind me on the plane and my young son Sam (he was 5 at the time!) was jumping up and down in the seat and looking behind him and this young chap kept saying to Sam “your Dad’s a cheat”
He was just having fun and we became friends and played together in different events and he saw how my game developed and knew that I was “green” when starting out.
The reason I mention all this is that when you don’t understand fully the details of the game and you just play because you are focused on what you are doing and not taking notice of chat and gossip etc you perform better.
But as you become more developed and knowledgeable you can start to take notice of what people say and see things unfolding, start to question decisions and shots you make. Instead of playing with the freedom you have when you have only one thought in your head.
North Hants Golf Club Fleet
I had about a year and half in Orlando with the family around 1991 playing golf and some business then returned to UK and became a member at North Hants Golf Club in Fleet Hampshire, the home of Justin Rose. My son Sam also became a junior member and started to progress and was feeling as though golf was what he wanted to do.
My handicap didn’t change much, I stayed around 4-5 for my time there and played as many competitions including the many Open events and Pro Ams which was a great experience.
Sam and I heard about the Father and Sons Foursomes matchplay event that was played at West Hill Golf Club in Surrey every year since 1931 and we thought that must be a great event to play in.
It was a very popular event and it was three years before we finally had a confirmed entry, so we played for our first time in 2005.
Sam was off 3, I was off 5 and Sam was seriously thinking of going to do his PGA qualification so was very keen and playing and practicing a lot.
The event is always played around Easter and in our 1st year we got to the quarter-finals and beaten by the previous 2 years winners, the son had played in a few Opens and was off plus 3 at the time.
In 2006 we played so well together and enjoyed the golf so much that we reached the final, you have to play round 1 on Tuesday then 2 rounds Wednesday through to Friday, final Friday afternoon. The final we were playing against a previous Father & Son winners so we knew they had done this before.
We started off well then started to lose control and we ended up 2 down 2 to play!! I holed a long putt on 17 so we were now just 1 down. On 18, they pretty much gave us the hole so it was down to a play off up starting at the 1st!
By this time other players, members at West Hill & friends were now out and watching, I was playing the 2nd shot to the green as Sam was teeing off on the odd holes.
There must have been around 150 people standing in the fairway behind me when I was playing the 2nd shot to the green! The opposition and not played well off the T and were near the green in 3. I put the ball on the front of the green and Sam putted it close and we were given the putt for the win!
That was an incredible feeling and what we didn’t realise was that we had a chance of becoming Honorary Life Members as this prize is given to the winners after being approved by the West Hill GC committee! We were notified about 4 weeks later that we were accepted as Honorary Life Members – what an honour.
What I learnt from this experience;
- just to be relaxed and enjoy the game and challenge
- not thinking too much about any technicalities makes a massive difference to performance.
- plus when the pressure is on having only one burning goal to hole a putt or put the iron shot close is a lot easier to do.
- being happy when playing which Sam and I were for all the matches we played.
Sam then went on to do his PGA apprenticeship, I moved to Thailand and Sam eventually decided to try out for the Asian Tour, that didn’t work out for many reasons and he returned to the UK – GOLF IS HARD IF you are looking to make a living from it.
Sam had lost the “burn” to win and achieve, that happens whether you are a Pro or a 28 handicap player, life changes and so do priorities etc.
Thailand and Senior Golf
Well Thailand weather & golf in 2006 was great, I joined Alpine Golf Club and met golfers who had lived in the UK and played at the same clubs as I had and we had great times.
Alpine is a great course, I played the Club Championships there which used to be over 2 days but never won the low Gross but was runner-up a couple of times and we had great prizes like a 5 day trip to Kunming, Spring City, China – great courses and great experience.
During this time I set up a group called The Back T Boys – so like minded golfers who wanted to play stroke play events off back T’s for a little bit of dosh could do so, not too many stroke play events in Thailand for Ams – this was a great success, We had …..
- Pros from the Asian Tour playing when they had no events to play in
- Pro Division Back Tees
- Senior Division 1 Tee up
- Handicap Division (Max handicap 14) played from Senior Tees
- Results were gross scores
- OOM was in place to keep people motivated to play as many events as possible
- 1st 3 places each Division paid out
- Million Dollar Challenge – hit all par 3 greens in regulation and 2 putt or better – everyone would pay a small entry fee, it was around 300 Baht I think and the person or persons who managed to do it would take the money, however if there were no winners the pot was carried over and this would happen often as I had my own T markers and would set up at least one of the pars 3’s to a very testing distance. This was always great fun when someone had 3 of the pars 3’s ticked off and the pressure was on to hit the final green and 2 putt or better!
The BTB was a great way for golfers to experience a Pro type event and count every shot and it certainly helped people to improve consistency. Golf can be better without practice ? I wasn’t sure at this time!
I then became a member at a new course called Royal Gems Golf City, which has a copy of Augusta’s back 9, it was very similar and fun to play but there weren’t a lot of competitions there.
I decided to sell the Alpine membership and had managed to buy a weekday Membership at Thai Country Club, this is a proper Members Club and has great competitions.
While at Thai CC I had the pleasure of winning the Club Championship in Dec 2014, 2015 and was going for a threepeat in 2016, but alas could not keep it going – the 2015 Championship was a 3 man play off that ended in the dark winning with a par on 18.
It was while I was at Thai that I was introduced to a new Senior Pro group who were starting up and I was invited to play in an event and if I averaged 76 or better over the 3 rounds I could join and play as a Pro – I said what the hell why not lets see how we go!
Well I made the score, played with some legends of golf from Australia but also realised that golf is not a friendly sport when money is involved, these long established guys now being older do not like new faces challenging them for the dollars, so in other words it wasn’t always a friendly experience.
From that event I went on to joining the Senior Thai PGA and the Taiwan Senior PGA. I had to go through a Tour School in Taiwan and the score required was 18 over par or better for 3 rounds – sounds easy eh, well a friend of mine and I took 4 attempts to get through LOL. There were approx 60 players at each tour school and only 2 or 3 managed to get through.
Try playing 3 rounds with a number in mind to beat – its a lot harder than you may think.
Played in some great events in Taiwan but the courses are not easy and getting used to carts on cart paths and 2 caddies for 4 players, having to pick 2 or 3 clubs for the next shot and walking to your ball hoping you have made the rights picks etc etc is not easy.
Unless you have played competition golf in Taiwan you will not know who hard and tricky golf can be especially being a foreigner to their customs and courses. I certainly had to learn to be patient, that was a challenge and of course 99% of the other competitors did not speak English. I still did not know golf can be better without practice.
Senior Open Qualifying & Senior European Tour Qualifying School
I decided I wanted to challenge myself and see if I could compete but had no expectations of being successful or obtaining playing rights, I just wanted to see what would happen.
The first Senior Open qualifying I entered was in Scotland 2012
Venue was Turnberry and I was playing at Kilmarnock Barassie Golf Club that year but did not fair well, weather was great over the weekend but Monday morning the heavens opened.
I stayed opposite Prestwick golf course prior to the qualifying and played the course on the Friday in glorious weather – a fantastic course and the Scotland weather changes like the wind as I found out!
I entered my first European Senior Tour School in 2013.
The Q school was held in Portugal end of January and the weather was awful cold and wet. If someone had told me golf can be better without practice I would have not believed them.
I had put in some practice in Thailand during the start of the new year and was feeling good, upon reflection my swing was not great but short game a putting was very good.
I had Sam on the bag and we were looking to have a good time (VERY IMPORTANT) I was not happy about the weather and we both commented about how serious the other players looked and not many people would talk and make conversation.
No problem we would play and see what happens, I had no expectations or goals so what you think happened? Well 1st round I shot 69 (par 70) in filthy weather and 2nd round I shot 72 so qualified for the finals easily.
Not many of the other players thought I would make it through and also not many, actually none that I can remember said well done, such is life on tour, in life you generally find a lot of people are keen for you to get ahead but as long it’s not ahead of them, not all I add, but a lot.
The finals I played ok but struggled to make the number to get close to a place on the Tour, that was no problem I had got to the finals at my first attempt – again the take away was I had done this because I had no expectations and just went out and played each shot and was comfortable in my surrounding with Sam on the bag and we had a great time together.
The Senior Open 2013
The qualifying course I was to play was Southport and Ainsdale, great course and weather but could not put a score together.
2014 Senior European Tour School
I had massive plans, sports psychologist and coach came with me to caddy and support, I played at a different course which ended up being very tough and again did not fair well.
The lesson learnt was trying to be someone I wasn’t and by putting all that pressure on myself to do what I had done the previous year did not work and will never work until you understand YOURSELF.
The Senior Open 2014
My course for qualifying was at Southern Down, great course but could not play with freedom and did not score well.
2015 Senior European Tour School
Again made it through to finals but did not do well at finals.
I experienced challenges off the course with the hotel having no power the morning of the 1st round, so I let circumstances beyond my control affect my attitude and then my performance
This was due to being an inexperienced player in MIND and within the environment I was competing!
2015 Senior Open – below
2016 European Senior Tour School
Made it through to the Finals but could not get comfortable and played poorly.
2016 Senior Open
This was held in Scotland and the Senior Open would be at Carnoustie, my qualifying course was Downfield an inland parkland course where Paul Laurie qualified for the Open he won in 1999.
Could not put the right number on the score card to make it through.
2017 European Senior Tour School
Missed first stage cut due to a foot injury.
2017 Senior Open
This was back in Wales as the main event was being held at Royal Porthcawl, my course was Southern Down as previously in 2014. Unfortunately started poorly and could not find the birdies I needed.
2015 Senior Open qualifying at Camberley Heath Golf Club
Shot 68 leading score with Grant Waite and was 6 under with 3 to play!!! WHY was this different, well I really felt comfortable coming back to a part of the UK I knew well and had played Camberley many times.
My swing and game were so so but after a session on the range Sunday evening (while the final round of The Open was being watched by 99% of the other competitors) I felt good for the Monday start.
Sam was on the bag and after a bogey on the 4th hole I went on a real “mindvgolf moment” stretch of holes.
Birdies on 5, 6, 8, 9,10,13 & 15
Dropping shots on 4, 16 and 18 – the putter was on fire and the greens were awesome.
I really couldn’t remember what was happening as I was just in the present all the time, I said to Sam on 18th Tee “I have had 6 birdies ……. he just said ok then I thought again and realised it was 7!!
To know I was playing in The Senior Open at Sunningdale on the Thursday was unreal, I had a friend who was caddying for another player who had also qualified and he said to come up to Sunningdale Tuesday morning for a practice round – of course I was excited, I had to get all signed in and registered, pictures for competitor passes, caddy pass, guests & my wife and young son and had no idea what it was going to be like – it was massive!
The Senior Open 2015 Sunningdale
Well this part was my biggest high & low in golf BUT I did learn a lot from it – practice round on Tuesday was ok but I was tired and was overwhelmed with all the activity at Sunningdale on and off the course.
Then Wednesday my oldest son Tom came to caddy and I was still feeling tired but wanted to play and practice and I stayed at the course till around 5pm having arrived at around 8am!!
Thursday I am off at 08.10 and I told Tom to be there for 7am, well he arrived at around 7.30 feeling rather unwell and I was of course worried about him and asked if he would be alright he said yes but felt sick!
Anyway off we went good T shot on the 1st hole, par 5, but I thinned my 3rd shot through the green and into a hazard oh dear! had to wait for a ruling and then chipped through the green into a bunker and ended up with an eight! on an easy par 5!
Chipped in for par on 2 and lipped our for birdie on 3 – then on the 4th green, par 3, Tom was sitting on the bank at the back of the green and not looking good – he said he could not go on.
I needed a caddy, my playing partners were on the T waiting to play, panic started to creep in as I didn’t know what to do and the marshals said they would radio for a caddy, how long would that take!!
I ended up with a friend from the crowd coming to carry my bag and managed to finish on 78 – 8 over not great but not the end of the world.
Worse was to come – Golf can be better without practice!
Day 2 Senior Open
Well Friday weather did not look good and the start time was 12.10, my son Tom had said he was feeling much better and would be there.
Well I went to the range with a friend in attendance who had not seen me for around 10 years and remarked that I did not hit the ball that well 12 years ago when we used to play together!!
11.50 Tom was still not there and with a message back from him that he is on route but a bit of traffic I was starting to think “will he make it”
Lucky for me my friend was on hand should Tom not be there for T off – well he wasn’t and I hit a horrible drive, the rain was coming down pretty hard and I made 6 on the first, after the 2nd shot on 2 hole the siren was sounded to halt play and we did not get back on the course.
Persistent heavy rain left standing water on a number of greens across Sunningdale, leading to tournament officials calling a halt to the second round just before 1pm.
Saturday we needed to be in position and ready to play at 8am
I had no caddy again! Tom had said the night before he couldn’t make it as he had to work. So I was in “I don’t care mode & will get a caddy in the morning at the club”
Well there weren’t any caddies!! I was told I may have to get someone out of the crowd again!! Then suddenly a man appeared and the chap I was with said he will caddy, so off we went to the 2nd green.
This chap was a little different to say the least, he had ridden a push bike from Holland to UK, caddied for some players in practice rounds but had no bag for the main event.
The night before he had slept under the grandstand on 18 and had a little note book which he was making lots of notes for his blog!!
I had lost the buzz and interest for this round of golf and couldn’t take my mind off the disappointment that Tom couldn’t make it, the bad start Thursday etc etc – ALL THE BAD THINGS.
Now hindsight is a wonderful thing eh – of course with what I know now I would have done things differently – of course!
All I can say is it was an ugly, very ugly day, I certainly did not enjoy the round until the last 2 holes where I got the honour of teeing off first, 17 & 18 were very tough into the wind and I made par on both.
When you know the round is nearly over its funny how you relax and just play and good things happen, working out how to start and finish like this is just a mindvgolf “thought” away….Golf can be better without practice!
So I finished pretty much last with 78 – 85 – BUT as I was a (Wannabe!) Pro then I did receive just under Euro1,000 – funny enough IF I had known that the money, after missing the cut, was based on the position you were in I would have probably tried harder in the 2nd round lol.
I thought if you missed the cut all players received the same but that was not the case, I don’t have the breakdown and can’t find it on the internet anymore but basically if you missed the cut by one shot you would receive more than the guy who missed by 2 etc etc.
Sunningdale Senior Open 2015 Take Away
What did I learn and how this may help you too –
- When you accomplish phase 1 of anything don’t get excited – easy to say but hard to do I know.
- Enjoy the moment but focus on the next step – Looking back I was just wanting to qualify for the Senior Open, I did not have expectations and after qualifying I did not have a plan set in stone, I was just “hoping” for the best.
- Prepare for the first phase with no expectations and follow a plan.
- Do not get emotionally attached to circumstances you cannot control.
- Have a great attitude WHATEVER is going against you.
- Don’t listen to what people say if it is not encouragement.
- Relish the memories of great accomplishments.
Golf after Senior Open Qualifying
Well as you can imagine, I was upset and disappointed plus had to deal with all mentions of nerves, big collapse etc etc – the way I viewed it was I qualified they hadn’t, period.
Back in Thailand all the mentions were of round 2, must have been tough and the like, what happened on the 1st hole 1st round and it went on …….. sure i could respond and make excuses however in some ways the remarks were right.
I was nervous not about playing but the lack of control over circumstances and events I had no experience of, namely the caddy issue with my son, it was worrying and took my mind off the job in hand.
I tried to qualify for The Senior Open in 2016 and 2017 but no luck and not good enough golf. I also went to the US for the US Senior Open qualifying in 2014 and 2017.
While in the US 2017, the US Open qualifying was close to the location for the Senior US Open, so my friend and I gave both go but failed to qualify.
To be successful in golf when one is a Amateur in mind but have “some” game will take a special environment to break through and get a result.
What do I mean by that? For me it means the following;
- Have to be comfortable with environment
- Have to have “no attention to outcome” NATO
- Have to know that your game is there or there about
- HAVE to be in the moment every shot
Now after all the events I have played in I NOW feel more able to control my emotions and the outcome, if I feel like a bad round is gong to happen it often does, if I play with no expectations and keep in the moment then good things normally happen.
One of the main contributions to golf “can” be better with less practice, is fitness, I am following a golf fitness program and highly recommend Fit For Golf, I feel so much better after working out especially when I play straight after the gym!
Consistency is paramount as it is with anything you want to be good at.
You will find your comfort the biggest factor in being good at golf, being confident with your ability and controlling your emotions to virtually a couldn’t care attitude – you will learn more about yourself as you play more golf where there is pressure on your performance.
Enough of my story for now, I may feature certain other golf events of interest from the past through future posts, I hope you all find my journey in golf of interest and the take aways or “mindvgolf” moments help you to find out more about yourself as a person and your golf.
IF you understand yourself you can be successful at anything and I hope you will find inspiration from information here at mindvgolf and believe that golf can be better with less practice.