If I had to rebuild my golf game

A golfing mate quizzed me tonight on how I would rebuild my golf game if I had to start from scratch. This is not the first time I’ve been asked this question, and it was a bit of fun thinking about it.

The last five or so golfing years have been great for me. I reckon I’ve learned a thing or two and can help you rebuild your game.

I’m also sure you’d like to know what and how I’d do it all again if for some stupid reason I lost my game overnight. Here’s a list I compiled in a few minutes.

How I would rebuild my golf game

Lighten Up– This one would be high up on the list. Golfers take things too seriously sometimes. Although we think our golf games are life and death, they rarely are that important. I remember when a family friend took me aside and told me to stop being so serious. She told me to relax and stop being so serious. It took a little while but it certainly helped. Not only has it helped my golf game, but it affected all parts of my life.

Ignore Most – I’m not saying ignore everyone. You always need mentors and people to guide you but I recommend you ignore most. Playing partners and swing gurus are best given a wide berth. Learn to trust your skill and game and you’ll be on the right track.

Break Some Rules – I wasted years during my golfing development trying to swing in a way that I thought was correct. This is getting back to “Ignoring Most”. I can honestly say that when I stopped trying to swing in a certain way and just swung, my golf swing found a freedom that unlocked some real magic. Another way of saying this is “be different”.

Play more than I practice – I learned golf in the “Faldo Age”. The myth here was that he spent years on the practice fairway, perfecting and honing his swing. Golf coaches and mentors pushed many to follow the same path. The truth is that although he spent too much time on the fairway he did play at least nine holes each day. And when he played golf that is what he did. He stopped thinking about his swing and played a variety of shots to get the job done. This I believe is what allowed him to become the best in the world and win 6 majors.

Get a good set of clubs – I went through a patch during the mid nineties where I thought my bad golf was due to poor clubs. I changed clubs a lot. My shaft flex was never correct, nor the lie angle. My mind was scattered and I always had an excuse for poor golf. When I realised I was telling stories and the clubs had little impact on my play I was able to get to the bottom of uncovering real golfing success. Get a good set of clubs and stick with them, there’s nothing wrong with them.

Use rock solid fundamentals – The temptation is always to try different things and improve technique. Even today my mind wanders around thinking about ways I can improve my golf swing. This is something that I try and avoid. Been there and done that kind of thing – and never really had much success with it. Instead I rely on “my” fundamentals, these include;

  • A comfortable and natural grip and stance
  • A free flowing and simple swing – I like to feel like I’m throwing the club
  • Play “my” shot – a draw with the irons and a fade with the driver

These simple fundamentals are rock solid. If I ever get tempted to rebuild my golf swing I remind myself about the above three. They will almost always get me back on track.

Avoid Golf Magazines – Read them for the articles and golf results but I would never use them for a source of golf learning. I’m struggling to think of anything that I’ve learned of value in them. Sad but true.

Work the short game – In my early days I spent a lot of time around a chipping green. Without enough money to hit range balls I opted for the vacant short game area. I didn’t know it at the time but this time was well spent. A reliable short game is incredibly important – maybe the easiest way to rebuild your game.

Aim for confidenceConfidence doesn’t just happen. I don’t think you can wish for it and you certainly can’t pay for it. Confidence comes when you can swing the club without fear or self-doubt. Then you realise that all of the control, worry and energy is wasted – that your real game shines through and this is better than anything you thought possible.

This is a big step to take but it makes golf worthwhile. I would never want to waste another second looking for the secret or a miracle cure. Playing golf with confidence is the ultimate. It makes the game fun and gives me the best score possible each time I play. There is no comparison to confidence. Daylight is second. It’s hard to put into words the euphoria felt when you know deep down you have everything you need to play great golf. The searching is over and all you have to do is play.

Help others – This one is warm and fuzzy but I have received tremendous enjoyment by helping others. This is something I would recommend and the hidden benefit in giving is that you continue to learn and develop.

This is by no means a definitive list. I’ll probably add to it in time and I’d like to hear you thoughts. Leave your comments in the comments section below. And feel free to pass it on to any golfer you know that is having trouble with their game.

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John Stead - March 2, 2010

Hi Tribers,
It would be interesting to do a poll on how a better swing improves golf scores. The reason I ask is A friend and I had a discussion the other day about this and he plays of 3. He said I hit the ball horribly yet was getting up an d down. In 12 holes he said he 9 one putt greens. He said he relied heavily on his short game.
I’m a big believer in getting your routine down pat first then,( ie eistiening, counting etc) playing comp rounds with out giving in to ditractions, then and only then can you play auto golf. I’m still go through the process of improving my routine then short game then playing comp. Remember get lost in your routine.
Cheers
Steady

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Ray Crick - March 2, 2010

Hello Cam,
Just a quick question regarding chipping with the six iron , if the green is elevated with no bunkers do you still go with chipping with the six iron? or revert back to the wedge and work on pitching up on to the green? Have been working on using the six iron, starting to get a good feel for it just having trouble with the speed.

Cheers
Ray

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Gregor McCulloch - March 2, 2010

A timely post. Iam trying to get my game back to where it was a few years ago and apart from the odd blip things are moving along nicely thanks to Camerons advice. From his list above I have to agree that ditching any thought of ‘fixing’ your swing is the way to go and buying new clubs does nothing. I think though that playing your way, fundementals and a good short game ultimately bring confidence which in turn bring lower scores so these are the things to concentrate on.

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Grayden Provis - March 2, 2010

Cameron said “we think our golf games are life and death”. The Scots have a saying about that: “Nae son, golf isn’t a matter of life and death, its much more serious than that” 🙂

Cameron said: “I can honestly say that when I stopped trying to swing in a certain way and just swung, my golf swing found a freedom that unlocked some real magic” Van Gogh said he aimed his whole life to paint like a child – free of inhibition. Sounds like the point we need to get to with our golf swing.

Cameron said: “Playing golf with confidence is the ultimate. It makes the game fun and gives me the best score possible each time I play. There is no comparison to confidence. Daylight is second. It’s hard to put into words the euphoria felt when you know deep down you have everything you need to play great golf. The searching is over and all you have to do is play” Tribers, thats the whole 9 yards right there. I’m very envious Mr Strachan. You’ve got what I want. I’ve glimpsed it and I can see that its very exciting. I’ve also seen enough now to know that automatic will get me there if I have the guts to trust.

Thanks Cameron. Good article.

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Stuart Hay - March 3, 2010

Hi Guys, i’d like to say thank you to Cameron and the rest of the tribe. I was a 26 handicapper when I first started reading this information way back in early 2009, It’s been over twelve months now and my hanndicap has gone down and up and guess what… I’m still a 26 handicapper. But what HAS changed is my level of enjoyment, I used to get sooo frustrated, to the point of throwing my clubs, but now my weekly game is sooo much more enjoyable, I play a bad shot and I find it interesting not frustrating, I have my good games where everything works well and I can even win some tournaments (was B Grade champion for 2009) but then I have some terrible games and I no longer get angry about it. I’m certainly not Tiger Woods but my goodness I love my golf. The one thing that I always remember is that MY game is MY game. Thank you all.

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Tony Lucas - March 3, 2010

Hi Cam
Have given HFR a go and have found it to suit me to the ground because it effectively gets the legs out of it for me.Now you are probably asking yourself what the hell has this got to do with this post and that is simple I got confidence and with confidence comes enjoyment and the auto process is made simpler as well.Standing that 3-4 metres behind the ball has definitely helped the auto process as well.
Cheers Lukey

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Danny List - March 4, 2010

I am getting my game up and going again,due to a rise in confidence and thinking less,i still play pennants for my club,i am in my sixtys and keep up with most of my oponents.So the botton line is enjoy and a degree of fitness……Cheers

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Grayden Provis - March 5, 2010

Question / comment: the ONLY part of my game that I’m still not comfortable with going fully auto on is bunker shots. I’ve tried it and had little success unlike all the other shots. Bunker play has been one of the strongest parts of my game for a while now and I do it by very clearly “feeling” the club going through the sand a fraction of second before I start the swing and holding onto that “feeling” all the way through the shot. THis is obviously completely opposite to going auto in which the LAST thing you want to be thinking about is the actual shot you’re making but if I go auto on bunker shots they go all over the place at the moment Not sure why this is because as I say auto is working very well with everything else from driver to putter. Anyway, the approach I’m taking for now is “if it ‘aint broke don’t fix it” – I get up and down a lot from the sand so will continue to play my bunker shots with very deliberate conscious control even though it obviously “breaks the rules”! Would be interested in your thoughts Cameron and also hearing about others’ experience in the sand. Thanks.

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John Stead - March 5, 2010

Hi Tribers
in relation to Grayden’s question. I don’t see the sand any differently to any other shot on the course. Whether it be rough, bare lie, good lie or sand, my approach is as I get behind the ball check the lie pick the club I want to use check wind, distance or anything else . Stand 3 to 4 meteres behind balland start routine. In essence some lies absolutely scare golfers because they don’t know how to play that type of shot.Einstiening. That’s my 2 cents.
Cheers Steady

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Gregor McCulloch - March 5, 2010

Grayden,
I have had a similar experience with poor bunker shots. For a while (years) they were one of the best parts of my game. Then all of a sudden I kept hitting the ball before the sand. Bunker shots scared me daft.
Then I tried pre-setting as advised by Cameron. Walk into the bunker and place your feet in the sand where you want to play from. Then walk back out the bunker and take a look at your prints. In my case the ball is nearly always too far forward and my alignment to the right. So all I do is walk back in (using auto now) and place my feet in the correct position and swing. Not been a problem since. In fact I wish I could see my foot prints before every shot to check my ball position. It gives great confidence

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John Stead - March 5, 2010

Gregor is correct. I actually forgot about presetting. A great tool to calm the nerves and play at your optimum.
Cheers Steady

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Cameron - March 5, 2010

@Grayden: A while ago I realised that automatic play was the best thing to do. And it didn’t matter what kind of shot I was trying to hit and when I was trying to hit it. Any thought of HOW and conscious control leads to overload and choking.

But….

I’m not convinced your approach isn’t automatic. Having a “feeling” about the shot could work. If you’re feeling the shot but approaching the swing in a free flowing manner this is fine. You only get into trouble when your approach becomes stiff and controlling.

Sometimes you’ve got to do what works – automatic will give you the best results and maybe you’ve found a variation that can get the job done. You’ve just got to be careful that you don’t revert back to conscious control. This is when little Pesky get’s his own way – it makes him feel good but it won’t help your game.

Hope this helps,

Cameron

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Cameron - March 5, 2010

@Stuart: Thanks for posting and letting us know about your game. Real enjoyment is hard to measure but it certainly is worthwhile.

I have long since given up on thinking about my handicap. I reckon this is a great mindset to have – your handicap is just a stupid number. Don’t let it get in your way.

Thanks again,

Cameron

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Grayden Provis - March 5, 2010

Thanks folks. You always learn something from hearing how others go about their business.
Cameron said: “I’m not convinced your approach isn’t automatic”……its funny because after I posted the question I actually started to wonder that myself….ie maybe I’m actually doing this more automatically than I realize? And you’re probably right……I’m very focussed on the feel of the club going through the sand throughout the shot but on reflection I guess I’m not giving any thought at all to grip, length of backswing, stance etc……Hmmm, good comments. Cheers.

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Richard Asher - March 5, 2010

It’s a tricky business knowing what to ignore and what not to ignore. I’ve tried ‘just swinging’ all my life, but, not being a natural sportsman, I think it’s clear that I need some guidance if I want to stop shanking it, break 100 and get to play in the Masters. I’ve gone for getting a regular coach, one of the best in my country, and I think it’s the way to go if I’m going to be taking advice from anybody. The tricky part is being selective about who else to listen to – I’m getting lots of well-meaning advice on my blog, but that can create conflict. Such a difficult game…how many other sports require coaching on being coached? 🙂

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    Cameron - March 7, 2010

    @Richard: I had a look at your website. There’s no doubt you’re setting your goals high – some would say very high. My thoughts if you’re interested;

    1. Keep setting in between goals. Break 80, win club competition, shoot par for 9 holes etc.

    2. Strive to find a free flowing swing. The swing I saw on your website looked tight and stiff.

    3. Don’t get bogged down on mechanics. Play more that you practice – the game of golf is more about score than your swing.

    4. Have fun and don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Golf becomes much easier when you stop trying so damn hard.

    Thanks for posting and feel free to keep everyone updated here.

    Reply
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