How to play golf like a pro

The headline might be a bit deceptive and it came about from an email I received from Tim. Timbo, as I like to call him, is a great golfer currently attending college in the USA.

He’s hoping to turn pro later this year and he asked me for some advice;

having a tough time at the moment…playing good but just not scoring….todays round was a perfect example..super tough conditions and played really solid for 15 holes (3 over)…9 over on the other 3 holes and my score is done…just feel like im not getting the most out of my ability right now…any advice coach?

And later on he sent this,

I had an absolute terrible final tournament and I have 7 months ahead of me to get ready for tour school! Trying to work out a plan and ur help would be amazing!

This is my advice for Tim. It fairly comprehensive but I’m sure you’ll pick out a thing or two that’s useful.

Timbo,

It might be easier to write this as if it was me getting ready to turn pro. So here’s what I’d do if given the same opportunity.

I’d start from the green and work backwards. Putting, chipping and pitching are so important – everyone knows this but how many potential tour stars are really working at it? I watch the young ones at my club and I’m not sure they quite get it.

They turn up and hit some putts and chips, but are they really getting better? It’s more social and like they’re going through the motions. I’d get more serious – this is a job and I can’t afford to get distracted. This means there’s no headphones (Ipod) or mobile phone – definitely leave that in the car. The beauty of this is that I can now get in 2 hours of quality practice and then do something else (read a book, write in my diary or spend time with friends). I can go hard and with full attention and then walk away. This is far better use of my valuable time.

And I wouldn’t just practice the easy shots. I’d push myself hard each session to make sure I had all shots covered.

Putting:
Find a fast and hard section of the green to practice the 3 and 4 footers (we all know these are the money putts). Using one ball I’d try and make 20 in a row, then 30 and work up until I can make 50 without missing. And not just from the one place, I would vary the length and line slightly on every putt so there’s no two the same. Each putt is full routine, just like out on the course. This is tiring and hard but I’m here to improve.

But I know when it comes to the crunch I’ve made these little putts before – this gives me confidence that’s hard to measure. It also takes the pressure off the longer game. I can rely on my putting, that’s for sure.

When it comes to long putts I’m all about getting the ball near the hole. I know I can’t hole many of the long putts, but if I can avoid three-putting then I’m in pretty good shape. I’ll push myself to get really good at lagging the ball close to the hole. I’ll spend lots of time “feeling” the stroke and “listening” to the impact. When my long stroke “feels” good and “sounds” nice then I know if hitting the putts in the sweet spot. This makes lag putting all the more easier.

Chipping:
I’d want to use all the clubs for a variety of shots. I’d even think about leaving the lob wedge in the bag during practice. My thinking here is if I can use all the other clubs I’ll become a master with the lobby.

Again, it would be no picnic. I’m there to improve, so I would want to practice shots from tough lies, rough, divots, bare ground, downhill and whatever. I’d set little goals and see how many different ways I could get the ball close to the hole. And this is my objective, I’m not interested in pretty little spin shots, I want the ball to finish close to the hole more often than not. If this means a chip and run with the 3 wood, then that’s what I’m going to do. I’m not going to let others’ thinking/thoughts get in the way of my goal of becoming a better player.

Pitching:
Oh boy, this really is a key part of the game and sadly many miss the boat. But if I did get the chance, this is the way forward.

I’d want to be able to fly the ball specific distances. I’m not sure I would get too precise with the distances (I’m not sure about trying to make a 53 yard swing on cue as the weather and conditions will affect it) but rather look and react to the target.

And I don’t think I’d use the flagstick as the target, but rather, use something else like towels or a bucket. This way I can practice my pitch shots anywhere – they’d be no excuse. Again, I’d use all the clubs and learn what I can and can’t do with each club. It would be great to know how to hit an 8 iron pitch about 70 yards – I’m sure that shot would come in handy and there’s plenty more.

I’d work hard, exploring and learning all sorts of shots but I wouldn’t beat myself up if I couldn’t get the results right away. Learning to fly the ball precise distances is going to take some time – almost an accumulative affect. But I know, after a few months of this I’m going to get really good. It’s a lot of work and might not be the most fun (especially early) but the results are going to be worth it.

Another point:
I’d make sure I had a few Almost Golf Balls with me. This means I can get some quality short game practice in all sorts of random locations. These balls are super cool for learning the short shots and the odd practice session here and there is certainly going to add up.

Playing the game:
I’d play lots. Everyday if I could. And I’m not talking about 18 holes, if I can only squeeze in 3 or 4 holes that would be fine but I’m also open to the possibility of 36 holes in a day. And I would treat these holes like I’m in tournament conditions – there would be no stuffing about and certainly no prisoners would be taken. This is my business and I’m here to play my best. So,

– I’d only hit one ball
– Go through my routine on each shot
– Play the right shot at the right time (at least try to)
– Keep score

These holes are my US Open or Olympic Games. I want to get really good at teeing the ball up and shooting the best score I possibly can. But I’m also going to take this a step further by adding some flair and creativity to these games.

I’m going to develop every shot that I can think of. I want to build a repertoire of shots that will prepare me for everything the game is likely to throw at me. So if I encounter a shot I can’t hit or something that doesn’t fill me with confidence, I’m going to write it down (I always carry a notebook or pencil) or record a message on my phone (if it’s not in my car) for later reference. The idea here is then to practice these shots later. So if I’m required to hit,

– A high draw with a 3 wood
– A lob shot from a bare lie
– A screaming hook with my wedge (did you see Bubba do this?)
– A plugged lie in the bunker
– A towering shot with a 5 iron to hold a hard green

I’m covered. I know I’ve got the shot and can hit it when required. I would have practiced and learned so many different shots that there will be no stopping me.

By now I’m getting serious. So serious in fact that I’m prepared to play in all sorts of conditions. This means I’m going to travel and play all courses in all weather. I don’t care if it’s a public course or a Championship course – I’m going to turn up and be ready to play. I’m not going to be affected by the cold, wind, heat, course conditions or my playing partners. Although I’m going to be friendly and accommodating, when I’m out playing I’m focused on the job at hand.

The other thing I’m going to do is keep a diary. This way I can keep track of my thoughts and feeling and use it for later. Over the coming months and years I’m going to have an incredible reference of what works for me and what doesn’t. The diary will help me remain focused and I can reread it when I need some motivation.

You’ll notice that I haven’t spoken much of the practice fairway. I’m not against it, but I don’t want to waste too much time here. I find it a distraction and too much time here gets me away from playing the game. I’ve noticed a lot of players congregate on the fairway and they are simply going through the motions. So I’d ensure when I’m on the fairway I find a quiet spot and do my thing. I don’t have time to muck around and chit chat. Others can say they spent 3 hours practicing, but I’ll know they wasted half of that time stuffing about – my 2 hours will be quality time and give me a huge advantage at the end of the year.

All this sounds like hard work – and it is. But I’m prepared to do this to live my dream as a pro golfer. It’s what I have to do. But it’s not going to be all hard work.

I’m going to make sure I relax and get away from the game. Thinking about it all the time is not healthy and some down time is going to help recharge my batteries. Here’s a few things I’m going to do when not playing and thinking about golf.

– Go to the gym and workout
– Walk. Walking is a perfect tool to stretch the legs and clear the mind
– Sightseeing. Playing golf requires a lot of travel and where possible I’m going to check out the local attractions. I don’t want to be stuck in the dreary routine of Airport >> Hotel >> Golf course. There’s a big bad world out there and I plan on seeing more of it.
– Read. I want to read a lot and learn new skills

So that’s about it for my plan. Please don’t think this has been done to make me super robotic and boring. It’s quite the opposite really. I love playing golf and I’m determined to find the best way for me to play. And this is going to be my motto as I travel the world – “play the game”. When I get stuck or have a series of poor holes (and that will happen more often then I want) it’s going to remind me to relax and hit the ball. I’m not going to let a few poor shots get in my way and I’m certainly not going to go all funny and try and rebuild my swing every other week. I’ll have a team behind me who understand and support my every move – and they’ll also keep me on track when I’ll get distracted every now and then.

I’m going to stick to my guns through thick and thin and believe in my approach. I know that talent is a myth and I have as much chance as everyone to become successful. If I work smarter and learn to play golf my way I’ll have an incredible career. I’ve got a strategy to avoid the many pitfalls out on tour and I’m prepared for everything (both good and bad) that is going to come my way.

I understand the real skill in golf is not a better swing or technique, but rather learning to play with what I have. If I do all the above my technique is going to improve naturally – it’s going to be my authentic game. And this is what’s going to be with me when the pressure is on.

There’s no time like the present so I’m off now to follow my plan and my dream. Lots of golfers talk a good game, but only those who are really serious live it day in and day out. And just maybe this is the greatest skill of all.

Good golfing,

Cameron

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6 Comments

  • Andrew

    Reply Reply May 2, 2012

    Great article Cam especially about putting, about six months ago I read an article on putting and it contained some tour stats. The pros make 88% of 3 to 5 footers and 50% of 5 to 10 footers, outside 10 feet it drops significantly, and outside 20 foot to below 15%. I figured that putting is the one area where an amateur can come close to matching a pro. As you state 3 to 5 footers are the ones to practice. I decided instead of going to the range I would now go to the putting green, and I have a nice area of carpet about 6 foot long and 11 on the stimp meter that I practice on at home when I have a spare minute, full routine of course. My scores are slowly coming down and I am super confident in that 3 to 5 foot range, they don’t look as long any more. I found putting confidence also pervades other areas of your game, I am not so tense over a chip knowing if I can get it in that 3 to 5 range I am a great chance, still trying to chip in of course. Also approach shots to the green aren’t as tension filled if you know if you get them around the mark you’re a good chance. My putting hero is Luke Donald who went 25 rounds without 3 putting, amazing.

    • Cameron

      Reply Reply May 2, 2012

      Andrew: you make some great points. If amateur players could improve their putting, even just a bit, their scores would come down massively. Reduce the number of three putts and minimise those small misses and you’ll almost always drop your handicap and score. And it’s not that hard – way easier than trying to fix your swing. And like you say, when your are confident with putting, the confidence seeps through your entire game.

      And another thing, when you can make most of your 3 footers, you’ll naturally make more of the 4, 5 and 6 footers as well. You may even surprise yourself at how many of the longer ones you make too.

      Cheers,

      Cameron

  • Lukey

    Reply Reply May 2, 2012

    Good advice Cam played a practice round the other day and spent a considerable amount of the time chipping and putting.I also experimented with some different types of shots and lo and behold I started having FUN .That is one of the major things we miss out on having fun.
    Cheers Lukey

    • Cameron

      Reply Reply May 2, 2012

      Lukey: When you have fun you’ll learn more. Practice doesn’t need to be a grind day in and day out. If you’re trying to make your living from the game it may get tiring – but for everyone else it should be free reign. Time to let go and have some fun.

      Cheers,

      Cameron

  • tommie holyday

    Reply Reply March 11, 2013

    I am 13 please can you help me get started again I handicap is 18

    • Cameron

      Reply Reply March 11, 2013

      Tommie – you’ve got to get outside and play the game. Have fun with it, try lots of shots and don’t be afraid to do what feels good to you. I wouldn’t worry about your handicap either – just play.

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