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I first met Cameron when he was teaching from an indoor studio in Melbourne. I had seen an advert in the local golf paper and I was intrigued to learn more about this guy claiming he had a better and simpler way of approaching golf.
I was interested because I had known Cameron through the Victorian amateur golf scene. He could play quite a bit and actually made a bit of a splash a few years earlier, when he turned up, almost out of nowhere, and started winning events and performing consistently. So I knew he could play and he wasn’t just some “internet” guy peddling some rehashed information or looking to make a fast buck.
He was sort of inspirational too - he had once been a PGA Professional - but felt so strongly about the poor level of coaching during his training, that he decided to pack his bags and go it alone. There aren’t many people that have the courage to buck the system - let alone stand up to over 100 years of tradition in such a conservative sport. But Cameron isn’t afraid, and in my opinion, this is his greatest strength.
His 60 minute lesson blew my mind (he actually over-delivered and gave me close to two hours of his time). Up to that point I had been some sort of golf tragic - having spent thousands of dollars each year on golf clubs, devices, lessons and magazines. I believed I had heard it all and wasn’t quite ready for what I experienced.
Cameron spoke in a different way, he was calm and had an inner belief about what he was doing. He wasn’t interested in my ball flight or how good the shot was - but he was fascinated with MY feedback. He kept at me to tell him more about each shot,
“Evan, how did that feel?”
“Can you feel any difference to the last one?”
“Why didn’t you like that shot?”
“Can you hear the clubface strike the ball?”
“On a scale of 1 to 10, tell me how you’d rate that shot?”
Plus lots of other things.
At first I was a little uncomfortable. It was strange for a coach to ask these sorts of questions. Normally, you rock up for a lesson and get told what to do or work on a specific part of your swing. But this is NOT how Cameron teaches. Actually, he hates the word “teach” and prefers “coach” or “coaching”. He says “teaching” is just telling someone what to do and is all about conforming to the norm. And it’s the reason why most of us dislike school so much - we get told what to do. But we’re not encouraged to,
Do what feels right for us.
To break the mold and explore.
To try something different.
To have fun.
For the most part, teaching is all about getting you to conform and not buck the system. Cameron says modern golf is more about teaching. Shame really. But coaching, well, this is an entirely different story and something that Cameron is incredibly passionate about.
“Proper” coaching makes golf fun. And don’t think this is some airy fairy way of playing golf. When you’re coached correctly you get improvement and with improvement comes a deep satisfaction. And this is truly fun.
I went from that first lesson with my head abuzz. I was pumped. Cameron showed me some things and made me realise I’d upset my natural learning system - despite my best intentions, all of the lessons, clubs and gadgets had interrupted my system.
I’m a technical sort of guy. I work in IT and it can be hard for me to let go. But this is exactly what Cameron got me to do - he asked me to “remove the straitjacket” and see what would happen. He told me to “man up”, to be brave and walk towards the apprehension I was feeling.
To my surprise, by using less thought and analysis I could still hit the ball. I couldn’t believe it! I was actually able to hit the ball better by trying less. I know this goes against the grain, but this is exactly what Cameron likes us to do. Break some of those old-fashioned rules and go for it.
My first game out after the lesson was one of my best. A 68. I had a freedom I hadn’t felt in years and it was like being a kid again. It was the first time in a long time where I had truly played the game - I forgot about the swing, score, handicap, playing partners and all the stuff golfers like to worry about. I teed my ball and played.
If your golf has hit a roadblock, I can guarantee you’ll get something positive if you stop trying so hard. It’s simple advice, but is a fundamental of Cameron’s coaching.
Over the next few months I caught up with him regularly - I became his business mentor of sorts as I helped him spread his word to a wider golfing public. As a complete golf nutter, and someone who can’t get enough of this crazy game, I wanted everyone to experience the magic of his coaching ideals.
Throughout the year I quizzed him with questions, took notes and we even recorded a conversation.
What follows is the result of our conversations and I doubt you’ve ever seen anything like what is presented here. It’s an honest look at the golf instruction industry and why it has failed you. It also goes deep into the correct learning process and highlights Cameron’s unique golfing path.
Cameron has created a fun and fresh golf learning publication and has presented it like only he can.
This work will change you, of that I’m sure. The only question you need to ask is, are your ready for it? The coach will only appear when the student is ready. And like me, you may have to take a deep breath and be brave.
None of what Cameron coaches is going to hurt you or your game, but it’s different so many will resist the message. Don’t. Apply what you learn because it really will change your golfing life.
Read every word and hear the passion of a guy who really understands this golf coaching caper. It’s my pleasure to introduce to you my coach, good friend, master golfer and golf coach, Cameron Strachan, as he shares with you how to play Remarkable Golf.
Evan Spargo (the Golf Geek)
The golf learning process - path to mastery ...
Cameron: At the risk of boring everyone, here’s a snapshot of my early golf career.
My grandparents bought me a set of clubs for my 14th birthday. My birthday is early March, but because they lived over 3 hours away, I didn’t get the clubs until Easter 1988 (early April).
I was desperate to play golf and I couldn’t wait for my first game. I had been quite successful up until this point with soccer, tennis and athletics - basically, if it involved a ball or running, I was able to do well.
But that first game was a disaster and not much fun. I scored 156 and my grandmother made me count every shot. The first hole was terrible, 17 hits from memory. But if nothing else, I’m determined and when we got back home I went straight out to the backyard to work on my game.
The next day we played again, this time getting a worse score. I was well over 160.
And I tell you this to highlight that I had no special talent for the game. A huge frustration of mine is people say, “sure Cameron, this all sounds good and all, but you’re a natural - golf comes easy to you”.
But it didn’t. I was so frustrated at those early games because I had read somewhere that Greg Norman was able to break 100 in his first games out and got his handicap down to scratch in no time. I wanted to be like him but I was miles off.
By the end of the Easter holiday my score was down to 127. It was an improvement, but still a long way from where I wanted it to be. My grandfather was a 90 shooter, and I at least wanted to beat him.
I trotted back to Melbourne with my tail between my legs. Golf certainly had me beaten but I didn’t give up.
There was a horse paddock near my home and this became my battleground. I spent hours there, hitting balls and getting lost in my own little world.
My biggest concern was the odd nasty horse and losing balls. The paddock wasn’t some manicured fairway, it was pretty rough, and the little creek running through it was overgrown - any ball landing there was almost certainly lost.
I had a great place to play: I’d climb the small hill and be able to hit balls down and over the creek. The horses had sort of worn out a patch of ground that I used for my target. It was perfect! A small target, surrounded by the creek and long grass.
My shots had to be pretty good, as anything astray would result in a lost ball. I didn’t have a lot of money for new balls, so each shot had my full attention.
I had no idea at the time, but these practice sessions were perfect. I wasn’t worried about my swing at all - not one bit. I was more concerned about my objective.
Evan: Getting the ball over the creek?
Cameron: Yes. That was my goal. And bit by bit I was getting better. I worked out a nice little swing that could hit the ball fairly consistently. I can’t remember exactly, but I think my record was 22 shots in a row onto my makeshift green. And keep in mind it was probably a shot of 140 metres, off rough ground, using beaten up balls.
I also want to add that too many young kids today wait until they have the perfect environment to practice in. They want the manicured fairway, the nice new balls, fancy clubs and the brand new driving range. There’s nothing wrong with having all this fancy stuff but there’s also nothing wrong with roughing it.
There’s a guy at my club who’s got a tonne of talent and skill but he’s also lazy. He’s waiting for things to happen but I think he’ll be waiting for a long time. Best thing he could do is grab some balls and go hit them at the footy ground next to his house - he won’t because it’s not good enough. He’s waiting for the “perfect” environment to come his way.
The horse paddock was rough and the grass wasn’t ideal but it was all that I needed. Those shots across the creek absolutely were some of the best practice I’ve ever done.
Evan: So you developed your own unique swing that worked?
Cameron: I sure did. And I really didn’t know what I was doing. I was just hitting balls and having the time of my life. My parents rarely saw me, only for dinner time.
I’d end up at the horse paddock most days. Before school, after school and on weekends. And I knew I was getting better because I was hitting the ball so much better. It really was a great time.
Evan: What sort of scores were you getting now?
Cameron: They were coming down. I remember this one game where I played with my good mate and his dad. They were both golfers (been playing for years) and I was quite nervous. When we hit off, I recall being surprised at how inconsistent they were. They both hit the ball all over the place and they had no control. This didn’t make a lot of sense because I was able to hit the ball straight and clean - I rarely had a bad miss hit by then.
On the 7th hole, I still remember it was like yesterday, I struck a wedge that landed on the edge of the hole. The ball didn’t go in, but it left a huge pitch mark around the hole and the ball finished like an inch from the hole. It was at that time, the best shot I had ever hit.
And I was playing well, despite the nerves, my scoring was on. On the 16th hole, this time with a nine iron, I hit the flag with my approach. It was another easy birdie and I was on fire. I couldn’t believe it - my score was only a few above the par of the course.
The last hole was a shortish par three. I stepped up and hit the ball to 10 feet. I felt amazing. I two-putted for a par and signed for a 76. I was over the moon. My friend and his dad both scored in the low 90’s. They weren’t sure what they had witnessed because I had told them I had only just started playing - which I had. But they suspected something was wrong (that I lied about my golfing past) and we didn’t play much after this incident.
My routine after golf was back to the horse paddock. I’d work on different shots and practice those that gave me any issues. I couldn’t get enough golf, no matter how long I stayed out there.
My twin brother and my other mates were all off catching fish, playing computer games, chasing girls, but not me, I was hooked on golf.
Evan: You were starting to shoot some low scores?
Cameron: Yep, this one time I ran straight to the golf course after school and hit off. I was only going to play 9 holes but I was going so well I kept going. The last few holes were played in the dark, but I came in with a 70 off the stick.
I need to point out that this wasn’t a championship course, it was the local public course and it was fairly easy. But I was playing well and really starting to get my game in shape.
Not long after that round I went way better and shot a 64. It was the same story as last time. Run to the course and played as many holes as possible. The funny thing in this round was playing with the same mate where I shot 76. The poor guy, he sort of fancied himself as a golfer and I was shooting these ridiculous scores each time we went out. He sort of gave up on golf after this.
That round I had 9 birdies and an eagle. I was on fire. The eagle came on a short par 4 - I drove across the water and sunk the putt. The entire round was magic - I felt like things were going in slow motion and I seriously couldn't miss. It was almost like the hole kept getting in the way.
Evan: Is this the slow and heavy you talk about?
Cameron: Yes! I didn’t realise it at the time but when I was playing well my swing felt “slow and heavy”. I understand it better now and it is like this:
When the swing feels heavy I have this sensation that I can move the club with power. It’s a funny sensation because it’s not a bad heavy that’s going to weigh me down - it’s more like the club feels like a weapon that I can move with power and really smash the ball.
Heavy things are easy to feel and when you can “feel” you have tremendous awareness in what you are doing. From here golf becomes easier because you’re learning each time you swing the club.
The slow part refers to the sensation of time. It sort of feels like I have more “time” to hit the ball. If you listen to champion athletes they’ll tell you that when they’re in the zone they feel like they’re in slow motion - almost feels like time stands still.
It’s an awesome feeling to have and and it all comes about when we truly play the game. I know we’ll get deeper into this as our conversation continues. The only other thing I’ll add for now is the opposite of “slow and heavy” is fast and light. When my swing feels this way I know I’m in trouble. I have no time to hit the ball and everything is all over the place.
I think many golfers play this way because they’re simply not aware of their swing. They’re blind and it’s a huge problem in the game.
And here’s something else for you: These quick rounds before dark are an excellent way to get yourself into the moment. The courses are generally quite and you have the place to yourself.
And because you don’t have a lot of time, the chances are you’ll play quickly. There’s less fussing around. And this is exactly the mindset you want, look at the target, choose a club and then go for it. A lot of the extra thought just gets in the way. I’ll cover this in more detail later, but these “sprint” rounds are a very good thing.
Evan: Your play attracted a bit of attention in the club, didn’t it?
Cameron: It did. Not sure if it was because of the scores I was shooting or because of the amount of golf I played. It wasn’t unusual for me to spend hours on the putting or chipping green. I really couldn’t get enough.
Early the next year the club had a new scholarship program. It involved weekly lessons and free golf and range balls. This was too exciting for me, I had to get one!
I took a bunch of the applications and spent hours filling them in. I used my best handwriting and got my dad to check for mistakes. If I wasn’t happy with it, I’d tear it up and start again.
I must have filled in the application 20 times - but it worked because I got past 1st base and received an interview.
My parents were really supportive. They saw how much I loved the game and wanted me to excel. They drove me to the interview and I got to meet a bunch of the coaches. The hardest part was answering the questions, the easiest part was hitting balls.
The interviews were done inside a sports stadium and they had some nets setup next to the interview table. It was a quite well done as a big company was behind the sponsorship. When it was my turn to hit, I just did what came naturally to me. I thumped the ball as hard as I could, the ball crashed into the net and the momentum of the strike brought the net down.
It was my last hit.
For a while I thought I had done something wrong. The only thing the pro told me was not to swing too hard - he had a twinkle in his eye when he said it though.
The next few weeks were tense. I couldn’t concentrate at school and I would rush home to see if a letter had arrived. There’s nothing like a wait to teach a young kid patience.
It was a Thursday, I got home and there was a letter from the sponsor of the scholarship fund sitting on the table. My heart was beating and I was nervous to open the letter. I really wanted this scholarship, more than anything and I wasn’t prepared for missing out - I had my heart set on it.
The first word I saw was CONGRATULATIONS
“Yes”, I screamed and I pumped my fist. I was in.
Evan: Cool. What was involved with this scholarship?
Cameron: There was a lot of coaching. Each week, me and the three other winners would meet at the course for some intensive coaching. We’d get some lessons in the morning and get to play the course in the afternoon.
It was like Christmas. I really couldn’t believe that this had happened and I pretty much had all the range balls and golf I could handle for an entire year.
Evan: Tell us about the coaching.
Cameron: It was quite technical. The coach had a video camera and he’d take shots of our swing and we’d get to watch them back in a small video room. He’d draw lines on the screen and talk to us about swing plane and body pivot. He’d also compare our young swings with those of the superstars.
At the time I thought it was fantastic. I’d take what was being told, absorb it and then try and implement into my game. I was so dedicated. I would do anything to play better and improve.
It wasn’t unusual for me to grab multiple large buckets of balls, and sift through them throughout the afternoon. I must have hit thousands of balls that year. Every now and then the pro would stop by, take a look and offer more words of encouragement. I would have been his best student, as I did everything asked of me.
Little by little things started to unravel. One day, while in the middle of a lesson I hit a shank. The ball went sideways. This had never really happened to me before, maybe only once or twice when I first started. But shanking wasn’t something I was used to.
Shanking was a real pain. The ball went sideways off the club, leaving a nasty vibration in my hands. It was awful.
While out playing, I would start missing the fairways by miles. My bad shot was this weak blocked shot - it would also go sideways. My confidence was starting to take a hit.
The coach told me to keep practicing. So I did. Harder and harder until my hands bleed. The warning signs should have been going off that something wasn’t right. But I trusted what was being taught and I really wanted to succeed.
At this point I really didn’t have a life. It was all golf. Socially, I was really awkward. I was shy and the fact I spent most hours absorbed in golf didn’t help. It was a true obsession that was getting out of hand.
I don’t really regret much I’ve done, but that time of my life was pretty ordinary. It wasn’t a highlight that’s for sure.
Evan: So how did you get out of this?
Cameron: It took a while because the traditional mindset is fairly ingrained - the scholarship lasted all year and I was continuing to practice hard. But something deep down wasn’t sitting too well with me. I knew something was wrong.
My shyness probably didn’t help here. I was too scared to stand up for myself and just kept plugging away. Thinking that things would eventually turn out for the best.
Evan: Did they?
Cameron: Eventually my dad stepped in. He’s a straight shooter, and street smart. He also sees things a little differently. He was successful in business mostly because he wasn’t afraid to do things his way.
And this basically meant making the software he produced really simple. He hating making things any harder than they needed to be. For him, the success of his product was keeping all the technical stuff hidden from the customer - they could turn on their computer and get their work done.
A lot of programming, and this probably still happens today, is the engineers forget about the end user, they make things too complex, because they think the software is about them. The poor client is forgotten about.
So my father was pretty successful. It took him a while, but he eventually sold out to a large USA company. The success of the business largely built on his innovative operating system that “just made sense”.
One day he pulled me aside for a father and son talk. Here’s a snapshot of what he told me:
“This is garbage! This pro doesn’t know what he is doing. You know how to play - look at the scores you used to be able to shoot. Look at all the events you won. You can’t play now.
I don’t get it! Why are they messing with your swing so much? I don’t play golf, but if I look at all the great champions, they have a unique style to them. What’s wrong with your style?
Get rid of the coaching and go back to playing how you know how.”
Cameron: It was pretty powerful stuff and it hit me right between the eyes. His talk coincided with a member of the club telling me about a book called, The Inner Game of Golf.
That book is a revelation. If you haven’t read it you should. All golfers should own a copy. And read it. At least twice. The message today is as relevant as it was the day Tim Gallwey wrote it.
The book talks about natural learning and takes you on a journey as Gallwey applies his inner game techniques to his own game as he attempts to break 80 for the first time.
I think I read the book from cover to cover in one night. I couldn’t put it down because the stories spoke directly to me. It was almost like the book was written for me. And for the very first time I could see where I had gone wrong. I understood what natural learning was and how this differs from everything I had been taught by the pro.
It also highlighted what my dad was telling me. So it all made sense and it came along at the right time. Not only did the book tell me that too much technique was not a good thing, it told me what I could do to fix my issues.
The book was able to bridge the gap between what I thought was wrong and what my father was telling me.
Evan: What’s the main message in the book?
Cameron: It’s simple. Distract your conscious mind for the duration of the shot. Basically, stop thinking so much and learn to play automatically.
Evan: So how did all that work out for you?
Cameron: It was quite amazing. I went down to the fairway and started swinging - I stopped all of the analysis and really just started hitting the ball in a way that felt good to me. And then something incredible happened.
My swing started working again. My awareness went from thinking swing, to just feeling the clubhead back and through. And the more balls I hit the better I was doing. It was fun and also a relief that I still had my old swing. I hadn’t lost my game, it was hiding just below the surface.
And the best thing was then taking it to the course. By forgetting all the rules and regulations that had been drummed into me, I was able to hit the ball really well out on the course. I would look where I wanted the ball to go, then walk up and swing away. There was no concern, thought or panic. I put all the trust into my system that it would be able to hit the ball for me. And for the most part it did.
It was like I had removed the straitjacket and unleashed my swing onto the world. And I like that term, “remove the straitjacket”. It really sums up what happens when you start thinking less and playing more. It’s like you’re playing with more freedom - almost like you’re taking an arm from behind your back.
I think there’s a mental and physical straitjacket here too. You need to physically let go that’s for sure, but you also need to mentally let go of all those technical bits of information to truly play with freedom. It’s a big step and something I truly hope golfers can get to experience.
Evan: You have told me this is where you went on a bit of a learning curve. Can you expand on that?
Cameron: Sure. I don’t want to exaggerate here and give people the wrong idea. But I really did unlock my A-game pretty quickly. And this is the beauty of the automatic process, it gets to the heart of your skill and lets your real game shine through.
There’s no real downtime where you have to learn something new. All you’re doing is unlocking the swing/game that already exists inside you.
So I went on a tear. I played 14 games in a row of par or better. I was a new man and this culminated with me winning my first ever monthly medal. I shot a 68 off the stick (at a bigger and better golf course) and got my handicap down to scratch for the first time. In fact, I went from a struggling 4 handicapper, to a scratch marker, and I did it really quickly.
I was back. I had found my old mojo and it felt fantastic. It was so much more enjoyable to drive to the course and knowing that I was going to play well. I want to expand on this further:
The sensation that you’re going to play well, even before you get to the golf course, is something I don’t think many golfers ever get to feel. It’s so uncommon for the simple fact that most of us spend all of our energy on trying to fix the golf swing. We never ever get to the point where we leave our swing alone. We don’t ever say,
“You know what? I’m just going to go play today. I don’t care about my swing or how I do it - I’m just playing”
Evan: You’re right. I know in my case I never went to the golf course to just play the game. I always had to be thinking of something or working on some sort of drill or swing thought.
Cameron: And for the most part Evan, this doesn’t work too well. You disrupt your system from doing what it does best. All of the thinking, analysis and trying just gets in the way. And because you’re disrupting your system, you miss out on all that’s really possible.
The feeling of control, like you have when you know you’re going to play well before getting to the course, is really powerful. Golf becomes more than some unhealthy obsession - it becomes a pastime that gives you real enjoyment.
Evan: So this automatic/instinctive stuff is vitally important?
Cameron: It is. In my own case, at this point in time I only had a beginner grade understanding of it and wasn’t 100% convinced I knew what I was doing. Sure, I was having more fun and I was playing great but I still lacked the conviction to trust what I was doing.
You might not believe this Evan, but four days after getting to a scratch handicap and winning my first monthly medal, I stopped doing what I was doing and started on a radical new swing system.
Evan: You’re kidding?
Cameron: Nope. It’s embarrassing looking back on it now but I really wasn’t that confident in myself. I was easily led astray and bought into the marketing hype that was being peddled.
So for the second time, I stopped playing golf my way, and adopted something that someone else said would work for me. How stupid is that?
The lure of playing on the professional tour, working closely with the new coach and being a sort of pinup boy for this new system was all to strong for me. I was taken hook, line and sinker.
Evan: I can’t believe you did that!
Cameron: Like I said, it’s embarrassing now but at the time I believed in what I was being told and believed that the guys running the show knew what they were on about. I really thought that I’d be on the PGA Tour in a few years and making millions of dollars.
The truth was miles from that. The next two years really were a bit of a disaster for me. I played poorly and didn’t have much to show for all my hard work.
I'd really like to tell you the full story of how I was able to get my game back and play golf at a level I never thought possible ...
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