Trouble at Troon

After weeks of traveling it was fantastic to join Gregor at Royal Troon for a hit. When I first started writing about automatic golf I never would have guessed that I would be able to travel around the world and be treated to such a thing.

I hope that other Tribe members can do the same. I know Steady and Lukey had a game and there’s also a full automatic golf seminar planned for next year. The more we get together and talk and share experiences, the better we all become.

The golf course: The opening few holes are pretty easy (at least they look easy). They’re not overly long and there’s not too much trouble. The biggest defence for the course is the wind – and although windy, these first few holes weren’t too difficult.

The front nine meanders towards Prestwick Golf Course (site of the first Open Championship) and the airport. It was quite a thing for me to see all sorts of planes taking off and landing at close range. The locals seemed oblivious to them however.

The treat on the front nine is the “Postage Stamp” 8th hole. A tiny par three of about 110 metres, I’ve seen this on TV many times and I’ve never really appreciated how difficult the hole really is. And the only way to really experience it is actually play it.

The green, as the name suggests, is tiny. It’s only the fraction of the size of most greens I play on the Melbourne Sandbelt. And the thing is it’s a really intimidating hole. You can’t miss it right or left or you’ll catch deep bunkers. From there it’s likely you’ll take at least 4 shots. I opted for the safe option and played for the larger front section of the green.

With the wind blowing strongly from the left, I aimed there and hoped the wind would bring it back. It did. And the ball found the front of the green. Two-putts later I had secured a par, happy I had negotiated a 110 metre hole safely.

The back nine is tough. Some experts claim it’s the toughest finish in Championship golf. I wouldn’t argue. There’s more trouble from the tee – mostly thick trees and a railway line which is out of bounds.

I also found the fairways to be more undulating, which required all sorts of different shots and creativity.

The holes are long too. Requiring solid shots from the tee and precise iron shots. All the greens are small (bigger than the Postage Stamp) but much smaller than I’m used to.

The 11th hole was the hardest. From the Tiger tee you needed to carry the ball 210 metres over gorse just to find the fairway. With thick trees left and the railway line right, this hole has your full attention. The brick wall lining course and railway line runs all the way to the right of the green. With the wind blowing from the left it was very easy to clear the fence. (I nearly did but the ball just stayed in bounds).

The last three holes are superb. A par 5, 3 and 4. All of them long and all requiring precise play to avoid disaster. The last green sits only a few metres from the clubhouse. A small path (which is out of bounds) separates green and the prying eyes watching from the comfort of the members lounge. If you’re not on your game you can be easily distracted by thoughts of “don’t stuff up in front of the members”.

Some extra thoughts: The bunkering is superb, with fairway and greenside bunkers placed in the perfect location. And they also weren’t huge. Tiny little “pot” bunkers that looked innocent enough until you went into them. Gregor found a couple and had a hard time getting out of them “)

The wind plays havoc here. The holes play in varying directions (or so it seems). And the subtle changes of line require you to take your time and size up each shot appropriately.

This is a great course. It an old-fashioned course that requires you play straight from the tee and be able to hit accurate approach shots. There’s no funny business. It’s a course that rewards accurate play and absolutely punishes you if you go astray.

My Game: I titled this post Trouble at Troon because I didn’t play my best golf. It may have been the lack of game time or all of the travel I’d done. But if I’m honest I played the first nine holes without trusting automatic. I wasn’t really playing golf.

I was keen to play well. I wanted to impress Gregor with my play and avoid disaster. The opening four holes have the beach to the right. Pesky kept telling me not to go there. So I swung “not to go right”. And the ball kept going left.

With demanding rough it was tough to find your ball, let alone get it going towards the green.

Pesky is a shit. He wants to protect you and stroke your ego. But listening to him makes it hard to play remarkable golf. He also makes it all but impossible to really enjoy the experience.

This then becomes a nasty cycle. When you don’t enjoy you stop learning. When you don’t learn you don’t improve.

Listening to Pesky might feel good and make you feel comfortable but you really are going to miss out in the end.

And it took me a few holes to realise this. By the 11th tee I woke up. I decided to free wheel to the finish, to let go and to enjoy the Troon experience.

I spoke to Gregor about, “being prepared to lose your ball”. This means you’ve got to swing in a way that is free from tension or self-doubt. You’ve got to swing without a care in the world.

My tee shot on 11 was a belter. It split the fairway, leaving only a short approach to the green. The rest of the round was much better. By the end of the day I had found my mojo and was playing in an egoless way.

Gregor: He has a solid long game. His swing and routine resembles a dance and his drives all found the fairway. But it was obvious to me that the rest of his game lacked the same conviction.

He was playing safe. Although it looked very similar, he was missing the same spark as he had with his long game.

And this is where it gets tough. Because Gregor thinks he is playing automatically – he believes he is following the process exactly.

But he isn’t. And the best way forward for Gregor is to keep striving. He’s got to swing, pitch, chip and putt more freely with every shot. He’s got to be looser on the 18th green then what he is on the 1st tee.

And there’s really no easy solution for this. And it’s easy to slip back into bad habits (like I did) but it gets easier and easier as you go along. I suggested to Gregor that he plays each shot like he has already successfully made it. That he plays golf like he can’t miss.

This is the mindset we need to take to the golf course each time we play. And it doesn’t matter if you’re playing socially, in competition or you’re playing a Championship course for the first time. We’ve got to play golf without Pesky or ego getting in the way. This is the only way to truly experience remarkable play.

I’m very sorry but accidentally left my camera’s behind. So I don’t have any footage of Gregor or the course. Gregor assures me he’s going to provide some footage of his game. This will be good for everyone to see exactly what I’m talking about.

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  • Andrew Fogg

    Reply Reply September 23, 2010

    Hi Cam,

    I have to say I agree with your analysis of Royal Troon. The only time I played there, I had to tee off in front of the Club Captain and 15 of his cronies – no pressure there! They insisted they would hold us up if we had to follow them. We went round as a 2-ball in under 2 3/4 hours and they were still hot on our heels!

    Coming back to your story, how do you propose that Gregor ‘addresses is problem? Surely striving to do something is hardly conducive to swinging, pitching, chipping and putting more easily. How about using hypnosis and NLP to silence or at least channel Pesky? If it’s good enough for Tiger, Louis Oosthuizen and many others, maybe it’s the right approach for Gregor and the rest of us.



    • Cameron

      Reply Reply September 24, 2010

      Hi Andrew, thanks for your comments.

      I have studied NLP and did a course in relaxation and meditation. I haven’t done hypnosis though. What I have found is that the golfer still needs an approach for when they’re actually playing on the golf course. They need a system that gets them out of the future and the past and back in the present. What I’ve also found is that many of the above systems don’t offer what is needed for actual play – they can work off the golf course, but not on it.

      My automatic system is exactly what I have in mind for Gregor.

  • andy

    Reply Reply September 25, 2010

    hello to one and all, an interesting article cam and i,m glad you enjoyed you trip to troon. i like your web site very much and i can see where you are coming from. but i also agree with andrew fogg that nlp and hypnosis can help, it takes a leap of faith to get into these idea,s but i have found them to work, cheers andy

  • Bernie

    Reply Reply September 26, 2010

    Cam & Gregor
    Wonderful post. Would love to play the Scottish courses one day after seeing so much of them on TV. Amazing that a par 3 could be so interesting, difficult and with a number of options re how to play it. Eagily awaiting further posts.

  • Tim

    Reply Reply September 27, 2010

    Great stuff here cam….just dont forget the camera next time 🙂

  • Gregor

    Reply Reply September 28, 2010

    I agree with Cameron, sharing information helps you and others to process this information. Just speaking to Cameron alone, has helped me to clear up a number of points where I thought I was doing the right thing but obviously was not.
    His story of the day is spot on. He took a few holes to get going (by his standards ) but by the end he was firing on all cylinders. The number of times he got up and down was impressive, and he even holed a difficult chip on the 12th – and a few more were very close. He hits the ball miles as well !
    The verdict on me, well that’s another matter. I always wondered why I scored so badly. I think Cameron had already worked this out by the 3rd hole.
    I’ve now played a few times since, and I can assure you that everything works better when you follow his advice. And if you’re not sure about any of this stuff I would urge you to ask a question on this blog -no matter how daft it seems – and I’m sure you will get the answer

  • Nick Soko

    Reply Reply September 29, 2010

    sorry guys a little off tangent. i am a first time blogger and would like to know if any of you use Camerons swing guide and if so, have you found it usefull? it looks good to me, i’m just concerned that it will become to much of a focus. I tend to get carried away with swing technique.


    • Cameron

      Reply Reply October 1, 2010

      Nick, this product comes with a mini membership site that outlines how to use correctly. Basically, you want to spend two or three minutes swinging inside and a few minutes out. The worst thing you can do is to spend all your time on the trainer – you need to mix it up a little.

  • Steady

    Reply Reply October 2, 2010

    Hi Tribers,
    had an extensive lay off since last game about 3 weeks ago. I can agree with Cameron and Gregor about letting pesky get in the way. Happened to me last time I played and let it distract me for 3 or 4 holes until I relaxed and let go knowing in my head of how i can play. 14 points on the front 20 on the back. Not bad considering my elbow flared pretty bad hence the break.
    I’ve said it before it takes a lot of guts to let go but the rewards are worth it.
    Cheers Steady

  • Tony Lucas

    Reply Reply October 2, 2010

    Played in the first round of our championships today and as already spoken hear had to really fight distractions on the first nine (some of my own making)but was able in due time to realise what they were and get back to auto golf.My first nine was an eleven over 43 but my back nine was a lot better and shot a six over 38 culminating in a gross of 81 and a nett of 61 (par 64) so I was happy considering my handicap is 20 these days.So my point being stay auto and the results will come.
    Cheers Lukey

  • Grayden Provis

    Reply Reply October 6, 2010

    I was just reading Cameron’s story again on the home page of his web site – especially the bit headed “follow the system or get out” – and I was reminded of something someone once said to me: “If you want to lead the orchestra you’ve got to turn your back to the crowd”. True for most things. If you want what everyone else has, do what everyone else does. But if you want something better, you’ve got to do something DIFFERENT. There’s no escaping it. Cameron not only approaches golf differently, he IS different. The brutal self appraisal of his round at Troon with Gregor was very refreshing (if a little bit scary). Any man who is prepared to bare his soul like that gets my vote. Thanks Cam. I learned a lot from that.

    • Cameron

      Reply Reply October 6, 2010

      Hi Grayden. Thanks for posting. It certainly feels like being a rogue some of the time – although I don’t think Automatic Golf is vastly different (even Gregor was thinking I would have some weird way of playing) it’s different enough to get people talking.

      The big thing I’ve learned is to look within for the answers. Too many of us (and I did it for years) look outside for the secret or the cure. It was incredibly refreshing and rewarding to learn to look within and realise that most of the mistakes and poor shots I made were the result of me. And here’s the kicker – these mistakes were usually from playing scared and not committing to playing the game.

  • Gregor

    Reply Reply October 6, 2010

    There was a tv programme on the other day to coincide with the Commonwealth Games opening titled – ‘is professionalism killing sport’

    Basically, they suggested that the flair, passion and individualism is being knocked out of athletes and sportsmman at an early age due to over training and the wrong style of coaching and that the noticeable exceptions were the ones that still retained their childlike passion and still played intuitively. They reckoned that in most cases sportsman were miserable and that they spent so much time training etc they weren’t able to give their best any more

    They interviewd some high profile people like Roger Federer, Laura Davies and Colin Montgomerie. The things they were talking about were so similar.
    – You can’t practice all the time. It will fry your brain and lead to burn out
    – In pressure situations you just need to go with what you’ve got
    – You need to play like you are 15 in your head
    Colin Montgomerie mentioned that under severe pressure he does times-tables in his head to keep an empty mind !
    I wouldn’t be surprised that this programme went unnoticed to many, but in my case I was astounded that succesful athletes and sportsman are basically doing this stuff without even knowing it

    • Cameron

      Reply Reply October 7, 2010

      Hi Gregor. I like this. I woke up a few years ago and realised that all the stress, hard work and analysis just wasn’t worth it. Since then I’ve meet a few coaches that have the same thoughts. There’s also more evidence and research backing up this line of thought.

      Another interesting point is that if world champions like Federer and Monty struggle with “over coaching”, what chance do regular folks like us have?

      I loved the bit about Monty counting in his head.

      Will see if I can track this show down.

      Thanks for posting a great article.


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