Why golf can be a really difficult game

Gavin Vearing is a golf champion. Now 39, he has dedicated his life to the game.

When I first appeared on the Victoria golfing scene he was one of the best players going around. There was Allenby and Appleby but Vearing was not far away. He was a regular in the Victorian State team and his name was consistently atop of the leader board.

Gavin Vearing

The thing that was most impressive about Gavin was his dedication. In my opinion he has worked as hard on his game has anyone. In fact, his dedication and commitment is almost legendary in the Victorian golf scene.

  • Incredibly long hours of practice
  • Daily rounds of golf
  • Strict diet that did not include alcohol, cigarettes or sugar (but he did eat some strange raw food)
  • Daily yoga
  • Meditation (at weird hours of the day and night)
  • An almost obsessive training routine. (He still looks as fit as ever – definitely puts me to shame)

When I say he committed himself fully to golf I’m not kidding. While most of us from the same era would say we worked hard on our golf game, Vearing took things to an entirely new level.

This sort of commitment breeds success. He won lots of amateur events, was selected in the Victoria Sate Team, was a member of the Victorian Institute of Sport and ultimately was good enough to turn professional.

In what could be the most impressive thing, he shot 61 (11 under) around Victoria Golf Club. You might know that Victoria GC is a championship course, recently hosting both the Australian Open and Australian Masters. So it’s no push over. His round included a bogey (on the 2nd) and then seven straight birdies. On the back nine his birdie run continued but he did lip out 3 shortish putts for more birdies. Interestingly, he did not birdie the short and relatively easy 1st hole. He did say that if some putts dropped later in the round he could have broken 60. Check out his amazing scorecard below.

Gavin Vearing

The sad thing is you probably haven’t heard of Gavin. He has played the Australian circuit for a few years and also jetsetted to Asia and Canada. But his professional form has not stacked up to his huge potential. It’s sad because it almost seems unfair. If Gavin had shown the same dedication to say fence building, to pick something random, he’d be the best in the world. He’d most likely have a team of people working for him and would be wealthy beyond his dreams. He’d be a successful entrepreneur.

But the reality for a struggling golfer is anything but success.

Gavin has given up on his dream of playing professional golf. He now works on an oil rig off the coast of Darwin. He did spend some time sharing his passion with other golfers while working as a PGA instructor, both here and in Perth. But what might be a true reflection of the Australian golf industry he struggled to support himself. He earns more money in one day on the oil rig then he could earn in a week (or weeks) giving golf lessons and running a pro shop. So he works “three weeks on, three weeks off” on the rig, it gives him a tidy income and enough time to play all the golf he wants. Yep, he still loves the game.

We had nine holes the other day at Victoria GC. He still plays well. While not long, he hits every shot dead straight (at least he did on Monday). His story takes an interesting twist here. Gavin is quiet, but when you get him to talk about golf he opens right up. He’s a thinker and has some profound thoughts on the game. Here’s my memory of what he said,

You know what? I’ve stopped working so hard on my game… I don’t practice anymore and just play. When I was teaching at the local course I would go out with the members and play. It was fun… stopped worrying about the swing and all the garbage. My first six rounds were, 69, 69, 68, 66, 67, 65. It was sort of funny. I used to try really hard for those scores – but when I stopped caring so much it all sort of happened for me.

This kind of thing is not surprising to me. If I’d spoken to Gavin years ago I would have told him to get outside and play. In fact, I told him to recommit to playing golf. Getting out on the course and playing shots – hitting the ball in a way that feels good to him. To me, he still has a tendency to over think and this could halt his progress. Playing golf solves a lot of issues – it frees the mind and allows your best golf to come out.

Playing and speaking with Gavin highlights the fine line between “making it” and ending up on the scrapheap (in want of a better word). I’m not entirely sure of the correct answer but the PGA could do more. While it’s not PGA’s fault players like Gavin don’t make it, there must be a way of keeping them in the game or education programs to assist them. Some of these guys can spend ten years busting their gut with nothing to show for it. The bottom line is passionate people like Gavin, who have so much to offer, shouldn’t be working on oil rigs.

They are lost to the game and everyone in the long-term misses out.

I’ll leave you with Gavin’s thoughts on making it on the pro tour.

The difference between 73 and 72 is the difference between being on tour and not being there at all. The difference between 72 and 71 is the difference between making the cut or having weekends off. The difference between 71 and 70 is the difference between being able to stay on tour or going home broke. The difference between 70 and 69 is the difference between a reliable golf game or becoming a superstar.

There’s not much in it. It really can be a cruel and difficult game sometimes.

Feel free to leave your thoughts.


Check out Gavin Vearing’s website

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  • Lukey

    Reply Reply September 22, 2011

    How true this can be and not necessarily professionals all the time either I have seen the odd good amateur with potential plus and have not heard of them since.I think Dr. Bob (Rotella) sums it up in his book Golf is not a game of perfect.Having had a game with my best mate last weekend I realised I fell into the trap of playing to try and please (ego?) which then of course lead to a little doubt and played shit golf.So what did I get out of all this,simple go out and play golf.Thanks Cam this really did highlight my failing of last week.
    Cheers Lukey

  • Andrew

    Reply Reply September 23, 2011


    As someone who can only get time to play a full round of golf about every three weeks. I have struggled with the just go out and play golf. If I get a spare hour on the way home from work I visit the driving range I actually enjoy hitting balls the feel of steel on urethane. I have read the every shot must have a purpose, mental toughness training for golf etc, trying to make practice more like a real game situation. I try to break it up with chipping practice and putting. I seem to go around in circles where I can’t help myself and I end up trying to “improve” my swing. I know I should probably hit 15 balls then walk away. I would like to hear your thoughts on only being able to play approx once a month but wanting to improve. It is the one thing I have struggled with over the last year the thought that I can somehow accelerate my improvement by working on a part of my game away from the course?


    • Cameron

      Reply Reply September 26, 2011

      Andrew, It can be hard to let go and just play. Our adult mind likes to kick in and tell us all sorts of stories about what’s happening and what we’re doing wrong. The point is that your practice needs to mimic play – at least some of the time (I would say most of the time). And the best way to play is to create shots and hit the ball in a way that feels good to you. You certainly can explore i.e. “how high can I hit this shot?” or “how do I hit this ball over that tree?” – but you’re not getting bogged down with swing mechanics or complicated technique.

      If you don’t have much time then it’s more important to play then work on technique. The thing is when you’re playing you’re working on your technique anyway (a point that is missed by many). The more you play the better you’ll become. And play can be chipping balls in the backyard, putting on the carpet or finding a paddock to make some swings with some old balls.

      Have you seen the Almost Golf Balls? They are a terrific practice tool for home. Let me know your thoughts?

      Thanks for writing.


  • Chris Dunning

    Reply Reply May 27, 2013

    Gavin was giving me lessons when he worked in Bunbury WA. He was a great teacher helping me with all parts of my game. With his help I went from a 24 to a 16 in 12 months. I still go back to drills he taught me and his sense of course management was fantastic. He played my home course of Collie one time with two other students and pared the course on the first time playing it and it is not an easy golf course. He is a great lose to the game as he could have helped so many gfees with their game and added enjoyment for them all.

    • Cameron

      Reply Reply May 28, 2013

      Chris: Gav is certainly an excellent player and I hope he can find his place in the game.

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