The journey from 28 to 18, 18 to 12, 12 to 9 and 9 to 5

Curls

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When I rediscovered golf and joined the forum in 2010, it seemed like every other week some lucky so-and-so posted to say that they had made single figures. It wasn't every other week, but I so desperately wanted to achieve that goal that I felt awe and jealously in the same moment. A few weeks ago I made single figures with more of a whimper than a bang. The morning I found out I was due to fly to America with work, my wife was home in Ireland, there was no parade. I really thought there’d be a parade? The final cut came thanks to Clause 19, I N/Rd in a Medal so as not to hold up play but bagged a load of points, there was no big win to herald my arrival. The realisation of a goal came with the realisation that my new goal was Cat 1 status and probably further away than I can appreciate.

On dusting 15 years of dust off my ancient clubs following Celtic Manor in 2010 I was firmly a 28+ handicap, lowest I got as a teenager was 14 after 3 or 4 years. I played a lot at a local short course before joining and receiving my first number in 2011, 17. The following season I made 13, and for the next two years I would hover between that and 11. That was my natural playing level, I don’t know if I would have ever really progressed lower were it not for the intervention of a fantastic teaching pro. Cat 1 now seems inevitability rather than a goal which may sound big-headed but if you don’t believe in yourself then your journey will be an arduous one. But I reckon it’s a long, long way to Cat 1.

So what is the purpose of this incredibly self-congratulatory epic post you ask? Most of us on here are on a journey. Lots of folk play golf, but you need to be a special kind of sicko to join a forum. My name is Curls and I’m a golfaholic. I’m obsessed. It’s incurable. Move on. I’m sharing thoughts on my journey in the hope that it might help someone else on theirs. I’ve had some great advice and gained knowledge I never would have amassed from the good people on here, hopefully there’s a little bit in these 3000 words for someone else. Oh and there’s a little bit of ego-stroking going on, we all do it from time to time, but hey, if you don’t stroke your own…

Non-club member – 28.

I'm writing this part in the form of a letter to my younger self, so often when I say "you", I mean me a few years, then months ago. But it might speak to you.

Thought I’d throw this category in, if you don’t have a handicap it’s very difficult to judge what that might be. You’ll only figure this out when you put your 3 cards in and start playing comps with a card in your hand. But right now golf is fun, you don’t have a number that you will allow define you, so enjoy it for what it is, a game. If/when you do join a club you’ll see what I mean, the number means far more to you than it should, and really not much to anyone else. Golfers are incredibly self-absorbed. We love talking about our own game, and don’t listen as much about others, but we let them talk anyway. Look at the length of this post for Gods’ sake.
Anyway, enjoy this Cat. Competition for me is the best form of golf, but there’s something to be missed in not worrying about a number.

28 – 18. The mental barrier.

As many of you will know and feel, a 28 h/c is just a more inconsistent 18 handicap. You’re capable of great things, interspersed with absolute mayhem. This mayhem usually arrives unannounced and leaves a devastating mark on many more holes on the card than the one it occurred on. There’s no reason it should. Getting down to 18 is a matter of getting just a little better at everything, and managing yourself a whole lot better. Course management is huge at every level but no more so that this one. If you’ve ever made a par then your game is good enough, you’re good enough, you just haven’t figured out how to keep the 8s, 9s and 34s off your card. The best advice here is to hit more fairways i.e tee off with irons, hybrids or anything reasonably straight - and when you do miss one take your medicine and don’t turn a 5 into a 10 but trying to get the house back with a miracle shot. No shame in chipping out sideways and getting on with it. If your heart sinks when you go in a bunker, get a lesson. If you struggle to get out and on the green in 1 then you really need a lesson to remove that fear. Once you stop taking approach shots you probably shoudn’t be taking because you’re mindfully, fearfully avoiding bunkers, you’ll improve. And not taking a few to get out will see your 8s and 9s get fewer and fewer.
When you do make the transition it’ll probably be with a huge cut. You’ll go from 23 to 18 in a matter of weeks and rather than fear playing off a lower number your brain will switch and you’ll actually feel like you were an 18 all along and just play ball like it ain’t no thing. Play more, play with good players and play more comps. Read a book like Zen Golf or something by Cohn or Rotella and practice what they preach. Oh and get decent gear, I’m not saying break the bank but if your driver is older than whoever is number 1 in the charts right now then you will see a massive difference in gear from this decade.

18 to 12.

Now that you’re down to a shot on every hole the game gets more fraught with danger. To make it to 12 you’ll have to make more pars. Keeping it in play is a given, now you need to get up and down better. Short game is king. Get a putting lesson, not a new putter. Good putters can hole out with a brush. Some good putters are born, most are made. I was a pretty poor one, lessons and practice changed that. Pitching from 40 in is as important as anything and can only be improved by practice, assuming the technique is good. If you have a good days putting you’ll see yourself cut closer to the edge. You start losing shots altogether on “easier” holes where now you’re expected to make par, and guess what, when you HAVE to make par on that hole, you will more often. The safety net has been removed and you’re expected to play that par 3 in 3, not 4 (or 5). This changes the game and makes you focus harder, want it more. Then you’ll notice that missing the green with a wayward iron doesn’t matter, getting up and down does.

12 to 9.

This is the part where I needed help, perhaps for you it’s in one of the other sections but I wasn’t making it down without lessons on my swing. If I posted a video of my swing from a year ago and now you wouldn’t think it was the same guy. I had 3 lessons over the space of 6 months end of last season and stuck at it religiously through the winter, even when things went awful (and they do while the changes bed in, they go horribly awful. It’s a painful but temporary and necessary metamorphosis). I’m now driving far straighter and longer than before and it makes a huge difference. Irons go a bit longer but that doesn’t matter, crucially they go higher. I’ve now started to pay attention to carry rather than ultimate distance. When I’m at the range I’m landing balls over targets, not hitting at them. And sometimes I don’t even watch where the ball goes cos I’m focussing on contact, or some aspect of the swing itself. Not that my head is full of swing thoughts, maybe 1 or 2. This is a step change in attitude and I wish someone had explained to a younger me what the difference is. Hence this post. My first set of lessons a few years back didn’t have anything like this sort of effect, maybe I was more committed this time but I do feel the teacher was much better. Shame the –insert expletive- is gone to Singapore.

9 to 5.

This is where you guys come in, there are plenty of you who have made this leap, some recently and some in the distant past. I feel like if I keep playing and practicing I’ll make it, straight away I can see my wedge play is the next thing that needs to come up a level. I’m getting myself down to that local course I started playing at, paying my green fee, and taking my wedges. Control and yardages aren’t as good as they should be, and with the improved driving I’m giving myself far more shots from 120-90 than I used to. What was the one thing that helped you across the divide?

In summary as long as your clubs are half way decent and you have an understanding of course management/the mental side of the game, then your path to moving Cat is dependent on lessons in the aspect that most affects that scoring range. Figure out what exactly is holding you back and get taught and then practise that aspect.

Jeez, that last paragraph was all I need to write really.
 

louise_a

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Very interesting read, I am at the 12-9 stage and I am finding it a struggle, I have hade 3 small cuts but also 4 0.1s this season, whereas you seem to have rocketed down. I can get the number of pars required to get to 9 but nearly always waste them with too many doubles or worse. I wish I knew how to stop that, sometimes they come out of nowhere.
 

Curls

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Hi Louise,

To be fair your progress has been pretty rapid! I guess I didn't cover it in the above (you mean there's more?!?! NOOOO!!!!!) but in the move down from 12 the doubles have pretty much all but vanished and you start throwing at least 1 birdie in per round. You certainly need birdies to counteract a double if it does happen. I don't keep stats but I did use the tool in How Did I Do to look the scores in my past rounds. What I found is that I had a poor average on the par 5s, and the "doubles or worse" were just on a few holes really. It makes me focus even harder on playing those holes well. Have a look and see what the ones where the horrors appear are predictable, put a box around them in the "markers" bit of whoevers cards you signing. As you mark your partners score and then your own you'll see the box for the hole ahead and really focus on fairway, green, putt. It's a variation on a trick I picked up in Zen Golf.

Most of all, be patient, don't try too hard or beat yourself up over another 0.1, improvement and lower handicaps seem to happen in jumps for many people rather than slow gradual progress, your previous handicap history should pay testament to that. Enjoy the journey!
 

JustOne

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A few weeks ago I made single figures with more of a whimper than a bang. The morning I found out I was due to fly to America with work, my wife was home in Ireland, there was no parade. I really thought there’d be a parade?

You didn't get the parade? ouch! We all did!! :whistle:
 

Goldie

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Very interesting read, I have dropped from 18.1 to 15.5 so far this year and now seem to have hit the wall. The two areas I need to improve are putting and my accuracy off the tee. Have booked myself a putting lesson to try and take the next step, whilst being more sensible and less aggressive off the tee; taking a long iron for position rather than chansing the long drive stats.
 

The Gentleman

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Loved the post Curls. A great road map for someone like me.

I'm new club member no handicap. 39 years old. I have been playing (on the course) for around 2 months, have had a fair few lessons, but I am terrified of starting the handicap process. The thought of playing with a member I don't know to sign off each of my three cards fills me with dread. Once I make that step I think I could start eating into the handicap quite well, but just can't go 'over the top' (so to speak).
 

turkish

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Loved the post Curls. A great road map for someone like me.

I'm new club member no handicap. 39 years old. I have been playing (on the course) for around 2 months, have had a fair few lessons, but I am terrified of starting the handicap process. The thought of playing with a member I don't know to sign off each of my three cards fills me with dread. Once I make that step I think I could start eating into the handicap quite well, but just can't go 'over the top' (so to speak).

Why what's the worst that can happen? You'll get 28.... Big deal so what.... It's only a game!!!

I'm a golf obsessive and put myself under too much pressure at times but at the end of the day it's only a game- nobody dies of you put 2 balls oob in a row so just go out and enjoy it- take the plunge- meeting new people on the course is one the great parts of the game!!!

Ps OP thanks for the post gives me a bit of inspiration to get lower- I would say I probably am lower than 28 just not been able to play many medals as something always on but think after my holiday I can start chewing away at it- no set targets other than to consistently hit in the 90's and get a few 80's throughout the year
 

Curls

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JustOne - I'll wait for the Cat 1 ceremony at Buckingham Palace, that'll do me. ;)

Goldie, Gent, welcome to the Forum! This must mean you have contracted the virus. I'm deeply sorry for you and yours. :)

Goldie sounds like you've got this part figured out, keep it in play and cut out the 3 putts, that's your ticket.
Gentleman As for fear of the handicap process you are in the same boat as thousands before you, it's intimidating, but guess what? We're not a bad bunch really. In any club there are probably half a dozen numpties, but the vast majority are good sociable folk. Ask the pro for a recommendation, he'll probably know a friendly sort who plays for the fun of it. Brush up on the rules, this is great

http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/39095964...m=A3P5ROKL5A1OLE&pf_rd_r=02BFV809A3YQY40CKHMR

...and remember that it's the lowest of the 3 cards that will be your number, so if you have a mare shake it off, besides big numbers get crunched down anyway, so if you play 23 over plus a 15 on one hole that pretty much goes away and you'll end up with about 26. Whatever the number, if it's in Cat 4 then you get 0.4 off for every stroke you go under, and if an ESR (Exceptional Score Reduction) is activated (kicks in if you shoot 5 or more under your number, do it again in the same season and instead of the usual reduction you get a bonus one), you can come down pretty quick when showing signs of improvement. Like turkish says, so what if its 28?!

turkish - yeah I found myself in a season where I was away in the States a lot, I'd come back and try to squeeze a comp in but it never went well. You're right, you need to dedicate some time to it for it to be more fun. Good luck!

Happy golfing!
 
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HomerJSimpson

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Loved the post Curls. A great road map for someone like me.

I'm new club member no handicap. 39 years old. I have been playing (on the course) for around 2 months, have had a fair few lessons, but I am terrified of starting the handicap process. The thought of playing with a member I don't know to sign off each of my three cards fills me with dread. Once I make that step I think I could start eating into the handicap quite well, but just can't go 'over the top' (so to speak).

Get it done asap. What's the worse that can happen and once you have a handicap you can enter comps and enjoy the process of trying to get down. Where do you play?

As for the OP I'm stuck in the 12-9 camp. I'm working hard and it's coming (first last week) and just need to trust my swing more, focus on the scoring zone from 100 yards in. It's a tough barrier and I've been around the 10-12 mark for a while but don't believe I've plateaued.
 

The Gentleman

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Why what's the worst that can happen? You'll get 28.... Big deal so what.... It's only a game!!!

I'm a golf obsessive and put myself under too much pressure at times but at the end of the day it's only a game- nobody dies of you put 2 balls oob in a row so just go out and enjoy it- take the plunge- meeting new people on the course is one the great parts of the game!!!

Ps OP thanks for the post gives me a bit of inspiration to get lower- I would say I probably am lower than 28 just not been able to play many medals as something always on but think after my holiday I can start chewing away at it- no set targets other than to consistently hit in the 90's and get a few 80's throughout the year

I know, I just need to man up. Will ask management at club to set me up with a club member and get the ball on this.
 

The Gentleman

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Get it done asap. What's the worse that can happen and once you have a handicap you can enter comps and enjoy the process of trying to get down. Where do you play?

As for the OP I'm stuck in the 12-9 camp. I'm working hard and it's coming (first last week) and just need to trust my swing more, focus on the scoring zone from 100 yards in. It's a tough barrier and I've been around the 10-12 mark for a while but don't believe I've plateaued.

Thanks Homer. You are so right. I need to get over this irrational fear and get my arse in gear. I'm a member at Coombe Wood, Kingston KT2.
 

Region3

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Thanks Homer. You are so right. I need to get over this irrational fear and get my arse in gear. I'm a member at Coombe Wood, Kingston KT2.

If they are people worth knowing they will be more interested in what you're like to spend 4 hours with than the standard of your golf. Go out and enjoy yourself.
 

Goldie

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Over my years of golfing I've found that the majority of the time the lower the hcap of your playing partner the more encouraging they are towards you. Get yourself out there The Gentlemen and you'll be addicted in no time.
 

Imurg

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Loved the post Curls. A great road map for someone like me.

I'm new club member no handicap. 39 years old. I have been playing (on the course) for around 2 months, have had a fair few lessons, but I am terrified of starting the handicap process. The thought of playing with a member I don't know to sign off each of my three cards fills me with dread. Once I make that step I think I could start eating into the handicap quite well, but just can't go 'over the top' (so to speak).

I was like this when I first joined a club.
I spent a whole winter on the range every Sunday morning getting to a standard I thought I needed to be at so as to not embarrass myself when I joined......
Finally joined and put my cards in.
Got a handicap of 15 - I'd, effectively, wasted a winter practising when I could have been playing!
But at least the practice put me in a good place to start with....
 

The Gentleman

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I was like this when I first joined a club.
I spent a whole winter on the range every Sunday morning getting to a standard I thought I needed to be at so as to not embarrass myself when I joined......
Finally joined and put my cards in.
Got a handicap of 15 - I'd, effectively, wasted a winter practising when I could have been playing!
But at least the practice put me in a good place to start with....

Brilliant. That sounds exactly like the place I am in right now. Not on the range but only playing solo on the course.
 

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The idea of a 28 h'capper being nothing more than an inconsistent 18 h'capper is one that I can get! I made 2 pars on my recent round of 110, so I know it's in the locker. It's just a case of getting out practising and playing to get me there consistently! A very interesting read for someone just starting out.
 

Curls

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The idea of a 28 h'capper being nothing more than an inconsistent 18 h'capper is one that I can get! I made 2 pars on my recent round of 110, so I know it's in the locker. It's just a case of getting out practising and playing to get me there consistently! A very interesting read for someone just starting out.

Yeah my buddy came down from 24 to 18 in a matter of 2 rounds and to be fair you'd do well to figure out what the difference in his play before and after was. Certainly wasn't striking it differently, just started throwing 7s 8s and 9s in less often - next thing - bingo.
 

Paul77

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Over my years of golfing I've found that the majority of the time the lower the hcap of your playing partner the more encouraging they are towards you. Get yourself out there The Gentlemen and you'll be addicted in no time.

I agree. My playing partner from years past was off 6, and was always dead encouraging towards my play. I used to play out my socks everytime just so I wasn't holding him back. I'd be a weed wacker if it wasn't for him.
 
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