Improve Your Golf - Reduce Your Handicap

Meet David.  He’s in his late 40's and runs his own very successful insurance business. David’s partner Leslie also plays and they have at least one golfing holiday a year together. They don’t have children and golf is their main pastime outside work. David plays at least twice a week, more than that during the summer when he often plays with clients and prospective clients. He sometimes jokes that it’s funny how quickly someone’s diary clears when you suggest an afternoon at Woburn, rather than a meeting in the office. They have a close group of friends at the golf club with whom they play regularly, and also socialise with away from the game.

Hitting Golf Balls Won't Necessarily Make you a Better Golfer

David keeps himself fit by working with a personal trainer at the gym. He has had some back issues and his stability and flexibility aren't as good as they might be. He usually enjoys hitting golf balls and practices a couple of times a week. He currently has a handicap of 10. He has been down to 7 but a couple of years ago, he felt like he was as low as his 'unorthodox swing' could take him. He decided to take some lessons to try to get better and went in the opposite direction. He has worked with three different swing coaches since then, all of whom told him something different was the cause of his poor shots. None of them have managed to find a solution that works for long. He has hit lots and lots of golf balls in an effort to improve his golf swing, but somehow, despite his hard work, it isn’t working. Very frustrating

Fear is the Feeling When You Don't Know What is Happening

So unfortunately, David now has a swing which looks better than his old, unorthodox swing, but still has some bad habits and he doesn’t feel he can trust it. He can hit some very good shots, but he can also hit some shots which are very bad; card wreckingly bad shots, especially with the driver. When one of these shots occurs, he has no real idea why it happens. His state of mind deteriorates to the extent that he feels anxious, almost physically ill, and he often just feels like walking off the golf course.

Most people get a little bit tense when they are playing in competitions, or with new people. But isn’t only in competitions that David feels anxious about his game. Recently on a golfing holiday with Leslie, he had a couple of rounds where he got so fed up with the way he was hitting the ball he didn’t play all 18 holes. He told me his nerves could start to jangle even before he has set foot on the golf course. Some days he starts to feel uncomfortable as soon as he turns his car into the driveway up to the golf club. He has read several ‘golf psychology’ books and has tried various mental techniques and pre shot routines to try to overcome the problem, but none of them worked on a consistent basis. He believed that if he could just hit enough golf balls to really master his golf swing and get better technically, he would stop hitting the bad shots, so he won’t feel anxious any more and golf will become fun again like it used to be.

Is the Issue Technical, Mental or Physical?

Despite having had lots of golf lessons, David’s grip and posture were not good when he first came to see me. He was caught between his old way of playing, which was very much ‘grip it and rip it’, and trying hard to do all the things he thought he needed to do to swing ‘properly. As with many golfers who come to see me with what they think are ‘swing problems’ it soon became clear that all the thinking and trying hard was making him feel very tense on the golf course. This was a major factor in him not playing well and not enjoying his golf.
He hit the ball pretty well sometimes on the range, but as soon as he hit a bad shot on the golf course, everything started to unravel. He analysed what might have happened to cause the shot to go wrong and what he needed to do to correct it. He had four or five swing thoughts going through his head standing over every shot.
 
He had lots of thinking about what could go wrong with the shot he was about to play. The possibility there might be a positive outcome hardly ever entered his mind. Not surprisingly this made him very anxious. The anxiety made his body feel stressed, tight, uncomfortable and bound up. His swing reflected this the moment he stepped on the golf course. This certainly wasn’t a state of mind or body which was conducive to him playing his best golf. David was desperate to improve and rediscover enjoyment he used to get from golf when he first began playing, even though he was a worse golfer then that he is now.

Golf Is a Mind and Body Game. You Need to Understand how Both Work Best.

Step 1.

During a lengthy initial conversation I asked David what his dreams and aspirations for his golf were. They turned out to be pretty simple. To play without feeling nervous and anxious and to enjoy his golf. Intellectually, David understands there’s nothing stopping him doing that right now. Unfortunately he has been telling himself a story that he needs to play better before he can enjoy his golf. Like most golfers, he has some unhelpful mental habits to put to one side, just as he has some bad physical habits in his swing which he wants to change. We all have patterns of thinking, just like we have patterns of movement.

One thought leads to another thought which leads to another, and before we know it our levels of consciousness have dipped and we feel low, or anxious, or doubtful or angry. We agreed that a twin track approach of lessons to get the swing to a stage where he really trusts it, and an ongoing conversation about his state of mind, to help him understand how his thoughts are affecting his feelings and his feelings are affecting his performance, would be the best way to help him get back on the right path.

David has tried to make swing changes before with coaches who looked at the technical side of his game, but didn’t make any attempt to address the misunderstanding which was causing his anxiety. The tension in his body makes it very difficult for him to perform the physical movements he wants to make. As stated before, golf is a mind and body game, so treating a problem as ‘purely mental’ or ‘just a swing fault’ isn’t likely to be successful. It might be possible to work with a swing coach who has a good relationship with a good mental performance coach so that the approach is relatively seamless, but it is much easier if you find a coach who really understands the golf swing, and who also has a good understanding about the nature of the relationship between our thoughts and our feelings. The golf swing is a feeling. Learning is about insights, feelings and understanding. Our performance is to a greater or lesser extent, affected by how we feel. Our technique, and the level to which we can perform it successfully will be determined by how well we understand the relationship between our thoughts and how we feel moment to moment.

Step 2

Once we had agreed on the strategy, David went to see a mobility and flexibility specialist, to make sure he didn’t have any injuries or impairments that restricted him and made it harder for him to learn to swing the golf club properly. He has had a bad back in the past, and I wanted to be certain that this wouldn’t prevent him making the changes I thought might be necessary. Also the fact that he had been working with other coaches, but wasn't able to make any progress made me a little suspicious. I wondered if there was an issue with David's body which was restricting his ability to swing the club efficiently.

Sure enough, the movement assessment found that David's foot type made it very difficult for him to stabilise himself from heel to toe, and to transfer his weight properly during the downswing. We had some inserts made for his shoes which alleviated the problem, and as a bonus, eased the stress on his back. David also changed his fitness routine to one which is more sport specific. His previous routine was more for general fitness. As his main sport and pastime is golf, it made sense for him to train his body specifically for the types of movement he would be using during the golf swing.

Step 3

Now we had established the best way forward, and had removed a major obstacle in his path, we could focus on the physical and mental part of the learning process. For someone like David, it was really important that he stopped doing what he’s always done, which is hitting lots of golf balls with from very low state of awareness. It hasn’t worked in the past, and it isn’t likely to suddenly start working now. Every time he mindlessly swings at a golf ball he is just reinforcing the old movement patterns, which usually results in a poor shot, which triggers the usual thought patterns, which made him feel anxious and frustrated and further damages his already fragile confidence. The vicious circle is completed once again.

So how does David improve his golf swing, ? The answer is very simple. In order to change the movement, you need to address the thinking which causes the body to move in the way it does. No one does anything unless it looks like a good idea. If you have a part of your golf swing which isn’t functional, the first step to changing it is to realise what your intentions are, to make you move in the way you do. Often these intentions will be hidden underneath layers of insecure thinking. For example, if you swing the club from out to in, over the top of the swing plane from the top of the backswing, it’s likely you have some underlying thoughts about hitting down on the ball, or are trying to hit the ball too hard with the upper part of your body rather than using the sequencing of the swing to generate clubhead speed. The good news is, once these intentions are uncovered and revealed to be unhelpful, progress in changing the swing can be rapid and straightforward.

Step 4

David was a bit concerned that he wouldn't be able to play golf at all while we were improving his golf swing. This isn't the case, although I was happy for him to stop playing competitions for a while if he wanted to. One of the main benefits of looking at the thinking behind the movement first, is that you can still go and play and have fun while you are changing your swing. I told Andy that he should just go play as normal, not worry about 'doing it right', and try to get back to the 'grip it and rip it' feelings he had when he first started to play golf. The work he was doing away from the golf course would take care of the changes over the longer term.

Once you are aware of the thinking behind the old movement, and you change your understanding about how your golf swing might work, you can practice with much more awareness. When you play you can adopt the same approach. Rather than thinking about what he should or shouldn’t be doing, David began to be much more aware of what he was doing while he was doing it. This was much more enjoyable than ‘trying to do it right’, and the improvements began to show up in his golf swing when he played without him having to work on it or trying to make something happen.

This is Davids’s account of the first few months of our coaching relationship.

"To be honest, when I first met Sam I was thinking about giving up golf altogether. I wasn’t enjoying being out on the golf course, and I felt that I was becoming a burden to the group of friends I was playing with. Most days I felt it would be better if I joined them in the bar after their game. I had been working hard on my golf for a couple of years and was getting worse rather than better. The coaches I worked with were trying their best to help me, but we just seemed to be going round in circles. I knew what I was trying to do, but as soon as I got a golf ball in front of me it was as though my brain and my body just weren’t communicating properly. I just ended up making the same swing I’d always made and was hitting the same bad shots."

"I was very aware that my feelings on the golf course weren’t healthy, and that my attitude towards the game was getting worse and worse, but I just didn’t know what to do about it. I read all the sports psychology books and went to see a couple of ‘mental coaches’, but they just gave me even more things to think about, visualisation, pre shot routines etc.. Some days I felt like my head was going to explode I had so much stuff swirling around in there. I wasn’t keen on seeing yet another golf coach, but a friend of mine who had won the club championships and qualified for the English Amateur while working with Sam, suggested I go and have a chat.."

"Right from the start, I could tell things were different. I didn’t pick up a golf club during our first meeting. We just sat and had a conversation about my golf. We talked about my thoughts and feelings that I was having on the golf course more than about my golf swing. We talked about what it felt like when I was playing well a few years ago, and where I would like to be in a year’s time. I immediately felt at ease, and that I was talking to someone who understood what I was going through. We talked about how that game was both a physical and a mental challenge, and that we would need to address both areas if I was going to progress. This surprised me a bit, as I just thought it was my golf swing that was causing my problems, and that if we got that sorted, then everything else would fall into place. Sam explained that we learn and play much better when our minds are clear, and that helping me understand how my mind works would make the process much easier and more enjoyable, and that I would play better in the long run."

"A big eye opener for me was the movement assessment. I had always been aware that it was really hard for me to maintain my balance during the swing, and that I felt really unstable as I came through the ball. I had always just thought this was my bad technique, so it was a real relief when we found out my feet were the cause of the problem. As soon as we put the inserts in my shoes I found I was able to stabilise myself during the first part of the downswing. I started to make solid contact a bit more regularly and I could feel my confidence start to come back"

"I found not ‘trying to do something with my swing’ really hard at first. It is something I've always done, and I took some convincing that I could actually make changes to my swing without practicing in the conventional way. Thoughts about what I thought I needed to do to swing properly kept sneaking in there. I like to read golf magazines and watch the golf on television, and I kept finding myself down the range trying out various tips and techniques I had read about, rather than being aware of what I was actually doing. Fortunately, during one lesson Sam noticed that I was getting bogged down in thought over the ball and asked me what was going on. I told him about an article I had read and what I was trying to do. We had a good chat about where this was leading and how it was making me feel and I saw that all the thinking was just sending me back down the old path.

We had a few honest words and after that I knuckled down and got back to being aware of what I was doing, rather than thinking about what I should be doing. My grip and posture really improved in the next couple of weeks to the extent that a couple of my regular golfing partners said how much better I looked over the ball, and again, I noticed an improvement in the consistency of my shots. I know I have a long way to go but I really feel like I've turned a corner. I'm much better at letting my insecure thinking go, and just hitting the ball rather than worrying about every single aspect of my swing and the possibilities for the shot. My mind is much calmer and I actually enjoyed a round for the first time in what seems like ages. I know I'm on the right path now, I just need to keep taking it step by step."

Four Reasons why this approach works, and intermittent lessons don’t.

You don't understand the golf swing

Golf is a simple game, but not an easy game. If you are like the majority of golfers out there you are probably a bit frustrated. You have probably had some golf lessons which helped for a while, but you still hit bad shots, usually at the time when you really need to hit a good one. You play some excellent golf sometimes but are inconsistent. You don't really understand your golf swing, and when it goes wrong you have little or no idea why, or how to put it right. You look at the movement of the golf swing, rather than the thinking which is causing that movement to take place. You listen to the endless stream of free, but not always relevant advice. You know you want to improve, but are confused by the seemingly endless stream of golf tips, hints, advice and new techniques that are freely available from TV commentators, websites, magazines, golf pro's and your playing partners. You seem to be going round in circles. Your long game gets better, but your putting goes off. You are putting well but you keep duffing your chips. You hit the difficult shots well, but then mess up the easy ones. You know there has to be a better way of improving, but you don't really know where to start. There is just so much to think about!

You Don’t Trust the Natural Learning Process

Learning to move is a completely natural and normal occurrence for everyone. We are learning from the moment we are born, hopefully until the day we die. Walking, talking, running, eating, brushing our teeth, driving a car, these are all examples of complex movement patterns we learn over a lifetime. We perform these tasks flawlessly with little conscious thought, day in day out.

Young children and young animals are voracious learners. Watch a child playing with a new toy for the first time, or two puppies play fighting, and you have the best possible role models for the learning experience. They aren't working at it, or trying to learn. They're having an exciting, interesting and stimulating experience. Learning is happening as a by product, without conscious thought or trying to 'do it right'.

Trusting the natural learning process is the key. If you become attached to this thought or that thought, or even worse, believe you’ve found 'the secret', only to find it doesn't feel the same the next time you practice, you find yourself in a never ending loop of searching for the right intellectual answer. Instead, you should turn off the intellect, get quiet for a few minutes, allow your awareness levels to rise and get back to the way children learn: by trying and failing, trying and failing better, until you get a different result.

You Don’t Have Good Awareness of How You Move

It is crucial that we are aware of what we are thinking about when we are swinging. All our movements are initiated with a thought, a signal from the brain to the muscles. If we aren't aware of our true intentions when we swing, changing a movement pattern becomes extremely difficult.

We need to be aware of what we know, but also of what we don’t know. We all have blind spots. We have parts of our golf swing where, to be honest, we don’t really know what’s happening. Why don’t we know? We are the ones gripping the club, swinging it, yet we often don’t have a clue where the club head is in relation to our bodies, the ball or the ground. How can that be? There is a well known saying in golf coaching, which is that there is often a huge difference between 'Feel', what the golfer thinks they are doing, and 'Real', what they are actually doing. The first step to improving is to close this gap between feel and real.
Raising awareness levels of our golf swings, eliminating the blind spots, is the first step in changing and improving our swings. We can’t expect to make changes in the way we move if we don’t have sufficient awareness to feel, in real time, what our body is actually doing during the swing.

Sam Jarman Golf Improvement Packages

I offer the following types of continuous golf improvement packages. Which one you choose will depend on the level of golfer you are now, and the golfer you want to become.

Package Details Price
Initial Assessment 60 minutes £60.00
Six Lesson Package 6 x 45 mins £295.00
Half Day Coaching 3 hours £225.00
Full Day Coaching 6 hours £399.00
Bronze Package 2 lessons / Month  £1500.00
Silver Package 4 lessons / Month £2999.00
Gold Package 8 lessons / Month £4999.00


 

Unsure ? Contact Sam


The first comment I always get when I offer this coaching package to people is:

Wow!!  Why So Much Money ?

It is a big commitment.  Probably more than you've invested in your golf game in one go in the past. But that's kind of the point.  I want you to feel that you’ve committed to the goal of becoming the golfer see in your dreams, and that you’ve committed to the process of making it happen.  Unfortunately I see it so often, where a golfer with talent and ambition comes for a few lessons, and then stops coming because they lose that initial enthusiasm, and other things get in the way.  

They end up back in the same old rut of frustration and mediocrity, not enjoying their golf and wasting their time and their expensive golf club membership. If the 'book the odd lesson and hit a few balls' approach worked, you wouldn't be where you are now.  

Continuous Development works. One off lessons don't

By investing in yourself and in your golf game up front, you are providing some additional motivation for when things get difficult and that initial flush of enthusiasm has waned.  Part of my job is helping to maintain that desire to improve, but I can only do that if a student has shown some commitment in the first place.  

If you decide to take on this programme, and start missing lessons or not practicing, I will be on the phone to find out why, and to find out how we can get you back on track.

Why not cut out your Sky Sports subscription ?

If golf is your main hobby, you spend a considerable amount of time and money on it.  Membership fees, green fees, equipment, maybe a golfing holiday every year? None of this is cheap.  While playing well isn’t the be all and end all, it certainly makes the valuable leisure time, money and effort spent seem so much more enjoyable if you are playing well and hitting great shots and being competitive.  We’ve all been on golfing trips where one or more of the players is having a nightmare.  They aren't enjoying it, and it detracts from the fun everyone else is having as well.  Against this, the investment of one year spent getting your game to a state where you can rely on it, and know you can compete and have fun for maybe the next 10 or 20 years, doesn’t seem like such a big decision.  Maybe cancel Sky Sports for a year, save yourself £500 and spend your time doing drills to improve your golf rather than sitting on the sofa?

Happy Golfers who have improved

  • Well today was breakthrough moment. I have just got back from the Bedfordshire and although playing from the yellow tees I had a gross 80. I am very pleased. Whilst I have done better this year in terms of fairways hit I was only just off for a number today. 10 over par with 5 green hits in regulation. All my shots were significantly stronger.
    - Chris
  • It’s had a pretty immediate impact on my game and got me round the Oxfordshire in -4 net yesterday. I’m obviously nowhere near drilling the sequence in yet but it’s very reassuring to have the sequence checkpoints we worked through to go back to.
    - Rob
  • Well today was breakthrough moment. I have just got back from the Bedfordshire and although playing from the yellow tees I had a gross 80. I am very pleased. Whilst I have done better this year in terms of fairways hit I was only just off for a number today. 10 over par with 5 green hits in regulation. All shot were significantly stronger.
    Chris


Work on Your Game Like a Tour Player, not like a Club Golfer.

"If you do what you've always done, you'll get what you've always got"

The best players on the world work hard on their golf, but more importantly, they work smart.  They surround themselves with the best people to advise and assist them in their improvement.  The coach is the hub of this improvement process. He works with the player on a regular basis on a plan they have agreed together.  The coach brings in specialists to assist him in areas where additional knowledge is required.  This is how I work with all my players.  I know the golf swing, I know how to learn it, and I know how to think and to play the game.  These are my areas of expertise.  But there are areas where I know my knowledge needs supplementing, and I have a tried and trusted team of people who know how I work, and who I bring in to help me when required.

As I gained more experience as a coach, and worked with golfers of all ages and abilities the same question kept coming up. “Why should this type of coaching and support be limited to Tournament Professionals?”  The golfers I work with love their golf, and are as enthusiastic and as keen to improve as many of the tour players I have met. They may not be as talented, or as athletic, are have as much time available, but they should have access to the same knowledge and expertise and opportunity to find out how good they can be?

I began to share my ideas with some of my longer term students, and we began to put in place some of the systems and processes described here.  The results convinced me to begin to offer this programme more widely.

Don’t do this if you aren’t serious about getting better.

I get asked a lot why I don’t do one off lessons.  The answer is “ I do”. I have a number of golfers who have been working with me over an extended period, who have spent time on the fundamentals, who know their own games inside and out, and who now just like a quick check up now and again.

I also have people who are infrequent, less serious golfers, who just want to fix a bad shot, or sort out their golf before a holiday or a company day etc. But I don’t enjoy ‘quick fix lessons as much as I enjoy working with people over an extended period, looking at all aspects of their game, clarifying their dreams and aspirations and then helping them achieve them.  That is what motivates me as a coach and is the main reason I do what I do.  The buzz I get from sharing in their successes is as strong as me winning tournaments myself.

It’s frustrating to see a golfer with talent and ability, lose interest and stop enjoying in the game because they aren’t getting better, because they have been told that they can improve by hitting balls at the driving range once a week, or by using a particular training aid.  I see it all the time.  The golfer sees a little improvement, but before long the quick fix wears off and he or she is back where they started.  Most adult golfers get to a handicap within the first three years of playing, and then stay at that handicap for the rest of their golfing life.

I know the satisfaction and enjoyment that comes from the journey towards excellence in any endeavour, especially one as challenging and frustrating as the game of golf. It takes time, and effort, and yes, money!  If you are serious about finding out how good you can be, this program will get you there.  If you are looking for a shortcut or a quick fix or think that a few buckets of balls at the range will turn you into the next Rory McIlroy, then I’m actually surprised you are still reading this!

The level of commitment required on both sides to make this program work is not insignificant.  I can only work in this way with a very limited number of students.  Once I have a set number of students enrolled to fill my time, I won't take any more on for that year.  I don't employ assistants, so if you book a lesson, it will be with me.


Sam Jarman Golf Improvement Packages

I offer the following types of continuous golf improvement packages, depending on the level of golfer you are

Package Details Price
Initial Assessment 60 minutes £60.00
Six Lesson Package 6 x 45 mins £295.00
Half Day Coaching 3 hours £225.00
Full Day Coaching 6 hours £399.00
Bronze Package 2 lessons / Month  £1500.00
Silver Package 4 lessons / Month £2999.00
Gold Package 8 lessons / Month £4999.00


 

Unsure ? Contact Sam