So You Want To Be A Pro Golfer?

BY Grant Dodd | 06 Jun 2008

You’re the club champ, number one in your pennant team, maybe even a state representative. You’re good. You hit the ball a mile, and regularly shoot under the card around your home track. Everyone in your club keeps suggesting that you should turn pro, and to be fair, it’s in the back of your mind too.

So you take the plunge, play well at tour school, and get your card. Now you have to step up to a whole new level and compete against guys you have been watching on TV your whole life. It is a daunting proposition. .

It’s no secret though that it’s a tough game to earn a living from. Lots of very talented players never make the grade. Therefore, it’s best to go in with your eyes open, and as prepared as you can possibly be. Unless you are an extraordinary talent, the early going will be pretty tough, and you’ll have to learn quickly. Pro golf chews up and spits out the uncommitted and unprepared. Here’s ten initiatives (in no particular order) that might help you ‘make it’ to the next level in one of the world’s most competitive sporting environments.

Watch The Company You Keep

Stay away from guys who worry about what the cut is going to be. If making the cut each week is your goal, then you are in trouble from the start. It is easy to find yourself lowering your expectations if you are keeping company with people for whom success has a different meaning. That’s not to say that making the cut is easy- it gets harder and harder each year, and is no mean feat in itself, but you need to set your goals at a level which will allow you to keep your job the following year. Simply hovering around the cut line won’t allow that to happen.

Exorcise your post mortem tendencies

Don’t mistake the question ‘How did you go?”, as an invite to tell your inquisitor about your hard luck stories. They are just asking about your score, nothing else. It’s a nicety. If you’ve had two three putts and missed a couple of short one’s, keep it to yourself. Go to the putting green and work it out. The old saying on tour is that 95% of players don’t care what you have shot, and the other 5% wish you’d had more. The sooner you realise that the quicker you will become accountable for your own deficiencies, and become a better player.

Get to the Gym

If anyone had any doubts about the benefit of weight training for golf, the example that Tiger Woods has set will have by now cast them aside. Woods has revolutionised the way that pro golf will be played in the future. His adherence to a strict workout regime see’s him possessed of a physique like no other in the sport. The power and clubhead speed that he generates as a result enables him to hit shots that few others can. With tour courses becoming longer and longer, the ability to bomb it out there and to carry the irons further through the air will become increasingly important. If you are serious about maximising your potential and getting the most out of yourself, you’ll find yourself a physical trainer who understands the mechanics of golf, and get strong for golf.

Wrong side of the draw

When I first came out on tour, there was a guy who was just reaching the end of his time on tour who, according to him, was one of the unluckiest players in history. He got on the ‘wrong’ side of the draw every week, meaning that the weather had turned unfavourable on him for both his morning and afternoon rounds on Thursday and Friday. These things even out with time if you are out on tour long enough, so don’t be a victim. It serves no purpose and weakens the resolve. Take responsibility for your actions.

Love the course

There is a great old story about Gary Player adopting an approach that the course he was playing every week was the best course he had ever played, and that the greens that week, however bad, were the best he had ever putted on. It makes so much sense. You don’t get to choose your office environment in this vocation, it chooses you. The more positive you are about the course the better the chance is that you will play well. Feel the love.

Watch Chooky

Of the ten greatest recovery shots ever played in pro golf, Peter ‘Chooky’ Fowler owns about half of them. Whilst that may be taking hyperbole to a new level, there’s little doubt in my mind that he’s the greatest short game wizard of the last two decades. Anyone aspiring to a career in pro golf should take their golf towel, put it somewhere in the shade near the chipping green during the lead up to a tournament and just watch and observe the man in action. You’ll see shots that you’ve never seen before, and ways to play them that you’ve never even considered. You’ll learn something, and if that something saves you a shot or two a tournament, it could be the difference between playing the country pro-am circuit and the US Tour.

Walk a round with Nick O’Hern

One of the misconceptions of rookie pro’s is of the standard of play required to compete at the highest level. What quickly becomes apparent is that it’s not about how many great shots the best players hit, but how many bad shots they don’t hit. Watching Nick O’Hern plot his way around a golf course is a lesson in patience, course management and self discipline. He stays out of his own way. He rarely makes an out of control swing, and rarely takes on a shot where the percentages aren’t in his favour. He understands his own capabilities, is honest with himself and plays accordingly. That self-honesty has made him a wealthy man. There is much to learn from his example.

Don’t leave your tournament on the range

One habit that can be very hard to break is that of beating balls on the range. It’s what you do. You’re a golfer so you practice, and the old story was that the harder you practiced the better you got. However, smart, effective practice is always a winner and being well rested is an important component of performing at your best. Do your work, but allow your body time to recuperate and to be at its best when money time comes around.

Fly smart

Unless you have a trust fund, a wealthy family or a generous sponsor, chances are you will be flying cattle class (economy) early in your career. If so, you need to find the best way to make sure that you don’t arrive at your tournament venue worn out from a horrendous flight stuck between two sumo wrestlers or screaming children.

If you are doing a long haul flight ( as often happens when you live down under), ask your travel agent to book an exit row. Then, at check in, ask for the locations in economy where there might be some spare seats. The chance to stretch out and find some peace of mind is an important part of your preparation.

That way, even if your secret hiding place fills up, you still have the leg room of the exit row to fall back on. Otherwise, just play really well from the start and be able to afford business class.

Practice dealing with distractions

Sounds simple, but it really is a crucial part of being able to perform at your best. You’ve had a fight with the girlfriend? Your car is caught in traffic on the way to the course and you’re stressing that you might not make your tee time? You’ve just shot eight under in the first round and the press are all around you wanting to know your story.

They, amongst many others, are all potential scenario’s that you could encounter in an average year on tour. How you deal with the stresses of difficult or unusual situations will be pivotal to your success and longevity as a pro golfer. Great years can often come down to one or two weeks of outstanding play.

You don’t want ‘your week’ to be undermined because you were unable to deal with external pressures that you should have prepared for.

Other than all of this, shooting in the 60’s every time you tee up also works very well! Good luck.

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    About the Author: Grant Dodd

    Between 1993 and 2004, Grant Dodd played on the PGA Tours of Australasia, Europe and Asia, winning the Slovenian Open on the European Challenge Tour in 1999. A writer for Australian Golf Digest since 2003, he is also a member of the Channel Ten golf commentary team.

    Read all of Grant's articles »

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