Winter. What a horrible time of year. I am a huge fan of cold, bright, and crisp winter mornings…the ones where you can wrap up nice and warm and go out for a walk, but unfortunately those seem to be few and far between in England at the moment! Instead, it’s just windy and wet. All the time. During the winter months, I have always really felt for the people who work outside – the gardeners, the labourers, the guys doing road maintenance, and so on. And sometimes it takes me a few minutes to realise that, actually, I am one of them. I’m a professional golfer and my office is the golf course, and let me tell you, there are plenty of times throughout the winter where I think to myself: “why on earth have I chosen to play an outdoor sport?” (*insert face palm emoji)
However, as miserable as winter can be, it is probably the most important time of the year for us. Our competitive season runs from April to October – and even longer for some – so we have from November to March to take some rest and then get prepared for the next season. It seems like quite a long time, but with qualifying school usually somewhere in the middle, it is so important to try and maximise the time we have either side of that and work on the parts of our game that need improving. My strength coach at uni (shoutout to Eric!) always said of winter: “it’s not off-season, it’s opp-season” – the perfect opportunity to grow, as long as we use the time wisely! The beginning of opp-season is always quite exciting. It’s a time of rest and reflection, reviewing stats and setting new goals. For me this year, it was particularly exciting. I spent a lot of the later part of the season really struggling with my game, and I had reached a point where I was getting increasingly frustrated and starting to question a lot of things. I took some time off at the end of October, reviewed my stats and reflected on my performances – the good and the bad – and came up with a plan for the coming months. I changed coaches at this time, which was a very hard decision to make. I had worked with my previous swing coach, Antony, for nearly 6 years, and he had helped me progress so much. Looking at swing videos from then to now, my old swing is completely unrecognisable. I mean, I managed, but anyone who knows what a decent, functional golf swing should look like would have laughed out loud. He broke my game down and pretty much rebuilt it, so to make the decision to stop working with him was difficult. But I felt I needed a fresh set of eyes, maybe a slightly different perspective on things, and someone to help build up some of the confidence I had lost. So I began working with my new coach, Richard, who is not only continuing to expand my knowledge of the swing and my understanding of my own swing, but is also able to offer so many lessons he has learned from his experience of playing professional golf. We have targeted the areas of my game that need improvement and are working on a more consistent and functional swing technique that will hopefully lead to steadier performances this year!
The opp-season is also the perfect time to get back into the gym with my strength coach, Brian. We have worked together for about 4 years now, and it has been really interesting to see how our program has developed over the years. He has helped me to maintain a great level of general fitness and has expanded my knowledge of functional training and how I can best use the gym to benefit my game. We now have a really solid routine which consists of strength and dynamic power training. We spend two days working on core strength exercises, and another two days on quicker, more functional movements. I could go on and on about it, but I will save that for another post. The point is that it is sometimes difficult to always maintain my fitness levels during the season, especially the strength portion, because we don’t always have access to gym facilities and our daily schedules at events can be pretty hectic! So during the winter months, we work really hard to build a solid foundation of strength and conditioning so I am physically and mentally prepared for the season ahead!
While winter is a time for opportunity and improvement and growth, it can be easy to lose sight of that sometimes. At times I have found myself really lacking motivation and desire to go out and practice, especially in the cold and wet conditions. I have struggled with this at times recently, feeling guilty for losing motivation, and a close friend of mine reminded me that playing golf is my job, just like working in an office is her job, and there are bound to be times that I don’t want to go to work, just like there are times that she doesn’t and everyone doesn’t. Everything comes with its own peaks and troughs. The great thing about professional golf is that every day is so different, every event is different, and your work is really never done! So while winter days may be cold and wet and miserable – can you tell that I’m looking forward to Spring?! – there is so much opportunity in all of them.