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As you can guess by the Headline I’m not a fan of the expression ‘Grow The Game’. Golf’s a Sport, not a Plant.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m all for getting people into the Game but let’s be clear on what we’re really trying to do; increase engagement and encourage participation. By framing it this way vs ‘Growing The Game’ it establishes a clear and specific Intention, from which we can create and facilitate strategies to do so. If we have to use a slogan why not simply use ‘PLAY GOLF’?

To get people interested in the Game I believe we first need to recognise the Phases of Engagement Golfers go through - their ‘WHY’. 

From being involved with the Sport for nearly two decades I’ve deduced 3 main Phases of Engagement:

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  1. FUN - the Foundation. People start Playing because they find it Fun. It’s a nice thing to do with Friends & Family.

  2. PARTICIPATION - the Walls. As engagement deepens, Players compliment their ‘Fun’ Golf with participating in Club events, potentially fun format initially then progressing on to weekly/monthly Competitions.

  3. PERFORMANCE - the Roof. Players not only play for Fun, but they’re now engaged enough to want to Perform well in Competitions and even play Professionally.

It’s easy for those in the industry to neglect the first two Phases and assume People are automatically in the 3rd. It’s vital we honor all the Phases and create strategies that encourage Golfers to start and keep Playing, whatever their motivation.


How to Increase Engagement and Participation from a Junior Perspective


To increase Engagement and Participation we first need to establish Traditional avenues Children ‘Get into Golf’ i.e:

  1. Parents

  2. Friends

  3. School/Community

  4. Inspired by High Level Performance (e.g. watched Tiger Win the Masters on TV)

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They then:

  1. Hit Balls on the Range/Practice Area

  2. Get ‘Good Enough’ to head out onto the Golf Course (typically playing from the furthest back Tees as permitted)

  3. Struggle & toil until they Love the pain 😉


An Alternative...

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Read how Australian Tennis are combining ESports during their Flagship Event; The Australian Open

Read how Australian Tennis are combining ESports during their Flagship Event; The Australian Open

Technology driven participation is here (all you need to do is take a look at the great work TrackMan & Top Golf are doing). So, instead of fighting the ‘lure of Fortnight’ let’s embrace it!

We’re all on the road to self-driving electric cars and virtual reality lifestyles so let’s make Golf the ‘First to Market'.

The below is what I feel could be an effective Process* for Juniors (and Adults) to go through in order to remove Golfs major participation barriers of Cost and Time:


Step 1: Social/Simulator Experience

Step 2: 9 Hole Short Course Play

Step 3: 9 Hole Fun Format (Full Length Course)

Step 4: 9 Hole Stableford/StrokePlay (Full Length Course)

Step 5: 18 Hole Fun Format (Full Length Course)

Step 6: 18 Hole Stableford/Stroke Play (Full Length Course)

*Cost kept appropriate & Coaching oriented around Play vs Technical Proficiency)


As you can see, at no point is Competence a prerequisite to Participation. To my knowledge, no other Ball Sport has constructed this ‘Performance Barrier”.

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In Skiing/Snowboarding for example the mere presence of gravity determines the Goals:

  1. Stay Upright

  2. Stay Upright while moving down the Slope Slowly 

  3. Stay Upright while moving down the Slope Quickly

  4. Stay Upright while moving down the Slope Quickly & make it to the Bar 😉 

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It’s crazy to think Golfers should have Lessons/Coaching in order to reach a level of competence and THEN they can go out and Play!?! Yes, you need to be Coached to be able to move the Ball well enough so it doesn’t drive you insane but we need to take the lead set by US Kids Golf and get People on appropriate length Courses!

Let’s remove the Stigma created by naming Tees ‘Ladies, Gents, Junior’ (and while we’re at it, Golf Clubs: drop the Dress Codes and segregated areas of The Clubhouse). Lets simply name them by colour then encourage Players to start at the shortest Tees and give them the opportunity to Tee it back via Gross Score e.g:

BLUE = 120+

YELLOW = 110 & Below

GREEN = 100 & Below

ORANGE = 95 & Below

WHITE = 90 & Below

PURPLE = 85 & Below

RED = 80 & Below

BLACK = 75 & Below



Gamify Your Training


As Children, we all played those Sports where we had to endure 50 minutes of Drills to Play the 10 minute game at the end. So, why don’t we adapt our Training/Practice/Coaching to make the entire Session a Game i.e. Gamify: use the Golf Course/Practice Ground to Learn though Playing Games! Here’s an example of one of my Junior Coaching Sessions at Archerfield to illustrate:

As you can see, it’s Task Orientated; as they are Playing a themed Game (a Game designed around the development of a particular Skill: Direction, Distance, Curvature etc) Coaching Moments emerge - Players ASK for input (usually because they’re Loosing 😉) vs having to endure a monologue of someone telling them what to do. The format provides Context, increases active Engagement and drives Technical improvement. Most importantly it’s FUN, encourages on Course play, Club Membership and the creation of a Social Life around the Game.

This approach isn’t just effective for Children, it works for Adults too! Here’s an example Putting Game. Give it a go: 

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If you like the idea of Gamifying your Practice take a look at my Connected Coaching Programme and for the little ones, here’s a link to a Downloadable PDF Playbook of Games & Tasks I wrote with Pia Nilsson & Lynn Marriott from VISION54:


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To Reflect:

  • Lets Eliminate the Stigma/barrier that Players have to reach a Level of Competence in order to Play on the Course

  • Facilitate Participation through Play on appropriate length Courses 

  • Embrace Technology 

  • Players: Gamify your Training/Practice

  • Coaches: Gamifiy and orientate your Coaching around the Intention of getting as many Golfers on the Course, joining Clubs and building a Social Life around the Game. 

Let’s do this! Thanks for Reading!

Oliver C. Morton

The Leading Edge Golf Company

www.TheLeadingEdgeGolfCompany.com

Playing US College golf is a worthwhile goal, whether you reach it or not. At the very least it should help you improve, as making the jump to colligate golf should provide plenty of motivation for practice and training. It helps you be aware of your academic responsibilities as well, given you can’t play (regardless of your handicap) until you meet the academic requirements. So, at worst it’ll facilitate you being a better student and a better golfer than you would be if you didn’t set out to play at the college golf level.

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It’s important to mention that there’s more to US College golf than its top flight (NCAA Division I) powerhouses that expect to compete for an NCAA title every season. There are nearly 300 Division I schools. Then there are approximately 200 Division II teams and 270 teams at the Division III levels; there are 174 smaller schools that field golf programs in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA). Another entry point to college golf is the National Junior College Athletic Association with nearly 200 more teams. The most important aspect of playing golf at the collegiate level is finding where the best fit for your game, academic and athletic goals is. In 2008 there were 12,364 male players at all of these schools combined. This offers opportunities for most top class high school players to play somewhere, if they desire.

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It’s important to have clear perspective on what you are trying to do. No one ever successfully climbed Mount Everest by underestimating what it took to get to the summit. While playing for a college team isn’t the same as scaling Everest, it’s not a walk in the park either. If you’re considering playing Division I golf, you need to be good, very good; certainly among the best at the County/State Level and possibly the best on a National Level. Keep in ming that the world of golf is shrinking. Annika Sorenstam arrived at the University of Arizona from Sweden, Luke Donald was recruited from England to play at Northwestern; Adam Scott made it to UNLV from Australia. High Performing NCAA Teams recruit worldwide for ability.

So just getting to Division I is a feat in itself. If your ultimate goal is to play on the PGA/European Tour, earning the chance to play college golf is certainly a key step, however it’s certainly not a guarantee of success at the professional level. By all means aim high, but it’s important to see the whole picture when planning for a future in golf.

How difficult is it to get a US college golf scholarship? Consider some of these numbers from the turn of the last decade:

  • There are around 163,341 males who play on ‘High’ School Teams in the US.

  • If we assume a quarter of those are in their last year of School (Seniors), that means there are about 41,000 males in their final year of high school golf. Since most varsity teams are likely to be more heavily weighted to Seniors than Freshmen, the real number is a little higher.

  • There are approximately 300 schools that play NCAA Division I mens golf.

  • There are about 3,200 men playing on those Division I teams.

  • If we assume around a quarter of those are graduating Seniors, that means that each year there are roughly 800 openings for freshmen across all 300 Division I programmes.

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So when you do the maths, 0.02% get the chance to move from High School to NCAA Division I golf. Just take that in for a second… That equates to 50 high school golfers competing for every available spot in Division I golf. Confident you’re the favourite to win a tournament against 49 other seriously good golfers? 

Fortunately you can stack the odds in your favour. Excelling academically is one. Being able to manage the requirements of competitive golf and academics is not something everyone can do. If you have a proven track record of good grades along with an impressive golf CV, college coaches might consider you more favourably than a player with similar golf accomplishments but a sketchy academic record. Having a great attitude (easy to coach, pleasant to deal with) helps as well, as does your ability to interact positively with a team.

So let’s assume you’re a good student, a good person and one of the best players around means you’ve got what it takes to succeed at the colligate level and then ultimately the LPGA/PGA Tour? Think again:

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  • In the 10 year period from 1997 to 2006 only 7 NCAA Division I golfers jumped directly from college golf to the PGA Tour: Tiger Woods, Ryan Moore, J.B Holmes, Jeff Overton, Anthony Kim, Matt Kuchar & Matt Davidson.

  • In that decade, roughly 8,000 golfers teed it up on the Division I level.

  • That means that even the best college-aged golfers in the US (a population that includes players from all over the world) have a 1 in 1,150 chance of making the PGA Tour directly from their University programme.

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It’s not entirely hopeless. Persistence can pay off. At the conclusion of each season, the Golf Coaches Association of America (GCAA) recognises the top performers nationally in NCAA competition. These players are named ‘All-American Team’. The All-Americans are the ‘All-Star’ Team of collegiate golf. These players are truly outstanding. They represent about 1% of the total number of NCAA Division I players. While the numbers above suggests making the leap from college to PGA Tour is a big one, the size of the leap as an All-American is not as big. As long as they are patient.

For example, through the end of the 2007 PGA Tour Season:

  • Of the All-Americans from the 1994 to 2003 period, 33% earned their PGA Tour card.

  • 10% of these players have won a PGA Tour event.

  • 4% have won multiple times on the PGA Tour: Tiger Woods, Justin Leonard, Ben Curtis, Luke Donald, Rory Sabbatini, Chad Campbell, Heath Slocum and Aaron Oberholser.

  • 3% have competed in the Ryder Cup: Tiger Woods, Chris Riley, Justin Leonard, Stewart Cink, JJ Henry and Luke Donald. 

  • 1.5% of these players (3/2006) have won a professional Major: Tiger Woods, Ben Curtis and Justin Leonard.

So there’s light at the end of the tunnel. However, the ‘tunnel’ is more critical than the light itself. While pursuing your dreams of professional golf is noble, the reality of how difficult it is to reach such a lofty goal requires that you make choices that serve not only your golf interests, but your development as a student and a person as well. Spending a decade or more of your life doing everything you can to be the best golfer you can be is a wonderful undertaking providing that in the process you gain a good education, broad life experiences and you build sound relationships. In that case, when the time comes and you realise that for all  your best efforts, professional golf is not going to be your path, you can take pride in the journey and make a smooth transition into the next phase of your life.

If you sacrifice your education, life experiences and relationships in the pursuit of glory, chances are the transition won’t be as smooth and what should be a sense of accomplishment for your efforts will instead be a sense of failure - not only for falling short in golf, but of selling your life outside of golf short in the process.

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Perspective

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Academics

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Even though golf might be the most important thing in your life, and it’s an important factor in deciding what you do with yourself after school, a golf scholarship athlete is a student first & an athlete second.

This is as it should be. Studies show that the quality of post-secondary education and training that you receive directly influences the quality of your life. Where you go to college and what you do while you’re there is one of the most important decisions you will make in your life.

So find time to prepare properly for your Academics. Be the athlete college coaches know they will have few problems with academically.

Once you get to college and start playing golf, your free time will disappear between practice, travel and academic demands. One solution is to spread your course work over 5 years.

Getting Recruited

Don’t be shy! Tiger Woods never had any problem getting noticed when it came to getting a golf scholarship, but most golfers aren't in that category. Even if you’re a very good player, you have to remember there are a lot of very good players out there. It’s up to you to make sure you get noticed. Apart from playing well at key events, this can include creating a resume and cover letter that details your golf background and sending it to schools that interest you.

Don’t leave it too late - the results of the season heading into your second to last year at school (Junior) as well as the results that following summer are highly relevant to golf coaches, and by this time you should have a good idea about which schools might be a good fit for you academically and athletically. 

Don’t lie to yourself or potential coaches. If you are a good but not great player based on past results, don’t waste your time or anyone else’s focussing on going to the University of Georgia or Oklahoma State or one of the other powerhouses. Look at your game, look at your results, consult people close to you and focus on colleges that are a good fit.

Don’t lie 2 - it’s tempting to dress up your playing resume to look a little shinier than it is, BIG MISTAKE. If coaches are serious about you, they will check the information you provide them. The fastest way for them to drop you out of consideration is to find out you exaggerated your results.

Make sure you know what you are getting into. You are permitted 5 on campus visits, paid for by the college, before you decide to attend. Use those visits to narrow your choices.

Approach recruiting services with caution. They are expensive and some are better than others. Do your research, talk to those with good and bad stories to tell. Find one that has a proven track record in golf, and be aware that some college coaches don’t look favourably on athletes recommended by recruiting services.

What do recruiting services do? For a flat fee they help you find a collage for you, they market you to coaches and schools that might not automatically be on your radar. This can be helpful, but it’s always wise to ask yourself a key question: Why do I need this service?

I’m bias on this front as I consult for Pro Dream USA as their Analysis and Performance Manager. I do this to help young golfers get to where they want to be and I certainly wouldn’t be involved with a company that had nothing other than the best interest of the Player and their families at heart. 

Lastly, be persistent. You are likely to hear some NO’s before you hear a YES!

Scholarships 

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First, understand what a scholarship really is. It’s not free money. It’s a grant you receive from the school to offset the financial burden of enrolling there. Just because you get an athletic scholarship, doesn’t mean you get an academic one too.

Your scholarship is based on performance on the course and in the classroom. Just because you’ve got one doesn’t mean it can’t be revoked if you don’t meet the standards of performance in golf and academics.

Don’t expect to get a ‘full-ride’. NCAA Division I men’s golf programmes have a maximum of 4.5 scholarships to award. NCAA Division II have up to 3.5 & NCAA Division III don’t offer scholarships based on athletic prowess. There are typically 12 players on each team. Even highly regarded 1st Years (Freshmen) are extremely fortunate to get more than 50% scholarships. Some players receive NO scholarship money.

Schools are not permitted to pay for visits home at Christmas and other times of the year when flights and travel are expensive. Keep that in mind when mulling over the offer from that school in Hawaii.

What does this mean? You may need to pay Thousands in addition to the scholarship money you receive. It’s not uncommon to graduate with an accumulated student debt of TENS OF THOUSANDS or more.

Women’s teams have as many as 6 scholarships to grant because of equality provisions put in place by Title IX legislation.

Just because you make the team, doesn’t mean you play. Five players usually are included in the ‘traveling team’ for each tournament. Those spots are awarded by the coach based primarily on team qualifying results. If you don’t perform, you’re staying at home - that shouldn’t be a surprise as a golfer though…

If you do get an offer of a scholarship, make sure you understand every aspect of it. Ask for a detailed written breakdown. Ask questions - how much will you be responsible for and how much will the school be responsible for? Will you need a car at the school? Are there any hidden costs?

Coaches

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Not all college golf programmes are run by coaches in the traditional sense. Most college coaches expect their players to arrive on campus with solid games and encourage recruits to continue their relationship with the coach that got them to the college level.

College coaches have many responsibilities beyond your golf game. College coaches are required to recruit top athletes and plan and execute competitive events while otherwise supporting their athletes.

If you aspire to be a high-performance golfer, it’s your responsibility to have a coaching influence and support team focussed on skill development and personal growth.

Who Should Apply?

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For Division I; Outstanding competitive golfers that have a playing resume showing they can qualify for and perform at top events at a 0 handicap level/73 Stroke Average or better.

Those with solid results: NCAA coaches look at organisations like the AJGA, USGA and National Golf association events to prove that you match well with other top golfers.

Those with sound mechanics, athleticism and playing skills; effective practice habits and razor-sharp scoring games, advanced mental skills and emotional control.

Solid students with good study habits with a burning desire to earn a college degree.

People with good attitudes, strong character and have have the ability to make the transition from school to college life and can cope with the challenges it brings.


The 5 Keys to College Golf

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  1. Be Eligible!

    You must meet academic entrance requirements with appropriate grades and SAT scores and a school CV that is approved by the NCAA Clearing House. Ask an appropriate professional for advise on this.

  2. Be Ready!

    The early signing period for high school golfers is in the November of you final year at school. That means you must be ‘scholarship ready’ by the end of your penultimate year a school. If you are not on a scholarship path by your Sophomore year (your second to last), you are behind.

  3. Be Involved!

    With the right coaches, who have a good grasp of coaching people, not just swings and be a regular at the right tournaments if you want to be someone college coaches are looking for.

  4. Be Passionate!

    Play because you love the game and you want to explore its limits. Having college golf as a goal should reflect your desire to test your skills against top competition and enrich your college experience.

  5. Be Dedicated!

    By the age of 16, golf needs to be your No.1 Sport and the only one in which you are investing the bulk of your time and energy. This means other sports and activities need to be put aside.

I hope the above has provided a useful insight into what’s involved with becoming a Collegiate Golfer. Please feel free to get in touch with either myself or the rest of the Pro Dream Team if you would like to pursue a Placement.

Thanks for reading!

Oliver C. Morton

The Leading Edge Golf Company

www.TheLeadingEdgeGolfCompany.com

In the beginning, Golf should be all about FUN! It’s about going to a golf course, driving range or putting green with your Friend/Mum/Dad/Grandad/Brother, grabbing a club and trying to WHACK that small dimpled ball from here to there. For some reason, a lot of people have fun accompanying that dimpled ball on its journey around a field ;)

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There are a lot of things about golf that make it FUN; the company is (almost) always good - no one is introduced to golf by people they don’t like; it’s a gift that friends and family share with each other. While many fun things in modern day society are about going faster, playing golf provides a welcome sanctuary from the 'instant' culture we now live. People (usually) enjoy being out there and are in no rush to leave. It’s a nice place to be.

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At the heart of it all is the strangely compelling allure of making that ball go from here to there. At first just moving it is a triumph. The next goal is to make it fly high, then far. Eventually the hope is to make it go more or less straight. A (lucky) few get to a point where they can make the ball curve left or right at will depending on the situation. They can play high shots, low shots, 'cuts' and 'hooks'. They can GET IT IN THE HOLE (which is the point). For them, playing is fun (it has to be or why do it?) but they also find something more in the game. It offers a challenge. For them the fun is not just moving the ball, it’s moving the ball how they want, when they want. There is a certain thrill about putting yourself in a situation where you have to make a shot at a given moment. It's about competition. It’s about learning how good you can be by finding your limits and breaking through them.

Serious Golfers are Visionaries. Golf gives them a way to actualise their dreams. From Jack Nicklaus to Tiger Woods, Nancy Lopez to Annika Sorenstam, golf has been sustained by young imaginations that fall in love with the sense of power & control that comes from a solidly struck shot and the sense of accomplishment that comes from achieving a personal best score on a hole. It makes them want to do it again, and again until the sun sets. Then they're back the next morning, feeding an unquenchable passion.

Golf is meant to be FUN. It's a time for friendship, laughter, disappointment and glory. For people who get bitten by the bug, the game means a touch more. They practice a little longer, watch the big tournaments with more interest and immerse themselves in the nuances, subtleties and disciplines of the game that date back centuries.

They don’t idolise their heroes on the European, PGA or LPGA Tours; they want to BE them. Golf is what they dream about at night and all they think about during the day. It's the tapestry on which they paint their childhood and adolescence. It shapes who they are and the person they become.

The question is how to make those dreams come true. SMARD (Smart & Hard) work is an essential ingredient and PASSION is essential. Golf is game of diligence that will test the affections of even the most enthusiastic. How does a youngster harness all of these ingredients? How do they find a reliable route from the long summer days spent scuffing the dirt to being the best golfer they can be? What lessons can the pursuit of golfing excellence provide young people about being the best PERSON they can be?

Becoming the best golfer you can be involves much more than swing mechanics. It involves thinking big while at the same time paying attention to the small details that allow big things to happen.

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BIG dreams precede great accomplishments. However, the reality is that dreams of a career in Professional golf are just that. Even playing University/College golf at a high level is something which many junior golfers aspire, but few reach. It’s a worthwhile and wholesome pursuit if undertaken wisely. The lessons learned in trying to maximise your golfing potential are applicable across the spectumn of life: how to organise time, mange expectation and to deal with success & failure when under pressure. The golfer who masters these will not only become the best golfer they can be, but also the best PERSON they can be! 

There are 2.5 million junior golfers in the United States alone, and there are less than 1000 men and women on the European, PGA & LPGA Tours combined! When it comes to making it big in golf, the maths in not encouraging. Dreams occur when we sleep, but in order for dreams to become reality, we need to be wide awake!

D
ream big, set lofty goals, but understand that setting the intention of playing on the European/PGA/LPGA Tour or even University/College golf is only a part of the process. If you establish the Vision of playing elite golf as a way to develop efficient practice habits as well as learning how to manage your time and bring similar discipline to other aspects of your life, you will be a success not only golf, but in life too!

There many people involved in raising a successful golfer. From parents willing to invest time, money and energy, to friends and competitors that push them. Vital to this process is finding and working with the right Coach(es). People who can help you identify your goals and establish dexterous & elastic strategies to help you reach them.

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As an individual progresses in the sport, they need to understand many things; the role equipment has on their performance; the importantance of matching the clubs and balls they use with their swing characteristics.

Becoming a top flight golfer requires practice; do you think carefully enough about your practice? Is it something you do for a couple of hours on a few days of the week in the summer months? The reality is that practice is oxygen for a serious golfer. It needs careful attention & planning. Proper practice habits need to be learned and refined over time.

High performance golf demands as much of you mentally as physically. You can improve your mental approach every bit as much as you can your short game or putting (it can be argued that improving your short game or putting won't happen UNTIL you improve your mental approach). There are lessons to be learned here too. Just as there are lessons to be learned about how to improve your golf related fitness and nutrition habits; how to manage your time and plan your season in order to seize opportunities when they arise.

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Playing golf Professionally is a long way from the moment you first feel the thrill of a well struck shot. Although, in a way, it’s not so far removed from it at all:
 

Why did you want to move that white ball? What makes you want to do it again? Is it because you want to do it better? To see how good you could be?  

Everyone's golfing journey is different, but the further from home you get, the more important it is to stay connected to the reasons why you play. Seek good advice, know the right steps to take and above all else: KEEP IT FUN!

THANKS FOR READING!

Oliver C. Morton

The Leading Edge Golf Company
112 Swanston Road
Edinburgh
SCOTLAND
EH10 7DS

E - info@theleadingedgegolfcompany.com

T - 07831400296
 

Posted
AuthorOliver Morton