Looking Ahead to 2017


Mid-January but always dreaming of getting in 36 a day!

We’re well into 2017 now and while the golf clubs continue to sit idly, except for indoor dome or simulator action, I know it’s only a few months now until the season begins.  But I am not spending of the off-season quietly sitting and waiting for spring’s arrival.  A new year brings optimism but also a plan and a commitment to improve.  So here are some thoughts, projections and plans for the year ahead:

  1. Getting my mind and body fit.

Reflecting back, I don’t think I’ve looked at my off-season preparation for golf in a truly holistic manner.  I’d try to hit balls as often as I could and workout every now and then but it never was truly effective.  A late summer move to my childhood hometown has helped me get into some more healthy habits.  Combined with a couple health apps on my smartphone and an investment in new exercise equipment I am giving 2017 a chance to be more healthy, happy and successful on (and off) the golf course.

Better sleep, better diet, an exercise regime which will focus on my heart and my overall flexibility are already helping me feel better.  I am reading more often – golf and non-golf books – and am starting to learn French.  All this to say is that my view on improving my golf game is being viewed physically, mentally and emotionally now.  I am continuing my golf lessons over the winter months and feel once I get to the middle of April I will be ready to build on my successes of last season.


I can’t golf every day.  But like this sign says, at Eagles Glenn in Cavendish, PEI, I can have a good day and make choices to help me get better.

  1. More Champions and LPGA golf, less PGA Tour

Ever so slightly, I am starting to sour on the PGA tour.  Where I am finding enjoyment on


I feel like I’m the only one not scoring 59.

TV is through the PGA Champions and LPGA.  Here I see players who hit it only slightly farther and play courses closer in length to what I do.  It is increasingly difficult for me to relate to PGA stars that hit the ball so far and are seemingly automatic around and on the greens.  I understand on TV we see the leaders play and those are the players who are playing the best.  But seeing pros dissect 500 yard par 4’s with driver and 9 iron just doesn’t appeal to me.  Maybe part of it is that in 2017 I become eligible for the Champions Tour (age-wise anyway. Yes, it’s a milestone year).  Don’t get me wrong, like you I’ll be glued to the Masters and all the important tournaments and I’ll still get more than my share of PGA Tour viewing in.  But with weekly scores of 59 or 60 now, and tour players’ relentless commitment to training the game is not what it once was to me.  My issue is not the players, it’s the ball…but that’s another rant for another day.

  1. Business Travel Plans

My 2017 business schedule is locked in.  I have extended visits to Vancouver, Ottawa and Montreal lined up.  I certainly plan on tacking on some time out west to play Sagebrush and maybe one or two others on my Bucket List.  I have yet to explore the options (time or courses) for Ottawa or Montreal but the clubs will be coming with me and my habit of mixing some pleasure after business will continue.  I will do my research but not hesitate to put a call out on Twitter or FB for recommendations of places to play to help build my itinerary.  I’ll be hard pressed to match my success from the 2016 season which had me play in British Columbia, Alberta and New Brunswick.  There, I was able to knock off 5 courses off the Bucket List as well as play two others.  This year I’d like to knock off just as many on my revised list.

Cape Breton

No trips to Cape Breton planned for 2017…yet!

  1. Membership has its privileges

It’s possible I’ve buried the lede here but I have joined Hidden Lake Golf Club in my hometown of Burlington, ON.  As an associate member I can control the value proposition for myself but still get all the benefits of belonging, including the chance to play in the Club Championship in August.  The membership structure is such I can still make a commitment to play public courses in the area from time to time (I will not abandon my pursuit of my bucket list) yet have access to practice and playing facilities close to my home and at a fraction of the cost of other area courses.  It’s been over 35 years since I was a member at a club so this will feel new but will also be exciting.  I expect to wear out their short game practice area over the year.  But even in terms of rounds played, 20 rounds is simply not going to cut it (that was my total for 2016, one of my lowest numbers in some time).


Christmas Eve 2015 – Hidden Lake Golf Club

  1. Practice with purpose. Play more competitively.

My index is currently 9.6 but that is not consistent throughout my game.  My weakest parts of my game are irons and short game (I’m more a 15).  I’ve worked hard to become an average putter and my long game/tee game has vastly improved (here, I’m closer to a 5).  So, to get better I feel I need to focus 3/4 of my time inside of 150 yards and most of that inside of 50 yards.  My new course will provide me great access and space to do so.  Through my instruction with Brian McCann I will create a plan to review and address areas of my game which are weak.  I love practicing and get much from an hour or two on the greens, range or short game area.


OK, maybe this is extreme, but I do plan on making a greater commitment to practice in 2017.

Also, I am hopeful to play more competitive golf in 2017.  I wrote about my experience in 2016 at the Golf Ontario Baka Public Player Championships.  I won’t be eligible for that this year and will need to focus within my new club to get the competitive experiences I now crave.  An August Club Championship and weekly Men’s night will be a good starting point.  I’ll explore other options too as I love the competitive nature of golf.  But even with that, my filter for golf will always be to have fun.  It’s an amazing game.

Like New Year’s resolutions (which I no longer make) I don’t want to set a firm goal for 2017.  I strive to be a scratch golfer and break par regularly.  I have never broken par, my best round +3.  However, if pressed on the issue I’d like to see if I can get my index down to 5.0  This is a milestone I am seeking to achieve.   I have much work to do to get there…we’ll see how things go!

It’s going to be a fun 2017 golf season; I hope it’s an enjoyable and successful.


Here’s to many great days for us all in 2017.  Play well friends.



Part 2 – Reflections on my ‘journey to better’

This is the second of my three part reflective series on improving at golf by taking lessons.  I hope you’re playing well and improving.  Thank you for reading.


Golf lessons can be akin to getting a physical at your doctor’s office. There’s that moment when you’re sitting in your underwear with the paper-thin robe on and you’re all alone wondering ‘exactly how healthy am I’? For golf, it is the moment when an instructor says, “Ok, let’s look at your swing. Why don’t you just hit a few for me?” This was my first lesson in February 2015 and what resulted was an anxiety-filled experience that saw short, quick and very tight swings. Some were hit well, others were the word in which golfers don’t speak of (shanks) and I quickly escalated into an anxiety-induced sweat. All the while, Brian kept an active gaze on my movements. Poor guy. Amidst the carnage of that 3 minutes which felt like 30 minutes he was able to determine a number of things: restricted flexibility and a rushed tempo to name but a few. I remember looking back that night feeling good that he was able to see me at my worst. The rest of the winter was a battle with which we don’t speak of but I was committed and relentless, I would persevere.

I never used to truly square up my club face. I know now that I played it open, very open. The fact I was able to score at all for almost 25 years was a minor miracle, looking back. The first squared, flush hit I made was a new experience and one I will never forget. Enduring a winter of shots which we will not speak of in an effort to support more body rotation, I was excited to get outside and try my swing, the series of regular lessons which have had me looking to relax my tempo and finally expand my body rotation was now ready for its first test. I love courses which open weeks before others. I love how they show disregard for conditioning and chase golfers like me who are willing to putt on the moon, hit off dormant grey grass and enjoy the expansiveness of the great outdoors. The sense of liberation was something I’ve never appreciated; gone were the hard mats of a dingy golf dome and in its place was real grass (as real as one can get in Ontario in mid-April). I hit the ball surprisingly well.

My friend cautioned me that when embarking on lessons it is a long term journey and that there will be peaks and valleys. I spent the winter in the abyss; my confidence was eroding and I wondered how and why I could take such a large step back to proceed steps forward, as I was hoping to do. Over the course of those three hours the shackles of my winter experience were freed and I felt like I was going to excel, starting that day. The differences from how I usually play were remarkable. I hit the ball better, and different, than ever before. And while I was still putting on the moon (and hence didn’t score as well as I felt I deserved) I left brimming with confidence. I’ve moved to a peak with a great view.

I love the expression, ‘we never own golf, we can only rent it’. I was its poster child. The success of my first round was fleeting but I did not go back to my basement apartment, sort of speak. Instead, as lessons have moved outside, I have settled into a place where there’s improvement – important steps to longer term success – but nothing that resembles a 3 handicapper, consistently, yet. ‘A-ha’ moment number two – golf is hard and success is incremental.

A-Ha Moment Two – Commitment is Key
I can confidently say I would not have been able to start the season so strong had it not been for two simple facts, one: my friend and I made a 10 lesson commitment. The longer commitment allowed Brian the time and space to analyze, assess and support the structural changes needed in my swing. Within my circle, some people I know who play golf are seeking quick fixes and may go for an annual lesson to start the season or maybe commit to a shorter package of lessons. Change can take time and time is what we purchased.

Second, is the management of time; my friend and I started lessons in February, indoors, with a goal of getting to the beginning of the season in Ontario with more of an ability to hit the ground running. The extended set of lessons along with our own practice regime between lessons helped cement changes. Similar to building a home on a solid foundation, with proper technique I’ve been able to instill confidence before adding necessary adjustments / refinement with the next lesson.

Part 1 – Reflections on my ‘journey to better’

This is part one of a three part reflection series on my how golf lessons are helping me improve in 2015.  Thank you for reading and I hope you’re having fun with the game and playing your best.

Reflecting on my ‘journey to better’

I’m playing Srixon golf balls this year so I’m comfortable acknowledging their tagline and borrowing it; check that, owning it. I’m 47 years old and playing the best golf of my life. The qualitative aspect of that statement is important; I’m taking lessons and demonstrating a greater commitment to improve my golf game than ever before. But first, some context; I’m an 8+ handicap and am not a member of a course. I’m what the Golf Association of Ontario classifies as a Public Player. And like many Canadians, I am managing a healthy addiction to the game. I played over the Christmas holidays this year as it was a balmy 6c on Boxing Day. I get about 25 rounds a year in and am beginning to enjoy practice more than ever. I’m seeking to get better at golf and wanted to share some reflections from my experience over the last year. All that to say is I suspect I fit within the ‘avid golfer’ category.

I began lessons for the first time in my life in 2013. I worked with a young instructor who got me set on a good path – solid fundamentals and an identification of key priorities to work on. My schedule and his growing family and business opportunities had us drift apart but I remained committed to exploring a new instructor, someone I feel would have the capacity to support my journey. Simple fact is my golf swing is like my car: it runs but when it doesn’t run as smoothly as I’d like it to I want to take it to a professional for tuning up. A series of fortunate circumstances had me sitting in the main lobby of the Brampton Golf and Country Club on a cold November afternoon talking with CPGA Instructor (and awesome golfer) Brian McCann. A friend and I were seeking semi private lessons and I was charged with the task of interviewing our prospective golf instructor.

This was new. What questions does one ask a golf instructor? I thought about it, researched a little, and ended up going with my gut. My main question revolved around teaching style(s). My friend and I are comparable in terms of our talent and that’s about where things end. Our swings are different, our needs vary but we’re willing to help and support each other along this journey. Brian and I sat and talked for well over an hour. I was able to get a sense that Brian has a passion for the game, he communicates well and clearly, understands the golf swing, has good experience as an instructor and wasn’t shy about working with two golfers who are committed to improving. This interview, ok, call it a conversation if you will, helped reinforce that the relational aspect of the student-instructor relationship is fundamental. I always chuckle when I read lists that rank top golf instructors; it’s so subjective. When I look back over my life and times when I was able to learn effectively it was from someone I could relate well with. Call this my first ‘a-ha’ moment along the way – good instruction is borne from good relational skills.

A-ha Moment One – The Ability to Relate
If you have ever watched Golf Channel you’re likely are familiar with Michael Breed and Martin Hall, both of whom are skilled and experienced instructors. And while they both know the game and are proven teachers, I find that I can relate better to Michael Breed’s instructional approach. For me, things like tone, energy and being able to convey thoughts clearly, sometimes in multiple ways, help me to learn.

For me, my connection with my current instructor came when he was able to visually demonstrate a flaw in my swing. Brian took the time to show me the one important element, ensuring I was listening to understand and not listening to act. He was also patient to teach me the movement, feel and requirements for successfully replicating this properly. It was at that moment when I turned a corner. And also when I knew I had an instructor I could build my game with.