How This Golfer Went From An 80s Shooter To A +1 Handicap In Just 1 Year

Deliberate practice, with lots of repetitions in slow motion, was the key to improving Mike’s technique.

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Welcome to our new series, Golfer to Golfer, where we try to learn from all types of avid players, in hopes that the rest of us can take home something that might improve our own games.

This week we’re talking to Mike Carroll, the man behind the popular Fit For Golf app, who shares some tips on how we went from a 5 to +1 handicap in one year.

This Q&A has been lightly edited for clarity and brevity.

Luke Kerr-Dineen: Mike, I’d like to start by asking about your golf background. How did you start playing?

mike carrolll: I started playing golf around the age of 10, growing up in Ireland. There was a local pitch-and-putt near my house that I went to all the time. I got my first set of clubs for my 12th birthday, so I played a lot from about 12-17, but then didn’t play at all from about 17-22. I was just frustrated. I was putting too much pressure on myself and I thought I wasn’t going as fast as I would have liked. I took it back after college and was terrible compared to what I was before. I literally got zapped with anything that wasn’t a full hit.

LKD: But we already know that this story has a happy ending, so what has changed?

CM: Two things. The first was when the pandemic hit, it meant I couldn’t really train people in person in the gym anymore, so it opened up a lot more time for me during the day where I could train and play. But as I started playing more, I started to get fed up with my own game. participated in only 20 rounds in the previous two years, so it wasn’t even that accurate. So I decided to challenge myself: how quickly can I get to zero? About a year later, I had gotten my index from 5 to +1.1.

LKD: Alright, let’s dig into that. You challenged yourself to do it. where did you start?

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CM: I downloaded the Golf Metrics app and was very careful to keep track of all my stats. I knew I was really, really struggling with my corner game – literally anything short of a full hit, I was having horrors, from duffs to skulls and general anxiety. Seeing my shots won for my wedge game was a real horror, so that’s what I started working on right away. Improve my technique, improve my confidence. I practiced them all the time starting with the smallest chips and working my way up. There were definitely ups and downs in that, times when I felt like I was getting better and times when I felt like I was regressing. But I kept going, just trying to get enough positive experiences to learn to love them.

LKD: So you follow your statistics and work very hard on your wedges, what has become a priority for you?

CM: Due to my background as a Gaelic football player in college, I was always pretty good athletically, meaning I was around average clubhead speed or just above. But obviously I was nowhere near the average dispersion of the drivers on the circuit. I was really struggling to keep my driver in play, and I had this misfire that started left and turned left. And at how fast I was swinging on these muni courses, it’s just a nightmare, because it’s going to go so far off the line in trees and bushes. Looking back, my irons and putting have improved a bit, but the two really big things were getting my wedges from awful to pretty good and improving my driving accuracy.

LKD: Technically, what did you start working on full throttle?

CM: The main thing for me was that I had a very, very inside takeout, so my hands would stick out and my clubhead would whip inside a lot. I was very flat on the way back then very steep on the way down, which meant I had to get up quickly and let my hands go soon enough. When it went wrong, the ball would go left and spin left. So I started looking for the brains of some golf teachers and really started looking at the checkpoints: setup, parallel shaft on return, top of backswing, parallel shaft on downswing, and impact.

LKD: Now that you know what to practice, what were your practice sessions like?

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CM: I practice a little differently than most people. Literally every range session I’ve done for the past two years, I’ve set up a camera and tripod and left them there. I have about a thousand swings in my phone, slow motion swings from different range sessions from two years ago. Once that was set up, many, many workouts I did were slow-motion, over-the-top reps to try and feel the changes. I could hit 30 balls in 50 minutes because I would swing in slow motion, check the camera, and if I didn’t like what I saw, I would overdo it even more. A lot of the balls I was hitting were low speed and I was progressing gradually. I would also place an alignment rod along the target line and another along my foot line to make sure my alignment was always good.

LKD: It definitely helped, but did you find practicing like that a bit tedious?

CM: Not really. I’m a very analytical person, and I was really, really excited when I could see my swing changing. I saw a direct correlation between how my swing started showing on camera and how my ball striking improved. When I’m on the course, it’s my time to play.

LKD: How often do you train, play and practice? What was a normal week like for you?

CM: I would say that in the past two years I have practiced or played about 80% of those days. I played about 70 games last year. I try to play 18 holes once or twice a week, and on the days that I don’t play, I practice. I’m usually on the beach for about an hour, maybe an hour and a half tops. I go to the gym three days a week, and the gym and shooting range are all down a nice little path from my apartment. It’s basically become my routine from 7am to 11am most days.

LKD: What do you do in the gym??

CM: Three sessions a week, and in all of those sessions I do a little lower body, a little core or core, and a little upper body. The important thing golfers need to know is that there are three sections to every workout. The first section consists of dynamic mobility exercises and warm-ups: lunges, squats, hip, spine, chest and shoulder tricks. The second is any speed, or power. These are light and fast exercises. Things like jumping jacks, medicine ball slams, group pull-ups, think like that. The third is strength work: squares, deadlifts, bench presses, pull-ups.

LKD: Before you let go, what would be your advice in a nutshell, to the golfer who may be reading this and wants to learn from your game improvement journey?

CM: So obviously if you come to me, I’m going to tell you to look at their physical conditioning. Getting lessons from a coach to improve their technique is important and something they should be doing, but improving your mobility and strength levels will make everything you’re trying to do in your golf swing easier. And even if you don’t get your swing technique exactly where you want it, if we take a 50-year-old man who works at a desk, his swing will improve by becoming more mobile and stronger. Even if they’re not doing anything with their swing, getting the right physical training can increase their clubhead speed by five miles per hour or more, which will help. If they’re a little less stiff and wooden by the time the weekend rolls around, they’ll fit a little better.

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Luke Kerr-Dineen

Contributor Golf.com

Luke Kerr-Dineen is Director of Service Journalism at GOLF Magazine and GOLF.com. In his role, he oversees the brand’s game improvement content covering instruction, equipment, health and fitness, across all of GOLF’s media platforms.

Alumnus of the International Junior Golf Academy and the University of South Carolina-Beaufort golf team, where he helped them rise to No. 1 in the NAIA National Rankings, Luke moved to New York in 2012 to pursue her Masters in Journalism at Columbia University. and in 2017 was named “Rising Star” of the News Media Alliance. His work has also appeared in USA Today, Golf Digest, Newsweek, and The Daily Beast.

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