Road to Scratch Update: The answers are in the dirt

It’s been an interesting golf season so far. I’ve never felt more confident in the direction my game is going, but my handicap index has been stalled in the 5’s. As per my season goals, I am not dwelling on my handicap, but it doesn’t hurt to pause and take inventory. My low score of the season has been 75, and my high score has been 84. I’ve worked hard on my fundamentals over the past year or so, and the things I’ve been working on are starting to become second nature, and it is showing in my increased consistency.

My wife and I had a lesson with our instructor last week and upon watching me hit some shots and viewing some video, he simply asked me, “so what’s stopping you from shooting 67? You’re hitting it as good as anyone at the club”. It was nice to hear, but at the same time was very telling that I had some other things to work on.

So what’s holding me back? It has mostly been putting that has turned 74 or 75 into 80, and 71 into 76. With the putting greens at my home course closed for re-sodding at the start of the year, I took to the chipping green and worked on my chipping and pitching. I’ve been working hard on utilizing the bounce of my wedges properly and after only a few practice sessions I saw some really encouraging results out on the course. Shots that used to spook me quickly became shots I embraced and looked forward to. It was almost as if I couldn’t wait to show off my new and improved technique. It was a great feeling.

What I’ve noticed, however, is that since my new and improved chipping technique is still young, it hasn’t become second nature yet. If I don’t touch my clubs for a few days, things regress and I lose a bit of my feel and commitment with the improved technique. Then I head to the practice green and get it back. So I’ve still got a lot of work ahead of me to practice this and make it a more consistent part of my game.

I’ve recently started to find something with my putting. I started leaning the shaft forward at address slightly, and it seemed to get the ball rolling much better and it felt more natural getting my putter head releasing down the line more consistently. I’ve started making a few more putts, particularly the short ones. I haven’t made much of anything else yet this season, and it feels like those momentum putts that jump-start a round haven’t been there yet. Today was the first time all season I got some real putting practice in. The longest putt I hit was 4 feet. Just worked on getting a good roll on the ball and seeing the ball go in the hole. It felt really good to finally get an honest session in with the putter.

My wife and I were in a mixed alternate-shot match last weekend, and for the first time this season, putting was one of the best parts of my game. I didn’t make everything, but it was encouraging to make some tough putts when they really mattered, and to give Beth some gimmies when I was putting from long range. With the help of my stellar partner, we took the match on the first playoff hole and advanced to round 3 of the season-long competition.

What now? More practice. Short game. Short game. Some full swing. Short game.

Coming up this weekend is the Low Handicap Match Play tournament at my club. It is a straight up (no handicap strokes given) match play event for the low 16 handicaps (who are available) at the club. I’m really excited for this event, and excited about how confident I’m feeling with my game compared to last year at this time. Since I’ll likely be one of the highest handicaps in the event, it’s going to be a lot of fun being able to freewheel it in the matches as the underdog with nothing to lose. I love the head-to-head competition in match play. Crossing my fingers for a rematch against my father-in-law this year, who beat me on the first playoff hole last year in a well fought match.

Although it feels as though I’ve been getting very little out of my rounds score-wise this season, I’m staying patient and am very encouraged. Most importantly, I’m having fun and get to spend time with my wife, family, and friends along the way. I’m being honest with myself with what I need to work on, and rather than hoping it will magically all come together one day, I’m going to dig it out of the dirt.

Golf is the best.

Happy golfing!


16 thoughts on “Road to Scratch Update: The answers are in the dirt

  1. Josh, if you are putting in the practice time but stalled out a bit, I would recommend regular play with a group that is a little better than you. May seem frustrating at first but if you continually compete with scratch or other low single digits, your putting will sharpen and scores will drop. Your match play event sounds like a good start but i’m referring to a weekly game with the highly skilled group. Good luck and play well! Brian

    1. Brian,

      Definitely good advice. Playing with other good players can push you to play better, and you can also learn from them. It also helps the mind to just see more good shots being produced. Looking forward to the event this weekend.


  2. You’re focusing on the right areas to drop from a 5. The short game and greens are where I’ve focused most of my time too. I’ll be exited to read more about your Road to Scratch. I’d wish you luck but don’t feel you need luck. Cheers, Mike

    1. Mike,

      Good to hear we’re on the same page. I am confident it’s the right strategy! Appreciate the kind words my friend. Best of luck in your journey to improvement as well.


  3. Aloha Josh,
    Wow! An impressive evaluation. I admire your determination. And I like that you gave Beth credit in the alternate-shot match. You are a wise man.
    A Hui Hou,

  4. Josh,

    Sounds like you are on track to me. It is still June and as the season unfolds everything will just get better. I think you self-assessment is impressive. Success leads to success and your Match play is definitely a great start. I look forward to hearing about your handicap dropping!


  5. Aimpoint. At least get the gist of how to read the green. It should help build confidence. For me it gave me to tools to hit my putts and the confidence to execute on what I saw.

    As for short game no easy answer. For me I like the uneasiness; it means I will not “give” myself the shot instead it will help me focus and attempt to execute what I need to do.

    1. I’ve heard a lot about AimPoint but have never tried it out. It is certainly intriguing as it is very important to be confident in your reads in order to make good, confident strokes.


      1. Just so that you know Aimpoint is about reading greens and not putting. The putting stroke is completely different and should be practiced. What struck me about Aimpoint is that you view every dip and swale as it affects the ball on its trip to the hole. Saw this in action with some folks from One guy actually walked over his ball to allow his feet to feel the direction the green moved. All very interesting enough for me to give it a try.

Let Us Know What You Think