After a bit of a summer hiatus, I am excited to bring back our interview series — A Casual 9– with a bang. For this episode I am pleased to introduce avid golfer, golf writer, and author, Jon Sherman. Jon is a lifelong golfer who has sniffed the highest levels of competition from college tournaments to U.S. Open qualifiers. He has learned a lot from his successes and failures on the golf course and is now cutting through the noise of game improvement tips and sharing his knowledge and wisdom through his website – Practical Golf. Please enjoy.
1. Tell us a bit more about who Jon is and what the game of golf means to you.
JS: Golf has been one of the main passions of my life since I first picked up a club when I was 10 years old. In a way, I think of it as my craft.
I live on Long Island, NY – and am married to a very golf-supportive wife and have two amazing children aged 2 and 4. I started Practical Golf because I wanted to help regular golfers manage their games more effectively with advice that was framed through a player’s perspective. I believe golfers aren’t given enough tools on how to practice effectively, strategize on the course, control their emotions, and several other topics I like to explore. That is the space I try to live in on the website.
2. What keeps you motivated to help out other golfers through Practical Golf?
JS: A lot of it has been driven by my own experiences in the game. I know how badly people want to improve and lower their scores. I also know the highs and lows this game can bring us to. I want to help people with both. A lot of that is putting things into perspective for golfers and showing them more efficient ways to manage their games.
I grew up playing public golf courses, and spent a lot of time around everyday players. I’ve always watched them closely – their attitudes, the decisions they make on the course, and of course their technique. Everything I do with the site is geared towards them.
3. Your book – 101 Mistakes All Golfers Make (and how to fix them) – provides tools for golfers to shave strokes off their game without changing their swing. What would you say is the lowest hanging fruit for the average player?
JS: Without a doubt I believe it’s the short game, strategy, and the mental side of golf. Those are all areas that players of all abilities can improve. Additionally, you can make meaningful changes without devoting a huge chunk of time.
That’s not to say the swing is not important, it is certainly the main driving force behind scoring ability. However, anyone who has taken lessons or tried to make changes to their swing mechanics knows that it is a time-consuming endeavor. My passion is really to help with everything outside of the mechanics of the swing.
4. There is a lot of technical information and ideas out there about the golf swing. What advice would you give someone who is looking to make improvements to their swing?
JS: I would tell them to stop drifting from one source to another online. Watching hundreds of YouTube videos from different coaches is most likely going to confuse you, and fill your head up with way too many swing thoughts.
If you want the best chance of success I would advise working with a qualified teaching professional and not the guy at the range giving you random swing tips!
5. Do you think watching the PGA Tour helps the average golfer with their own game?
JS: Not really. PGA Tour players are on a completely different level. Their skills are off the charts, they are under way more pressure, and this is their actual profession. None of those really apply to recreational players.
Trying to emulate Jason Day’s pre-shot routine (move it along, please) or Adam Scott’s swing is probably not going to be very fruitful for the average viewer. If anything, I try and use PGA Tour stats to frame expectations for the rest of us – golf is hard for them too.
6. On a scale of Brandel Chamblee to Tiger Woods, where do you stand on the spectrum of golf fitness?
JS: Like most things – dead smack in the middle. You certainly don’t need to hit the gym as hard as Tiger or Rory to see results in your game. I absolutely do believe that a moderate fitness regimen can improve your performance on the course, and help prevent injuries.
I have seen the benefits in my own game, and I would tell anyone that being fit is the most important thing you can do to not only improve your golfing, but your overall quality of life. If you are smart about it, you can see real changes with as little as 90 – 120 minutes a week.
7. As a parent of young kids, have you discovered any ways to help keep rust off your game during those times when you can’t get to the golf course as much you’d like?
JS: My first piece of advice would be to marry an amazing woman. I’m lucky that my wife supports my golf obsession!
Outside of that, find clever ways to practice at home. Even if you can spend 10 minutes hitting balls into a net, chipping in the backyard, or putting in your basement, it helps keep things fresh. That’s essentially what I do when I can’t play or get to the range.
8. Who are a few of your favorite golf improvement Twitter follows?
JS: In no particular order these are all great resources: @andrewricegolf, @adamyounggolf, @shkeengolf, @scottfawcett, @leecoxgolfcoach, and @martinhallGC
9. Game improvement aside, what are some ways average golfers can have more fun playing golf?
JS: The biggest issue is that almost every golfer has expectations that are very unrealistic. I could go on forever about what that is, but the best thing all of us can do is to remember that golf is not our profession. It is supposed to be fun – if it isn’t then you need to seriously evaluate why that is.
Personally, one of my favorite things to do is get a foursome together and play a team-based match. This takes off some of the pressure of personal performance, and prevents you from obsessing about your own score. I also recommend that from time to time you play a round that is simply for practice and not score. If you can, hit multiple shots from different areas of the course. This is the best kind of practice, and you’ll be surprised how fun it can be to not just have a number attached to each hole.
A big thanks to Jon for taking the time out of his busy schedule to be on A Casual 9 so we could get to know him a little better and learn a few things along the way.
For more stuff from Jon, I encourage you to visit his site — Practical Golf.
You can also connect with Jon on social media:
Think you have what it takes to be featured on A Casual 9? Drop us a line!
Previous Episodes of A Casual 9:
Episode 1: Roger Kingkade – the Calgary legend dishes on his recent exit from radio, his golf game, and how his new golf app business is helping both golf courses and golfers.
Episode 2: Lisa “Longball” Vlooswyk – the 7-time Canadian Women’s Long Drive Champion talks about her amazing story, competition, getting more women to play golf and, of course, how to hit it longer.
Episode 3: Leah Bathgate – the Founder and President of the Alberta Golf Tour talks about the future of the Tour, the benefits of competition, men and women competing in the same flights, and more.
Episode 4: Patrick Koenig – the epic golf photographer, whose work has been featured by the likes of Golf Digest, talks golf photography, course rankings, social media pet peeves, Tiger vs. Poulter, and more. His takes will have you feeling the heat.