John Robins: “From beating a Tour Pro to the shanks… in a week”

It’s been quite the month on the course for our resident Bad Golfer John Robins. We’ll let him explain…

In the last month, I have experienced both my best and worst performance on a golf course.

As regular readers of Today’s Golfer will know, I played Andrew ‘Beef’ Johnston recently. We met for the first time at Beef’s home club North Middlesex GC to do an interview and film some content to promote our new podcast ‘Beef’s Golf Club‘.

The plan was for Beef, who was still recovering from a long-term thumb injury, to caddie for me over nine holes to see how low I could shoot with his help. Two things happened that made for an incredible day. Firstly, Beef couldn’t resist the thrill of competition so teed it up for the first time in nine months. Secondly, I shot low… VERY LOW.

RELATED: We join Beef’s Golf Club!

After both making par on the 1st hole there was no pretending this wasn’t becoming a match. How many shots Beef, knowing this 13-handicappers exceptional match play record, would give me remained up for debate, but as things turned out I wouldn’t need any!

I’ve had a few rounds recently with a decent back nine. In fact, I wrote recently that I had experienced ‘the glimpse’. That brief run of holes that gives you a hint at your true potential. I’ve had three rounds where I made up for pretty shoddy starts with a back nine of two- or three-over. And a couple of rounds which contained two birdies. Inevitably thoughts of a single-figure handicap have started to float around my head.

Well, at North Middlesex Golf Club, alongside Beef Johnston, with cameras filming every shot, it happened. And THANK GOD we filmed it.

I felt relaxed, even if I wasn’t on absolutely top form. A couple of pars, a couple of bogeys. Familiar territory. I’d never played with a Tour pro before and what struck me most was how relaxed Beef was. Granted, not having played properly in nine months and having experienced golf in the most high-intensity environments meant that knocking it about on your home course with your podcast co-host was far from the highest-pressure environment.

That’s a key difference between the best players and us amateurs. Sometimes as club golfers we’re guilty of making every round stressful. There’s always something going wrong, always a part of our game that has deserted us, a worry about needing a lesson or new clubs. The list goes on and on. Bizarrely, the worse we are at golf, the more pressure we can put on ourselves.

RELATED: Why I’ve started a podcast with Beef!

But on this occasion, the old John disappeared and was replaced by a new calm, clear-headed John. Beef’s demeanour rubbed off on me. And his excellent tips (barring a couple of bad reads on putts) helped, too. As we stood on the 8th tee we were all square and both two-over. Did I mention this match was off SCRATCH? Regardless of the ultimate outcome, I’d taken a Tour pro to the wire. OFF SCRATCH. What a day.

And then I chipped in for birdie!

Beef needed to hole his 20-foot birdie putt to keep things all square going to the last. The smiles and cheers and fist bumps disappeared for a brief second. He drained it and we were both one-over.

I’ve never played nine holes to one over, so this was already on course to be the best round of golf I’d ever played. All I needed was a par on the par-3 9th to secure a personal best. I also stood a very real chance of winning… OFF SCRATCH.

Perhaps it was this new relaxed approach. Perhaps it was knowing that some of my best-ever golf was captured on film. Or perhaps it was Beef’s desire to see me play well. But I stiffed it. From 149 yards to 18 inches for birdie. Even my dodgy putting couldn’t ruin this. I could hear the invisible crowd going crazy, I could see the headlines, I could picture the leaderboard: Robins – Even – Wins 1UP.

RELATED: Operation single figures is officially GO!

When Beef pushed his tee shot into the greenside bunker and then failed to hole his shot from the sand I’d achieved the unthinkable. I had beaten a man who had won on the DP World Tour. OFF SCRATCH! And I’d shot level par for nine holes.

You can watch the video below. You can do what I do and watch it every day if you like. But don’t, as I did, get too carried away.

A couple of days later I stepped onto the tee at my home course to play in a matchplay tournament. My opponent was a very solid eleven handicapper. “Solid,” I thought, “Pah! You’ll need to be a little more than solid to beat me!”, and with the safety net of three shots in my locker I split the fairway with my opening drive. Done deal.

Oh, Icarus! For all you have fallen, still you flew!

Dear reader, I fell.

A regulation nine-iron to the green for a two-putt par flew at a ninety-degree angle from the line I was aiming into a large pile of earth – a GUR area for rebuilding work to the second tee. “That’s odd!” I thought. I haven’t done that with a golf ball for years! Oh well…

I scrambled for a bogey and halved the hole. On the second tee, a regulation seven-iron to a large par-3 green did the strangest thing. It flew at a ninety-degree angle from the line I was aiming out of bounds and into the driving range. “That’s odd!” I thought, “I haven’t done that with a golf ball for… two minutes”.

With the golfing Gods cackling at my hubris, I was visited by something I’d heard tell of but had never experienced before. The dreaded shanks. Yes, I’ve shanked the odd ball on the range or on the course, but I’ve never had THE SHANKS. And by crikey did I have them.

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It was so bad that I had to adjust my tee shots to leave me 180-yard-plus approaches to greens as my hybrid and 3-wood were the only clubs I could make any kind of contact with. Looking back at my round on Arccos, I hit 15 shots with my 6-iron to Gap Wedge in that round, and only one of them wasn’t a shank.

The absolute worst bit of it is the panic. The dread of hitting simple shots without any knowledge of what you’re doing wrong. It’s good practice to try not to fiddle with your swing on the course, but what happens when you have no choice? When you need to try every single combination of set-up adjustment, ball placement, swing thought and club tweak just to get the ball in the air?

I’ll tell you what happens. Your round is a tyre fire and you lose the match.

John has been getting some swing advice from his new podcast co-host, Andrew 'Beef' Johnston.

As soon as I finished playing I Googled what shanks were, how to fix them, and what makes them worse. Suffice it to say everything I’d been trying was just exacerbating the problem. The solution, coincidentally, had been given to me in two tips from Beef during our round together.

It turns out that form is temporary, and class is permanent. Maybe I’m not quite ready to turn pro after all.

LISTEN NOW: Beef’s Golf Club

John Robins and Andrew ‘Beef’ Johnston create the dream golf club with the help of the listeners and a host of star guests in this hit podcast from Crowd Network.

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