Journey to 5.5 Update

Last month I was 55, so I decided to set myself a target of reaching my 5.5 handicap. 

As I write this, it would appear that I have ‘failed’ in my challenge. Whilst I haven’t got to the actual handicap, I have achieved so much that I do not feel it is a failure. Having the goal has helped me in so many different ways, not just my golf game. 

From a golf point of view, I have been making big changes to my swing – this has proved to be the hard part – changing a swing that you have had for over 20 years takes much more time and practice than I ever thought it would – along with changing my whole mindset about training. My ‘old’ swing still appears, especially when under pressure or when I don’t think about the foundations enough. But I have got much better at accepting that I will never have the Instagram perfect swing. It will always be my swing with its little quirks. The most important thing is delivering the clubface correctly at impact and getting the ball flight I want.  

One of the best techniques I have found in the last couple of months has been to practise my swing super slow to really allow my body to ‘groove’ the new feeling, even hitting a whole bucket of balls at a super slow pace, rather than just a few at the beginning of the practice. 

I also had ‘proper’ putting lessons for the first time, which has been quite game-changing. It has also meant that the time I set aside to practise has massively increased as my putting practice is no longer just five mins before teeing off. If you have never had a putting lesson, it is one thing that I highly recommend you to do. My short game needs more commitment, but finding the time to balance work, life, golf practice, training and playing is one of the hardest parts of this journey! 

The mental side of golf has been an area, especially since I became a yoga teacher, that has always fascinated me with golf. As a yoga teacher, we teach about acceptance and in golf I believe this is the single most important part of the mindset that we need out on the course. Acceptance does not mean we accept ‘failure’; rather, it is about accepting outcomes, not dwelling on those missed putts, bad shots or lost balls, and not taking negativity with us onto the next shot. I find breathing a real help to do this. Taking the time to focus on your breath as you walk between shots, being mindful and aware of your surroundings, can help to calm the mind and enable you to come back to focus for the next shot.  

I love to journal, so I have been journaling about my golfing journey. Before playing (especially important games), I will write about my commitment to the game and what this looks like, and after, I will reflect on the positives. 

The challenge has also helped me to get back into a regular meditation routine, which is so beneficial for life, not just golf. Keeping the mind calm, bringing your focus inwards, and bringing stillness into a busy day is so important. It can help bring clarity to thoughts and a sense of calm and tranquillity.

Training has also been a key factor in helping me to hit the ball further and ensuring that even when I play three or four times a week, my body does not have any aches or pains after. Since starting the challenge, I have decided to get some help to keep my training consistent and give me some accountability. Having a trainer is great; I don’t have to plan my training sessions, he does it for me, and it makes me stick to a plan. The bonus is that not only am I hitting the ball further and getting stronger and fitter, but I have also dropped a dress size or two.

So even though I have not quite reached my 5.5 goal, having this target has given me a new purpose and motivation. I have also started working one-to-one with golfers on their fitness and mobility but also taking on a holistic approach looking at their nutrition, mindset and overall health and well-being. 

And as for my challenge, I will just change my target to be whilst I am 55, which gives me another 12 months!

Ann de Jongh is a golf and fitness specialist.


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