David Jones and PGA professional Gary Munro

‘I was embarrassed – my game had descended into farce’

David Jones came to a crossroads so many of us have reached in our lives – give up the game we love, or get help. He chose the latter. This is the story of how PGA pro Gary Munro helped the Sky Sports presenter overcome his demons

It’s a scenario that just about every golfer across the spectrum has experienced at some stage. The one where, in despair, frustration or anger – maybe even a blend of all three – the clubs get thrown in the back of the car and that post-round question races through the mind: do I ever want to put myself through that again?

Almost a year ago, Sky Sports presenter David Jones asked himself exactly that. A day that should have been so enjoyable was anything but as his game “descended into farce”. As he drove home, David had his own sliding doors moment with the sport he’d played on and off for more than 20 years.

Happily, the Super Sunday and Monday Night Football man opted to stick with golf. And he made a couple of big decisions – one of which resulted in him teaming up with PGA professional Gary Munro, director of golf at Pitch London. In early spring the two of them came up with a plan and an ambitious end-goal. The months that followed have brought highs and lows – and the perfect 9-iron.

David Jones, Jamie Carragher, Roy Kean and Micah Richards

This, then, is the story of how a mid-handicap golfer rediscovered his passion for the game and his confidence to play it. And how a PGA professional was there every step of the way to provide the requisite skills and support for the journey.

David Jones’ story

In the first instance, what was it about your game that made you reach out to a PGA professional?

Everything! I’d been playing quite a bit for the last three to four years and it got to a point where I’d stopped enjoying it almost, because I didn’t feel like I was getting any better.

There were an increasing amount of clubs that I was leaving in the back of my car because I couldn’t hit them. I suppose the moment was last Christmas when I was playing down at Walton Heath. Lovely course, it was a beautiful wintery day, frost on the ground, blue skies and sunshine – it was all perfect. And I just got to the point where I was embarrassed because my game just descended into farce, almost. Every aspect of it. I remember driving home, thinking ‘I can’t go through that again, so either I pack it in or do something about it.’

And I did something a bit rash. The first thing, I went and bought a load of new clubs. I went down to Silvermere and I’m quite an impulsive person, so I was like ‘I’m leaving with all the gear today, so you better have it in stock!’ I bought irons, a driver, and then still wasn’t able to make any progress. So at that point I went on social media. I thought, ‘I’m going to try my arm here and see if there’s anybody out there that’s listening and interested.’ I said, ‘I need help.’ I’d never done anything like that before in terms of social media and I was amazed by the response from people.

Is that how you came to team up with Gary Munro?

I had loads of punters saying try this person or that person. And I had quite a few coaches that reached out to me as well. Really, it came down – as much as anything – to geography. I whittled a list down of people I was going to talk to. But this one name kept coming up, Gary Munro. So I got in touch with Gary, who had by that point got in touch with me as well. We got on well straight away. I went down to see him and I thought, ‘This is someone I can work with’ – so that was the start of the journey.

How much knowledge did you have of The PGA – was it a badge that you recognised?

Yes, absolutely. I had experience with PGA Professionals. It’s almost like – I think – when you’re a golfer that wants to improve, you’re sort of looking out for that as a badge of validation. ‘That’s your professional qualification, so I’m happy to go with you.’ It had to be that for me, I wasn’t going to take a punt on anybody. It had to be someone with the qualifications to do it.

At the outset, how much target-setting and planning took place with Gary?

Quite a lot! I think that came from me a little bit. I sort of dangled this carrot of ‘Could we get to single figures? Could we use that as our goal?’ So that’s what we decided to do – give ourselves a real tangible target.

In-lesson, what was Gary’s style – did it feel collaborative?

I think he was hugely invested in the process. He really wanted to get into my game, get into my head a little bit – which can be a bit messy when golf’s concerned. He was really on board with it and it sort of became a partnership quite quickly. Primarily, he understood how I worked. He realised that I had to be enjoying it as much as anything. It couldn’t just be like, ‘Right, we’re going to do the grip today’ – because I was still playing, socially. So I had to be able to go on a golf course and get the ball round.

David Jones and PGA professional Gary Munro

In terms of the lessons, did you go away from each one with appropriate drills and a mind-set that you could practise with purpose?

I left with some real clarity after each lesson as to what I actually needed to really focus on. So then it was up to me. A large part of it is, ‘I really want to get better at golf, I need the coach – but actually I need to invest time in this, so I need to get those takeaways from Gary and then go and implement them myself.’ So that was a really key part of it.

Having had a series of lessons, do you feel you’re now a better golfer?

My golf swing is loads better. We’ve changed various things to work on more consistent striking of the ball. Where I stand, how I hold the club – all that – is now a given. But the actual swing and swing arc is very different. Now I can think about, before I play a round of golf, ‘What am I going to try and achieve today?’

All I think about is the swing and that swing path. Invariably it has a positive outcome. There has been quite a jump, but probably not as dramatic as the one we envisaged initially. I think that comes down to the short-game stuff, which we’ve not been able to spend so much time on.

But I got a hole-in-one a few weeks ago, at Burhill, 138 yards, I hit a 9-iron which shaped with a bit of draw. It landed three or four feet in front of the hole, bit, spun back into the hole and it was like ‘Wow! That is the perfect golf shot.’ There’s no way I was doing that before I saw Gary.

And between the ears, do you feel your game-awareness and course management have improved for seeing Gary?

Yes and I think anyone who played with me would recognise that as well. There’s a maturity there in terms of decision-making – a sense to the decision-making, I think, a little bit as well. But also you’ll never be able to take out of me that bit which goes, ‘You only live once, I am going for this!’ When it’s 230 yards to the green and there’s a lake in front, it’s very rare that I’m not attacking that.

For those of us who have watched all three episodes of the series available on PGA digital platforms, how is your relationship with your driver now?

Love-hate! We’re good friends – we’re getting on much better.

From what you’ve experienced with Gary, how much would advocate other golfers going to see one of his fellow PGA professionals?

I think it’s a no-brainer; if you have ambitions about being a better golfer and enjoying your golf more, then that is absolutely the route to go. It’s almost a guarantee of quality and a guarantee of a level of instruction that you can expect. And if you’re willing to put the time in, you’ll see the gains. It’s as easy as that.    

The quest was to get to single figures….where are you at now?

I suppose when Gary and I got together, I was touching 15 and now I am 13.2. So I haven’t got to the single-figures-bit but there’s very much a trajectory which is taking me in the right direction. If I made a mistake in this process, it was saying I was going to do it so fast – because I’ve not been able to commit the time in terms of practice that you need to make that leap.

So I think this is more a gradual process, but I’ve absolutely no doubt that we’ve got the framework in place. Now, it’s up to me to just do the rest of the work.

And you’ll keep seeing Gary for top-ups, tweaks and reminders?

Absolutely. I would consider him a mate now, which is a nice spin-off. We’ll text each other now and again about football. What I really like as well is the element of where he works – that’s handy for me, so I can pop in and hit balls for an hour. I’m doing it tomorrow actually. If he’s around, we’ll have a coffee.

You’d lost the pleasure in playing – how much has working with a PGA professional reignited your passion for the game?

It has, massively. I’d stopped enjoying it because I’d lost so much confidence and therefore going to a golf course felt like a daunting thing. And actually being invited to go and play golf, which does happen to me a lot – it’s a nice spin-off of what I do for a living – that became something I’d shy away from, rather than embrace.

That’s completely changed and I don’t say ‘no’ to invitations anymore and I look forward to playing at nice golf courses, however difficult they are because I think there’s a decent chance that I can hit my ball straight!

David Jones, 48, is a member at Burhill Golf Club, venue in 2022 for his second golf day supporting Blood Cancer UK. “We’ve raised quarter of a million pounds already,” says David. “We’re going to keep cracking on with the target of one day getting to the £1 million mark in the not-too-distant future.”

David Jones and PGA professional Gary Munro

Gary Munro’s story

How did you hear about David’s cry for help?

As an avid Arsenal and football fan I have followed David on social media for a while and saw he had put out a post on Instagram asking for help to get down to single figures. I sent him a direct message and a comment just saying a bit about me: ‘Director of golf at Pitch London, this is a bit of my success, being named in the top-50 coaches in the UK, I would love to be part of your journey.’ We set up a phone call and as ever when I take on a new client, I want to find out a lot about them and their goals.

We spoke for maybe half an hour and I wrote down everything that he was looking to achieve, from improving his golf game, his driving, all the way through to what the whole vision for this was. He wanted to be able to have the confidence to play in pro-ams around the country.

What areas of David’s game did you identify, early in the process, as being the most important for him to improve?

The driving, in my opinion, was his biggest weakness followed by his short game. Then outside of that, learning how to manage his way around the golf course – different slopes and lies etc – and, I would say, his confidence and belief that he can play good golf. I think there was a lot of doubt in there from previous experiences – not performing to his capabilities along with overthinking.

And how much progress have you seen in David’s game across the year?

A massive amount. The distance he hits the golf ball, he’s probably put on 10 to 15 yards on every club. He hits a different shape now – a small draw. Before he used to hit a fade and a slice. Chipping has come along a big amount.

Without being too harsh, I’d have given his chipping a four out of 10 and I’d now say he’s between a seven and a seven-and-a-half. That came from equipment change, technical change and giving him more shots to play from a variety of lies.

Aside from in-person lessons, how did you work remotely with David?

Through two resources, one called OnForm, which is an app where I upload all of his videos and notes to. It’s a really good app where it’s got a chat section but also a library, so he can see the short-game lessons, the putting lessons, the driving lessons.

He can click and there would be me doing a voice-over, saying ‘please practice this and this by the time I see you next’. So we spoke on that. Then a little bit through the England Golf app, where I could see his scores, and WhatsApp.

David Jones and PGA professional Gary Munro

What was it like for you working with a high-profile client like David?

It was brilliant because David is very grounded and down-to-earth. There were no egos in the room or anything like that. Straight away, you could see we clicked and got on. There was just a lot of trust.

He was a dream to work with – very on-board straight away. Kind of, ‘You do your stuff, Gary, tell me what I need to do and I’ll go away and do it’. So it was really fun to work with him.

How much have you got out of it in terms of job satisfaction?

There was a huge job-satisfaction from working with David. I managed to see him in three different environments; indoors, Woburn and then at his home club, with all of us watching and the cameras – three different types of pressured situations.

And for me, seeing him develop, blossom and turn into a better golfer was really rewarding. I know if he went onto the golf course in February his performance would’ve been very different to what it was in July, August time. So it was really rewarding to see the progress, not just from the way he can hit the golf ball and the way he can score, but the way he can handle the situations and that he was choosing the correct shot to play. It was nice to see the big improvement.

Have other things happened as a result of working with David in terms of building your brand?

Yes. There have been many people that have reached out to congratulate me and say nice things. There’s also been a publication, there’s been two clothing brands that have approached me about doing some work with them, and then there’s been potentially another higher-end client that is looking for a bit of help too. So I definitely feel the PGA and David have helped me enhance what I’m doing and reach out to a wider audience.

He’s now 13.2 – has David the potential to become a single-figure golfer in the future?

One thousand per cent. I have no doubt that he will make it. I think he wasn’t playing to his handicap that he came in with in February, looking at his lowest scores that he was shooting before that. He’s already dropped his lowest score – from what I can see – eight shots.

He has shot a personal best at his new home course and is more than capable of playing well in pro-ams. With David, it’s just the time. We’re going to continue working on his game…I don’t have any doubt that he can get there.”

Gary Munro, 30, is director of golf at Pitch London and a county coach for Bedfordshire.


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