Best budget golf irons

Diary of a PGA Pro: The Paradox of Choice

Playing, teaching, testing clubs, is it really as good as it sounds? PGA pro Jack Backhouse gives us some insight as what his life is like as a PGA professional.

What’s it really like to be a PGA golf professional? Well, if there’s one thing that all of us would agree on, it’s that every single day is different. I thought I’d start a diary so you can get a glimpse of what I get up to and what my life is like as a PGA pro.

Week Commencing 26th June 2023

I play the majority of golf with a half-set. 8 in total; mini driver, 2,4,6,9,P,S putter. This wasn’t originally a choice; I was forced into half set life as the odd number irons were stolen from a driving range I worked at a few years ago, and I just played with half a set for a few years before I was given another full set.

My game has improved tremendously since I fell victim to this crime, as I was forced into learning how to control distance, play half and three-quarter shots and shape shots to get the ball on the green and near the flag.

I actually now think my game gets worse when I play with a full set, as now I have too many options, expectations are too high, and there doesn’t seem to be a clear, correct shot choice. It makes me wonder whether or not golfers learning the game, or even players with slower swing speeds, should bother getting 14 clubs.

Half set

I teach a few types of golfers that I think would benefit from taking some clubs out of their bag. The first is a lady in her 70s with a clubhead speed of about 60mph. At least 5 of her clubs all go the same distance, and I am certain she would score just as well with six clubs instead of 14.

The next is a 14-year-old junior lad who hits it miles. His game is good, but he has no finesse and is rubbish in bad weather. This is common in the area I teach at as the practice facilities locally are brilliant but I believe this hinders the development of skills; playing with a half set would force him to be more of ‘player’ rather than just a good ball striker.

The other benefit of playing with fewer clubs is that it takes all the pressure off your game and lowers everyone’s expectations. By making it harder for yourself, you are actually making it easier for yourself and are allowed to enjoy the game more. You won’t have the ‘right’ club for every shot you face on the course, so it’s no bother if you don’t play a great one.

It is genuinely a freeing experience that I recommend all golfers try, especially those of you who are in the middle of a mid-season slump. It’s fun to try to create funky shots, and you might surprise yourself by playing well and enjoying your time on the golf course. You will walk off the course thinking about the fun shots you pulled off rather than the easy ones you messed up.

Week Commencing 19th June 2023

I’ve been secretly preparing for an event. My golf has been pretty good, and I probably have hit more balls recently than since I was a junior, back on the practice ground at Knaresborough GC. Tom received an email with an invite to play in the Asian Tour International Series qualifying at Close House golf club, and how could we say no?

The stars were aligning; would a win get me a spot on the LIV Tour? Probably thinking too far ahead. I’d been to Close House back in March on a filming trip, and the greens and surrounds were the best I’d seen, so I knew after all this good weather, the course was going to be brilliant.

We set off in good time, arriving early, which I think was a first for Tom in 2023. Complimentary range balls, check. Huge pictures of Lee Westwood and Graeme McDowell, check. Lots of very serious golfers who look an awful lot more competent than me, check.

Close House nailed the experience. Big leaderboard at the check-in desk, water and bananas on the first tee for players, a starter and a microphone, all extremely professional and flawlessly run. I am playing with a former European Tour player and a recently retired Premier League footballer. This is a long way away from my usual 7:30 Sunday tee time with my brother and best mate.

Unfortunately, my two professional events in four years weren’t quite enough prep to have me take on the immense challenge of Close House from the back tees in the rain. A flier into some long rough and two hacks to get out down the first pretty much set the tone of the day for me.

I enjoyed the day and watched some very solid golf from my playing partners. The course was set up well for the challenge, and undoubtedly, those who shot under par were top players. There was no fluking your way around that 7000-yard beast.

I lost to Tom, which meant the forfeit was a walk 10 minutes uphill in the rain to go get the car. Although disappointed in my shambles of a scorecard, I am grateful for the opportunity to play in great events like these. Back to the drawing board with my golf, but I’m appreciative of Close House and the International Series for providing the test.

Week Commencing 12th June 2023

I’ve recently made a big lifestyle change that I’ve not yet come to terms with.

Like most golfers, I have used a wide variety of putters throughout my 15-year golfing career. Fangs, mallets, blades, big grips, thin grips, and 2 thumb grips, all at different lengths. I am a natural tinkerer, and putters are fairly easy to swap in and out of the bag, especially growing up with a father with a putter collection.

When I left working in golf and joined Silloth Golf Club during COVID, I decided that playing performance was now secondary to looking cool, and I’ve used a blade putter along with my blade irons ever since.

This obviously comes at a cost to performance – less forgiveness, worse performance on miss-hits, smaller alignment lines, and so on. I’m not saying you can’t putt well with a blade, but there is so much technology now in mallets that the average golfer will probably have fewer putts utilising it.

In 2022, 62% of the world’s top 50 use mallets, and currently, only 4 out of the top 10 in the world use a blade, and there’s definitely an argument to suggest Scottie Scheffler should try a mallet as he putts so poorly with his current putter…

I’ve not considered using a mallet properly until I got the L.A.B Directed Force 2.1 putter in my hands. It’s big, it’s not especially pretty and resembles a cattle branding iron. I knew after a couple of putts with it I was definitely going to putt better when using it.

The L.A.B tech is pretty cool, and the putter feels like the face is never not pointing at the target, making you feel amazing over short putts. I practiced with it for 10 minutes on Saturday, played with it once on Sunday and then put it in the bag for a competition on Monday. The performance was great.

Putting it in the bag has created a huge conflict for me as I am no longer the ‘cool blade putter’ guy, I’m now the strange ‘I wonder if that guy has had the yips or something’ guy. This, of course, shouldn’t matter if the score is the only thing that matters, but even with better performance, I haven’t quite come to terms with the switch.

Golf, for most of us, is at the end of the day, about enjoyment and fun, so it shouldn’t matter what you use as long as you are enjoying your time on the course. But, if golf is all about performance and low scoring, you absolutely shouldn’t be afraid of doing something or looking weird, as that might just help shave some strokes off your card.

For now, the L.A.B stays in the bag.

Week Commencing 5th June 2023

Roll it back.

When the R&A and USGA announced their plans to essentially limit the distance the ball can go for men’s tour professionals and elite amateurs, there were a lot of mixed opinions about it. The general camps people stand in being:

1. It’s bad for the game; why shouldn’t the best keep pushing the boundaries?

2. Tour players hit it too far; why not make it harder for them and protect legendary courses?

3. It won’t affect me, so who cares?

I started in Camp 3, I briefly wandered into Camp 1 before deciding I’m probably somewhere in between 2 and 3. I do think the game has changed a lot, there is less demand for skill and precision than in years gone by, and I’m not sure if that’s how I’d prefer it, but it is generally easier and more accessible than ever before too, so that can’t be a bad thing.

I had the opportunity this week to roll it all the way back to 1889 with a game at Musselburgh Old Links, home of the 8th Open Championship, using hickory clubs. The man in the shop handed me a small bag of 5 clubs and sent me on my way. No carbon, no A.I., no extra stiff shafts.

I didn’t do any research on the clubs, so the set I was given made no sense to me; one had loads of loft and was pretty long, another had less loft but was shorter, miss hits felt terrible and bounce on wedges clearly hadn’t been invented yet.

It was tough. It was amazingly fun. With only having 5 clubs and not knowing how far they go, the golf was bad, but it was so relaxing. No pressure, no expectations, just enjoyment. It made me want to play more often with just 5 clubs and reminded me that golf is actually supposed to be a pleasurable pass time.

Whether rolling the ball back for the best golfers in the world is right or not, we won’t know until they play the first tournament with this new ball. What I do know is that golfers should play more with fewer clubs in the bag to try to experience some of what I felt up on the old links in the middle of the race course, more fun, more creativity, and happiness, whatever the outcome.

Week commencing 28th May 2023

No trips, no tournaments, no filming. A somewhat normal week of 3 days working for NCG, 3 days of coaching and 1 day off (to play golf, naturally). Coaching is my bread and butter; I am probably never more animated and excited than when on the range and a golfer surprises themselves and hits a shot that they’ve never hit before. It’s epic.

Teaching golf isn’t just about knowing a lot about the golf swing, it’s about problem-solving, relationship building and communication, with a sprinkle of ball flight understanding. Each golfer turns up with a different problem to be solved, unique to them; the solution you presented to young Alex probably won’t work for old Carole despite them both hitting a slice.

I had 3 consecutive lessons this week that demonstrated the variety and randomness of coaching, and I thought it’d be worth sharing.

First up was a 19-year-old female who, only 5 days ago, flew back from the USA, having just finished her freshman year of college, playing competitive golf. Anyone who’s good enough to get a scholarship in the States is a stud; she is no different. These sessions are like fine-tuning a race car, one-degree change here, more pressure shift there, and things are good to go. Often in these sessions, you are more concerned about not ruining anything as much as trying to improve.

Second is a 65-year-old male who just retired and wants to learn our beloved game. No sporting background and just finished 45 years of working at a desk; stiff and strained would be my two words to describe his movement. During these hours, it is vital the ball gets in the air quickly and reliably. Straight left arm, more weight on the left foot, don’t be afraid of making contact with the ground. Simplicity is everything.

Third up is a 55 year old female 5 years of golf, a handicap of 13 despite only hitting the ball 160 yards and wants single figures. She is pretty much maxed out on course management and short game, so needs more distance, it’s hard to shoot under 80 when you hit 3 wood at every green. Throw everything you’ve ever read about the golf swing out the window. For more speed we need: an overswing, a bent left arm, early extension, and don’t, for goodness sake, keep your head down. Let’s hit it as hard and as fast as possible and see what happens.

Each golfer wants the same thing, improvement, but each lesson bears no resemblance to the other. There are no two days the same when coaching, and you wouldn’t want them to be. Variety is the spice of life, after all.

Being a PGA pro is amazing; at times, it feels like there can’t possibly be a better profession out there. I spent five years working in a pro shop at a private members club whilst attaining my PGA status and whilst spending a large amount of time cleaning clubs and selling crested polo shirts; I fell in love with coaching and became obsessed with understanding the golf swing. I loved this job a lot.

I didn’t have any success playing as an amateur golfer, but any game I may have had completely left my body when I moved on to be a self-employed coach full-time at a busy driving range, coaching six days a week, working every weekend and never enjoying golf as the game I fell in love with as a kid.

COVID struck, which, in a pursuit to earn some money, led me away from golf to a job bizarrely in finance. During this career interlude, I joined Silloth Golf Club, not that I live anywhere near it (does anyone?), where links golf completely reignited my love for playing the game. Crisp long irons from burnt sandy turf convinced me to get back to coaching and doing what I love. Thank you, Silloth. Returning there feels special.

Since returning to golf, alongside reviewing clubs and filming for Hannah Holden’s YouTube channel, I now coach at a cheap pay-and-play family-owned course on a wooden shed of a driving range where there are basically no rules. Dress code? Nope. £10 for 9 holes, ridiculous. It’s a brilliant place to play and teach, as it puts golfers at ease, and I can teach in my own way.

I have possibly the best life now, and I wanted to start a diary documenting interesting things I get up to and some thoughts I get as a golf-obsessed PGA pro.

diary of a pga pro

Week commencing 22nd May 2023

I played in my first golf competition since 2019 this week. I’ve been playing regularly, at least once a week, for 6 months and have been scoring well around Sand Moor, which is the golf club I’m a member of in north Leeds, so it felt like the right thing to do.

My prep for this links golf competition at Seaton Carew did feature some links golf with 9 holes and some practice at Dundonald Links, and 18 holes the day before. I hit it pretty poorly for the first time in weeks, which certainly can be attributed to the anticipation of having my score on a leaderboard the next day.

The day started well as I arrived in good time and went through my usual lag putting, coffee, hit some balls warm-up routine. I even started with a couple of birdies, which lead to me wondering what the course record was standing on the fourth tee. How embarrassing. I checked myself and proceed to make 3 bogeys in a row. Justice was served.

Things started to go wrong when I realised I had left my on-course nutrition (granola bars and a banana) in the car. Rookie error. In my last 5 holes, I had a double and a triple which featured a complete top into some long hay and a penalty shot. Signed for a 78 and missed the cut. It felt a lot better than that.

In lessons, I spend a lot of time reviewing golfer’s rounds on the MyEG app and asking them how on earth they manage to have doubles and triples, as they are completely avoidable. On this day I realised it’s a lot easier than I remember and are not completely avoidable.

Playing competitive golf has reminded me how hard medal rounds are and how important it is for me as a coach to stay closer to this feeling. It doesn’t matter what I score, and nor does anyone care, but for me to help players score better, I have realised that I need to at least be regularly scoring.

Enjoyed reading teh diary of a pga professional? Let me know with a tweet!

You’ve probably spent a small fortune to get the set up that’s right for your game, so don’t forget to get specialist insurance from Golf Care to protect your clubs from theft, loss, and accidental damage. Plus, they even cover GPS watches, trolleys, and other golf equipment. With 30% off annual insurance starting from just £26.59, and a free golf gift bundle worth up to £365 including 12 free Srixon balls, it’s a no brainer. CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP.

We dive deep into the golf ball roll back plans!

We dive deep into the golf ball roll back plans!

Latest Posts

Course management

Golf Swing Basics

Read full article - Golf Swing Basics
new golf equipment 2021

Course management

Is scratch golf as unachievable as we think?

Read full article - Is scratch golf as unachievable as we think?

Course management

Should you get every putt past the hole?

Read full article - Should you get every putt past the hole?

Course management

What Does a Player Do In a Practice Round at The Open Championship?

Read full article - What Does a Player Do In a Practice Round at The Open Championship?

Course management

The SECRET To Breaking Par on Par 5s

Read full article - The SECRET To Breaking Par on Par 5s
slamming your golf club

Course management

5 mistakes all golfers make on par 3 holes

Read full article - 5 mistakes all golfers make on par 3 holes
diving drills golf

Course management

Improve Your Driving With These 5 Drills

Read full article - Improve Your Driving With These 5 Drills
how to break 70

Course management

Five tips to break 70

Read full article - Five tips to break 70
Driving drills

Course management

Five tips to break 70

Read full article - Five tips to break 70