'I hit 900 balls in one day, all full shots, as I felt like I was swinging with two left arms'
I recently didn’t touch a club for six days and, three weeks later, I have only just started to regather my swing and my composure.
I like routine, a lot. For six days of the week I get up at the same time, meditate, have a cold shower, drink a green smoothie, take my supplements and then eat my breakfast –and nothing gets in the way of any of this. Only on a Sunday this doesn’t happen.
If I go on holiday it takes me three to four days to switch off. I was a bit like this when I worked in recruitment. Then I would be checking my phone for the first few days of any break but, now playing golf again professionally, I am far worse.
Before I went away to Scotland for my birthday with my girlfriend I was hitting the ball quite well. When we booked it I had planned a couple of games but then the weather got in the way and there was no golf, or practice, on the agenda.
What I have been working on this year is quite new and fresh to me and I was getting quite comfortable with it – then I came back and I felt like it had gone.
Every day I was away I felt like I was losing something so my ability to make the most of the break suffers, which then affects my behaviour, and finally the guilt kicks in that I’m not practising.
By day four I begin to relax and start switching off more which is a mix of getting used to my new routine, which I like, but also the fact that I am getting closer to the day that I can hit some balls again.
After getting back from Scotland, after a six-hour drive, I went straight to the range and hit four baskets of balls and putted for an hour. A few days later I hit 900 balls in one day, all full shots, no putts or chips, as I felt like I was swinging with two left arms.
You might think why is it so hard to repeat the same moves from the previous week? A lot of it is rhythm or feel, it depends what you are working on, but it is also how you are feeling mentally and how switched on you are.
Anxiety is another big factor. I’m a very all-or-nothing character and am incredibly routine driven. Throw me a curveball, like a holiday, and I’m all over the place. I will sit there and panic that the feeling of one week might be gone for the rest of the year.
Two days later I was back playing on the 1836 Tour at Warrington and stood under some trees playing my sixth shot on a par 5 with the flag some 220 yards away.
It wasn’t quite the settling start that I was after – double-birdie-birdie-par – and I had just found my first ball out of bounds with the provisional behind a tree. That then, after ricocheting off a tree, also joined the original tee shot off the perimeters of the course which left me chipping out from under the tree. And, after leaving it in the jaws, taking a nine.
Better still I had just had a bit of a fall-out with my playing partner who kept talking at me. Maybe he was nervous but his way of dealing with that was to not shut up which didn’t really combine very well with my dislike of much chat on the course.
I don’t like it much anyway but with my head a bit scrambled from a six-day break and my game not being there I needed to concentrate so hard and he was the opposite.
In the end we both shot one-under 70s and finished the round with a bit of chat.
To put it bluntly I have to be selfish, I have to be and I try so hard not to be and it really hurts when people say that I am. I’ve got a stern face so people think I’m grumpy anyway but I’m on my own something like 90 per cent of my golfing life and, while I like human interaction, I don’t mind being on my own. I don’t necessarily crave it, I’m just used to it.
It’s only when I get home to my girlfriend to chat with someone, so being a golfer feeds this side of my personality.
Our next holiday is to Venice which is just a three-day break. I’m practising the morning of my flight out and it comes in the middle of three weeks off so I’m hoping this will be a bit different.
Michael Helyard represents National Club Golfer on the mini tours. You can follow his progress on social media – @MichaelHelyard on Twitter and golfmichaelhelyard on Instagram. He plays Cobra clubs and wears Puma clothing and shoes. He is coached by George Gankas and James Whitaker who is based at Garforth.