I Haven’t Hit A Single Shot Yet In 2024… But I Have A Masterplan To Cut My Handicap

Due to a combination of factors, I haven't been able to play any golf yet in 2024. But I'm confident a strong year lies ahead and I've put a plan in place to make the most of it...

Nick Bonfield Hankley Common
Nick in action at Hankley Common in 2023
(Image credit: Olly Curtis)

I suspect I’m not alone in saying I’ve been disappointed with the amount of golf I’ve played this year so far, but I think I probably am alone in revealing I’ve not hit a single golf shot. The reasons why will no doubt resonate with a lot of you.

It’s always harder to schedule games in the winter and early spring months than the summer, for obvious reasons. What’s more, I live in London and a number of my friends have recently had children, both of which add to the difficulty. And, to top it all off, the games I've had scheduled have all been cancelled due to waterlogged courses. It’s a familiar story.

Every year I say I’m going to commit to playing more golf and every year I seem to fail. But in 2024, I’m more optimistic than usual about reducing my handicap. Why? Because I’ve settled on an eight-part formula that I’m hoping will contribute to better scores on the golf course. Here’s what I’m prioritising this year…

More simulator golf

The downside of living in London is the fact there aren’t many courses and you’re generally required to travel a reasonable distance to play. The upside? There are a number of virtual golf facilities, such as Pitch London. I can suggest a visit to these as a social occasion with friends and also keep my golf swing ticking over at the same time. Plus, simulator golf presents a great opportunity to try new swing thoughts and shot types as there aren’t really any repercussions if things go wrong. 

Work at home

I spend a lot of time in the evening watching television and never once have I practised my putting or chipping while doing so. This is going to change. There are numerous training aids that can be used from the comfort of your own home and various household items can help you become a better golfer. Instead of watching re-runs of Peep Show over and over again, I’m going to spend half an hour most days working on my short game.

Monitor my stats

If the world’s best players and the majority of professionals on the PGA, LPGA and DP World Tours track their stats, there’s probably something in it. Data is increasingly important in golf and I plan to use Arccos to understand my strengths, uncover my weaknesses and identify trends that could help me improve. On the app, the stats are presented in visually creative ways and you can benchmark your performance against players of the same handicap (and indeed any handicap range), showing you where you must improve.

Data bar graph showing the number of fairways hit on average by golfers of different handicaps, broken down into best and worst rounds

Tracking your data can be extremely beneficial 

(Image credit: Arccos)

Never go to the 1st tee cold

Nowadays, I play less golf than I’d like to, so why would I waste those rounds by turning up to the first tee without warming up first? It takes a long time to play golf anyway, so what’s an extra half an hour? I hereby vow to arrive at the golf club in plenty of time, hit some shots on the range or in the net, chip, putt and stretch before starting. That’s probably a better use of my time than having a pre-round pint and rushing to the first tee dishevelled and unprepared. 

Productive range sessions

I find the range so much more enjoyable than in the past, which means I’m more likely to go. The widespread introduction of ball tracking and the number of games you’re able to play means practise sessions in 2024 should be fun, productive and varied. The more you can do to mirror what happens on the actual course, the better. Playing a simulated ‘hole’ will mean you regularly switch between clubs, so you don’t stand there hitting ten wedge shots followed by ten 8-irons. If I’m going to work on something specific, I’ll set out a plan of what I want to achieve and how I’m going to achieve it before getting there.

Putting with freedom

I’ve traditionally been a good putter, but I feel like I’ve regressed over the last year or two. Instead of striding onto the greens with confidence, as I used to, I’ve become a bit tentative and nervy. As I result, I think I’ve picked up habits that don’t suit me. I’m spending too much time lining up the ball, being meticulous with my routine and reading greens, instead of taking one look, stepping in with confidence, striking the putt with conviction and not worrying about the follow-up. Different things work for different people, but I’m going back to a ‘less is more’ approach.

Neil Tappin

You have to find a putting routine that works for you

(Image credit: Howard Boylan)

Get a custom fitting!

I’ve worked in the golf industry for more than ten years and somehow I’ve never been custom fitted for any golf clubs. That will all change soon as I’m heading up to Lincolnshire to visit Ping HQ. I read on an almost daily basis how custom fittings can contribute to lower scores, but the opportunity has never presented itself. I can’t wait to see how I get on with my new clubs and how much they’ll help me.

Get a pre-shot routine… finally!

Clearly, I’m terrible at listening to advice. If a repeatable pre-shot routine is considered essential by the world’s best players and competent amateurs, I should probably develop my own one. It’s not as if it takes a long time, but for some reason I’ve never really bothered with one. Not anymore. Approaching every shot in the same way can help with consistency, clarity of thought, nerves, tempo and much more. I suspect I’ll find out I’ve been a fool for eschewing one for so long. 

Nick Bonfield
Features Editor

Nick Bonfield joined Golf Monthly in 2012 after graduating from Exeter University and earning an NCTJ-accredited journalism diploma from News Associates in Wimbledon. He is responsible for managing production of the magazine, sub-editing, writing, commissioning and coordinating all features across print and online. Most of his online work is opinion-based and typically centres around the Majors and significant events in the global golfing calendar. Nick has been an avid golf fan since the age of ten and became obsessed with the professional game after watching Mike Weir and Shaun Micheel win The Masters and PGA Championship respectively in 2003. In his time with Golf Monthly, he's interviewed the likes of Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Jose Maria Olazabal, Henrik Stenson, Padraig Harrington, Lee Westwood and Billy Horschel and has ghost-written columns for Westwood, Wayne Riley, Matthew Southgate, Chris Wood and Eddie Pepperell. Nick is a 12-handicap golfer and his favourite courses include Old Head, Sunningdale New, Penha Longha, Valderrama and Bearwood Lakes. If you have a feature pitch for Nick, please email nick.bonfield@futurenet.com with 'Pitch' in the subject line. Nick is currently playing: Driver: TaylorMade M1 Fairway wood: TaylorMade RBZ Stage 2 Hybrid: Ping Crossover Irons (4-9): Nike Vapor Speed Wedges: Cleveland CBX Full Face, 56˚, Titleist Vokey SM4, 60˚ Putter: testing in progress! Ball: TaylorMade TP5x