There must be many of you out there who are tantalisingly close to being a single figure player for the first time. It’s probably for you an important lifetime goal, and as such, attempting to reach your ambition will not have been without its traumas and frustrations. Like you, I’m in the same boat and I want you to join me on a journey over the winter months in drawing up a strategy to crack that magic number. There is plenty of professional advice out there to help you improve your game, but somehow I don’t believe the pros understand just how we amateurs actually think. So here is my story – perhaps you will be able to identify yourself as you read along… This summer I’ve had a good season, falling from 10.8 to 9.6, which is my lowest ever. As you can imagine the Champagne has been on ice on a few occasions, but there were too many rounds when I crumbled after a good front nine, unable to take the pressure. So the season is over and I’m an irritating 0.2 away from getting that monkey off my back. I’m determined to get there however, so the winter recess is going to be well spent in preparation. I’ve played golf for long enough to know that your game doesn’t get any better on its own. It’s no use wishing your handicap to fall. It won’t. You have to have a strategy. Over the next few months leading up to April, which is the beginning of the summer season in the UK when handicap qualifying events begin I’ll be blogging on this website about my progress. The intention is to help those of you who have the same dream of joining the elite – the 10 per cent of golfers worldwide who can say they play to single figures. I am – like you – only human, so I will have my ups and downs. As you will see elsewhere on my website, I do like the good things in life such as fine wine and gourmet dining so I’m certain there will be times when I will need some encouragement to get to the gym. That’s where you come in. I’m hoping this blog will be interactive so that all contributors can help each other. And that includes you people helping me too. Let me know how you are doing, follow me on Twitter @andywaple and use #getunder10 so we can all see how we are doing. Another thing you need to know. I reached the tender age of 60 this year so I’m no spring chicken. I want to prove to the older players out there that you can still achieve your dream if you put in the effort. I’ll be taking the correct medical advice along the way which I will be sharing with you. Now for the strategy. I’ll be starting off by following a programme put together for me in my home city of Sheffield, in Yorkshire, UK. We are a city with strong sporting connections and have some nice golf courses like the one where I play, Hallamshire, pictured below. Athletes among you will have heard of Lord Sebastian Coe, a British Olympic hero who was brought up in Sheffield. Currently our golden girl is Jessica Ennis, a Sheffielder who won gold in the Heptathlon in the London Olympics. Lee Westwood lives nearby and top tour coach Peter Cowen has his golf academy on the city’s outskirts. We also have a pretty well developed sports industries’ sector which includes some top class people working in elite performance development areas such as bio-mechanics and nutrition. Sheffield is also blessed with some of the UK’s top sports psychologists who work with elite performers, including Dr Steve Peters of the University of Sheffield who has written the cult book, The Chimp Paradox. Throughout my journey I hope to be interviewing some of these people and bringing you some serious advice on how you too can get your handicap down to the magic single figure. A few years ago I developed a dreadful case of the shanks (the laterals, the unmentionables, call them what you will.) Anybody who has faced this affliction will know exactly how soul destroying they can be. It is no use thinking that one day you will wake up and they will have gone. It just doesn’t happen. You must have a thorough programme to attack this curse, otherwise it will beat you up. I’m glad to say I am cured, and I’m now hardwired to recognise how to react if a shank slips out unexpectedly, usually due to a momentary lapse of concentration. The reason I overcame the shanks – I asked for some sound advise from some of the above mentioned people and approached the problem systematically until it went away. Breaking into single figures presents a similar set of psychological challenges as battling with the shanks so I’m going to start off by working through a once familiar programme. My strategy to help #getunder10 is here. Do follow my progress and let me know how you are doing. 1) Technical: My swing is reasonable for a person of my age and over recent years I’ve had tuition from a local professional, Andy Rossington, formerly of the Peter Cowen Academy. Andy has a great teaching technique and as well as being methodical he will not push you beyond a lesson until he is satisfied you have actually understood what he has said. How many time have you had lessons and been told you are not turning, or perhaps not releasing the club properly? Like all professions, there is a lot of jargon out there and you might not understand it. Turn what? What exactly do you have to release? I will be having more tuition this winter but I will not be satisfied if I do not understand what I’m being told. 2) Short game: We should all know by now that the short game is where you really save your shots. I own four wedges 50 degrees, 53, 56 and 60 in addition to the regular 46 degree standard wedge. Over the winter I’ll be measuring up for exact distances. This is a great confidence booster when you are standing over the ball. 3) Fitness: OK I’m getting older but I will be trying to work out and improve flexibility. Read about golf fitness for the over 60s in the coming months. 4) Psychology: This for me could be the key to achieving my single figure goal. It will be all about refining a pre and post shot routine and finding a way to factor out the nerves which have afflicted me the nearer I have got to achieving my goal. We all know the feeling. You have a great score walking down the 14th and you starting thinking about your winner’s speech, your new handicap etc. Then you start getting tense and you blow the lot. I will be talking about turning these nerves into positives instead of holding me back. I have already made a start. I’ve realigned my target goal from single figures to getting below one of my good friends who plays today off 8.9. New target is 8.8. OK I probably will not get there but it takes the pressure off the real ambition of coming down to 9. Watch this space folks. The programme begins today.