The Horton Park Golf School in Epsom has a solid stable of PGA teaching professionals and a plethora of talented young golfers. One of the programme’s bright hopes is 13-year-old Luke Jones who represents Surrey at the county level. We sat down with Luke and his coach Lee Mackie at Wentworth Golf Club, the iconic home of the European Tour, to discuss their golfing highs and lows during the unexpected global pandemic.
How did they cope? And what less lessons were learnt that can help propel Luke’s golf to the next level in the competitive world of junior golf?
“Lockdown was a new and testing experience for everyone for sure, including Luke, an aspiring junior golfer,” said Mackie. “Luke aspires to be a professional and I have the privilege of helping him on that journey. We couldn’t continue practising and playing in our usual way . For a junior this was a serious challenge. The lack of a golf venue was huge, so our first hurdle was getting him a home practice net, normally readily available. But the whole UK golfing community was buying up all the stock so we had to improvise. A bed sheet was the first solution, before a suitable net was installed in his garden.”
Luke admits he struggled in the early weeks of the lockdown. He said: “I missed not being able to practice fully and it was hard not seeing my friends on the golf course. I was able to work on some putting and my coach Lee sent me lots of drills. Then my Dad set me up with a great net in our back garden in Banstead, but it was still hard to stay motivated.”
Luke buckled down and has been pleased with the improvements he’s seen since golf clubs reopened their doors last month. “Luckily my golf game didn’t suffer too much during lockdown and I’ve been able to shoot some good scores since playing again,” he added. “I just need to find more consistency now.”
Coach Lee used ‘Facetime’ calls and shared instruction videos to make sure Luke’s technique was holding up and to monitor his progress during the hiatus. “Young golfers just want to play and test their skills on the course,” he told us. “Motivation was key. Once drills and games were given, the next step was to create challenges in groups of juniors. A group chat was created and challenges set to see who could complete them the best. This ramped up participation, frequency and that much needed sense of competition. Getting the youngsters’ competitive juices flowing and pitting them against their peers was a key yardstick in checking progress and squeezing out as much useful practice as humanly possible.”
Mackie, who turned pro in 2004, added: “A positive that has come out of lockdown is a practice at home culture. This will only help develop and propel Luke’s golf game further. It has also highlighted a new importance for garden space in a property.”
With official competitions and the rookie tour still on hold, the future is still uncertain. But the joys and freedom of being back on the golf course will suffice for now.