This time last year I made a handful of pledges, many of which I encouraged you all to follow to make yourself a better person as well as a better golfer.
I have rigidly taken almost all of them on board and as a result my golf has improved – though it could be down to playing more and therefore more consistently having been committed to captaining one of our club teams for 12 months.
Many of them are still relevant but there are a number of additional ones I'm considering– and you might well look on them favourably, too.
Introduce a new player to golf
In my social life I meet many potential golfers who tell me, they have often admired the sport on television, but have never taken that next step on to the course. Either they convince themselves they don’t have the time, the equipment is too expensive or they are intimidated by those around them who can actually hit the ball in the right direction.
This year when I say to a non-golfer ‘we must have a game, sometime’ I will actually call them back and fix it. To ensure it happens, I will pick them up, loan them some spare clubs, shoes and balls and – during a quiet time, of course – introduce them to the joys of a round of golf.
Golf is too good a game not to be shared.
Adapt a pre-shot routine
Ask any pro about their golf game and they will tell you how important it is to create a repeating swing.
They practice for hours to create that consistency but to take it out on the course; they need to have a pre-shot routine to make it click into life.
If we want to improve, we must adopt a similar regime.
1. Pick out a distance target on which you want to start the ball’s flight. Be specific (a tree trunk, a pylon, a chimney, the flagstick).
2. Align shoulders, hips, knees, the line between your toes, to that point.
3. Grip lightly
4. Make a long, smooth takeaway, turning the shoulders
5. Return to impact with good tempo and follow through.
Repeat that for every shot without taking more than a few seconds and your game will improve immeasurably.
Playing lesson with a pro
This time last year I pledged to have a playing lesson with my pro or one of his assistants. To my shame I didn’t and although my golf improved it was probably more by luck – and better equipment – than judgement.
There is much a professional can teach me – despite my 35 years experience in playing the game – about course management and strategy and having the ability to turn three shots into two around the green.
They’re good company, too and have a different outlook to an amateur about building a score and not letting shots slip away.
I will definitely spend at least £30 of the credit I have in the pro shop – from ‘Twos’ and competition sweeps - on that nine-hole playing lesson.
Show more tolerance
My playing partners will tell you that I’m pretty tolerant when it comes to slow play.
After all, golf isn’t a race to be completed in three hours so you can spend another hour or so in the bar moaning about the group in front. At least it shouldn’t be.
However, at times, I get a little wound up, especially if things are not going well in my golf game and I’m looking for a scapegoat.
I will tell myself at such times in 2003 that golf is only a game and that it will be there tomorrow and the next day and chances are the players in front will get a move on.
Don’t stay quiet over bad manners
Though not a stickler for total etiquette, it annoys me when golfers don’t take enough care when the group in front are obviously within reach.
Playing at the weekend with a colleague and the 11-year-old son of one of my regular partners I watched in horror as a drive from the group behind flashed within a few feet of the little lad’s head and bounded 30 yards in front of us. No shout of Fore! Nothing.
Eventually one of them – not the culprit – came over to apologise and begrudgingly I accepted but told him it could have caused a serious injury.
I repeated my concerns when his companion caught up. Maybe I was too harsh but golf can be a dangerous game and transgressors need to be confronted.
Stop saying ‘never mind’
Part of my attitude to golf that possibly prevents me from making majors strides –even approaching the senior category – is saying to myself ‘never mind’ when I make a mistake.
As I’ve explained in the past Padraig Harrington once taught me a lesson when I was privileged to play with him in a pro-am and, not wanting to cause a fuss, I neglected to have him move his marker on the line of my attempted chip.
"Never mind," I said when the ball veered off line and he immediately berated me for not asking him to move it from my line.
"It matters…it can make a difference," he told me. "Pros don’t ever leave anything to chance. Nor should you."
I’ve learned my lesson, Mr Harrington, if only to be able to relate the story when the World No.8’s name comes into the conversation.
Play well in 2003, all you Golfmagic fans out there and don't forget to make a further pledge - to tell us about your New Year resolutions.
My pledges 2003