PGA Specialist Coach Sarah Bennett and former England International Dr Kate Hughes share their secrets for golfing success.

Written by Sarah Bennett and Dr Kate Hughes.

Think of a sportsperson you admire, past, present, amateur or professional. Your potential list might include anyone from Mary Earp to Virgina Wade, Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson or a player at your own club. What is it that makes them different, what makes them a ‘winner’?

The winning formula:

  • Good technique
  • Correct equipment
  • Physical conditioning
  • Mental skills
  • Lifestyle
  • Luck

Now, consider these in terms of your own ability to be a winner. Winning is a relative term. For example, it would not be realistic for a current 19 handicap player to aspire to win the scratch prize in the Club Championship but their winning standard for the season might be to get to a handicap of 15, then over three seasons reach single figures. You might not even be concerned about getting a handicap and your idea of winning is, as a newcomer or someone returning from injury, to play nine holes walking.

What does winning look like to you?

Celebrating success?

Image credit: Sarah Bennett

Confidence to compete?

Image credit: Sarah Bennett

Winning a prestigious trophy?

Sarah Bennett WPGA Order of Merit Trophy 
Image credit: Sarah Bennett

Good technique and correct equipment

These are both very much the domain of your golf professional. A winner has lessons regularly to ensure they are practising correct technique and practising with purpose. It makes sense to commit to a series of lessons with a PGA Professional where you can work together on a long-term plan rather than hoping for a quick fix the day before the big match. To quote the great Gary Player: ‘’Fail to prepare, prepare to fail’’.

"As a former Ladies European Tour player with worldwide Tournament experience for over 30 years it was critical I understood every part of my swing.

Technology back then was pretty much non-existent,  it was very difficult to suddenly receive an instant lesson reminder from my Coach if I were struggling during a Tournament.

As a full-time PGA Specialist Coach for over 10 years, my philosophy is that my clients have a comprehensive understanding of their full swing and improve during the lesson.

This knowledge is the top priority, which can’t be sourced from social channels in isolation.

Hence upon completion of a session, it is imperative for every client to understand the following:

  • What precisely we have worked upon
  • Why this area has been diagnosed and how it affects the direction and strike of their shot.
  • How to correct the fault with a drill promoting instant feedback

Every “swing fault” can be addressed in a multitude of ways, from communication, drills and movements”

So, as part of ‘building your jigsaw’, make it your 2024 target to source a PGA Professional who can best assist."

Sarah Bennett, PGA Specialist Coach
Image credit: Sarah Bennett

Physical conditioning

Fortunately, it is not a prerequisite for golfers to be able to run 100m in 12 seconds (phew!). However, we are all aware that winners seem to have more stamina, are generally more energetic, mentally switched on and they almost certainly warm up before they play. In future articles, we'll review fitness for golf and eating to win, as well as look into on-course snacks and assessments of so-called healthy foods.

Mental skills

Winners have self-belief and appear calmer and in control, and seem to have more time for everything. This aura to which we would all aspire comes from being in the optimum state of mind for the challenge faced.

This is undoubtedly one area where most golfers could help themselves become more like a winner. Developing mental skills is not just the preserve of the elite sports performer; we have the skills but have not related them to golf. Take, for example, the skill of visualisation. Many of us are brilliant at negatively using this; standing over the ball and in the mind seeing the water, the bunker or the OOB. Where does the ball go … straight there! Developing the skill to your benefit is to see the positive; the ball landing on the fairway or on the green. The key word is practice, just like physical skills, mental skills require time and effort to bring about improvement.

What do you see when you look and assess your next shot?


A key to winning is to get a balance between all the different elements that make up life. For an aspiring elite golfer, this might involve seeking a grant or sponsorship to allow them to work less and play more golf.  For the Club golfer, it is more likely to mean the amount and style of golf played. We all know of players who have been physically exhausted, stressed out and not surprisingly playing way below their par having committed to too much golf.

Elsewhere, those who practice without purpose or those who only ever play the course are unlikely to become winners. One area that is frequently neglected is preparation time. You would not start preparing for a job interview or a celebratory lunch at the 11th hour so why expect success in golf if you turn up, rushed, in a clatter of bits on the first tee?

How does your mind feel as you approach the First Tee?


It is undoubtedly true that a winner occasionally needs the rub of the green. However, I would also point to another Gary Player adage: "The more I practice the luckier I get." In terms of superstitions, many of us have them and the only advice is to make sure they are in your control. Putting the left sock on before the right, only using white tees and having a lucky ball marker are fine. However, if you always need a black cat to run across your path, you’ll need to find a very accommodating cat.

Building the jigsaw

Building the jigsaw is a very appropriate analogy. Becoming a winner depends on many elements. Just like the game itself, it is impossible to work on all of them all of the time, and some elements take on more relevance at different stages of the season.

In addition, all the elements are linked, for example, improving your short game technique will improve your state of mind when playing delicate shots around the green and conversely improved mental skills can be used to help you practice shots and improve your course management.

In a series of articles, we will be looking at these various elements of your game; helping you build your jigsaw and aspire to be a winner.

Sarah Bennett

LinkedIn: Sarah Bennett

Instagram: @SarahBennettPGA

Facebook: @SarahBennettGolf 

Kate Hughes

LinkedIn: Dr Kate Hughes