This amateur dropped his handicap index by 13. Here’s his secret

In today's Shaving Strokes, GOLF Top 100 Teacher Tim Cooke explains the steps he used to help an amateur player go from a 17 to a 4 handicap

Working with a GOLF Top 100 Teacher helped this amateur find his ideal swing - and lower scores followed.

Image via Tommy Hoopsick

Welcome to Shaving Strokes, a new series in which we’re sharing improvements, learnings and takeaways from amateur golfers just like you — including some of the speed bumps and challenges they faced along the way.

Going through a drastic swing change can lead to all sorts of problems for many players. Instead of feeling comfortable at address and confidently striking their ball, many times, they overthink their mechanics — which often leads to bad shots.

Golf is about having routines, sticking to them, and hoping those steps lead you to your desired consistency.

Having swing thoughts in your head prior to committing to your shot is a slippery slope. It distracts you and causes doubt, and it doesn’t allow you to fully concentrate on the task at hand — which is just simply hitting a good shot.

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As someone who recently overhauled his golf swing himself, there were definitely rounds where I just felt lost. I was searching for answers mid-round, wondering why I was falling back into bad habits and hitting bad shots.

While I’m still a work in progress, there are plenty of success stories out there about golfers who saw near-instant improvement, allowing them to improve their handicap index.

We’ve all seen Rickie Fowler’s resurgence on the PGA Tour after a swing change, so it’s a reminder that success is possible — no matter what level of player you are.

Since we’re all hoping to shoot low each time we play, it’s important to adapt your game to find what works best.

That’s what an amateur player named Tommy has done, as he’s been able to go from a 17 handicap to a current 4 handicap; all while reworking his swing pattern.

Tommy has worked with GOLF Top 100 Teacher Tim Cooke to see the improvement, so Cooke recently detailed the secret behind his student’s success. Take a look below to see if the same can work for you!

Tommy’s dedication has guided his improvement

Said Cooke, “In the past 14 months, Tommy’s handicap index has dropped from a 17 to a low of 2.9, with him currently sitting at 4.0 — but only because he’s had a couple poor rounds as of late!”

One of the keys to Tommy’s unbelievable progress is his commitment.

Cooke is located at the Sea Pines Resort in Hilton Head Island, S.C., but Tommy lives in Philly. Despite the distance between them, the student makes it a point to visit his teacher about three times each year.

“During these visits, we work for three hours a day for 2-3 days, mostly focusing on Tommy’s full swing, but also retooling his short game,” says Cooke.

“It’s an immersive golf trip, where we can build a game plan of improvement for the following few months, then we supplement our in-person work with online sessions to keep his progress on track.”

How Cooke helped Tommy drop his handicap index

When Tommy began working with Cooke, the student had tendencies that are common in most amateur players.

He had a flat shoulder turn with limited pelvis rotation on the backswing, leading to an “over the top” steepening of the shaft in transition. The resulting ball flight was a weak cut that lacked distance.

After dissecting the problem, Cooke quickly realized how motivated Tommy was to improve his swing, hoping a change could level up his game.

“Our first objective was to create depth of handle at the top of his swing by using his body pivot,” said Cooke.

“One thing that Tommy does well is make exaggerated practice swings to feel the change he wants to make. On the range, he has an incredible mindset for change, so he doesn’t care about where the ball goes.

“After feeling and seeing the swing change, he starts to add a ball flight picture of the shot that he wants, while maintaining the new feel to his swing.”

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So Cooke focused on Tommy’s lead shoulder working under his chin.

“He had to feel that it was almost touching the ground and staying there in transition,” Cooke adds. “So we eliminated the flat shoulder turn and allowed his trail hip to rotate internally for a longer duration.”

Now that Tommy had a reworked backswing pivot — helping create more depth in his handle position at the top — Cooke began to correct the “handle dragging cut” at impact.

“He had to learn a new pattern, making sure he kept the lead shoulder low in the first half of the downswing as he lowered the shaft,” said Cooke. “We filmed lots of practice swings in slow motion, which helped Tommy learn this new pattern.”

By reviewing the tape and adapting to the new sensation, Tommy slowed everything down during practice. This helped his muscle memory feel the swing change, which, ultimately, he could apply at full speeds on the golf course.

“Tommy didn’t rush to hit balls, and instead would take 5-10 slow practice swings,” said Cooke. “He would then hit a few shots at slower speeds so he could transfer his new feel to a full speed shot.

“By doing this, it has allowed him to hit the baby draw that he’s always been looking for, and he has dramatically increased his distance and repeatability.”

Want to share your firsthand experience for a chance to be featured in a future Shaving Strokes article? Share your details and progress by emailing me at We’re all in this together, so let’s share our wins, our learnings and our frustrations to help one another improve!

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