Neil Raymond believes his modified golf swing has taken him to a new level – as he targets Walker Cup selection this season.
Alongside his coach Ian Roper, the 25-year-old Corhampton amateur has made significant progress in recent times, lowering his handicap from five to a remarkable plus four.
And after his near miss in last week’s Selborne Salver, Raymond is clearly in good form to pit his wits against the historic Open venue Lytham St Anne’s in the Lytham Trophy this weekend.
He said: ‘I’ve been working pretty hard on my game for quite a while.
‘I spent the start of the year in Australia and changed my swing slightly when I was away but I injured my back.
‘I did some physio work and got back fit but I’ve done a lot of work on my swing with Ian since I came back. It’s probably the most work I’ve ever done on my swing in a six-week period.
‘The swing changes seem to be working a lot more quickly than in previous years.
‘It’s great to have someone, in Ian, who I trust. We don’t use videos or anything – his eye is good enough to spot something.
‘My game has gone to a new level and the Walker Cup is my goal this year. If I have a good season, then it will look after itself.
‘I need a good win in a top event and a few solid performances – I don’t think it’s out of the question.’
The most significant change in his game is a new ability to shape the ball flight after some intensive work on the range.
Raymond has played the majority of his golf with a natural fade – a left to right ball flight – but has developed the draw – right to left – in recent times, which is favoured by the majority of the world’s top professionals and is supposed to add more distance to shots.
He said: ‘I’ve played all my golf with a fade, apart from the last year, when I’ve had my best year.
‘I know I need to be able to hit the ball both ways.
‘There are some holes where you need to draw the ball because of the shape of the hole or you have to move the ball if you hit an errant tee shot.
‘Being unable to do that, wasn’t good enough.
‘It’s a bit of a misconception about hitting it further with a draw but I wasn’t a short hitter with a fade.
‘I would say to any mid or higher handicap golfer to stick with what you do but just make it repetitive.
‘It doesn’t matter what shape of shot you hit as long as you can do it all the time.’
And Raymond is eager to test his new skills at a challenging Lytham course that chewed him up and spat him out last season.
He said: ‘I struggled there last year but I’m a totally different golfer now. I’m more experienced and my swing is better.
‘I feel I’m playing nicely, which is good going to a tough golf course where the wind is going to blow.’