If you are ever in search of golfing inspiration, or just a simple dose of positivity, an hour in the company of Luke Willett is sure to do the trick.
A PGA professional based at Sunningdale Heath, Willett is a leading speedgolfer who recently completed an incredible fundraising effort in aid of The Golf Foundation.
In addition to playing rapid rounds of golf – typically lasting around 40 to 45 minutes - at each of the 14 iconic courses to have staged The Open, Willett also ran up to a marathon in length around the streets of each host town.
To celebrate his outstanding efforts, The R&A invited Willett up to Muirfield to see him in action and discuss the impact of his adventures at The Open’s celebrated venues.
“It’s a very special thing to combine running and golf. You have this exhilaration,” said Willett, who was in the final stages of preparation for the Speedgolf World Championships in Florida when he made the journey to Muirfield.
“I love exploring, so my speedgolf has definitely helped me explore the outer limits of the sport. I love golf now as much as I ever have done. I’m starting to feel fearless again.
“One thing I found when I was playing a lot, I used to get really bogged down with anxiety. I’d see out of bounds on the right, I’d see bunkers on the left, I’d see narrow lines down the middle of the fairways, and it actually got a bit too much for me.
“When I started running round, all of a sudden I didn’t have enough time to procrastinate. It became what I call positive golf and I essentially saw my target and hit my target.”
Willett certainly hit his target more often than not at Muirfield as he put together an excellent round of 78 in the remarkable time of 42 minutes and 42 seconds.
“My speedgolf has definitely helped me explore the outer limits of the sport. I love golf now as much as I ever have done. I’m starting to feel fearless again.” Luke Willett
Carrying just four clubs in a lightweight bag, he jogged swiftly between shots yet was still able to produce a number of fantastic strokes, not least a brilliant approach to the opening hole and a tee shot to inside six feet on the par-3 13th.
“Quite frankly if I had shot 100 more I would have been happy, but of course it’s a good day when you score well,” Willett added.
“The thing about speedgolf is, you’ve got to get around the course quickly but you’ve got to score well as well. But I’ve learned that punching the golf ball, the ball goes straighter. If I hit it straight, that means I run less distance and it means I end up getting round the golf course quicker.
“There was a pretty close attempt at a hole-in-one. For me, it’s the signature hole, it’s a beautiful hole, and I did it justice. I hit a great shot and got a nice par there on the 13th.
“The four clubs are my 3-wood, 6-iron, pitching wedge and putter, and that’s it. These four clubs are my 14 clubs. They force me to be creative. There’s a certain artistry.”
Having played all of the Championship’s venues during his ‘Marathons of Golf’ challenge, Willett hopes to one day qualify for The Open itself.
He entered Regional Qualifying for The 150th Open and intends to try his luck again next year in a bid to reach The 151st Open at Royal Liverpool.
“Playing in an Open Championship would be something else,” he said. “Could I get there? Maybe. It’s called The Open for a reason, it’s open.
“Golf is the game for everyone and there are occasionally fairytales. I’d like to think my fairytale has many more years to go. To play in The Open would be magical.”