Eddie Pepperell is not your average golfer. Possibly the most down-to-earth man to pick up a club in the last decade, the 29-year-old approaches his sport with insight and professionalism.
We’re used to seeing the big hitters hog the headlines with their ‘brutal bombs’, but Pepperell takes a less brash path, focussing on the short game, and the technicalities. He’s a deep thinker who takes golf, most simply, for what it is – a game.
RSNG People have labelled you as more of an artistic player in your approach to golf – is that something you agree with?
EDDIE PEPPERELL, PRO GOLFER ‘It is just natural for me, because there are those who grow up and learn on driving ranges and then those like me who play par three courses. I was also the type of person who wasn’t a huge hitter of the ball, certainly in relation to others who I played with. So, I had to make sure that my short game was top notch.’
‘If I was to have any advantage over the others to balance out the disadvantage, I had to work on my short game. So, for example, I grew up playing golf with Tommy Fleetwood and he was a big kid who hit the ball an absolute mile.’
‘I would say that yeah, maybe it could be seen as more artistic as I am playing a bit more of a gentler game, should we say, than the brutal bombs than Fleetwood, Rory (McIlroy) or Brooks Koepka play, for example.’
‘Nobody can get to the elite echelons of the game without constantly improving and that’s what I wanted to do’
RSNG How do you go about doing that, though?
EP ‘The more I grew into the professional game and I employed different coaches, the way that I was continuing to learn the game, to grow and develop my own approach to golf and to carry on trying to enhance the other areas of my game in order to negate my lesser distance off the tee and on longer holes, helped me to understand the more technical sides of the game.’
‘However, there were times that going into such a depth and really immersing myself in the techniques of the golf swing and all those things that go alongside that, it actually stopped any artistry that I had.’
‘Nobody can get to the elite echelons of the game without constantly improving and that’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to strike the ball better and that wasn’t going to be happening overnight. I had to work hard to do that and also change the way I saw the game, the way I saw my swing and visualise the game in a slightly different way.’
‘Again, it wasn’t something that I could just immediately do different, such as addressing the ball in a way unlike I had before and then just expecting the result to change dramatically. It took patience, time, effort and research into those more methodological aspects, and a hell of a lot of practice, I can tell you!’
RSNG You did have success with that approach, didn’t you?
EP ‘For the 2018 season, I went back to playing in the artistic way which meant me putting a lot more backspin on the ball with my driver and that allowed me to shape the ball better.’
‘That was an area of my game which fell down compared to others and also related to the other parts of my game, so it really helped me. What it also enabled me to do was move on from that side and then bring the other stronger aspects of my game into play.’
‘It was really as simple as me believing the fact that the more backspin I put on the ball, the more successful I am at keeping it on the fairway, and also putting it into the areas of the holes which give me a greater chance of scoring as low as I possibly can. That is my own personal theory for my game, and it is tried and tested over the last couple of seasons, now.’
‘There are players on the tour who can do things that I can’t and that’s why I had to change the way I was playing to become more competitive, and give myself more opportunities of trying to win events.’
‘Being resilient and not too self-critical regardless of what the outcomes are, is vital to achieving success’
RSNG What would you say are the most important elements to being successful in any walk of life, not just in the world of sports?
EP ‘Being resilient and not too self-critical regardless of what the outcomes are, is vital to achieving success. What you can do is to totally analyse what you are doing, but not completely castigate yourself for doing something wrong.’
‘It’s always better to look at the things you are doing and seeing if it can be changed to suit your set of objectives, your strengths and weaknesses, and also your mindset. If I used my own example, I would say that my analysis took me to change my coach in order to try and become the golfer that I wanted to become, but which I thought I couldn’t be previously – if that makes sense.’
‘I had to work hard at that, because I was never going to wake up one day and all of a sudden become Justin Rose or Adam Scott – I was still going to be that chubby lad from Oxfordshire! The whole point of things is that I have to be the expert of my own game and those things which I am good at.’
‘The thing for me is that because I have been playing the game of golf for such a long time, the things that I do are almost automatic, and they are a part of my game. So, it’s almost like having to unteach yourself to do things and then reset yourself in order to be able to start changing things for the better.’
RSNG The way that you approach the game, yourself, how do you make sure that you aren’t too critical, and you can be resilient without it affecting your ability to be consistent?
EP ‘I think more so, it’s a way of thinking that I apply not just to the game of golf, but also to life and humanity. I am too realistic with everything I encounter and that includes myself. However, there isn’t a textbook way to approach life or anything, sometimes.’
‘There will be certain things which have a set of rules and finite permutations, for example, but some people who do rip up the rulebook and replace it with their own set of guidelines in particular areas, have been known to achieve some incredible things.’
‘Other people may think that these individuals are absolutely insane to do so or that they are either unrealistic or just being objectionable for the sake of it, have mostly proved that if you align things to your personal strengths and set of circumstances, you can produce genius and brilliance.’
RSNG What’s your favourite technique for calming yourself from the stresses of golf when away from the sport?
EP ‘It’s interesting to appreciate the fact the sport does come with its stresses. People look at the beautiful courses and the perfect vistas and imagine it is all a very relaxed, very calm way to spend time; but when you’re competing it’s anything but that.’
‘It’s funny, one thing that I do is talk to myself out loud when I am on my own… in the shower, driving in my car, as if I am interviewing myself. It’s like my way of creating a therapeutic atmosphere in myself.’
WHAT NEXT? Eddie Pepperell’s 14-club challenge vs Ryan Fox.